London: Pakistani media never had it so good. It is having a field day in reporting on everything under the sun including Pakistan ’s reputed to be gigolo prime minister and his megalomaniac boss. Expression of free views and whatever—on matters that were once untouchable with a barge pole have become domains where everyone with a pen is having a swipe at.

The perpetual fear that marred robust and incisive journalism has been thrown to wind. Notoriously known “no go” areas in media enforced at gun point in Karachi by its ethnic mafia, have become free zones for reporting though not yet without risk. While TV controlling authority—Pemra– continues to block what it considers hostile to the government programmes, Islamabad ’s ethnic collaborators black out TV programmes at will. Many daring journalists, TV channels and newspapers have been put on notice by the ethnic killers dancing to the tunes of their blood thirsty masters issuing death-chilling cahiers from safer shores abroad.

Despite receiving chopped human body parts left at their doorsteps with a warning that if they do not “behave” they might end up dead stitched in gunny begs—a trade mark disposal method of the ethnic group–the dare and the unmatched courage shown by the soldiers of the pen and their determination to uphold truth has opened floodgates for an inevitable change.

Thanks to the judicial crisis ignited by the unbridled wielders of executive power, the defence of the institution of the judiciary and its independence by Chief Justice Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, the lawyers community and the masses—there has come about a sea change perhaps showing the nation light at the end of the dark tunnel of intermittent military rule in the country over its sixty years of chequered existence.

The growing populist anger in the street against the generals and army as a usurper institution given vent by the defiance of the Chief Justice, lawyers community and the daring media—a stage is being set for changing the guards. While not undermining the overall daring role of the media and dauntless men and women behind it, we must not ignore the quisling-like role of some of the pen-pushers and TV anchors receiving their perks and financial benefits from the agencies for peddling regime’s agenda. Their permanent assignment is to continue character-assassinating country’s genuine political leadership especially former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto through concerted disinformation campaigns related to imaginary deals with the regime on its last legs. The purpose behind such sinister propaganda is to divide, confuse and create doubts among the opposition parties in the process of putting their act together to give a last push to the dictator and his civil and military coterie. However, the on-going developments, the temper and tenor of the people in the length and breadth of the country and their hitherto unknown hatred of the uniform that is finding its angry expression in total disrespect to it—are reassuring signs that there is no turning back any more from the road and goal to democracy and rule of law. Indeed, the sky is overcast with signs that foretell change and that the countdown has begun. One would not like to subscribe to the prediction that the change of guard is forthcoming in July next in the light of the fact it is said that a week is a long time in politics,

In the whole series of developments both the General and the army have been singled out as the main villain of the piece. The issues that relate to growing set backs in foreign policy, dismal failure of the regime on the domestic front, its overly dissatisfactory performance to deliver in war against terrorism and its covert encouragement to rapid Talibanisation in Pakistan as witnessed in its anorchous handling of the Lal Masjid and Hasfa Madressa have put the General and his institution in the red and their efficacy has been proved as nothing to nil. And the growing resentment and hatred against it in the nook and corner of the country—must be—as it concerns us—a matter for serious consideration for the top military brass who owe it all—their enormous ill-acquired wealth, their lands, their underserved medals—to the institution that has been scavenging the country as an occupation territory.

Whatever ill-conceived claims he quixotically has regarding his personal popularity and performance, there is no denying the fact that the enormity of hatred against him and the institution that has up surged recently must be causing sleepless nights in the steel-bunkered Praetorian quarters. While he is interested in saving his second skin, others in the GHQ must be planning how to save their first when the wrath of the masses building up to a crescendo would come down upon them to drown them in a sea of scum.

Notwithstanding his megalomaniac condition of mind about his popularity, the street anger against the army as manifested in various derogatory expressions of protests against it especially in Punjab, he and his band-wagoners are absolutely wrong that they can defend the institution by issuing warnings—dime a dozen—morning, evening and afternoon—that it is anti-state to criticise Pakistan army. Some of his co-operative thugs and other sunshine politicians who have basked in ill-gotten gold and glitter under him have gone out of their minds in the defence of the institution that has been made defenceless by the undemocratic and black misdeeds of the regime. Not even an insane person would attribute any wisdom to the likes of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who want any one criticising army shot dead in public. Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani has warned the electronic media to refrain from airing any ‘derogatory comment or slogans’ against the armed forces.

On top of all other dim-wits that he does business with, the man who has emerged as the one major player in destroying the army and totally soiling its image as the most corrupt institution in the world —though too late in the day—has come up with his cheek to defend it. Speaking to army officers at the Jhelum garrison the other day, the General said it was “every Pakistani’s responsibility to ensure that the sanctity and reverence of national institutions, such as the armed forces, is maintained”. His other claim broke all barriers of hilarity when he remarked that there was no role of the military in governance and that “the armed forces were in the barracks” and claims to the contrary were “unfortunate”.

In putting across such a contradictory statement with a straight face shows his deceptive mental condition. Notwithstanding the fact that out of sixty years of Pakistan’s independence, more than half have been under direct military rule while the intermittent experimentations in democracy too were managed by the military overtly or covertly. It is Pakistan under him as perpetual army chief that has been through civilianisation of the military in order to convert the country into a garrison state. More than ten thousand active and retired military officers have been inducted in civil, foreign, police, custom, income, teaching and other services including the postal. It would, indeed, be some gigantic task for the civilian government when it comes—to de-militarise the civil bureaucracy.

Not only that, there has been a systematic take over of the civilian financial and corporate industrial sectors too. Dr Ayesha Siddiqa in her latest book: “Military Inc: Inside Pakistan ’s Military Economy” has exposed most lucidly Pakistani military’s gigantic business ventures. How un-nerved the regime got from it that it put a ban on the venue of her book launch—Islamabad Club—and all hotels were also told not to host her—it was managed at a room provided by a non-governmental organisation.
It would surely be a world news to know that the net worth of Pakistan army’s commercial empire stands as of today at Rs200 billion. This exposure, indeed, lends supports to my thesis that the militarisation of corporate business over the years too was a systematic attempt at converting Pakistan into a viable garrison state as opposed to Quaid’s vision of a secular, democratic egalitarian state.

Since the very inception Pakistan army has assumed that it is the institution that has a country and not the country that has an army. Accordingly it committed the worst ever crime by distorting Pakistan ’s ideological raison d’etre. It systematically destroyed Quaid’s secular ideology and replaced it with the indefinable Nazaria-i-Pakistan—hollow within but oppressive from outside—to help the army convert the country into military state. Unfortunately, Pakistani generals motivated by hunger for pelf and power do not realise that they are on the path to self-destruction. If God forbid something happens to Pakistan where the huge army, its fat, flabby would and corrupts generals go?

While most of the generals (with the exceptions of few) have brought the country to point of a break up again, they cannot deny that their institution too has come to be at the rock bottom of its popularity. For taking it down to the abysmal depth it must give credit to General Musharraf for having speeded the process to get it to the stage of denouement. Time has come—like post-1971– when army personnel will be told not to go alone in a civil area nor should they be in uniform. I remember the time when it was respected, it inspired confidence and a sense of security. Alas, the pendulum today has swung to the other extreme end.

As the situation stands today, the General has rendered Pakistan army to be the most despised institution. His own popularity can be gauged by the fact that as army chief his own khaki brothers have tried time and again tried to kill him. Now the misdeeds of both the General and the institution—analysts says—have come to such a pass that these are ready to be written off. It is just matter of time as to who would go first.

The General at long last has woken up to say that the national institutions—including the military– need to be respected. He has conveniently and selfishly forgotten the fact that there cannot be a state without a people and the people exercise their sovereignty through an elected parliament under a sacrosanct and inviolable document called constitution. Every other institution of the state is secondary to the people and their sovereign right to rule. That is the reason violation of the constitution is an act of treason punishable with death. In army discipline its personnel are court-martialled and awarded punishment according to the nature of the crime. Under it too, betraying the country calls for capital punishment. Desertion from the army is punishable with a few years in jail while betraying the country carries death penalty.

Last but not the least, the Generals—nay all those with Bonapartist tendencies—need to understand that institutions are never disbanded because of individual failures. Democracy that has come to be the so far tried best system of management—has an in-built system of throwing out failed leadership through vote. Take example of the United Kingdom . Prime Minister Tony Blair has to go for his failure in his foreign policy while the Parliament stays unlike Pakistan where military intervenes when there is a civilian crisis and the whole parliament is packed up. If the same military panacea was to be applied to military itself it will have to be disbanded every time it loses a war. And in Pakistan by that rule, we should have disbanded the army in 1971 when it lost the war or again in 1999 when it surrendered at Kargil.

* Wajid Shamsul Hasan is Pakistan’s Ex High Commissioner at the UK.

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