The military and the law

Published: September 9, 2012
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The case against the NLC is about the loss of Rs1.84 billion to the civilian exchequer when top NLC officers illegally invested Rs4.3 billion in the stock market and caused a Rs1.8 billion loss in the process.

The case against the NLC is about the loss of Rs1.84 billion to the civilian exchequer when top NLC officers illegally invested Rs4.3 billion in the stock market and caused a Rs1.8 billion loss in the process.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is investigating a scandal related to the military-run National Logistics Cell (NLC) and cannot proceed because the GHQ, in order to prevent proceedings under normal law of the land, has decided to take the accused officers out of retirement and try them under court martial general.

The case against the NLC is about the loss of Rs1.84 billion to the civilian exchequer when top NLC officers illegally invested Rs4.3 billion in the stock market and caused a Rs1.8 billion loss in the process. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed NAB in July 2011 to proceed against three former generals and two civilians involved in this scam. The decision to make the shady investment was taken by Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Munir Khan, Lt Gen (retd) Mohammad Afzal Muzaffar and Maj Gen (retd) Khalid Zaheer Akhtar.

NAB, which is also headed by a retired military officer, could not proceed against these officers because several meetings between the NAB chief and the army chief came up against the latter’s resistance to the idea of letting the retired generals be prosecuted. Instead, NAB has told the PAC that it will now proceed only against the civilian officers of the NLC involved in the case. It is faced with the problem of investigating the alleged culprits in the case without the benefit of the earlier inquiry by the GHQ and questioning the two civilians at the NLC without access to the organisation’s decision-making military officers.

Pakistan is on the horns of a dilemma: how to deal with an institution that is constitutionally subordinate to municipal law but supreme in power in reality. Constitutionally, Pakistan is a normal state but in terms of state theory it is a ‘national security state’, cemented into the national psyche as a military-led entity with a revisionist mission statement embedded in the textbooks. The official history of the country tells us that it has been ruled repeatedly by military dictators, some of them quite popular during the times they ruled. The latest scandal has broken on September 6 or the Defence of Pakistan Day, which the country celebrated quietly with TV channels lionising the military as a ‘victor’ against Pakistan’s enemies, even saying that the next war is going to be with ‘different’ enemies, subliminally suggesting that India as a foe has been supplanted by America.

There are a number of things to be considered. The GHQ may think that this is the wrong moment for the military to face an avalanche of negative publicity, especially after being hauled over the coals in Balochistan by the Supreme Court, in connection with ‘disappeared people’. There is no doubt it has interviewed the retired generals and has found that they went to the stock exchange with good faith but were misled with wrong advice. The GHQ could also be wary of NAB because of the rumours of its politicisation.

It may also think that a parliament that thinks nothing of losing hundreds of billions through civilian scams was hardly the authority to order the investigation of an institution that has so far stayed out of the limelight of scandals. There may be justification in the thought that since the government allows the NLC to be operated by military officers under the blanket concept of  ‘state security’, it must adhere to its vow of secrecy, especially as the stock market blunder could involve details that would look bad if they came out during investigation. The NLC was said to be involved in activities alleged by the enemies of Pakistan to be related to Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

However, the avalanche of negative publicity is already teetering on the brink through the media. The impression of exemption from the law and there being two laws in the country on the basis of  ‘national security’ is no longer something that Pakistan can live with. Already, the military is being challenged on this in Balochistan. Exemption of any sort will not fly any more. It is possible, however, that NAB may find the defence of the accused officers credible enough to recommend mitigation.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Sep 10, 2012 - 12:07AM

    As long as the Rawalpindi clique thinks that they are above the law, the country will be on this roller coaster, the representative of the people in the NA and PAs could be as corrupt or even more than the military but they are being watched by the people and the news papers and are critical of them openly which is a healthy sign itself. However if we are going to be considered a respected country in the world community then the law of land and constitution must be upheld and that goes to the GHQ, President, PM and all those who consider themselves above the law. It is a bad precedence regardless what it does to the Army’s repute but by not upholding the law they are certainly being held in low esteem by the people and they do need people’s support as General Kiyani said it several times, I would point out to him that it is a matter of credibility any more, you can’t have it both ways.

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  • sabi
    Sep 10, 2012 - 12:12AM

    Army (state) will not allow Pakistan to voilate it’s sovereignty.

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  • Falcon
    Sep 10, 2012 - 12:38AM

    A very balanced criticism.

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  • Nadir
    Sep 10, 2012 - 1:05AM

    These generals were just pawns in corruption of political masters. They are disciplined and innocent looking!

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  • Anonymous
    Sep 10, 2012 - 2:58AM

    Vow, accused officer were retired and taken back inactive service just to court martial. It seems kosher. PCO chief justice are you hearing this?Recommend

  • White Russian
    Sep 10, 2012 - 6:07AM

    Where is famous suo moto, and thunderous judicial rage?

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  • ouch
    Sep 10, 2012 - 4:28PM

    ofcourse they should be tried under court-martial as they committed this crime while they were in-service. atleast they’re being tried by their OWN institution, not like the govt. that is bent upon protecting everyone from its party. if they’re indicted and sentenced, President swings into action and pardons them… where’s the difference??

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  • Chopper
    Sep 10, 2012 - 5:44PM

    More ridiculous anti military trash from ET.

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  • Enlightened
    Sep 10, 2012 - 5:58PM

    Taking the military officers out of retirement and trying them under court martial is a unprecedented step which is untenable even under military law since the civil law machinery is the only competent authority to try accused military personnel after retirement from their active service. However, assistance may be sought by the civil court from the military authorities if so required. The overactive Supreme Court of Pakistan should take notice of this and step into this extra-ordinary situation to meet the ends of justice.

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  • Mirza
    Sep 10, 2012 - 6:52PM

    Army and generals are exempt from the constitution. Not even retired generals are accountable for their gambling with the public money. Yet they have their strong supporters to shield them. Recommend

  • ulta pulta
    Sep 10, 2012 - 8:30PM

    power flows from the barrel of the gun!

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  • Polpot
    Sep 11, 2012 - 1:09PM

    “Pakistan is on the horns of a dilemma: how to deal with an institution that is constitutionally subordinate to municipal law but supreme in power in reality.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    When the Civilian Govt cant even convince the Military t prosecute retired Military officials for corruption undertaken while performing Civilian roles, how will the same Govt convince the Military re better relations with India?

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