Half truths of Zardari and Nawaz
Co-chairman of PPP Asif Zardari turned ‘khaki’ while addressing his party leaders and
workers on the birthday of Benazir Bhutto and lashed out on Mian Nawaz Sharif
for criticising the army.
Getting defensive PML (N) leaders have not only started praising the army but also
declaring that they are “custodians of Islam” and are “our crown. Many a times
politicians of the same creed tell us that the “army is also the defender of
the ideological frontiers.” These PML (N) leaders are not in sync with their
leader Mian Nawaz Sharif.
Unfortunately politically both Zardari and PML (N) leadership are equally wrong. They areshort-sighted and cannot see beyond their immediate political gains. Pakistan
history is full of leaders like the President who had no vision about building
a democratic independent country. They have led us to the position that
important geo-political and geo-strategic decisions are not made by the elected
government, but a fait accompli is presented to them by the GHQ. It is these
important decisions that have long-term bearing on our politics, economics and public
Criticism of the army for transgressing its constitutional limits has been subdued. The
space provided by the weak political leaders has over the years encouraged the
mind-set in the army that politicians do not have the capacity to make crucial
decisions for the country.
In his well-researched book “Military Control in Pakistan: the parallel state” Mazhar
Aziz has pointed out: “It is shown that the military has come to identify
itself with the state, rather than see itself as one of the key components of
the constitutional state. This analysis then reveals how a powerful military
has incrementally penetrated and exercised control over political developments.
The constitutional, political and economic dimensions of this control show that
the institution perceives, and arrogates to itself, the task of nation building
as part of the military discourse. The evidence presented illustrates the
almost universal mistrust that the senior military commanders have of the political
leadership in Pakistan.”
The editorial of the “Green Book” published by the army in 2002 confirms: “Gone are
the days when the sole role of an army was limited, either to invade or beat
back the attackers….Geopolitical and geo-strategic regional compulsions of South
Asia have made the revision and redefinition of Pakistan Army’s role a necessity.”
In this backdrop when Nawaz Sharif is asking the politicians that a time has come
to correct civil-military imbalance he is right. When he talks about making
peace with India he is right.
But the PPP co-chairman sees it as smart move to pitch his party against the army. President Zardari is right that the biggest challenge to the country is from its enemy
number one – TERRORISM. He is also right that the PML (N) is softer when it
comes to militant Islamic outfits. As a matter of fact they have shied away
from even turning up to console the Ahmadis after their massacre and stand up
against the conspiracy that led to the killing of the Punjab Governor Salman
But in spite of these shortfalls of the PML (N) leadership, Zardari should not
forget that he is also the President of Pakistan and not only the co-chairman
of a political party. As the president he has to carry himself with grace and
speak with dignity. The choice of words and style of delivery should not be
belligerent no matter how provocative Mian Nawaz Sharif is at attacking him personally. A person who holds the office of the president should not allow others to
provoke him and come down to their level. There are many in his party who
should be defending him and the party.
President Zardari should have asked PML (N) to come jointly and make a non-aligned policy with a loud and clear message that Pakistan will henceforth ban all militant
organisations and live in peace with its neighbours. He could have invited the
opposition to support the government to remove GHQ encroachment from the foreign
policy making domain. He was, however, right in pointing out that there is a
clash of ideas in the country between those who feel that Jihadi organisations
should be desbanded without any hesitation and provisos and those who are
sympathetic to such organisations.
Contrary to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s policy his brother Shahbaz Sharif and opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar are out to please the army establishment. They say that the army is “our crown” or “custodian of Islam,” they are wrong. In the first place
Islam is in the hearts and minds of over a billion Muslims living around the
world. In the last 1400 years Islam has flourished even in the lands where
Muslims are in minority. It does not need a “custodian.” Secondly, it is
dangerous to ask any army to defend an ideology. Once we say that army has to
defend Islamic ideology or be its custodian we are breeding a seed of discord
in a disciplined organisation. Remember we have scores of sects in Islam each
having its own ideology and interpretation of the religion. Recently, we have
seen that indoctrination of the military personnel has given space to the
militant religious organisations to find in-roads in the army.
The army of any country has to remain within the role assigned to them in the
constitution – defend the geographical frontiers and to assist the civilian
government if called upon to fight against militants organisations that
challenge the writ of the government. The secondary role in all countries is
that the army is called to assist in the event of a colossal natural calamity.
And that’s it.
The Ideologies whether they are religious or anti-religion have no barriers they
flourish in the open space and have been debated all through the human history.
Any attempt to involve the army of any country to “defend its ideological
frontiers” or be “custodians of Islam” is giving them the license to interfere
in the fundamental rights of the people. Taking advantage of this self-imposed
responsibility we have seen that General Zia-ul-Haq postponed the elections and
ruled the country for 11 years. He left behind intolerance, schism and countless
militant Islamic groups, who have today turned their guns to the Pakistani
people and the government as well. They want to impose a Caliphate in Pakistan
and do not believe in the democratic process.
Here President Zardari was right this mind-set has to be fought. My question to
President Zardari is the same that I have been posing for many years: While the
militant Islamic ideology is being spread from dozens of organisations in a
systematic way, who in the government and his party is challenging this in an
organised manner? (firstname.lastname@example.org)