Clash between institutions averted?
Mohammad Jamil


Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday rejected the news and speculation that the government was planning to sack Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

In fact, the prime minister himself had upped the ante last week, and went to the extent of voicing concerns over conspiracies being hatched against the government. He, even questioned the credibility of the armed forces over the Osama bin Laden debacle, and also recounted his ‘favours’ of having given extensions to army chief and the ISI DG. This statement was reflective of extreme unhappiness with the COAS and the ISI chief, giving rise to speculation that the government was seriously contemplating the removal of Kayani and Pasha. According to a report, the matter of tension between the civil and military leadership over the memo was discussed in the PPP’s core committee. The saner voices, however, had advocated restraint and caution as recent events, including the serious divergence of opinion on matters of national security, created the impression that the entire security establishment was under attack from its own political leadership.

On Friday, the COAS had ruled out a military takeover in the country. “He (Kayani) strongly dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues,” the military had said in a press release.

There is a perception that the government itself leaked this news to see the reaction, and abandoned the idea on seeing public sentiment in favour of the military. At this point in time, when internally the nation is being tormented by militancy; economy is in dire strait; and externally powerful forces are looking at it maliciously and viciously, the clash between the institutions can be disastrous. Indian media is already commenting on the possible response of the security establishment if the two generals are fired. A report on the Indian website read: “Nobody knows and hopefully nobody will have to find the answer to this troubling question. In fact, were such an action to take place and even if the concerned officers accepted the decision and went home, nobody knows how the institution will react.”

After February 2008 elections, Parliament, Judiciary and Executive - pillars of the state - have been trying to assert power and claiming supremacy. Parliament says it is supreme. Judiciary considers itself as the most important pillar of the state, and believes that it could strike down any article of the constitution that contravenes the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

There is no denying that President Zardari has an image problem. And there are also cases of corruption against some of his party stalwarts and bureaucrats that have to be reopened after the NRO was declared by the apex court as void ab initio. Constitutional experts were however divided over immunity given to the President under Article 248 of the Constitution.

One group says that he has to go to the court to claim immunity, but others believe that this immunity is inherent in the Constitution and needs no interpretation. Some political parties and a section of the media, with a newfound freedom, have also been trying to spike tension between the government and the judiciary.

For the last four years, a democratic government is in place, and by all means Pakistan is a functional democracy; of course there are allegations of corruption and bad governance against the rulers. However, some elements are criticizing the military for intervening in the political affairs, and they expect from the military not to interfere even when there is anarchy in the country or external threat to its security.

The fact of the matter is that all countries of the world have professional armies to protect their borders, and also to ensure law and order internally. In the US, Britain and even in India - arguably the largest democracy in the world - political leaderships take decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership. It is matter of record that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and agreement to that effect was about to be inked when the army prevailed upon the prime minister and convinced him that India would lose strategic advantage by withdrawing from Siachen, and Indian forces would be vulnerable.

The difference of opinion between Obama administration and the Pentagon is a case in point – the former wants to complete withdrawal by 2014 by Generals insist that troops may stay much beyond 2014. Political leadership in Pakistan should reconcile with the idea that military does have a role in the matters of internal and external security, and has the right to give its assessment of threats to internal and external security. Anyhow, clash between the institutions seems to have been averted, at least for the time being.