PAKISTAN: The tail of the army must be trimmed as it has again started lifting up 

AHRC-ART-110-2012.JPGThe Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, while addressing a group of officers at the General Head Quarters (GHQ), has unambiguously threatened the judiciary, parliament, politicians and media that their criticism of the actions of some retired generals will not be tolerated. He provoked the soldiers in such a way so as to instill a conscious idea that there is a distinction between the soldiers and the ‘leadership’ of the army and in his arrogance he announced that such efforts cannot be tolerated.

Showing the monopoly of the army on the definition of national interests, General Kayani, unequivocally said that “no individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest”. He then emphasized that “it should emerge through a consensus” — a very clear message from General Kayani that it is only army that can define national interest and others institutions, the judiciary, parliament and media, will have to fall in line as they did so in the past since the creation of the country.

In his strong message the army chief, threatened the constitutional setup no less than five times. The threat to the constitutional set up in the country came only after the trial against nine generals on the charges of murder, corruption and interfering in the democratic process of the country by distributing funds to compliant politicians in order to rig the elections. Among them are two retired chiefs of army staff, two former chiefs of the notorious intelligence agency, the ISI (one lieutenant general and one major general), five lieutenant Generals are on charges of corruption. This was the first time in the country that such a number of the former generals are being tried by the Supreme Court and parliament’s committee who has sent the reference to the national accountability courts. The media, who has never enjoyed such freedom to criticize the military, has come out with so much discussion on the role of the military in the corruption, land scams, misuse of power, involvement in politics and killings of the people that this has infuriated the officers. General Kayani, the COAS, who was said to be the silent general, has come out with his secret intention for the future by threatening the civil institutions with dire consequences.

The full text of the speech by General Kiyani COAS may be found here.

The COAS in his written speech has on several times repeated words such as, ‘unacceptable’, ‘is not tolerated’, ‘roll back us’, (negative implications for intimidating the judiciary and other civilian institutions). In a very loud voice he said “All systems in Pakistan appear to be in a haste to achieve something, which can have both positive and negative implications.” The judiciary was openly criticized here for rushing to judgment in some cases. The message may be that too much realism may lead to negative implications. Through this reference he has also pointed his finger towards the parliament and media that they should understand that the army will not remain silent.

At one point General Kayani provoked the officers and the soldiers that, “Equally important is the trust between the soldiers and the leadership of the Armed Forces. Any effort to create a distinction between the two undermines the very basis of this concept and is not tolerated, be it Pakistan or any other country……. Armed Forces draw their strength from the bedrock of the public support. National security is meaningless without it. Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest. While constructive criticism is well understood, conspiracy theories based on rumours which create doubts about the very intent, are unacceptable.”

The statement of the Chief of Army Staff is in direct interference with the civilian affairs of the country which the constitution has never allowed. There is no provision in the constitution which allows the military to poke its nose into the affairs of the government. The army must at all times follow the dictates of the government, not the other way around. They are the servants not the masters and they should understand their place. There was no doubt that the general’s speech was a warning that the army can take at any time should it feel threatened by the government or any other civilian institution.

It is said that the written speech of the chief justice of Pakistan which was leaked where the chief justice while speaking to the officers of the 97th National Management Course held by the National School of Public Policy, National Management College, said that “Gone are the days when stability and security of the country was defined in terms of number of missiles and tanks, as a manifestation of hard power available at the disposal of the State”.  He further said, “Today, the concept of national security has been redefined as a polity wherein a state is bound to provide its citizens with overwhelming social security and welfare nets and to protect their natural and civil rights at all costs”.

What General Kayani was annoyed about was that the speech of the chief justice was made public before he could water it down. He wanted to get across the point that it is the armed forces and only the armed forces that can decide on national issues. This is the foundation stone of the armed forces and the speech of the chief justice has undermined this salient point. This, he feels will demoralise the soldiers. To put more emphasis on General Kayani’s statement the Public Relations Office, the ISPR, issued press releases in English and Urdu. The press release in Urdu was more than clear in delivering the message to the masses and the ordinary soldiers who cannot read English.

The contents of the two different statements, one by the chief justice and other by the chief of army staff on constitutional affairs were directly opposed to each other. This more than anything shows that there is a conflict between the civilian institutions and the army which believes itself to be the main power broker despite the fact that it has never been counted as one of the three pillars of the state. The statement of the COAS has warned and alarmed the whole country that the freedom of the people to have an independent judiciary, an elected parliament and free media is going to be snatched once again. It is also observed that COAS has never uttered a single word about terrorism or the militants that are targeting the very security of the country and democracy. The COAS never conceived of terrorism or militancy as being a threat. The manner in which the civilian institutions are now working freely and independently is, on the other hand, very much a threat in his eyes.

It is very hard for the army to swallow the bitter pills of democracy, independent justice systems and free media who never recognised any institution as having a sacred status in the past in the name of national interest. This time, every institute has to face the fact of democracy and freedom of thought. The coming situation in the country is in no way conducive for the army who does not want to be an impotent institution in a country where people have the right to choose their own rulers and who need a fair judicial system rather than military courts.

The Chief Justice was right when he said, “Gone are the days when stability and security of the country was defined in terms of number of missiles and tanks, as a manifestation of hard power available at the disposal of the State”.

The government and parliament should to take serious notice of the speech of General Kayani. He must be tried under article 6 and sub article 3 which clearly says that, “parliament shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason”. The time is ripe for the government to put the military in general and the Chief of Army Staff in particular in their correct place as servants of the country, not dictatorial masters. General Kayani must be tried for interfering in the political affairs of the country and threatening every civilian institution to follow the doctrines of the military.

The tail of the army must be trimmed as it has again started lifting up.

About the author: Baseer Naweed is a Senior Researcher and may be contacted at:

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-110-2012
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Military,