In a rather unusual statement, the military has denied making any effort to postpone polls or put a technocrat set-up in place. The Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, has said that rumours to this effect in the media are completely inaccurate, and the military has in, fact, consistently supported democracy for the past five years. The possibility of moves afoot to stall elections and instead put a hand-picked set-up in place have been floating for some time, with suggestions made that events in the country have in certain cases been manipulated to fit in with this agenda.
Perhaps we should interpret the ISPR statement as encouraging. After all, our fledgling democratic system needs all the support it can get. But, on the other hand, we need to think what such comments mean and how they fit into the broader national picture. The fact that the military has felt the need to make such a comment acts as a reminder that for many in the country, it is still seen as the real wielder of power; the civilian set-up can operate only when it gives the go-ahead and approval. The ISPR statement, in a way, acts to endorse this way of operating. Just the fact that the military found it necessary to issue the comment is itself important, signalling where ‘real’ authority lies.
We need to think about the nature of our set-up. For our future, it is essential that we work towards altering a situation where the military continues to act as the force which holds actual power, while the civilians work only when it gives the all important nod of support. An elected government should not need to be propped up by any other institution.
This is something we need to work urgently towards. The military has no role in politics. The function of institutions is laid down clearly in our Constitution. It is essential that this document be adhered to by all quarters so that the structure of power can be maintained without ambiguity as to who is actually in command and where orders are issued from.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2013.
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