April 27, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:57 am
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APRIL 26, 2008


IT was an interesting spectacle to see PML(N) ministers share a table with the President at the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani for formation commanders and services chiefs at a time when Mian Nawaz Sharif was telling VOA that General Musharraf didn’t fit in the democratic set-up. “The nation will barely register the change of government as long as Musharraf remains in power,” he said, putting a new spin on his stance that democracy and dictatorship could not co-exist. Mr Gillani meanwhile called for a new and balanced relationship between the civil and military institutions of the state.

The Prime Minister praised Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for his call regarding strict adherence to safeguard the Constitution. But he should have elaborated what he actually meant when he felicitated the armed forces for their contribution to the democratic transition as well as their “judicious” and “prudent” approach to the unfolding political realities. There is no doubt that the political leadership had the unsavoury reputation of seeking the army’s intervention to dislodge their opponents from power. It was unfortunate that political parties in the opposition always welcomed military takeovers in the past instead of discouraging the Bonapartists who got used to dismantling the democratic process and holding the nation over a barrel. The politicians cannot escape the blame for exhibiting a dictatorial mindset while in power. Pakistan has seen such democratic rulers who got so intoxicated by the ‘heavy mandate’ that they started emasculating the powers of other state institutions. It was not just the opposition legislators who were subjected to political victimisation or pressurised to switch over to the government. But coercive legislation was bulldozed through Parliament to unseat the treasury members holding dissenting opinions. A democratic polity however does not give the army generals the right to overthrow elected governments when they so desire.

Mr Gillani did well by reminding the formation commanders that the Pakistan Army had a unique and delicate responsibility of defending the country’s geographical as well as its ideological boundaries. A balanced relationship between the military and civil authorities can only be established if all the state institutions are allowed to function within the constitutional framework. The PM rightly appreciated General Kayani’s decision to recall military personnel serving against the positions meant for civilians. This will certainly go a long way towards restoring the image of the Army that was badly tarnished during General Musharraf’s eight-year rule. A message that must reach the political parties across the spectrum is to avoid seeking the Army’s help in future to dislodge each other from power.


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