The former minister of state for defence production Abdul Qayyum Jatoi is our version of Indian actor Salman Khan — punished and harassed for saying things which are on everyone’s mind. Although one can have an issue with his style that may not be extremely palatable to the educated urbanite, there was nothing exceptionally sacrilegious in what he said. Isn’t it true that we pay the military for defending our borders? Isn’t this a historical fact that the armed forces have used excessive power against their own people despite the fact that they are trained to fight an external threat? There shouldn’t be any issue with the fact that the army killed Nawab Akbar Bugti. Go ask Pervez Musharraf and he will give the details as he is fond of doing these days. As for Benazir Bhutto’s killing the UN Commission report says a lot about that which the foreign minister has chosen to ignore for understandable reasons.
I don’t see the reason for people taking offence to the minister’s statement regarding corruption being everyone’s right because if we were to decipher this well, what he meant was that distribution of resources should be more equal. Some region’s people get more opportunities, both legal and illegal, to exploit resources. Surely, he said it most crudely as he did with the issue of the chief justice’s domicile. All he was probably trying to say was that the chief justice did not become an indigenous Baloch, just like hundreds of others who have used a Baloch domicile to get a job in the government. Let’s face it, having the right kind of domicile makes a world of difference in getting into the bureaucracy.
Qayyum Jatoi is certainly not madder than Musharraf. In fact, both men are quite sane. While the former president seems to be selectively spilling the beans to market his capacity for governing the state, Jatoi’s ramblings were meant to deliver a message to the judges and jackboots about the present PPP leadership’s capacity to fight back. The option for the military establishment is best indicated in an Urdu sentence written on the backs of many a truck that plies on G T Road — it says ‘Ya pass ker ya bardasht ker’ (either overtake or tolerate). The GHQ can either overthrow the present political setup through some older methods (as applied in the case of the two Bhuttos) or continue with some signaling to the political leadership.
It’s quite possible that the army has found its match in the present civilian dispensation which, thus far, has proved as fox-like as jackboots. The government has cleverly created stakes in its own survival by extending the tenure of the current army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. This may have created unhappiness inside the GHQ which is to the political government’s advantage. The recent news regarding the army chief’s unhappiness with some ministers doesn’t mean a lot. There may be some changes here and there which are not necessarily driven by the army chief’s displeasure.
Probably, one of the benchmarks of the political government actually making efforts to make the army happy would be the removal of the interior minister. But why would the interior minister be sacked or changed since he is one of the top performers of the government. Notwithstanding the content and quality of his work, Rehman Malik is an operations man who is fairly visible after a crisis making statements which we may or may not agree with.
But there is always the possibility of the government finding another scapegoat like Qayyum Jatoi to deliver its own list of undesirable people inside the GHQ or of their questionable performance. For instance, not too long ago there was news about the Pakistan Ordinance Factories, Wah asking for capital injection as it was underperforming. Surely, no one has dared ask the army chief to remove or revamp the POFs and other defence production facilities which are supposed to be better managed. Or how about pulling up the major-general in charge of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation.
It is possible that the jackboots have begun to realise that Musharraf’s Kamal Ataturkish formula regarding a formal role for the army in politics may cost a lot more than it can actually afford to pay.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2010.