On August 1, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to start criminal proceedings against three former generals for their involvement in a land lease deal that led to losses worth billions for the Pakistan Railways. This is an unprecedented, yet, a very welcome move. In the past, corruption by military men largely went unnoticed as the PML-N’s Khawaja Asif rightly pointed out: That the media was always quick to deal with politicians whereas uniformed personnel were often dealt with in a much different manner.
Due to the military’s power, it often seems that its personnel are not held accountable for their actions in the way politicians are. No military dictator has been taken to task for holding the Constitution in abeyance after overthrowing civilian governments. In the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden raid and the attack on the Mehran airbase in Karachi, no military personnel have been held responsible so far, either for incompetence or complicity (barring a few suspensions in the case of the latter). But we saw that a serving ambassador — a civilian — had to resign following the uproar caused by the memo affair. The Supreme Court has held the Frontier Corps responsible for the missing persons in Balochistan but there seems to be no way to monitor its activities.
Pakistan has faced difficult times, globally, in terms of international isolation, due to what many perceive as the military establishment’s stance on the war on terror. However, there seems to be little analysis of the role that uniformed personnel have played in various matters of import over the years. What we usually see is a witch-hunt against democratically elected governments but the real powerbrokers are not questioned about their policies. It is now time to hold all entities accountable for their excesses. Thus, the PAC’s move to take action against the retired generals is something to be lauded. No one should be above the law.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.