I agree absolutely with Chaudhry Nisar that armies across the world, including: “US, Italy, Australia, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Spain, the UK (he forgot New Zealand where it was deployed after the earthquake and Japan where it was deployed after the tsunami — pun NOT intended!)” deploy their armies in times of national emergencies. Also, that the Pakistan Army has been deployed 21 times between 2007 and 2013 for: “elections; by-elections; counter terrorism; verification of electoral rolls; peace-keeping during Muharram, etc.”
Agreed absolutely with Chaudhry Sahib. While he has explained why it was deployed in Pakistan (at no time before a threatened political Long March such as the Canadian preacher’s sit-in in Islamabad, giving the PERCEPTION that the deployment was being done to thwart it), and while I do not recall when last the army was deployed in Italy and in Canada, let us look at the other countries. In the US, it was deployed after Hurricane Katrina and the US Army Engineer Corps helped strengthen the levies around New Orleans, with National Guard units providing rations and medical help to a beleaguered city. In India, it is deployed to keep the Kashmiris down, and help the civilian authority fight rebels in the Northeast; in Sri Lanka, it was used most effectively to fight the Tamil rebels and to finally defeat them.
The press quoted the interior minister thus: ‘“The notification issued by this government for calling out the army is the draft which covers every legal feature’. Elaborating three basic points of the press conference, the minister said that the draft was not specifically for Islamabad but it would be for entire (sic) country under which the Army would be requisitioned under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Calling out the army for any area or province doesn’t mean that the city or the province has been given under the (sic) military control, and the troops will act to assist civil administration and will remain behind the scene while police and other paramilitary forces will be on front line. The military has nothing to do with any rally on 14th of August.” I agree with Chaudhry Nisar absolutely: as my old friend Ashraf Afridi would say, ‘Good and well’.
But was it not prudent for this seasoned politician, and most confident of men (he has been my MNA so I should know) to have announced at the time that Zarb-e-Azb was given the go-ahead, that the government was looking at all aspects of the law and Constitution concerning Section 245? Far more critically, why was it not announced then that important installations in the cities where the threat was greatest: Karachi, Multan, Lahore AND Islamabad might be protected by the Pakistan Army against the possible blowback of the NWA operation?
In any case, should any violent act, God forbid, attempt to do harm to sensitive government buildings, how far away are army units anyway? Talking of which, as far as private buildings are concerned, I have said it before: Let ‘D’ Chowk be closed off from the Blue Area side by heavy containers filled with sand and several concentrations of razor wire, extending all along Constitution Avenue, and protecting the Parliament buildings, the Supreme Court, the presidency, and secretariat blocks.
The only police presence should be behind the containers and none on the Blue Area side. Asad Umar of the PTI is the sitting MNA from Islamabad: let the shopkeepers, hoteliers, hospitals, offices and residents along Blue Area ask their MNA to ensure their safety, and the hygiene and cleanliness of their environs since it is his party that is mounting the ‘dharna’ as a means of ‘toppling’ the elected government. They should also be told to look after their own security, let me repeat, from members of their own MNA’s party.
Let me repeat too: The government should install hundreds of CCTV cameras all along Blue Area so that mischief-makers can be identified. On another tack, might one ask Mr Khan and his cabinet, how exactly they will ‘topple’ the government now that the idiotic Minus-One formula brought out of Magician’s hats so often in Pakistan has been firmly rejected? Do we recall how many times it was attempted against former president Asif Ali Zardari to no avail?
Which reminds me: may I warmly felicitate the former president for standing firm against any moves to derail democracy? And Mr Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who spoke so eloquently in parliament? My readers will recall that during the PPP government, I was always a supporter of the PML-N’s standing firmly by the PPP’s side and the appreciation I had for Mr Nawaz Sharif’s firm stance despite the urging of many in the media and the hawks within his own party to launch a Long March against the then government. It was due to his support that the elected government completed its tenure and it is good to see that the other parties in parliament today are also on democracy’s side.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2014.