National interest: No ultimate arbiter, says Gen Kayani

Published: November 6, 2012
Says undermining armed forces for individual mistakes is unacceptable.

Says undermining armed forces for individual mistakes is unacceptable.


Seldom has a one-page statement been this closely scrutinised – even in Pakistan.

In an extraordinary statement loaded with indirect, but thinly-veiled, references and overtly stern warnings, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has set off a storm in the country.

On the heels of a rising chorus of allegations and a torrent of charges, ranging from financial corruption to constitutional excesses against former military generals, particularly from an assertive Supreme Court, the army chief on Monday came to his institution’s defence while “speaking to a group of  officers at the GHQ.”

While the entire statement, released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), sent out a strong message, there were a few lines in particular that set off alarms. While it is unclear whether the army chief was referring to his institution’s past actions, or to the current situation of an increasingly assertive judiciary, he said: “Weakening of institutions and trying to assume more than one’s due role will set the country back.”

“No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest,” was another part of the statement that came under in for particular scrutiny.

The end of his statement was also particularly telling: “All systems in Pakistan appear to be in a haste to achieve something,” he said. “Let us take a pause and examine the two fundamental questions: One, are we promoting the rule of law and the Constitution? Two, are we strengthening or weakening the institutions?”

Earlier in the statement, Gen Kayani spoke of “efforts” to “draw a wedge” between the armed forces of the country and the people. “Armed forces draw their strength from the bedrock of public support. National security is meaningless without it. Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and the armed forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.”

The army chief stressed that “individual mistakes” have been made by everyone and added that “no one is guilty until proven.” Notably, in an obvious reference to mounting criticism of the army due to the acts of some officers, he also added that: “Let us not pre judge anyone, be it a civilian or a military person and extend it, unnecessarily, to undermine respective institutions.”

Recently, in a landmark judgment in the Asghar Khan case, the Supreme Court recently held former heads of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) responsible for rigging the 1990 elections. Separately, the country’s top anti-corruption body, NAB, had recently also summoned three retired generals, including a former ISI chief, for their alleged involvement in the multi-billion rupee railways land scam.

The army chief struck a particularly stern tone on what he referred to as “conspiracy theories” saying that, while constructive criticism was acceptable, “conspiracy theories based on rumours … is not tolerated.”

However, he also apparently admitted that the army did make mistakes in the past by overstepping its authority. “We are critically looking at the mistakes made in the past and trying to set the course for a better future,” he maintained.

“We should learn from our past, try to build the present and keep our eyes set on a better future.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (31)

  • Nadir
    Nov 6, 2012 - 3:07AM

    “Armed forces draw their strength from the bedrock of public support.”, therefore it is important that corrupt officers and those that conducted coups and subverted the constitution, must not be treated like civilians and accused of corruption or held to account because that will demoralise the Army. Wow! Carte blanche then if you are an Army officer, milk it!


  • Arindom
    Nov 6, 2012 - 4:02AM

    The world has changed – it has no tolerance for dictators now – time for Pakistanis to join in!


  • Saleem
    Nov 6, 2012 - 4:05AM

    Heal thyself physician!


  • sabi
    Nov 6, 2012 - 4:16AM

    “Armed forces draw their strength from the bedrock of public support. National security is meaningless without it. Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and the armed forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.”
    How this public support is attained? By manipulating in every sphere of life and brainwashing the public.
    Why is it that only generals have this divine right of defining ‘larger national intrest’
    They (generals) are really digging trenches.


  • Asad
    Nov 6, 2012 - 5:17AM

    lets see how the media blows this one out of proportion…


  • Barooq
    Nov 6, 2012 - 5:54AM

    this is an unconstitutional statement. government should ask either for Kayani’s resignation or sack him. Actually CJ is no better.
    Parliament is the ultimate arbiter and funny thing is that both army and judiciary seem to forget it.


  • AllahRukha
    Nov 6, 2012 - 5:54AM

    A country whose own people don’t trust its Armed Forces but yet when in floods, bankrupt institutions, earthquakes and petty law enforcement, their own elected civilian leaders call upon the armed forces.
    A quagmire of irony.
    The free judiciary, we are waiting for the sentence of Mumtaz Qadri.

    From a civilian……….


  • naeem khan Manhattan Ks
    Nov 6, 2012 - 7:29AM

    It is time that this General be retired, subtle threats to the Supreme Court is unacceptable, they have ruled the country for half of it’s life and look at the mess they have created. If they want the respect and backing of the nation then they should clean up their institution, some of Generals has violated the constitution and others have mismanaged the people’s treasury for their egos and benefits. If any General would talk like this in the USA, he would be shown the exit door quickly but in Pakistan, the corrupt government is incapable and weak to show him the exit door. These boys think they are above the law and constitution and the results are clear to every one for the last so manyt decades. They are hired and paid for to defend the borders and nothing else is their business and that message should be brought to their attention by the people of Pakistan.


  • NAkhtar
    Nov 6, 2012 - 7:37AM

    Pakistan comes first,not the constitution.
    For the last few months everybody is critisizing Armed forces, instead of of few corrupt generals, this message should have come very eraly to stop the state enemies, so claaed democracy has erdoded Pakistn.
    Kayani’s message about ‘RULE OF LAW’ must be understood by all stakeholders, if generals are not superior then President is not above the law, NRO must be taken seriously and all corrupt politicians must be held without any delay,”accountability for all”.Only accountability for all can bring true system in Pakistan.
    Mr. President and Interior minister should face the trial,why are they denying?
    Pakistni Constitution is the first document in the world which protects corrupt rulers, isnt bad and unfortun.Is Constitution Quranic versus whch cannot be changed, let us change it and make as it is working in Turkey.he only way forward to bring peace in Pakistan.


  • Hammad
    Nov 6, 2012 - 7:54AM

    Kayani telling the invisible competitors off.


  • sabi
    Nov 6, 2012 - 8:06AM

    That’s true.But as you see, in developed countries huge amount is spent on resque purposes.We in Pakistan don’t have such infrastructures as country’s precious sources go for defence.The armed forces are thus constitutionaly bound to help civilion in case of disasters.This is not extrea favour, they are paid for that.And also in developed countris armed forces come to civilion help when disaster is bigger and resque teams are unable to come to task alone.In India too, army comes to help civilions but we never hear their army taking credit
    and abusing public sympathy.


  • Tojo
    Nov 6, 2012 - 8:12AM

    There must be absolute “zero tolerance” from civilians, politicians even the judiciary for interference in matters of the Armed Forces of the State of Pakistan. Almost every civilian government changes sometime or other, even politicians continue to cross senate floor and parties for their own vested interests. Further the Justice of Supreme Court must stiop thinking that he is god. The Armed Forces of Pakistan must remain intact for the sake of Pakistan’s existence. It has its own mechanism to oversee its operations and military justice. Any attempt to divide a “wedge” between the people of Pakistan and its Armed Forces will be the total “undoing” of Pakistan as a State. This is what its enemies are waiting to see happen.


  • Hammad
    Nov 6, 2012 - 8:32AM

    Pakistan IS the constitution. Don’t let these generals blackmail you emotionally into letting them occupy more land and businesses.


  • Hassan
    Nov 6, 2012 - 9:13AM

    Pakistan was much better with dictators then this democratic government of zardari


  • malik
    Nov 6, 2012 - 9:22AM

    Adopt the Reconciliation policy of Asif Ali Zardari+Benazair Bhutto.NRO for Army Generals,Judiciary and Nawaz Sharif.

    I thing Genral Kayani is demanding for it,but he shames to use the word of NRO.You may use another word for NRO,but it meaning will be remain same meaning.


  • Nov 6, 2012 - 9:37AM

    @NAkhtar: : “Pakistan comes first,not the constitution.”

    It is a news . earlier it was widely expressed that It is the Islam first and Nation thereafter..

    OK , it is the Nation first.
    Now what the army did in 1971 ? . Yes, for them their act was in the national interest but it was proved wrong.
    Like Taliban( who have their version of Islam) they have mistakenly their version of national interest. So Army is wrong to presume that they are the sole Savior of national interest.
    Their role of defending the country from external aggression is obvious and shall always be appreciated .
    Where ever in any country of the world, Army has intervened to define their version of national interest ultimately it is the nation ( public in general) who suffered.


  • Kashif Naqvi
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:04AM

    Giving off tax payers’ money to force change in government is an error of extreme proportions. This cannot be forgiven. We can’t just move on. Punishing the culprits will send a strong signal that this kind of heavy handed approach will not be tolerated. Army’s support comes from the common people- that is true. But if the army keeps up its silly games, this support will no longer be taken for granted. The army must change- they cannot take this support for granted anymore.


  • AllahRukha
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:23AM

    I understand your point. In case of catastrophes the societies need concerted massive efforts. However, in Pakistan from simple putting off fires to simple law enforcement (target killing, protection of religious processions and even holding elections) border security forces are called upon. Just take the example of Pakistan’s largest city and the feeder of the country, Karachi. The city’s police, fire fighting and rescue efforts has gone in shambles. The available resources were only sought for during the last government (Musharraf reign).

    We need not to worship individuals. Only institutions and that too for the sake of the country. After all, institutions only stand if there is a country.


  • gp65
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:24AM

    @NAkhtar: “Pakistan comes first,not the constitution.”

    So what is PAkistan – if not as defined by its constitution?


  • Khalid Pathan
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:35AM

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the army chief says that there is no ultimate arbiter, then we must leave our fate to God. As the saying goes that “what cannot be cured must be endured.”


  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:50AM

    Long live Pakistan army and COAS.
    I salute Pakistan army and COAS on this taking bold step now even late and not on-time but this step by the COAS had been taken before now very early but anyways the time hasn’t gone so far yet and most of the things may be corrected and exacted now before getting more and more out of order…..
    I love and like Pakistan army than democracy and democratic leaders…..


  • Well Wisher
    Nov 6, 2012 - 12:23PM

    Sir I really appreciate your role as the army chief and your principled stance of not getting involved in politics and refraining to take over during the aftermath of the memo gate saga. I think if corrupt generals are tried, it will only increase the respect of the armed forces among the masses rather than decreasing the army morale.

    That said, corrupt civilians who took money from various sources to rob people of Pakistan of their mandate should be tried at the same time, if not first. They should morally retire from politics, disband their unprincipled political parties and let true representatives of the people of Pakistan come to power.

    We should learn from the mistakes made in the past and depict the truth concerning historical events in Bangladesh, Karachi operation, Balochistan operations, even 1965 war, Kargil, creation of monsters during and after Cold War, 1990 “elections” “national security threat”, etc.

    The truth will eventually come out so it’s better to learn it in our own history books and state that never again shall we dupe the nation and always take decisions with consensus of institutions (i.e. the Supreme Parliament, the Independent Judiciary, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, the local affected stakeholders, etc.)


  • Enlightened
    Nov 6, 2012 - 1:57PM

    What the General has to understand is that there is a code of conduct which each institution of the country is constitutionally bound to follow and the military though crosses the same umpteenth times but does not tolerate the civil authority telling them of the wrongs committed by them. The words ‘accountability and ethics’ towards the civil authority ie civilian govt and the judiciary does not exists in the manual followed by the military and the same have been deleted long time back at its own convenience which is evident from the statements issued by the General and previous acts of defiance by the top brass in several orders issued by the honorable courts.The crux of the matter is that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the judiciary has taken the bulls by its horns for its past and current acts of omission and commission, a totally a new phenomena has made the military quite uncomfortable who has started issuing veiled warnings to them. The civil govt is also guilty for not making the military accountable for OBL fiasco and its failure to stop TTP killing thousands of innocent people in Pakistan for the past three years despite spending billions of dollars on war against terrorism. The General must know that in all democratic set ups the world over, military institutions are accountable to civil govt and judiciary. Purchases of military hardware is necessarily approved and its defence expenditure too is scrutinised by the civil authority but this norm is not followed in Pakistan and no wonder cases of gross cases of corruption have surfaced which has made military quite uncomfortable. Therefore, cases against the guilty military personnel whether serving or retired should be processed or continued as per legal procedures in vogue and they should also be held accountable to the civilian govt for their failure to deal effectively with the internal threat since billions of public money is spent for the same but hundreds of innocent people are still being killed at the hands the terrorists. Accountability and scrutiny by the civil authority would help military to stop corruption/malpractices within and review its strategy in fighting terrorism more effectively which would strengthen the military rather than weaken them.


  • Haider
    Nov 6, 2012 - 7:45PM

    NLC scam: GHQ sitting on it for over two years, DHA landgrabs: Nothing happening in the courts, DHA Phase II extension handed over to Malik Riaz along with Rs. 60 billion: silence, Royal Palm Golf Railway scandal: Generals giving civilians shutup call, Baig and Durrani, confessed to subverting the electoral process: they are out and about. Only civilians get held unconditionally for as long as the security forces like. General saab is good at lecturing everyone and its good to see that he finally realises that the country is passing through a “critical phase”. These lectures about strengthening institutions coming from a person who is enjoying an unprecedented 3 year extension and is apprently the only one capable of leading the Pakistan Army, which begs the question whether all the other Lt. Gen’s are just incompetent or unworthy of replacing him? The “national interest” isn’t served by securing golf courses, new property developments, get over this propaganda and nonsense.Recommend

  • Akhter
    Nov 6, 2012 - 10:04PM

    @ Enlightened
    Quite obviously you have spent a lot of time to write what you have i will quote to remind you

    “The civil govt is also guilty for not making the military accountable for OBL fiasco and its failure to stop TTP killing thousands of innocent people in Pakistan for the past three years despite spending billions of dollars on war against terrorism.
    First of all COAS did actually refer the matter to Prime minister and President immediately on the night but they failed to take a stand and instruct Airforce to down the Helicopters, So please get your facts right.
    Also FYI it is the responsibility of the state ie Government to ensure the safety of its citizens from internal and external threats, it does this through institutions such as the Police Rangers and if need be Army. So the first person per your dictum is the President followed by Prime Minister who should be charged with Negligence. Finally i agree with universal fact of Accountability and scrutiny, But can you honestly say that there is anyone qualified to do this in Pakistan? ( Edhi sahib perhaps?) Definitely not our crop of politicians or CJ ( Rem Arsalan Case) Your ethos of Accountability can apply in ENLIGHTENED countries NOT Pakistan.


  • Zaffar
    Nov 6, 2012 - 11:03PM

    CJP is THE MAN -so Just Do It!


  • Nov 7, 2012 - 7:03PM

    Dead cat has been thrown at the door of neighbour,
    and levelled allegation,they are crossing limits and
    meddling internal affairs of their house.Recommend

  • Nov 7, 2012 - 7:11PM

    Veiled reference, veiled warning,
    who is being defending by them.????????????????????????Recommend

  • aaaaa
    Nov 8, 2012 - 3:13AM


    your whole post is rather laughable. I’ll call your bluff anyway. What was the PM supposed to do on the night of the Abbotabad raid? Go back in time two hours to when the helicopters were actually in pakistani airspace and then order the COAS to shoot them down. And then you talk about ‘getting facts right’ while living in scientific fiction yourself.Recommend

  • Nov 8, 2012 - 8:34PM

    Limits has been set of all the state’s institution in the constitution but despite of all grave dangrous debate has begun on the powers and limits.

    A seniour political personality and famous popular lawyer while expressing his opinion on the recent situation said,the court should only speaks through just judgments and added that the army chief did not have the right to make political statements.

    I understand,it is not a mere opinion for,it is guidline for the quarters concerned who are disregarding whole the scenario of the country and creating a new direction which has made the people embarrassed already passing through a grave danger economic instability and fragile political situation.

    there is no such third power,who invite the ”powerful and crusader” for compromise or conciliation.

    Government should move forward in this connection make tireless efforts befor any unleashed hurrican taking all to the breaking point.


  • G. Din
    Nov 11, 2012 - 3:05AM

    Take away the MONEY and every one will fall in place!


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