Small matters can sometimes lead to big changes. In some ways, the refusal by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and now the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence to attend a briefing at the GHQ on the military operation in tribal areas, seems like a trivial matter. But the issue runs much deeper than that and must be seen against the backdrop of our history, with so many years since 1947 dominated by military rule. This is the past which we need to leave behind, and that can happen only if the notion that parliament is sovereign and is the decision maker in all policies is embedded deeply in the minds of the public. At the moment, confusion on the issue still seems to persist in many places and in many minds.
The view expressed by members of the committees that in democratic countries military men should visit parliament and not the other way round, is a valid one. This refusal signals a growing confidence on the part of elected law-makers and a realisation that real authority should rest with them. This is an extremely welcome development. We have waited far too long for it to come. The roles of various institutions are quite clearly spelled out in the Constitution. It is high time that these were adhered to — both in letter and in spirit.
Today, we stand at a turning point in the course of our democratic development. We need to ensure that we continue along the right road. The GHQ briefing sessions have for now been cancelled. If they are to be held in the future, there appears to be little reason why they cannot be conducted in parliament. Such symbolism is in many ways crucial. It is also important that we get used to the idea that the men in uniform should not be deciding what we do as a nation, but instead playing their role essentially as a force that follows orders from the representatives elected by the people, who must at all times, hold the reins of command in their hands. This process it seems has begun.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2011.