Chief versus Chief

Published: November 10, 2012
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore [email protected]

“The emperor Abul-Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad, king of kings, known since his childhood as Akbar, meaning “the great,” and latterly, in spite of the tautology of it, as Akbar the Great, the great great one, great in his greatness, doubly great, so great that the repetition in his title was not only appropriate but necessary in order to express the gloriousness of his glory — … absolute emperor, who seemed altogether too magnificent, too world-encompassing, and, in sum, too much to be a single human personage — this all-engulfing flood of a ruler, this swallower of worlds, this many-headed monster who referred to himself in the first person plural — had begun to meditate, during his long, tedious journey home, on which he was accompanied by the heads of his defeated enemies bobbing in their sealed earthen pickle-jars, about the disturbing possibilities of the first person singular — the “I”.” (The Enchantress of Florence — SR).

There are times when the distinction between the title and the individual ceases to exist, it is only the title. We have seen honourable judges refer to themselves as his Lordship, this does not come naturally to most of us, but then most of us are not their Lordships. The recent exchange between the two “Chiefs” is really about them being bigger than all of us, than the system itself.

The response to the statements is classic textbook ‘Stockholm syndrome’. The Army Chief has constantly been lauded for his commitment to democracy, which is a scared and polite way of saying that he has been kind enough not to impose martial law. This, of course, is perfect nonsense. The Army Chief is a government servant and is not supposed to impose martial law and take over governments. If he does so that is high treason. We do not have to thank everyone who has not committed a crime yet. He would have been fired in most other countries for speaking in this threatening tone of voice. The ISPR statement took more words to communicate to us the same message as a former intelligence chief said very concisely to a reporter on camera when he (the intelligence chief) said: “Shut up, idiot.” The subtext of the ISPR statement, which has also been voiced by many in the media and politicians is that taking too aggressive a stance on the conduct of retired army generals will somehow dampen the morale of the armed forces. I fail to see the force of this argument. All of us should and do dip our flags and salute our brave soldiers fighting the war of our survival and we remain indebted to them for their courage and sacrifices. However, it does not affect the resolve and intention to prosecute generals accused of financial corruption and rigging elections (which most probably is high treason). If anything, the “morale” of our troops will increase knowing that they have a leadership that is willing to uphold their oath and be loyal to the Constitution.

The Chief Justice constantly reminds us of the sacrifices that the present judiciary has made and how the road for all future martial law has forever been blocked. The doctrine of necessity has been buried, etc. A few obsolete maxims like, “judge only speaks through judgments”, etc. have to be disregarded in this courageous endeavour. Noble sentiments, and one has no reason to doubt the word of My Lord. However, it is too strenuous. The only appropriate time to display (or not to) courage is when the moment arrives, and unfortunately, sooner or later, that time will come. Some particularly cynical people may also object to the Chief Justice taking this slogan on tour, addressing district bar councils and rallying troops. The press conference held by the Registrar of the Supreme Court in the Asghar Khan case is unprecedented; it is not clear if that will be the standard practice for all judgments from now on or if it was a one-off thing. The courts should be free in making any decisions that they deem fit;press conferences, however, are highly debatable. In any event, the good registrar is the Court’s answer to ISPR. Like the Army, the Court is extremely sensitive to criticism, and like the intangible “morale” of the troops, the Court believes unwanted criticism affects the “independence” of judiciary.

Maybe the two Chiefs are more alike than what first impressions would suggest. Prosecuting generals Beg and Durrani is an attack on the entire army; similarly, allegations against Doctor Arsalan is a conspiracy against all of the judiciary. It is always “us”, always the first person “plural”. Another unifying bond between the two Chiefs is dislike for politicians. This, along with their commitment to the “rule of law”, led to a common ground in the Memo scandal. The contempt for politicians is ironic considering the desire of both the Chiefs to be popular. Perhaps, they do not hate the game, just the present players. The press statements of the ISPR and those of the Registrar are meant to garner public support. Their job descriptions do not allow that, the perks, privileges, immunity of being a Judge or a General means that the desire to be popular has to be deferred till retirement. Political and policy statements is a two-way street, we will take you seriously when we can talk back. So, with the utmost of deference, in my opinion, both the Army Chief and the Chief Justice of Pakistan have disregarded red lines in making political statements.

Yet, there still maybe a bright side to this. The Army and the Court have remained on the same page up till now. It is said when Roman generals entered the city after a triumph, there was a man on the chariot whose only job was to whisper in the ear of the general, “Remember, you are only human.” In our case now, there is not one chariot, and there is no whispering; unfortunately, there is no triumph either. Still, the two Chiefs seem to be on parallel chariots competing fiercely and it is more like shouting, however, the message remains the same, “Remember, you are only human.” One hopes amidst all the noise both of them hear and understand that.

Correction: This article earlier misspelt “noble” as “nobel”. The error is regretted.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (31)

  • Advil
    Nov 10, 2012 - 10:44PM



  • Toticalling
    Nov 10, 2012 - 10:56PM

    I think Kayani did not only mean SC but also the media, which is over playing its new strength.
    The media has been targeting General Kayani himself. It has speculated that he is angling for another extension in tenure. This is coupled with a whispering campaign against two brothers of General Kayani for allegedly cornering lucrative projects in government.
    In Pakistan anything can happen. Don’t bet on anything. As long as the attentions is away from civilian government, we should not worry that much.
    I used to think military, establishment and Mullahs have been playing the power game. Now we have a new entry. Supreme court. It appears moderation is not a part of our culture.


  • BayQaida
    Nov 10, 2012 - 11:05PM

    Well said Saroop! I hope the Chiefs appreciate the deeper message of metaphoric ‘whisper’ at the end of your piece, and don’t feel tempted to react against you following certain other whispers in their larger-than-them ears…!


  • Arifq
    Nov 10, 2012 - 11:06PM

    Well said Saroop, excellent argument for a country where rule of law is supreme and people holding important portfolios know their place. But this is Pakistan, where power not only corrupts but is also idolized.


  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Nov 10, 2012 - 11:23PM

    Just today General Beg has repeated the same mantra, prosecuting him would be an affront on the Army as an institution and does not recognize the sacrifices of Army men. So on the one hand the Army talks about Jihad and martyrdom, but on the other hand the Generals tell us that brave jawans are going to be demoralised by seeing their leaders prosecuted? Its shameful that the same Generals who are supposedly concerned about the morale of their troops, dont think twice before seeking refuge behind the sacrifices of men on the front-lines. Cowards! They keep on lecturing everyone about how they are willing to give their lives for Pakistan, but are uncomfortable being held accountable to the constitution, to which they have taken an oath to protect?

    They are the ones tarnishing the image of the Army, and if they truly cared about the institution they would just submit themselves before the courts. Behaving in a manner that they keep on lecturing politicians to adopt. Worse still, Generals Baid and Durrani dont even deny the crime they are accused off! They just find it unbecoming to be grilled by civilian authorities, who they have been told all of their professional lives are second grade citizens.

    Therefore, salute to soldiers doing their constitutionally mandated job, and more power to them, as for those at the top, and I know this will be a real insult….you sirs are no better than the politicians you despise.


  • Parvez
    Nov 11, 2012 - 12:37AM

    It’s always a treat to read your articles. Very well said.
    In this game of posturing, the politician possibly more to blame than the other two, is sitting on the sideline watching and smirking.


  • sabi
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:26AM

    Nation is split so are their hearts. Nothing to wonder that’s what our constitution is.It divides people on the basis of religion and therefore deprives many of their basic human rights.It’s a sort of divine punishment.The trend of leg pulling will continue and will only worsen unless we sit together and do something with this constitution and make it workable.This constitution if not if not adressed properly will sink us in blood.Secular constitution is the only way forward.Can we learn lesson now or do we need more bloodshed.Is it our resiliance or divine punishment?:


  • imran bhatt
    Nov 11, 2012 - 3:12AM

    Nice piece as always has been.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Nov 11, 2012 - 4:05AM

    This is not the first time that both chiefs disregarded red lines. It made headlines because media had nothing else to do after government wrote letter to Swiss authorites.


  • Ibn-e-Maryam
    Nov 11, 2012 - 8:33AM

    Best as everRecommend

  • Shahzad
    Nov 11, 2012 - 9:35AM

    Instead of moderation may I suggest equanimity the closest translation bring تحمل


  • Tahir Chaudhry
    Nov 11, 2012 - 10:37AM

    This sums up the whole situation, “..The Army and the Court have remained on the same page up till now…”.
    CJ’s own statement that the roadway to future martial laws has been blocked forever. Is it just a statement or more than that? Only time will tell what Judiciary is going to do if Army tries to impose martial law in the future.


  • Osama Siddique
    Nov 11, 2012 - 11:34AM

    Beautifully written and spot on


  • Aftab jan
    Nov 11, 2012 - 11:57AM

    On Friday the renowned columnist Ataz Amir has expressed the same kind of views in his column


  • Toticalling
    Nov 11, 2012 - 12:20PM

    @sabi: I agree. But there is no likelihood of that happening. Secular should be the goal, but we are marching in another direction. PPP is weak, but slightly secular. After the elections we will see a right wing, more religious government.


  • Khalq e Khuda
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:27PM

    What a perfect closing!


  • Raza Khan
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:28PM

    As usual outstanding article! We love you for being honest & truthful.


  • Janu German
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:29PM

    Excellent article.. I call it the war of egos and nothing more.. the superiority complex amongst each institution and its juridiction..


  • gp65
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:36PM

    @Toticalling: Sad but true.


  • gp65
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:40PM

    @Parvez: “In this game of posturing, the politician possibly more to blame than the other two, is sitting on the sideline watching and smirking.”

    The politicians have been beaten up by the judiciary (PM sent packing) and military (Several PMs sent packing) and one PM hanged (judiciary and army together achieved that). So do you grudge them the small pleasure if they are smirking at the sidelines when ther two tormentors are now facing each other?


  • Azeem Aslam
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:46PM

    This hypocite always find a place where he will be able to get fame. Shame on u.


  • Pinky
    Nov 11, 2012 - 1:47PM

    Spot On!
    as usual :)Recommend

  • Shahrukh
    Nov 11, 2012 - 2:31PM

    always a pleasure reading your op-ed, Saroop! hard-hitting and spot on!
    “The Army Chief is a government servant and is not supposed to impose martial law and take over governments. If he does so that is high treason. We do not have to thank everyone who has not committed a crime yet. He would have been fired in most other countries for speaking in this threatening tone of voice.” Agree 100%!!


  • Tahir
    Nov 11, 2012 - 4:05PM

    I haven’t read whole article but the Heading is disturbing


  • gv
    Nov 11, 2012 - 5:10PM


    “It is said when Roman generals entered the city after a triumph”

    I think you mean – ‘when Roman Generals rode through the city to celebrate a ‘Triumph” –

    this was a very carefully choreographed civil ceremony of the Roman Republic (see


  • faheema
    Nov 11, 2012 - 6:10PM

    In the tussle of both chief a major stakeholder seems missing, the masses who bear the cost these august post, who are heavily burdened and are crippling under heavy cost of living. Both chief seem oblivious of this fact and not prepared to pass on any relief to crumbling lot called masses. A vast majority wants relief from injustices of state machinery, get rid of terrorists, want friendly atmosphere for business activities to grow but both chiefs seem ignorant. It seems at the end of the day tax burden won’t pay back heavily to loaded majority as both chiefs will remain engage in tussle for more power and asserting their importance.


  • gp65
    Nov 11, 2012 - 9:50PM

    @gv: Thank you. That was really interesting information.


  • Anonymous
    Nov 11, 2012 - 10:38PM

    Well done Saroop


  • bagerat brigade
    Nov 13, 2012 - 3:25AM

    Sir very impressive plus mind-blowing…..very balanced and impartial . double likes…..


  • Zainab
    Nov 13, 2012 - 9:49AM

    Noble sentiments – not Nobel sentiments.


  • Dec 10, 2012 - 10:36PM

    I d isagree with 75% of ones opinions. And who appointed you judges?Recommend

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