Lt Gen (Retd) Jamshed
Gulzar, who has a good reputation as a soldier, has
unfortunately said some things on the electronic media
which one feels he shouldn't have. Whatever his differences
with Musharraf, and I am with him in respect of the
outrageous promotions in the Public Service Commission,
he should have avoided commenting on Kargil or the
Lal Masjid. There is a vast difference between use
of chemical weapons and CS Hand Grenades. He has been
a 3-star General of an Army he certainly loves, he
must not put that Army under undue and unnecessary
pressure. While the Federal Budget is to be presented
on June 11, 2007, the lawyers "Long March"
is to kick off on June 10. To coincide with that,
there is a crescendo of voices in the media that are
attacking the President, asking for his impeachment.
For his part Pervez Musharraf has not shown any sign
of nerves, those who know him well are not surprised.
I do not see him succumbing to pressure, he is more
likely to dig in his heels. In the national interest
he must evaluate his own position and reconcile with
what is likely to happen. Pakistan certainly is in
a crisis and instead of reconciliation we are on the
threshold of a full-fledged confrontation. In the
meantime the people are suffering and will continue
to suffer due to shortages of food, electricity, and
water, not to count rampant inflation and worsening
law and order situation. Instead of circling the wagons
and coping with the crisis, we are bent on destroying
each other. June 2008 promises to be a long hot month.
For the benefit of readers, I am re-publishing my
article, "A Long Month".
A few days hence the lawyers' "Long March"
will attempt to take Islamabad by storm, application
of street power in any country's capital as a tactical
move can be quite effective. With its Coalition ally
governing the Punjab an integral part of the "Long
March", the stakes are high. If the Central Govt
succumbs it can say goodbye to its Federal authority,
that perception will make Islamabad hostage in the
future to whoever rules the Punjab. Mian Sahib tried
bottling up PPP in Islamabad once before almost two
decades ago. One is not sure about the adverse strategic
implications for the lawyers should June 10 pass without
restoration of the superior judiciary. Notwithstanding
creating chaos and confusion, is the movement strong
enough to survive failure?
Restoring the superior judiciary without constitutional
cover could open a legal Pandora's Box, giving extra-constitutional
forces casus belli "to save the country"
for the next ten years or so. A startling threat by
Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry once restored,
to personally punish those judges who took oath under
PCO on Nov 3, 2008. If the person meant to ensure
the rule of law and due process declares publicly
he is the complainant, investigator, prosecutor, judge,
jury and executioner, and that also of his fellow
judges, is this publicly stated vengeance different
to that of "vigilante justice" being administered
by street mobs? One waits with bated breath for reaction
from respected Justices Fakhruddin Ebrahim, Saeeduzzaman
By clever use of propaganda, populism and street power,
Adolf Hitler contrived to seize power in Germany .
Conditions were made conducive by mass deprivation,
unemployment, high inflation, frustration, humiliation
and anger. Effective use of the media by Nazi propaganda
chief Goebbels is the first case study on how to translate
an electoral minority into absolute power. The downside
of democracy is demagogues seldom practice what they
assiduously preach, it is only a means to an end.
Once in power they tend to revert to original character,
mostly for the worse! Street power for a just cause
is a democratic right that must be commended, in the
face of shortages of food, electricity, rising prices,
unemployment etc, are the masses convinced these are
not their priorities but that the restoration of the
superior judiciary is? An honest poll in the streets
will tell you otherwise, the media can change perception
but not facts.
Our immediate priority is national reconciliation.
The perception of this we saw when Asif Zardari visited
"90" in Karachi , again when an MQM delegation
led by Senator Farooq Sattar called on the ANP leader,
Asfandyar Wali Khan, during his recent visit to Karachi
. For the country and for the city of Karachi , the
reconciliation process will have far-reaching favourable
consequences. Despite misgivings about events like
May 12, confrontation is anathema to the concept of
reconciliation. Commitment to democratic principles
is in recognizing that everyone's voice matters. Only
the shortsighted, immature and bigoted use race (however
thinly designed) as a political card.
The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society are busy sharpening
their bayonets for Musharraf. Lt Gen Jamshed Gulzar,
a loyalist-turned-foe, was loud and clear on the electronic
media, could he have been as blunt and forthright
when in service? How does one balance loyalty and
discipline against conscience, and when? The Society
comprises men of great integrity and immense patriotism,
most have taken part in actual combat and do not talk
"the big talk" only. Among them my Commanding
Officer Brig Mohammad Taj SJ & Bar, a living hero
of this Army (decorated in both 1965 and 1971), it
was a privilege to serve under him as an infantry
company commander during the December 1971 war in
(then) West Pakistan.
Commandant of the Army Aviation School where I learnt
how to fly, Brig Mahmood is a thorough professional
who gave me, when I was desperate for work, my first
civilian job (as a pilot) in the aviation company
he was part-owner of. Gen Aslam Beg one deeply respects
for many reasons, not least for turning away from
ambition and choosing the democratic route when absolute
power stared him in the face. Lt Gen Asad Durrani,
with a fine analytical mind, is perhaps one of the
best intelligence officers this army has ever produced.
A brilliant professional soldier and another former
ISI Chief, Lt Gen Hameed Gul is honest and forthright,
and even though one may not agree with his ideas,
one holds him in high esteem for his integrity and
patriotism. This is no ordinary group of soldiers!
The US$ 64000 question is, where were they when respected
national leader and former PAF Chief, Air Marshal
Asghar Khan wrote to the Chief Justice, to quote his
recent article reminding the CJ, "before the
2002 elections that if the Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI) was not stopped from playing a political role,
no fair elections would be possible. I received no
reply and the election was held. I also wrote to General
Pervez Musharraf before the 2002 elections that ISI's
political role should be withdrawn if free and fair
elections were to be held. He replied that the ISI
had no such role and took no action. I wrote four
letters to Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the
last on August 8, 2007, reminding him that this case
had been pending for eleven years, I was now 86 years
old and he might therefore hold a hearing and give
a decision. To this too, I received no reply. The
role of ISI is not limited to influencing elections
alone. It is now a major political force in Pakistan
. I asked a person who had been changing his political
affiliations frequently and had always succeeded in
being elected, which party he was in? He said that
he was always in the party that the ISI wanted him
to join. It is unlikely that a military ruler or a
political party once in power, would like to shed
control of this powerful machine that it can use to
perpetuate its power and control over the country.
Pakistan is, therefore, likely to have the ISI in
control of its affairs for a long time to come and
we in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan, are likely
to get used to this peculiar form of democracy,"
Arguably one of the finest products of Pakistan 's
Armed Forces, Asghar Khan is no ordinary Pakistani.
A man of outstanding integrity and calibre, his courageous
voices is one of a handful that spoke out against
the norm in 1971 when it was not fashionable and "patriotic"
to do so. Admiral Ahsan, Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqoob and
Col SG Mehdi are among the handful in 1971 who went
with their conscience, they stand tall as icons of
courage and true patriotism, maintaining conscience
over patronage and ambition in a country that unfortunately
not only recognizes but eulogizes the reverse. The
Air Marshal has kept the strength and purity of his
character and commitment intact. People of substance
in the country must listen to the sane counsel of
this powerful 86-year old voice.
June 2008 promises to be a long and, in the absence
of atta and electricity, a hot and hungry month.
M. Ikram Sehgal