Bad optics

Published: August 8, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

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.

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Reader Comments (30)

  • Uza Syed
    Aug 8, 2014 - 12:50AM

    Which opposition parties? Mullah diesel or that idiot who sold himself before one could count to ten? Listen Mr Wannabe diplomat, stop brown nosing (or is it Tind polishing) of these thugs, train is gone, you are about to be orphaned, so celebrate whatever advance payments you’ve already received, the rest is gone, you won’t ever see that any more.


  • Ranjha
    Aug 8, 2014 - 1:10AM

    Ah, the whiskey major is finally out again! Welcome. Tick, tock, tick, tock…..


  • Fawad
    Aug 8, 2014 - 1:58AM

    I was once a fan of mehmood achakzai, only to find out that his newly found love for Pmln coincides with his brother being made governor balochistan.


  • Ranjha
    Aug 8, 2014 - 1:59AM

    The topic of Whiskey major’s article, Bad Optics, seems to be a reference to his own picture above!


  • H Chaudhry
    Aug 8, 2014 - 2:02AM

    You are making too much sense again Mr. Shafi. Brace yourself for lot of negative comments. In defense of Government, they have to take difficult decisions that are bad for optics. What ever the optics might be, point is that a lot of pti youth and pat fanatics will be in Islamabad. This is the perfect place for any terrorist to strike.

    I guess it is the responsibility of Government to even protect idiots of the nation.


  • Marium Fiasal
    Aug 8, 2014 - 2:48AM

    No party is on democracy’s side. The partys with PML-N are on money’s side. Democracy does not exist, when ballot boxes are stuffed in front of returning officers and elections are rigged ! All those who are supposedly supporting Nawaz these days are only interested in how much money they can make for themselves, even they know that the elections were rigged. So Kamran Shafi, while your article is clearly a well thought out rallying cry for your friend Nawaz Sharif, I am afraid it falls flat on its face in terms of reality. On the 14th of August, a lot will change in this country, indeed this government is history, but hopefully with the government we will also lose the media-plants that are on payrolls of political leaders and go back to the glory days of writers like Omar Qureshi, Prof Masood who were professional writers and not interested in using the pen to show their loyalty to their party of choice.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Aug 8, 2014 - 4:27AM

    Kamran, game over for PPP, and PMLN, In sha Allah.


  • TooTrue
    Aug 8, 2014 - 7:59AM

    I think you’ll find that the US military has never been deployed to assist civilian authorities in the US. The National Guard is a state based militia that operates under the orders of the civilian state leadership, i.e., the elected governor. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the deployment of federal troops – there are exemptions for the US Coastguard.


  • sabi
    Aug 8, 2014 - 11:25AM

    Looking at the intellectual bankruptcy of the commenters making personnel attacks on their opponents I’m convinced their voices will not reach beyond few steps farther and so will be their inqilabi march.
    Very pragmatic analysis kudos to the author.


  • Karachi Mirchi
    Aug 8, 2014 - 11:49AM

    Democracy’s sole intent should not be to “complete the term.” Rather it should bring peace, security, and bread on the table for the common man. The hungry, homeless, and ragged people of Pakistan need a Revolution.


  • Ravian
    Aug 8, 2014 - 12:15PM

    Chaudry Nisar = Rehman Malik


  • rm
    Aug 8, 2014 - 12:20PM

    Did the shopkeepers, hoteliers……ask for all this when Mian sahib decided to start his Metro Project…were they given a choice then? At least the march is FOR THE PEOPLE!!!!!


  • salman
    Aug 8, 2014 - 12:36PM

    Mr.shafi leaves one of his own questuons unanswered. Why, indeed is army not being deployed in any other city other then islamabad? Or if they are, why was it not announced? The absence of this does make it look fishy that it is only where the march is happening.


  • Raja Jan
    Aug 8, 2014 - 2:41PM

    @Ranjha: Why do you call the writer Whiskey Major ?…please write relavant points to his article ,donot belittle someone for personal reasons .Thank you .


  • Raja Jan
    Aug 8, 2014 - 2:43PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:
    Lets pray the Army takes over ASAP.


  • Rex Minor
    Aug 8, 2014 - 2:51PM

    The only option left for the people of Pakistan is to disband and dissolve the current khakis in the land who have completely destroyed over years the very fabric of the ideals which helped form the country. The author, having been on both side of the divide between democracy and militarisation could be of great service, the rest is nothing more than a diversion. Pakistan requires a cultural revolution of the kind which put China to emerge from abyss after years of colonisation. It is the old coffee of justifying military outrage which Mr Bhutto once used to his own peril.

    Rex Minor


  • Ali. I
    Aug 8, 2014 - 3:01PM

    I don’t have any words to describe the argument of the writer. It’s sad ET publishing such kind of material which is just to support PMLN non democratic act(245). 245 can be introduced but under such circumstances( threat of terrorism etc).

    Basic human rights is the base of western democracies and unfortunately 245 violate the basic rights of Pakistnis as it suspend the power of High Courts.

    Let’s supposed we accept the argument of writer that western countries do use army whenever they feel necessary. But they also don’t have corruption, nepotism, terrorism, unemployment and conflict of interests. Why NS didn’t pick these practices???


  • K Alam
    Aug 8, 2014 - 3:55PM

    Dear KS, why are you giving us lecture on the prevalent DEMOCRAZY. Don’t you feel biased and impartial in your commentary, when you are part of the government.


  • kashif
    Aug 8, 2014 - 3:59PM

    Look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at Iraq, look at Syria. The only reason Pakistan is relatively safe today is because of Pakistan Army – the real protector of the nation and the only reason Pakistan exists.


  • Rex Minor
    Aug 8, 2014 - 4:42PM

    @Ali. I:
    You said that “basic human rights is the base of western democracies and unfortunately 245 violate the basic rights of Pakistnis as it suspend the power of High Courts”. Not quite true, Human rights have been derived from the scriptures of the Ibrahimc religions and have been incoporated in the UNO charter.. These rights came about after the experience of two world wars and have since been violated by several so called democratic states, notably the USA and Israel which the wider world have witnessed in past decades. they have refused to become the member of the Internation criminal Court at Hague.
    The democracy can only provide the forum for the people to form the kind of a Government that they deserve.

    Rex minor


  • ishrat salim
    Aug 8, 2014 - 6:02PM

    @Rex Minor:

    In Pakistan it is unfortunately not the people who is making any decision, it is money talking…from election to the end, it is money. The poor people does not even know that he has already voted…for whom they do not know ? so let us not keep on befooling ourselves every time with the notion that ALL IS OK…let us find ways to educate our people so that they know their rights and make a right decision in electing people who can & will deliver….until then keep praying that may Allah swt keep our country intact….


  • Assad
    Aug 8, 2014 - 6:06PM

    ‘ PML standing behind PPP” , it couldn’t be more than a traversity of truth , how about when Mian Nawaz Sharif donning in a branded suit walked into the Supreme Court as a complainant in Memo gate s candle to the utter embarrassment of the government . What about his long march f rom lahore to Gujranwala to bring back justice Iftikhar Chaudhry who sent a duly elected prime Minister home and disqualified him for not writing letter to the swiss Government .while letter written subsequently written by the next prime minister under fear of yet another disqualification ,proved neither here nor there . What about the fact when his favourite channel was carrying Ajab corruption ki Ghazab kahani . The fact remains that PML used many other levers to discredit and degrade the people’s party s mandate .Recommend

  • Muhammad Bilal Ramzan
    Aug 8, 2014 - 6:20PM

    Protecting civilians even those protesting against the govt is the job of incumbent. Else, there is no point in democracy. Mr. Shafi I thought was aware of,incumbents responsibilities. But alas, bias is such a cruel thing.


  • Javed Anwar
    Aug 8, 2014 - 6:23PM

    All PML-N media hacks are out in full force trying to their useless leader’s bidding for them! Nice try but wont work. Not one part of this article is based on ground reality, all of it is wishful thinking!


  • Rex Minor
    Aug 8, 2014 - 8:25PM

    @ishrat salim:

    The good prayer is to open more madrassas which includde science subjects, introduce miitary conscription for all at the age of 18 for one year and making education compulsary for all to high school level. All this can be easily financed privately with minimum involvement of the State.

    Rex Minor


  • Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks
    Aug 8, 2014 - 9:14PM

    When ever I question Mr.Shafi’s ulterior motives, my comments are not published, I am very disappointed in his integrity. Now look at the democracy of Sarif brothers that Mr.Shafi is so adamant to defend. I don’t support any politica party or military take over but will call spade a spade. Look at Shabaz Sharif, he still there using heavy handedness even after ordering that massacre at Model Town Lahore. I am beginning to respect Zardari for his not using guns and bullets against the unarmed political activists. I am also beginning to think that there was wholesale fraud committed in the last election in Punjab by Sharif Brothers. Shame on you Mr.Shafi for being so partial to the Sharif Brothers which it seems they don’t deserve, you are not defending democracy but these autocratic brothers whatever they do, no sane politician will advise them what they are doing, only those who will gain something out of this mess.


  • Parvez
    Aug 8, 2014 - 11:49PM

    The fact that you consider the country to be under a democratic dispensation is flawed to begin with. Just because an election, of sorts, was held does not make us a democracy.
    A democratic system has to deliver for the people…….and not the rulers. The tussle between the military and the politicians is readily solved if the politician simply delivers on ‘ good governance ‘……….and sadly they fail, every time , even on this basic requirement, because their greed knows no bounds.


  • truthbetold
    Aug 10, 2014 - 4:29AM


    “In India, it is deployed to keep the Kashmiris down,”

    Not entirely correct. The Indian army is deployed in Kashmir to protect the border and prevent infiltration. The army is not deployed in cities and towns.

    As for “keeping the Kashmiris down”, it is the job of the para military/police units. The heavy weapons such as air power etc. are not authorized even against the Naxalite/Maoist terrorists, Kashmiri terrorists, or the Northeast rebels. If India chose to use the army and air power against the Maoists, they could be wiped out in a week.


  • ishrat salim
    Aug 10, 2014 - 1:25PM

    @Rex Minor:
    You are correct & agree 100 %….their syllabus also must include basic English so that at least they may write their name which is our official language…..


  • Zeeshan Ahmed
    Aug 25, 2014 - 7:36PM

    In Pakistan it is a case of the army occasionally deploying governments.


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