In a move that is sure to have repercussions on the political scene, at least six high-ranking Pakistan Army officers, including a lieutenant-general and a major-general, have been sacked. Army Chief General Raheel Sharif fired the senior servicemen only days after he had emphasised the need for across-the-board accountability for solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan, in a statement widely seen as meaningful. He had also said that the army would fully support any effort in that direction. There were those who have questioned pronouncements of this sort coming from military quarters, asserting that certain state institutions remain immune from accountability. The latest move appears to give an answer to such critics. Although the information that has been coming in from military sources did not say when the action was taken, nor did it divulge the precise nature of the charges or whether the officers dismissed would face proceedings in a civilian court, the timing of the revelation is way too significant.
There is sure to be further pressure piled on the government of Nawaz Sharif, already mired in the deep controversy touched off by the Panama Papers expose’. While internal accountability is said to be an ongoing process in the army, a key state institution, the fact that the results of that process were made public is unparalleled. Too often in the past, there has been an impression that certain organs of the state were exempt from accountability. This latest move goes some way in refuting that impression. This will also increase pressure on the government to come clean on the Panama Papers fiasco and compel it to order an independent commission to inquire into how individuals, including those belonging to the prime minister’s family, accumulated their wealth and were able to buy assets abroad. The impact of the accountability process in the military can already be seen with the prime minister stating in an address to the nation that a letter to the chief justice will be written in which he will be asked to set up a commission to investigate the accusations levelled in the aftermath of the Panama Leaks. This comes after some foot-dragging on forming the commission and the initial refusal of the government to ask the chief justice to set it up. With the opposition ever so doggedly pursuing the matter, the government might just have been cornered to do the needful.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.
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