Trying the generals

Published: October 29, 2012
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Both the generals have expressed their dissatisfaction over the verdict and are looking forward to presenting their side of the case when it finally comes to a trial court. PHOTO: FILE

Both the generals have expressed their dissatisfaction over the verdict and are looking forward to presenting their side of the case when it finally comes to a trial court. PHOTO: FILE

Will the PPP government prosecute former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg (retd) and former DG-ISI Asad Durrani in the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict, wherein they were found guilty in the long-standing Asghar Khan petition after 16 years?

The Supreme Court, in its short order, has ruled that the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who was the then-president of Pakistan along with Beg and Durrani, acted in violation of the Constitution by facilitating the success of a group of politicians and political parties, etc, against rival candidates in the general election of 1990, for which they secured funds from Younis Habib.

Both the generals have expressed their dissatisfaction over the verdict and are looking forward to presenting their side of the case when it finally comes to a trial court. The point that will come up for discussion and will exercise many minds is the compulsion of  ‘obeying orders’ even when their legality is even vaguely in violation of the law.

The supremacy of the army in Pakistan is still tacitly accepted and no government can survive for long unless it aligns itself with its thinking and accepts its ‘national strategy’. The past also tells us that the Constitution favoured the ‘troika system’ that rigged the 1990 election with bribery. The president was the supreme commander armed with Article 58(2)(b) that could cashier the elected parliament. The judiciary invariably sided with the ‘troika’ and legitimised those actions which are now being challenged by the Supreme Court.

The present PPP government, though surviving in a deceptive, new ambience of military non-interference and judicial autonomy, is hardly better placed to investigate the generals. The political opposition still wants it out by fair method or foul and the judiciary is snapping at its heels while the military can barely tolerate it after the Memogate case.

The supremacy of the military in Pakistan has its origin in Pakistan’s nationalism and it is going to be difficult for the government to try the generals under Article 6 for treason and may ask the army to prosecute them under its law, not least influenced by a recent example of its refusal to expose a number of its corrupt retired officers to the law of the land.

Shuja Nawaz, in his authoritative history of the army, Crossed Swords: Pakistan its Army and Wars within (2008) explains why it may be difficult to prosecute the generals. “The Pakistan Army, a well-organised entity, has tried to fit into an underdeveloped political system. While responding to the unequal challenge of next-door India, it has ended up appropriating for itself the bulk of the state’s resources. Furthermore, its acts of trespassing and usurpation have sapped its professional function.”

Long years of military rule has shaped the national mind, already inclined towards jihad. The Pakistani mind is a militarised mind. Our children imbibe militarism from textbooks. If in the past, India was the enemy we had to defeat, today, it is a combination of foes with India, the US and Israel rolled into one. We need a strong and paramount army now more than ever before. The effect is total ignorance of economy-based governance, a blind carnal attraction to nuclear weapons which a civilian prime minister tested in 1998, after which there was no domestic or foreign investment in Pakistan.

Judicial immaculacy does not fit into the new paradigm of a weak state that has lost its writ in most of its territory, which cannot successfully prosecute and punish the terrorists it catches and lets its citizens survive by paying ransom to kidnappers and bank robbers whose ideology is deemed superior to the ideology of Pakistan by a vast madrassa network patiently waiting for a ‘revolution’. Alive to the cue, the politicians, too, predict a ‘revolution’ as Lal Masjid in Islamabad gets ready to build a bigger stronghold in the heart of the capital for the Taliban as the next rulers of Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Rex Minor
    Oct 30, 2012 - 12:06AM

    Pakistan must nationalise its military, breaking up its colonial structure and making military service compulsary for 12-18 months for all adults when they reach the age of 18.

    Pakistan current military should be used to teach school children during peace time, which was deployed by Fredrick the great when he made education compulsary for all citizens and had no trained teachers.

    Rex Minor

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  • SM
    Oct 30, 2012 - 1:49AM

    The problem is not the Generals. The problem is the corrupt politicians. Why would Aslam Beg play games when it is easily confirmed by everyone who was there that the Army had already moved in to take over all key installations within Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of the crash of General Zia’s plane. Power lay at his feet and instead he chose to allow the elections to proceed and did not ask for any extensions.

    All this speculation is highly debatable and there is no doubt in my mind that the politicians are playing this up in connivance with the media to create more confusion as the elections approach. Perhaps the reason is to delay elections and try to maintain status quo.

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  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Oct 30, 2012 - 9:19AM

    Trying the generals in Pakistan
    Excellent,much the best and august daydreaming and stargazing by the democratic leaders……
    This is just a dream which never come true in Pakistan……

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  • Oct 30, 2012 - 11:53AM

    In the first instance,I would like to advance herein my arguement that it has never been seen in the history of Pakistan any general has been prosecuted.
    Elected governments were toppled,elected prime ministers were arrested prosecuted and executed but no legal action was taken by next set up.

    Democracy in Pakistan is not deep-rooted due to some general not all amd looks as a last in the line of developing countries.

    As for as PPP government is concerned,it is not in position to do any thing against the persons ,shareholder in money and who committed high reason.by violating the constitution.

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  • Uza Syed
    Oct 30, 2012 - 2:15PM

    Wonderful portay of Pakistan today! —- When that place, the den of terrorism, called ‘Lal Masjid’ becomes a monument and those terrorists taking arms against us become martyrs then what is there to save. No judiciary—–active or restraint, no politician——liberal or conservative, or the militay can do anything anymore. You have gotta go back to the basics and redefine who we are and what is it that we want for ourselves, a country with modern democratic system or styled after some caliphate of the 8th century.

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  • Oct 30, 2012 - 3:04PM

    Law of the land and country’s constitution permits no any army general to interfare in the civilian elected set up.Despite of all general interfared time and time again,toppled civilian governments and imposed martila law.It has been tradition,historical tradition..

    It has opened secret by the petition filed by general Asgher Khan.Judgement has been deliverd by the apex court after more than a decade.

    Now it is present’s government obligation to take legal action according to the country’s top honorable court.decision but looks no legal activities by the regim in this regard .

    Crucial majority of the people seeking government’s reaction in this connection more delay is beyond the patient of the people of Pakistan already facing political explitation and poor economy.

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  • Mirza
    Oct 30, 2012 - 7:24PM

    Not even a low level officer of the army has ever been tried for the surrender and war crimes in E. Pakistan, and hosting OBL in army base. Army and judges are above constitution and have no respect or regard for the elected govt and democracy. As usual these generals and their rightwing supporters and beneficiaries would escape punishment and would scornfully reject the SC decision just like H. Rehman Commission Report. The fact is by hanging a popularly elected PM (ZAB) the generals proved that they can do that to any other politician and govt and Zardari is no ZAB!Recommend

  • SM
    Oct 31, 2012 - 12:24AM

    @Mirza:
    The problem again in East Pakistan was the political leadership not the Generals. The problem was that we in West Pakistan didnt give our citizens in East Pakistan their due rights. Lets not blame the Army when the problem started in the early 50s. There was no undue army influence then.

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  • shahzad
    Oct 31, 2012 - 3:48AM

    It would be good if these two men were subject to a trial, however the probability of this happening is close to zero. For one, at least a large head of a major political party would also have to be hanged. The 2nd being that this will set a precedence resulting in the hanging of many other army men, bureaucrats, judges and politicians.

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  • Naseem Akhtar
    Oct 31, 2012 - 9:07PM

    With the present state of development, soon there won’t be much left to rule for the Pak army.

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  • Masood Mazhar
    Nov 2, 2012 - 1:07AM

    Army’s accountability is highly selective and discriminatory; harsh for junior ranks and tailor-made for Generals to get away with virtually everything. Time is ripe for politicians to rein in ArCOAS powers should be drastically reduced by giving promotions and postings of at least three stars generals (Corps Commanders) to Defence Minister.
    If this is not done ASAP, Army will not hesitate to go for a kill (read Martial Law) at the first available chance which our politicians are very good at providing. 
    PILDAT has already done a good work (available on their website) on this legislation and existing framework of Turkish, Indian and other Armies. 

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