The question is whether the Pakistan armed forces will ever take over again. They definitely can, but they say they won’t. They say what they mean, and do what they say. Concurrently, by habit ingrained through constant training, they keep their plans ready to cater for all conceivable contingencies. Therefore, if the situation changes drastically and they have to put one of the contingency plans into action, all the noble intent notwithstanding, they will. This is how the military works.
It is not intended to sound insidious, cynical or mysterious. The aim is to clear the mist that traditionally shrouds the military. That is why, perhaps, it is the most newsworthy and least understood of all the institutions in the country.
The media were as free as any in the world. Parliament in its latest rebirth is almost seven years old and the bigwigs amongst the politicians are oozing with confidence, having discovered their limitless importance, rights and privileges. The military, the holy cow of yesteryear, is no more holy. It has been defamed, rebuked, slandered and provoked to a limit on the floor of parliament and outside it, despite the constitutional provisions granting its dignity and stature in national life. Some media men have sold their souls to the devil. Most try and find hidden meanings, and some offer meaningful ‘one-liners’ to explain the entire philosophy behind an otherwise simple ISPR release. For some, military bashing has turned out to be a highly profitable occupation.
The government is faced with a self-created dilemma. Conjectures, accusations and boastful rhetoric betray confusion and a lack of clear perspective. All the beneficiaries of the status quo have joined forces with the government. It sometimes appears that the allies and the advisers are taking the government up the jungle path once again. The end of the road is nowhere in sight.
The contention of the script writers was as preposterous as the failed drama staged to malign the DG ISI. The story of an alleged rift in the higher ranks of the army was a disgrace. It must have sent alarm bells ringing abroad, for the prospects of mutiny in the armed forces in a nuclear Pakistan could have dangerous consequences for the region and the world, especially when the military still remains in full control of nuclear assets. The truth is that the military does encourage freedom of expression at all levels. Once the brainstorming is over and the policy is announced, everyone follows suit. Procrastination during the implementation stage is unforgivable. A military chief can retire any rank at any time without assigning the reason and everyone knows that.
The crucial question will remain unanswered unless we know where the answer lies. It does not lie with the DG ISPR and not even with General Raheel Sharif himself. The answer lies with the politicians. They must put their act together, find a political solution to a purely political problem, stop harassing innocent people, tone down the arrogance that is too obvious to hide, shed for a moment their imperial egos, and start behaving like ordinary mortals for a change; before it becomes difficult for other institutions to tell the difference between patience and dereliction, before more people come out on the streets, not to join the protesters but to ask for an extraordinary and extra-constitutional dispensation, and before God forbid, that contingency evolves itself and sends Pakistan reeling back to square one.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2014.