Inviting the Army: the red lines cannot be crossed
Brig (Retd) Farooq Hameed Khan


Those who were advocating the ‘Kakar option’ till last year were disappointed as this did not materialize. More catchy terms like ‘martial law plus’ or ‘judicial martial law’ seem to be floating around. And now we have Air Marshal (Retd) Lateef’s innovation of the ‘Supreme National Council’. All these solutions desperately seek a change to save Pakistan from a total collapse.

I agree with the Air Marshal that the Supreme Court has shown leniency and restraint which emboldened the Government highups to flout SC decisions. If the Prime Minister or his Ministers have deliberately delayed or not implemented the SC orders, then contempt proceedings should be initiated and verdicts handed out irrespective whether the system derails or not. Rest assured, the nation would fully back all such SC decisions.

The Honourable Justice Javed Iqbal’s post retirement remarks that the Government was implementing the Supreme Court verdicts, though belatedly in some cases, were indeed surprising and contrary to the observations of the Honourable Chief Justice in this respect. The typical pattern of a tense environment created by strong observations by the Honourable Justices during case proceedings, leading to a media hype and expectation of tough action against the mighty, followed by an anti climax the next day remains a puzzle.

While it is true that Pakistan faces anarchy like conditions, yet it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would take notice of the prevailing chaos and institutional breakdown as desired by the Air Marshal. Even if it does take notice, will something really happen! With the SC’s writ being belittled by ruling elite, can it really afford to take a plunge into the country affairs.

The SC has too much in hand already to decide, including that one pager to reopen Swiss cases, NRO review petition case, the contempt proceedings against PPP leaders, the willful defiance by the ruling elite to drag investigations of NICL/Haj corruption scams etc. Some cognizance has also to be taken of violation of the High Court’s recent verdict regarding holding of dual offices by the President.

The Air Marshal’s remedy of the judiciary sponsored and Army supported Supreme National Council (SNC) is an unconstitutional and non democratic means to bring about a change of government in the country. The SNC is proposed to comprise retired, non partisan judges, who in turn would select a team of honest and selfless professionals to steer the country out of turbulence. This in fact is the same ‘technocrats government’ formula that we are tired of hearing since long.

Firstly, it will be naÔve to expect the Supreme Court which has repeatedly vowed to uphold the Constitution to commit an act that goes against its own preachings. Secondly, even if this arrangement enjoyed the Army’s support, the political forces specially PML-N (highly allergic to Army) and PPP will surely gang up with media’s backing to oppose this non democratic system tooth and nail and ensure that it fails. A return to democracy through general elections would still remain the ultimate solution.

The Army should not be expected to making any unconstitutional move in the current dismal state of affairs. It is already too committed in anti militancy operations in Fata, while deeply anxious to see Balochistan and Karachi peaceful. In case of Karachi, the Corps Commanders have gone to the extent of expressing concern with a caution for the government to restore peace through political means. The Army would intervene in Karachi if the provincial government called the Army ‘in aid of civil power’ as per the Constitution.

But I also believe that the Army has red lines with respect to the country’s security that it would not allow to be crossed. General Kayani is known to have intervened on 15 March 2009, when it was feared that the Long March could result in bloodshed in Islamabad. I doubt if the Army would remain a spectator should politicians create conditions that really endanger the country’s integrity. The Army could be expected to make a ‘soft’ intervention if the judiciary sought its help under Article 190 of the Constitution to get its verdicts implemented specially against the top ruling elite. Such steps would become easier to take in an environment of a popular movement by civil society, lawyers and political parties with media’s support which exerts sufficient moral pressure on the state institutions to act. Except for Imran Khan’s dharnas and localized anti loadshedding/ prices protests such a countrywide coordinated anti government tehreek is nowhere visible.

Why not adopt the constitutional, legal and democratic path to bring about the much needed change. Let the top corrupt elite be convicted/ disqualified in wake of SC’s bold decisions. Let PML-N the largest opposition party demonstrate sincerity towards the masses plight, give up its double game/ friendly opposition role and manoeuvre an in house change with additional political support or force early elections through en masse resignations in national/provincial assemblies.

Let Imran Khan’s ‘Mulk bachao, Hakumat hatao tehreek’ be transformed into a national movement to act as a catalyst for an early change through the ballot box. Let Imran Khan lead the badly needed third force of clean and honest politicians in the next elections, to wipe out the crooks and scoundrels who have held this nation hostage. Let the Army and judiciary do their jobs, let peoples power do the rest!