Not without a hint of irony

Published: May 1, 2012

Only in Pakistan would a speech by the army chief, reiterating his commitment to democracy, be seen as major news. PHOTO: APP/FILE

Only in Pakistan would a speech by the army chief, reiterating his commitment to democracy and asking all institutions to abide by their constitutional boundaries, be seen as major news. That said, most lay observers would welcome what General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said at the GHQ on Martyrs Day, especially his comments that indicated that the military would not interfere in the democratic process by taking sides following the prime minister’s conviction for contempt of court. General Kayani referred to constitutional limits placed on all institutions of state and suggested that these be respected — the implication further being that the military intended to abide by its constitutional role, at least this time. The military’s proper role at this time should be to stay above the fray and allow the political process to play itself out, no matter how messy it may get — since that is how things should work in a democracy.

As reassuring as the army chief’s speech may have been, one can argue that it has more than its fair share of irony. The reason for that is simple and undeniable: for much of the country’s existence, it has been ruled by the military, which seized power by overthrowing elected civilian governments. Even in the case of the current PPP-led government, its predicament was made worse by the whole memogate affair, which perhaps would not have ballooned out of proportion as it eventually will, had Pakistan been a normally functioning democracy with the military playing its proper constitutionally-mandated role. It is worth reminding readers that both Generals Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf never stopped singing praises of democracy and vowing that they will restore it. We all know what transpired out of these words and how the nation suffered from years of debilitating military rule.

Furthermore, since one is on this most important of subjects, i.e., civil-military relations in Pakistan’s fragmented and complex polity, perhaps it would not be out of place to suggest that if the military has now realised the virtues of the Constitution and the boundaries it sets on all institutions, then all policy matters, including foreign and security policy should be in the hands of the elected government of the day.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • hamza khan
    May 1, 2012 - 10:24PM

    president musharraf, dont know about zia as i wasnt old enough to be smart (wink, wink), def didnt sing praises about democracy. the man acted to instill democracy in the system. he introduced a workable local bodies system, introduced checks and balances, opened up the media, empowered women and minorities, held free and fair elections to the best of his ability. this is the worst sort of propaganda and terrible biased news reporting that has made the ET a blog and less of a newspaper. to call his rule ‘debilitating’ reeks of yellow journalism at its best. good job ET. good job. you are the fox news of pakistan, right behind jang news. your ‘editorial’ staff is terrible.

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  • Abdul
    May 1, 2012 - 11:00PM

    They would be the Fox news of Pakistan if they were actually pro Pakistan. in fact ET are the mouthpiece of the American neocons in Pakistan. Boys and girls you can delete my message but your game is up. Most Pakistanis know what ET is all about now.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    May 1, 2012 - 11:18PM

    One would disagree with you so far as foreign & security policies are concerned.The way your editorial suggests,if these policies are left entirely to a government like one we have in Pakistan then you wash your hands off as it would be a complete disaster for the country & the nation.A super duper power like USA consults their army & security agencies in such matters & also comply what they suggest so is Bharat & many other countries.Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 2, 2012 - 12:31AM

    I thought that every member of the armed forces has to take an oath to obey the constitution. In any other country the paid govt servants like sitting generals and sitting judges of SC would not be allowed to vent their personal and political likes and dislikes. They are supposed to obey the laws and not political or policy lecture.

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  • May 2, 2012 - 12:34AM

    Would the Army Chief take the same stand (of watching the country being destroyed by the current politicians) if the present government had interfered in the matters of the Armed Forces? And, through corruption destroyed the various institutions of the Armed Forces??

    Has this democratic government’s poor performance affected the Armed Forces in the same way as it has affected the civilian citizens??

    Is the Armed Forces facing the same load shedding (in its cantonments/barracks) and water shortage as the civilians??

    Ironic – surely!!

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  • Bhindian
    May 2, 2012 - 12:39AM

    leave it up to ET to find reasons to bash the army.

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  • Karim
    May 2, 2012 - 12:47AM

    Completely agree with you Hamza khan.

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  • Mir Agha
    May 2, 2012 - 2:16AM

    Democracy is not the high ideal entertainment tonight wants to prop up as. Frankly the people of Pakistan have seen more death, destruction, and despair under this “democratic” regime than any other form of government. They could care less about democracy shemocracy, it’s all choreographed bull. Either way, elected governments also have their mandates and limits, and are under the rule of law. Elections don’t mean electing your dictator. Security and foreign policies are always made with input from civil service and security establishments. It’s not the domain of certain leftist demagogues. Thankfully these facts are not lost as they are on the bubbled editors of ET.

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  • Arindom
    May 2, 2012 - 6:21AM

    A similar statement from the Indian Army chief would surely have him sacked. That said , an army chief has no business to comment on how other institutions need to function in a democracy. He needs to follow orders of his Defence Minister, full stop.

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  • vasan
    May 2, 2012 - 7:02AM

    Only diff between Zia/Musharaf and Kayani is that while the former were singing praise of democracy while being the Presidents, the latter is singing while he is not a President, yet. That gives me some hopes that he may not go the way of the former. But who knows, Pakistan and Pakistanis have a knack of surprising/shocking everyone including themselves

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  • We deserve Better LEADERS
    May 2, 2012 - 8:58AM

    Dear All I agree with Hamza but unfortuantely we do not see things that way ,i am not a supporter of PM but we can clearly see how things have gone for wrose ,you see our elected representatives Mocking the law openly and not only that but repeatedly ,is there any reason why they have not delivered in the last 4 years anything apart from what they feel they have done well the Constitutional ammendments ,what have those given a common man .Again i am not pointing to any one Polictical party but i feel that we are taking Democracy too far and it shows that anyone can do anything just to say that for the sake of Democracy ,maybe Democracy is the Best revenge as said by our young leader of the future who can not speak Urdu properly even ,May Allah Help us .

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  • Liberal
    May 2, 2012 - 9:23AM

    PPP will suffer setbact but NS will be completely eliminated. He is again coming into trap set someone else for him.

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  • Super-Fool KaalCopterTanoli
    May 2, 2012 - 10:00AM

    @Bhindian:
    Yeah. Don’t go expecting the army itself to make a good image for itself one day.

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  • huzaifa
    May 2, 2012 - 1:53PM

    ET ! What should a CHOWKIDAR guarding the house do once he observes house on fire and his children are also inside, should he let it burnt to the ground or try to extinguish the fire ?????

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  • raja
    May 2, 2012 - 8:57PM

    army interference in politics cant be justified let me highlight two reason why army interfered in pakistani politics
    start with General zia butto made him general not the army he would have retired mostly as major general he was not Lt general we cant blame any body other then butto army have chain of command they have to follow orders which should change.After the killing of Palestinian refugees in Jordan a rational leader wold have sideline him its like making zahid hamid as PM if by any chance he get elected in NA seat one should side line him.

    similar story in Mushraf case army case army did not choose him he would have retired as major general if Nawaz Shrief would have chosen any Lt general both Zia and Mushraf was made chief by civilian leader out of merit on the other hand few who come with merit have not taken over its just one side Army should change it course also

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