Do not Blame Army for Political Crisis
With the passage of 30 days, the prevailing political crisis in Pakistan has deepened, as protesting groups of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) by Dr. Tahirul Qadri continue AZADI (Freedom) and INQILAB (Revolution) marches, observing sit-ins at capital city of Islamabad. The demonstrations have been prolonged and extended unnecessarily, because, the government of PML (N) led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not grab the initiative to settle the issue through result-oriented dialogue.
Now, the political turmoil in the country presents an ugly scenario in which twin protesting parties have maintained a firm stance rigidly demanding resignation of the prime minister, registration of FIR against the concerned people, responsible for killings in Model Town, Lahore, audit of rigged elections and reformation of Election Commission including some other demands.
While, use of force against the protesters, which resulted into killings in Islamabad by the Police including assaults on the reporters and vehicles of the private TV channels have further spoiled the situation. However, violent acts between protesting groups and Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) further depict Islamabad in a dilapidated state. The writ of government appears to have been lost its effectiveness, as Islamabad presents an anarchic environment.
Unfortunately, government efforts seem to be based on slow-moving-strategy, monotony and dreariness, hoping that political chaos will get resolved with the passage of time. Resultantly, protesting groups got frustrated, showing signs of dissent and division.
In the process, ex-president of the PTI, Javed Hashmi, while revolting against his own leadership leveled serious allegations against the Armed Forces, without realizing that such baseless accusations will bring bad name for national institutions, especially Pak Army and country’s intelligence agency ISI. Although Javed Hashmi’s allegations were rejected by the PTI Chief Imran Khan who also thrown him out of the party, yet he felt no shame in leveling baseless accusations against Pak Army. Perhaps, his oversensitivity about Army made him paranoid, and obsessed with fear of unknown. Certainly, Javed Hashmi is suffering from psychological disorder ‘schizophrenia,’ having symptoms of divided mind, skepticism and mistrust coupled with delusions of grandeur. He may be needing psycho-therapy from an established institution, but, undoubtedly owes an apology to Army for damaging its prestige.
Meanwhile, media and political leaders, acting as predators have tried to capitalize the false information, given by Javed Hashmi, and have blamed Pak Army, without taking into consideration the image and honor of the latter. In this context, media and political leadership also drew oblique-angled-conclusions and resorted to unconstructive criticism of Army as an institution for allegedly backing PTI and PAT. The trend is not only dangerous, but gravely self-staggering, as Army is a prestigious national institution which is apolitical and neutral entity, and committed to protect the national interests of Pakistan.
In this respect, on September 1, this year, by taking note of the ongoing crisis and false allegations, a statement of the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) categorically rejected assertions that the Army and ISI were backing PTI and PAT in any way in the current political standoff. It explained, “Army is non-political institution and has expressed its unequivocal support for democracy at numerous occasions. It is unfortunate that Army is dragged into such controversies…integrity and unity of the army is its strength which it upholds with pride.”
Army maintains a totally neutral and non-political stance. It is, however, deeply concerned on prevailing political turmoil. On August 20, DG of ISPR, Maj-Gen. Asim Bajwa impartially stated, “The buildings in the Red Zone (Islamabad) are symbols of state and must be respected, explaining, “All issues should be resolved through result-oriented dialogue in the interest of the country and its people.”
And, the ISPR press release regarding the corps commanders meeting held on August 31, reaffirmed support to democracy—the conference reviewed with serious concern, the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken. The statement, again reiterated that the situation should be resolved politically through dialogue, without recourse to violent means.
In wake of the political uncertainly, join session of the parliament started. In their fierce speeches, while, indirectly criticizing Army, leaders of PML (N) and some other parliamentarians said that they would oppose any move which could derail democracy in the country by rejecting the unconstitutional demands of PTI and PAT including resignation of the Prime Minister Nawaz and the dissolution of the National Assembly.
On the other side, on September 12, DG of ISPR Maj-Gen. Asim Bajwa once again elaborated, “Pakistan Army supports democracy and constitution, and does not think it necessary to respond to rumors.” He added, “The army chief in his address on Youm-i-Shuhuda (Martyrs’ Day) clearly said that the army believes in continuation and democracy.”
Some media analysts and political leaders tend to show their loyalties to top political leadership by mentioning about the possibility of military take over. Such elements have an agenda to spoil civil-military relations—to create division between the Armed Forces, distorting their image in the eyes of general masses.
Undoubtedly, democracy has displayed its success in the west, but, it has proved to be fruitless in Pakistan. Therefore, it is generally said that “any instrument can be misused.” Pakistan’s politicians and media have always claimed that they nourish democratic ideals, but, we could not establish this system on a strong footing due to irresponsible approach of our political entities and media.
It is notable that in 2011, during the Memogate case, some political entities and media commentators were saying that martial law will be imposed in the country. The then Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani stated, “The Pakistan Army has and will continue to support democratic process in the country.” As Army was acting upon the principle of non-interference in political affairs, therefore, the previous government completed its tenure.
It is noteworthy that for the last few months, Pakistan’s Armed Forces are successfully obtaining their objectives in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) through military operation Zarb-e-Azb against the terrorists who had challenged the writ of the state, and had frightened the entire nation by their terror-acts. The Armed Forces are also engaged in rescue-operations in the flood-affected areas. Besides, Pak Army has also been coping with subversive activities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and other parts of the country including tribal areas in wake of India’s war-like diplomacy and cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan’s side.
No doubt, Pak Army is supportive of democracy and is committed to protect the constitution of Pakistan. But, leveling derogatory allegations against Army is a serious crime, and it must not be allowed to recur under any circumstances. Army as an institution cannot be made a punching bag—subjected to public debate.
Since Army is playing and will continue to play vital role to defend Pakistan against external and internal threats, therefore, at no cost, the anti-Pakistan elements be given a chance to use the moment and cause irrecoverable damage to the country.
Everyone knows that the present political turmoil in the country has been created by politicians, and Pak Army has not played any role in its orchestration. The accusations of protestors relate to rigging in the elections, poor governance, injustice, corruption etc. for which governing bodies are held responsible.
It is optimistic sign that a team consisting of the leaders of PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami including some other political persons who have met Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and government’s top officials are hopeful that they would conclude an agreement between these rival entities, as they have become guarantors in this respect, and would defuse the tension through dialogue.
Nevertheless, rulers and political leadership must devise a strategy to resolve the impending political crisis to maintain order. Prevailing chaos and disruptive state of affairs will not bear any fruit by accusing the Armed Forces, especially Pak Army and ISI. Some bold decisions will have to be undertaken and audacity needs to be demonstrated by the government.
So, dragging Pak Army into political conflict, related to power struggle is unfair and unacceptable. All patriotic people of Pakistan feel hurt, as politicians tend to blame Pak Army for the ongoing political crisis by settling their own scores against each other. The practice must be condemned and checked forcefully, as no one should be allowed to use the moment to tarnish Army’s image.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations