Those who mauled our constitutions

Published: July 5, 2010
The writer is a retired brigadier and general-secretary  of Pesa (

The writer is a retired brigadier and general-secretary of Pesa (

Pakistan’s founding fathers wanted the country to become a modern and enlightened democratic Islamic state. It is our misfortune that even after 63 years of existence, we are still probing in the dark to find our correct bearings. It is most unfortunate, in fact tragic, that the main characters responsible for the present state of affairs are those who had taken an oath to protect and defend the constitution of Pakistan. They not only kept derailing the country from the path to democracy but also caused incalculable harm to its integrity and sovereignty.

Under the 1962 Constitution, Ayub Khan ruled the country as if it were his fiefdom. For more than 11 years the provinces did not have elected governments and were ruled through despotic governors. Political and economic deprivation sowed the seeds for disintegration in East Pakistan. He resigned after taking the country to the brink of disaster. Yahya Khan finished the job that was left half way by Ayub. As for General Zia, he hanged the first elected prime minister of Pakistan, brought in extremism in religion and put the country essentially in reverse gear. General Musharraf also overthrew a democratically elected government, and primarily to save his own position. His follies include the Kargil episode, the assault on Lal Masjid, Nawab Akbar Bugti’s murder and our complete surrender to America on one phone call.

Unfortunately, almost all the unconstitutional acts of these self-seeking generals were indemnified and protected by our superior courts and parliaments. When Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and packed off the superior judiciary after the chief justice of Pakistan had refused to resign, a group of retired military officers thought that enough was enough. They formed an organisation called the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (Pesa) whose main purpose was to show to the people of Pakistan that unconstitutional acts of a few generals never represented the views of the rank and file of the armed forces.

Pesa came out with full support for the chief justice and demanded restoration of the judiciary. It also demanded removal of Musharraf and his trial for treason. After the long march was called off, members of Pesa were the first group to reach the chief justice’s house to congratulate him.

At the present time, the country is faced with external as well as internal threats. Institutional corruption is at its highest level, and state institutions that used to be pride of the nation are failing. Poverty-stricken Pakistanis are committing suicides in worryingly large numbers. There is no semblance of rule of law and even in the settled areas poor people are being subjected to unlawful trials through local jirgas.

Members of Pesa have demonstrated in favour of the lawyers’ movement, in support of minorities, women’s causes and have aided internally displaced people. The association also intends to organise a national convention of like-minded organisations and societies with a view to coordinating their efforts to advocate democracy.

Some quarters blame all ex-servicemen for the misdeeds of a few self-seeking generals. This is not justified on the simple grounds that one cannot blame the entire civilian population if some of them order women to be killed by their dogs or if they bury them alive? Likewise, neither political parties nor the judiciary can be held responsible if some of them supported the military dictators in the past.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Rabia
    Jul 5, 2010 - 11:47PM

    reading the first few paragraphs one might be forgiven for thinking – here is a military man who accepts the institutional responsibility of the military for destroying Pakistan’s political system.

    But after a few paragraphs, one realizes this is simply another attempt to cleanse the image of the military by dissociating it from the actions of a “unconstitutional acts of a few generals never represented the views of the rank and file of the armed forces.” So just because Musharraf was unpopular within the military because of his pro-West policies and backchannel talks on Kashmir, we are now supposed to start respecting the supporters of the counter-coup against him (including luminaries like Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg) as true democrats? What a joke. Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2010 - 12:17AM

    Well said. Perhaps Pesa will also lobby for greater scrutiny and accountability of the defence budget, perks and privileges of officers, investigate land grabs by various cantonments and the DHA, etc. While your organizations stances are admirable, they deflect attention away from the military and its own lack of accountability, and maintains the status quo. Recommend

  • faraz
    Jul 6, 2010 - 12:52AM

    A brigadier or major general cant do much when the army imposes marshall law but corp commanders are directly involved in the affairs of a military regime. PESA has no credibility as it has generals like Hameed Gul, Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani in its ranks.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jul 6, 2010 - 1:17AM

    Why was Mush “unpopular” with the army because of his pro-American policies?

    Give me a break.

    Did they not benefit enormously from that “tilt”, one phone call or two, in terms of new toys for the boys and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of “bounty” money that were left behind in brief-cases when the US came to congratulate them (ISI included) for having caught a couple of low-level bad guys?

    Who got this money?

    What about the billions in aid, civil and military, the unprecedented debt-relief on Naples Terms from the Paris Club, the IMF money with high access (several multiples of our quota), the World Bank and Asian Development Bank money that fueled the economy and gave them cushy jobs in every department of government and in embassies overseas?

    What do they have to complain about?

    At Rs 670 billion or so as per the budget, they have NO reason to complain. They just received their Block D F-16s with the most advanced avionics with helicopter gunships and other deadly missiles and armaments to follow — with NO accounting on how these were procured. Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2010 - 1:48AM

    Now that the lion has lost his teeth, he wants to become friends with the flock of deer. PESO is an institution whose large majority, with few exceptions, have benefitted from institutionalised corruption of the khakis, deprived the nation of over 30 years, which have been lost because of the greed of few men like Ayub Khan, Yahya,Zia and Musharraf. People respect men like Nur Khan, Asghar Khan and Akhtar Malik for their integrity, Major Aziz Bhatti, Major Shabbir Sharrif etc for their bravery, but despise others like Zarrar, Mela, Chisty, Zahid Akbar etc who behaved like estate agents. The khakis need to explain, why senior officers chose to disobey the legal command of the Quaid e Azam, when he ordered a batallion to move to Kashmir on 27 Oct 1947, an order which the British CinC refused. There are a lot of heroes in our uniformed services, whom the nation loves, but there were also a lot of corrupt adventurers.Recommend

  • Shahid Saeed
    Jul 6, 2010 - 2:09AM

    May I say a good move to get further land annexed unedr eminent domain transferred to private entities. Recommend

  • Aftab Siddiqui
    Jul 6, 2010 - 12:10PM

    This is a very simple way of facing saving. What current democratically elected govt is doing is more pathetic than anyone can even think about but it doesn’t mean that otherwise will help us in anyway. Recommend

  • Yar Muhammad
    Jul 6, 2010 - 12:24PM

    Not right to blame the entire army or retired soldiers for sins of a few.

    Is it not a fact that whenever a military man toppled a civilian government, the opposition parties celebrated and distributed sweets.


  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 6, 2010 - 12:59PM

    It is not only Musharraf but all the military dictators have been pro US and we are not supporting anyone of them. We believe in rule of law and superiority of the Constitution. We, therefore, want accountability across the board, that includes the military as well. Only a true democratic government that is answerable to its electorate can have the strength to touch ‘holy cows’. A judicial commission should probe into the present contracting systems and block all loop holes and discretionary powers that result in corruption. .
    Affairs of DHA and other civil works undertaken by military should also be open to scrutiny. Read below a para about US army Corps of Engineers.
    “The United States Army Corps of Engineers is the world’s largest public engineering, design and construction management agency. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works support to the nation and the Department of Defense throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers is the nation’s number one provider of outdoor recreation and provides 24% of the US hydro power capacity”.
    PESA is targeting Musharraf for two main reasons:
    1. He is the only one who could not get parliamentary indemnity for imposing state of the country.

    2. His trial under Article 6 of the Constitution will send a strong message to anyone who tries to play with the Constitution.

  • Jul 6, 2010 - 3:10PM

    @Brig Masud ul Hasan: Sir, comparingDHA to the US engineering corps is not a fair comparison. The DHA has been involved in land grabs. Take the example of the land on which DHA Phase 2 Islamabad has been developed. There the local community has yet to be compensated, even though they recieved compensation lettersr in 1994, and that compensation is Rs 57000, out of which Rs. 7000 will be deducted for DHA administration charges. Not to mention all the agricultural property offered to retired army officers, at throw away prices. For a poor country like Pakistan its atravisity that the people of Pakistan have to subsidise property developments, golf courses and mess halls. While we hear about the corruption of politicans and the perks and privledges of politicans, why is the pay and perks of the COAS, DG ISI, Lt and Major Generals a state secret? Why do they need more than one plot after they retire. Why are Army officers appointed in the civil service and as ambassodors, while career civil servants are stuck below them and dont get promoted for years?

    While the people of Rawalpindi dont have water to drink the Army golf course is being watered. While there is a shortage of police in the city, 15 are deputed at the gates of the golf course. While people are either unemployed or work 14 hours a day to make ends meet, an entourage of staff cars makes a b-line to the nearest golf course or mess hall at four o’clock.

    Or perhaps you should visit the fruit and vegetable vendors in Westridge market or R.A. Bazar, where captains and majors refuse to pay the vendors, saying that “we are army officers”.

    The list goes on and on. This notion that the country “owes” its military men has been exploited till the pips squeeks. Yes, society owes a debt to those who protect it. But we dont see plots being distrbuted to jawans? The officer class has transformed itself into an exploitative elite, who justify there perks as something that they are owed. Recommend

  • Ammar
    Jul 6, 2010 - 3:23PM

    Perhaps one can figure how this movement for restoration of superior judiciary was kicked off. The writer has tried to show the other side of the same coin but failed to put a stronger case as it stands no ground, having people like Hamid Gul, Asad Durani, and Aslam Baig in PESA. But nice try :)Recommend

  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 6, 2010 - 5:09PM

    My response to some of the criticism is as under:

    Military does not require our support to cleanse it record. They have done it by fighting and winning the longest and costliest war in our history. When will it be over depends on the political government. Aslam Beg is not a PESA member. Hamid Gul is just a simple member. He was vivible during lawyers struggle only.

    El Edroos
    Yes we are for accountability and check on corruption in every department.
    Are you related to Brig El Edroos?

    You are right that odd brigadier or general could not do much when the Army chief with his cohorts wanted to play foul. They misused Army’s discipline. That is why we are demanding trial of Musharraf. To say that “Democracy is best revenge” is not enough. Every decade of a dictator was followed by short period of democracy. Should that musical chair continue? What are the choices? Snubbing the “toothless” ex-servicemen or punish the guilty.

    Meekal Ahmad
    I do not know any the about the money hence no comments. One thing I will say, this war has become very costly in terms of men and material.

    Malik Tariq Ali
    Please name a few corrupt members of PESA. We have nothing to with Aslam Beg, Chisti of Zahid Akbar etc.
    Quaid-e-Azam’s order was said to have been disobeyed by the British C-in-C. Dispite that Pakistani soldiers under Maj Gen Akbar Khan saved whatever is left as Azad J & K. He fought with the name of Gen Tariq.
    Our president Admiral Fasih Bokhari was Naval chief when Musharraf took over. He opposed that action and left the job.

    Imran Khan Baloch
    You are right. We have many problems. Even the existence is being threatened because of our nuclear weapons. We want to find common solutions. Any body else can lead. We followed lawyers, minorities and citizen societies of Islamabad in the past. We have no problem if some other organization wants to take the lead for a coordinated struggle.

  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 6, 2010 - 7:40PM

    What you say may 100 % right. For the last 2 years we have a political government. Why has it not been able to check.

    The only way is to have strong, democratically elected government whose leaders have clean past, are selfless and are accountable to the voters as well as the law. You can’t have democracy with the present waderas and big landlords having monopoly over politics.

    DHA and multiple plots are the brain child of Musharraf. When I was brigade commander, my GOC used to drive his Volkwagon after office hours. When I was Col Staff, there was a weeklong power breakdown at Kharian. I sent a generator from EME Bn to flagstaff House. GOC rang me up to get the generator removed within 15 minutes otherwise pack up. As captain I used to go to unit on rented bicycle. I cannot narrate all the stories except that is the type of Army I belong to.


  • cmsarwar
    Jul 6, 2010 - 8:48PM

    Brig.Masud has done a great service by propagating the aims and objectives of PESA and its very laudable performance so far.It is very well known that PESA did add to the nervousness of an already panic-stricken Musharraf.But I do not support Masud in broadening,and thereby diffusing,the scope of PESA’s aims and objectives.Our armed forces,alongwith their allied intelligence agencies,eat up bulk of our national resources.Also,all the three forces have encroached into non-military industrial,commerercial and business pursuits thereby building their own parallel empires.It started with the self-styled Field Martial and has assumed monstrous proportions.
    No doubt we are proud of our brave armed forces.The nation is grateful for their unique sacrifices.But no General has ever won a war for Pakistan.In the final analysis all our wars led ultimately to some sort of major disaster.(Zia’s successful Jihad led to the complications confronting the nation now and causing further bleeding of our soldiers)
    I would,therefore suggest that PESA should confine itself,for the present,to the armed forces.A lot needs to be done to open up what people have come to believe another Pakistan within Pakistan.Everything here is shrouded in mystery in the name of national security.PESA could be effective because when they speak up it will not be bloody civilian talking nonsense.Also,PESA needs to broaden and increase its membership and should stop being just an elitist club.They need not act like a trade union and hold rallies like political parties.Their major contribution would be to keep a careful watch,gather information and solid data and inform the nation when a malpractice happens which could damage the nation,with fair regard to the national security considerations.
    I am sure all the civil institutions will give full support to PESA.It could solicit support from Human Rights bodies,lawyers,minorities,media and,in fact,the whole oppressed nation.I do not advise PESA to lose its focus and venture out to correct countless maladies this nation is faced with.Recommend

  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 7, 2010 - 2:06AM

    Mr. Sarwar, I highly appreciate your very useful suggestions. You are right that PESA should concentrate on military related matters. It, however, be noted that when PESA came into being, in addition to Army welfare trust, Fauji Foundation, Armed Services Boards, Ex-Servicemen Society of Gen Chishti and many other local organizations were busy in looking after military related job. The Army image was at its lowest due to almost 40 years of military rule. PESA was not there at that time but no other ex-serviceman could anything about that as those dictators had taken indemnities from the courts and parliament. Despite the involvement and support of these two main pillars of the state, blame was still on the Army. .

    Musharraf’s actions were different in many ways. .Ayub’s and Zia’s acts mainly related to internal affairs. If courts and politicians had been honest and courageous, I am sure those generals could been checked. They got unbridled support so they did what they wanted.

    Musharraf’s actions have integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. Therefore we thought it was time to openly disassociate from military dictators. Without saying a word, he let India complete dams and tunnels of our rivers It is now in a position to stop flow of water at will.

    US invaded Afghanistan not for Osama but to destabilize Pakistan.. They now want to talk to Taliban, just to break them from Pakistan. That is why there is a talk of delay in US withdrawal because the main job remains unfinished. It was in this context that we vehemently opposed Kerry Lugar Law. That directly strikes atv our nuclear capability.

    Sacking of 70 judges from superior courts crossed all limits. It was then that PESA was born with 2 objectives: 1) Rule of Law. 2) Supremacy of the Constitution. We have taken the oath to safeguard the country as well as the Constitution. That oath along with Commission is valid till our life time. So we are only trying to fulfill our obligation to the nation. We want to take along all like minded people. In the process if some young leader comes forward that will a great prize… Our active member’s age varies between 70 and 80 years. So we are not looking for any leadership role.

    As I have said earlier, many ills have come up in the country both in the military and the civil due to weak civil governments. The present government is still embroiled in NRO.

    So let us all join hand to mobilize people towards the right path.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jul 7, 2010 - 2:22AM


    I suggest most respectfully you do brush up on some hard numbers.

    Even then, what you see reported and talked about is just the tip of the proverbial ice-berg. For example, our entire nuclear program (and I am NOT making a moral judgement here) is off-budget. How many billions (or trillions?) is that over a period of 20 years or so? Not that it has ended. After a stockpile of 100 bombs and having perfected the uranium enrichment route we are now embarking on the plutonium route. How much is this new adventure costing us? Who knows or has the accounts or are none kept? Who financed all this from the start when Bhutto first called the good ever talkative and self-obsessed Doctor from Holland and under what line-item and classification were the domestic costs and imports recorded and what debt-servicing are we paying back annually, to whom, and where is that recorded? Obviously that is off the books as well.

    But the true numbers must be mind-blowing.

    How much does each Shaheen missile (looking suspiciously like the North Korean No-Dong) periodically shot off into the sea cost? May be we should take the cost of a single launch and calculate how many schools we could have built. How much does taking up one of our shiny new just-delivered Block D F-16’s for one hour cost as our Top Gun fighter-jocks (all very good mind you) push the flight envelope and pull 9G’s with after-burners on? Do you know, Sir, the fuel burn with the after-burners (or re-heats as the English call them) on?

    This DHA, land-grabbing, multiple plots (I recall Musharaff admitted to seven) ever-green golf courses, the army’s business empire (Military Inc.), shady personalities that have been talked about above is peanuts. The real, true costs of all this other stuff will never be known for reasons of “national security”. I respect that but let us not fool ourselves and think these costs, that have been, are being and will be borne by future generations to come are trivial. And to think, Sir, they are all just “Bloody Civilians” as you like to call them weighed down by the bruden of having to carry you guys on their backs, keep you happy and in good nick while they go without education, health, water, food, power, roads and justice. Ask me about justice, Sir, as I desperately seek it. I feel like going to Mr. Z who I know as I knew BB and say I don’t want a license, a sugar mill, or any pecuniary advantage from you. Just give me justice so I can get my rightful inheritance, go on my way and educate my children and be free.

    But I digress.

    The armed forces lay down their lives for us. The Bloody Civilians, Sir, take theirs. So who is making the real sacrifice?


    No, Sir, I think you have it backwards.

    I am deeply aware of the human cost of the war we are fighting now and have fought before especially when it becomes personal and you know the person who got killed — a friend, a neighbour, a cricket buddy who opened the innings with you in High School and had the most wonderful off-drive that he would send to the ropes through cover and point, a young dashing tank commander who was engaged to be married to a family member, or just a good kind delightful human being. Recommend

  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 7, 2010 - 2:21PM

    Who can clean up the mess. Only a powerful civilian government with honest and selfless leaders. That is what we want and are trying for. We are not saying that there is no corruption. We want to create awareness about power of the vote. No corrupt government can stop corruption It will only ask for its share. We want to find solutions to end corruption, solve Baloch problem, and other issues like terrorism, river waters, religious extremism and all the others. Just telling us to keep quiet is no solution.

    Your knowledge of figures is of no help unless we have a ruthlessly honest system of accountability. The way the present government is ignoring supreme Court orders shows that it has no desire to end corruption.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jul 7, 2010 - 6:08PM


    I have no knowledge of figures because they are all concealed which was the point of my long-winded comment! I dread to think what the amounts are. I know there are people still alive who at least know where it is all tucked away. But if you ask them like I have they just smile! That’s OK. These are matters of national security.

    The point I wanted to make is that we have a defense establishment (counting all of it) that is disproportionate to the size of our fragile economy. It is a dead-weight loss on the country because you know and I know no one is going to go to war anytime soon — not in our life-time, that’s for sure.

    Of course we must maintain a “credible deterrent”. I understand all that. It is just that I have this uneasy sense that the defense forces of the country have gone berserk. They have lost all sense of proportion.

    On corruption, I think our media is playing a valiant role. By talking about it and naming names they are putting themselves in harms way. I salute their bravery especially since in our country there are no laws to protect them.

    Yes, ruthless across-the-board accountability, and not a political witch-hunt, is needed. But it MUST include the defense establishment as well. I recall a long time ago when Musharaff was asked about it he said the armed forces have their own internal system of accountability.

    Really? Recommend

  • Brig Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 7, 2010 - 7:58PM

    Nations try to keep defence forces according to the threat. If they can’t afford that, the behave like Nepal and Bhutan.

    W#e almost went to war after Mumbai attack. You say ‘jee hazoor, give up your struggle for Kashmir, hand over rivers and most important submit to American demands on nuclear programme, then you need troops for internal security only.

    When we say accountability across the board, it includes military as well.

    No doubt media is exposing corruption and other ills but unfortunately it is not changing anything. Fake degree is no offence as far as parliamentarians are concerned. Why to sweat and spend thousands on schooling. I know a big gun who is said to have changed his name and bought thatb fellow’s foreign degree. It is the public pressure only that can bring about a change. You have to rouse them. We are Muslims and claim to be following Quran and Sunnah but we have forgotten the first Sunnah due to which, people accepted what our Prophet told them. That was honesty and truthfulness.

    Iqbal asked you to ‘jaga do’ Jab qaum jagay gi to Faiz bhi dekhhay ga. At the moment I can’t say anything more than shed tears.

    Military all over the world have their own legal system and laws. Military personnel are court martialled for violation of their own acts and laws. The accounts are subject to be checked be Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee. The two need to be made more effective. The procurement procedures need to be revised and made more transparent, at least to auditors etc.Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Jul 7, 2010 - 8:24PM

    I admire whole-heartedly the sincerity and passion of Masud.But he is not paying any attention to the warning I want to convey.My request was:Please stay focussed,do not diffuse your thinking and do not try to do too much.In your extreme passion you are losing direction..Please try to grasp the facts which Mr.Meekal has so diligently and ably put before you.Our main issue is an enormous , misdirected and out-of-control defense establishment.Do not please be distracted by misdeeds of politicians and judiciary.I do not condone their wrong-doings.But please take notice,they cannot confront a brutalised and overbearing military establishment initiated by Ayub Khan and receiving reinforcemets from all the vested external powers ever since.
    The cornerstone of our national direction has been and continues to be to fight India and not to co-exist with her.What,in the ultimate analysis,are the achievements of our military juntas in this direction so far? And what is the cost so far?.I do not grudge our nuclear capability but what has it gained? A status quo which has perpatuated misery for the common man and a defense establishement which has misappropriated the whole nation .I must compliment Mr.Meekal for his comprehensive and competent expostion of the issues Pakistan is facing.Brig.Masud,please pay attention,you are not listening.Recommend

  • Bri Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 9, 2010 - 6:22PM

    I am listening loud and clear. Then problems you are highlighting cannot be resolved by a handful of ex-servicemen. You need a powerful, honest and selfless democratic government. Its power should come from the people. The most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan cannot stop corruption. It only asks for its cut. Our aim is to work with like minded people mobilize peoples power. A few dozen ex-servicemen standing in front of GHQ cannot affect any change. Our Commission and oath is for our life time. So we want to do our duty for protection of the Constitution and the country. It is for the people, parliament and the government to decide future policy on Kashmir, river waters, war against terrorism, poverty, corruption and all other issues under the sky.


  • cmsarwar
    Jul 11, 2010 - 3:01AM

    @Masud.I appreciate your response.I have complete faith in your sincerity.My request is:please make a beginning.I am sure PESA will no longer remain a few dozen ex-servicemen.The nation will listen and pay attention to you.The whole nation could follow you to the GHQ gates to lend support.But I must emphasize PESA has to,at least,disassociate itself vocally from wrong-doings in the defense establishment and register their protests whenever needed.Recommend

  • Bri Syed Masud ul Hassan (Retd)
    Jul 13, 2010 - 6:33PM

    Dear Sarwar, We have already done what you are suggesting. As a matter of fact, the very objective of launching PESA was to disassociate from the wrong doings of self-seeking generals. We openly announced this at a national convention held about 2 years ago. That convention was organized by us and was attended by top leaders of almost all political parties, media leaders and other organization. Again at a all parties meeting held at Islamabad which was attended by most party head including Nawaz Sharif. Yesterday we held a preliminary meeting that was attended by leaders/reps of 14 different organizations. With God’s blessings, we are moving ahead.
    Masud Recommend

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