Contrasting picture of military and politicians
On one hand the officers and men of Army shed their blood to safeguard the motherland; on the other the politicians having sold their souls barter away national interests. Who cares about sovereignty which is already bruised, honor already rolling in dust, as long as Uncle Sam promises to open the tap and cash flows in and that too in grant? This contrast has been there right from inception of Pakistan. Soldiers perform their tasks with total dedication, devotion and patriotism and do not hesitate sacrificing their lives if the situation so demands, be it internal or external threat or manmade or natural catastrophes. Such a stance is not possible if moral fibre is weak. Honor, integrity, spirit de corps, values and discipline rank high in their personal lives. These traits are drilled into their minds in the military academy, regimental centres and later on further honed in regiments and training institutions. The army inculcates patriotism in all its soldiers – enlisted men and officers. The message that their raison d’être is to defend Pakistan at the peril of their lives is grilled into their minds over and over again.
Inbuilt accountability system takes care of all cases of indiscipline sidelining all those who show lack of morals, camaraderie, professionalism, and valor and leadership qualities. Governed by zero-error syndrome, top class officers drop out owing to a minor slip/judgmental error. Pyramid system of promotion to higher ranks weeds out some very shining officers just because berths are few and competitors more in number. Only the best survive and reach the top. Those qualifying the yardstick are promoted and others superseded and retired. Bulk of officers gets superseded at the rank of Major. Very few make it to the rank of General and only one wears the crown of COAS after climbing the ladder of merit and competence. Among the lower ranks, the best soldier makes it to the rank of Subedar Major and some made Honorary Captains. There have been instances wherein a Sepoy through sheer hard work attained the coveted rank of C-in-C/COAS.
Whenever called in aid of civil power, Army has delivered by establishing the writ of the government in areas, where writ was lost. Invariably, it was the government which “failed to establish the civil order in those areas and the political process never started.” It so happened in former East Pakistan during Gen Yahya era, four times in Balochistan during Ayub era, ZA Bhutto era, Musharraf era and Zardari era. The Army restored government’s writ in 2009/10 in the areas of Swat, Dir, Buner and seven tribal agencies of FATA, but the civil government failed to take over these areas to establish the civil order. The judiciary is completely out of sync and has not been able to convict a single terrorist nabbed during operations. Thus, for five years these areas, which constitute almost 40% of Pakistan territory, are still restive and Army takes the blame for it.
In 2008, the Army handed over internal security duties in Balochistan to the paramilitary forces. It also abandoned the plan to build new cantonments there under intense pressure of Baloch nationalists, yet Army is being blamed for carrying out operations, abductions and killings. The same happened in East Pakistan in 1971, where, by August 1971, the Army had restored government writ over the entire territories of East Pakistan, but the government did not come forward to restore the civil authority and the political process, resulting into a dangerous drift and downfall.
In contrast, the politicians are a horde of pompous feudal landlords, big industrialists, businessmen and hereditary Pirs. Most are devoid of scruples, integrity, honesty and competence. They join politics to gain power and amass ill-gotten wealth. They enter corridors of power without any grooming from an academy. Family background and wealth becomes the basis for their election. They work with fervor only when their self interest is at stake otherwise they adopt a lackadaisical posture and are least interested in national interests. Their patriotic slogans are meant to befool the gullible public. They loot rather than protect national kitty. Morality, values, principles are of no consequence to them. They believe in the principle of making hay as long as the sun shines.
Historically, the Army intervened and took over power when things went from bad to worse. Each military rule put the nation back on the rails, bolstered the economy, filled up the empty national kitty and set things right. It is also a hard fact that disgruntled politicians in opposition invited the Army to sack the sitting government and hold the reins of power to save the country from sinking. The ones refusing to oblige them were ridiculed, while the ones obliging them were welcomed and showered with praises. It is also a reality that they rejoiced the ouster of the civilian government by distributing sweets. The same lot then badmouthed the coup-making General after finding that he had no intentions of handing over power to them. All his good work was then painted in black and all sorts of names given to him. In the process, image of the Army as a whole was sullied.
While all the political rules were appalling, Pakistan became utterly vulnerable during the five-year rule of PPP regime from March 2008 till March 2013. The US and UK brokered a deal to allow NRO cleansed leaders to rule the roost and to keep Pakistan in the stranglehold of US. Decision making was solely in hands of Zardari led coterie, handpicked and cleared by Washington. Policy of appeasement was adopted to please Washington even at the cost of national interests. Constitutional powers of PM were usurped by the President rendering legislature into a dummy. Democratic institutions were rendered feeble and dysfunctional due to monopoly of President on all State matters.
All the public sector State corporations were ruined and made into white elephants. Railways suffered a loss of Rs 40 billion. It had to repay foreign loans worth Rs 35 billion. Profitable PIA almost became a liability due to heavy debt, mismanagement and corruption. So was the case with Karachi steel mill. Corruption broke all previous records. The then NAB Chairman Admiral Fasih Bokhari stated that corruption level was Rs 5 billion daily, Rs 150 billion monthly and Rs 1.8 trillion annually. Rs 8.5 trillion were lost in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance. Rule of law was disrespected by the ruling elite and the corrupt were patronized and rewarded. Pakistan’s Ambassador to USA Hussain Haqqani who had made an offer to Admiral Mike Mullen to give Pakistan on contract to the US through a memo was made to stay in the President House and then in PM House as a special guest and was allowed to flee to Washington when his trial was in progress and sufficient evidence had been gathered about his anti-State activities.
Daily expenditure of President and PM Houses ran into millions. President Zardari spent public money lavishly not realizing that a poor man couldn’t afford two square meals a day. He recklessly doled out taxpayers money to outsiders while his own people were dying of hunger. When he visited Rangoon, he donated $50 lakhs; in Ajmer Sharif he presented $10 lakhs to Dargah Sharif. In Chicago conference, he announced $ 2 crores for training of Afghan Army. Between 2008 and May 2012, he undertook 46 foreign trips at State expense. In each visit his entourage was heavy with freeloaders, staying in highly expensive hotels and hiring expensive cars for sightseeing. Billions were spent on their fruitless visits which were of no use to Pakistan and its people.
Likewise, PM Yusaf Gilani was ever eager to take a trip abroad at government’s expense. He too took along a big entourage with him. In his last visit to UK before he was sacked by the Supreme Court, his entourage had 80 persons and total expenditure incurred came to Rs ten crores. He and his family did shopping from the most expensive departmental store Harrods in London. He bought three coats worth Rs 80 lakhs. His successor Raja Pervez Ashraf was responsible for creating energy crisis as Minister Water & Power. He was involved in Rental Power Plant scam. Following in the footsteps of President and PM, the ministers and bureaucrats were also fully engrossed in extravaganza. They eagerly looked forward for foreign trips to earn daily allowance in foreign currency despite the fact that their ticket, boarding, lodging, sightseeing and even shopping was free. Jayalas and sycophants in host countries felt honored to serve the visitors and in return get their illegal jobs done. 92 members of the cabinet, largest in the world, cost the exchequer Rs 6 crores annually.
Accountability was made selective and the affluent were let off under the plea of national reconciliation. Loans taken between 2008 and March 2013 surpassed the total loans taken in sixty years. In 1999, public debt was Rs 3 trillion; it soared to Rs 14 trillion by 2012. Circular debt rose to Rs 500 billion. Dozens of mega scandals took place in which the top leadership was involved. Pakistan suffered from worst energy crisis resulting in massive power outages and gas load shedding. Owing to misrule and lack of governance, investment dried up, inflation ballooned up and the economy became utterly weak and fragile. The regime ate up Rs 8500 million during its five year tenure. Pakistan earned the name of most dangerous country in the world.
As a result, nuclear Pakistan turned into a submissive beggar State dependent upon US aid and loans from IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Saudi generosity and money sent by expatriates and currency notes printed by State Bank. It begged its arch rival India to hold composite dialogue; it overlooked Afghanistan’s aggressive and insulting posture and bent over backwards to appease mean and nasty Karzai; it craved to get into bed with untrustworthy USA. Pakistan was put in such an awkward and humiliating position by our mini-mind self-centered leaders in spite of the fact that it is blessed with all the blessings of Allah. There is no shortage of anything. But our rulers have brought this country to such a sorry pass because of massive plundering. The PPP has been in government four times since 1972. In every election, it promised food, clothes and shelter for the poor but after acquiring power it forgot all its promises.
Although Nawaz Sharif government has resolved to strengthen democracy and rule of law and boost up economy, people are fed up of democracy and Anglo Saxon judicial system which are pro-rich and anti-poor. The youth from the deprived class gravitated towards militancy primarily because of absence of justice, arrogance of the rulers/ elites, cruelty of the police and insensitivity of the bureaucracy. Finding no scope for social growth or jobs, they joined militant/Jihadi groups or resorted to criminal activities. The TTP enrolled recruits from within the dispossessed.
As long as the elites imbued with feudal mindset continue leading an extravagant life and ignore the plight of the poor and deprive them of justice, scourge of terrorism will not go away. Nawaz Sharif will have to free himself of his fear phobia and pathological aversion against the Army because of his two bitter experiences in 1993 and 1999, remove misgivings if any and forge close ties with Army. The Army needs full backing of the political leadership, the nation and media to confront internal and external threats. Operation Zarb-e-Azb can only achieve all its objectives if the whole nation gives wholehearted moral support to the Army. Not only the scourge of terrorism needs total elimination, snakes in the grass poisoning the foundations of Pakistan must also be located and eliminated.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst/columnist/war veteran/book writer, Director Measac Research Centre and Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org