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From the desk of Chief Editor

Dear Readers,
The military operation in Swat was extremely well executed, if they had got the militant leadership the success would have been more complete. Having not been allowed into Swat by ISPR, for probably "security reasons" (everybody else and his uncle was taken on conducted tours), one cannot really comment upon the actual combat performance on the ground except what comes out of official handouts and what one gets second hand from others. However one thing is certain, our rank and file have fought a terrific battle, and they have more or less achieved what they set out to do! If there are holes in the success graph, it is not for want of trying or ability, when there is a distinct lack of combat experience, particularly in counter-insurgency, there will likely be some glaring holes in the planning. Moreover all those who thinks such battles can be fought in this mountainous and difficult terrain with the number of helicopters we have (or are in the pipeline) are not in sync with ground realities. Just double that number and double it again, and even then we do not have enough helicopters. Moreover our intelligence seems to have come up short, how come we missed bagging the Talibaan leadership? However one thing is for sure, PM Gilani was given a good briefing about Indian RAW activities and he had the courage to confront PM Manmohan Singh with the evidence in black and white at Sharm Al Shaikh. For some reason yet unclear, we seem shy of calling a spade a spade, even when the spade is busy digging our grave. For the benefit of readers, I am re-publishing a recent article entitled "PREVENTING SLIDE INTO AN ABYSS".

BNearly a decade of military rule eroded the Army's standing in public perception, the rot being stemmed somewhat when Kayani recalled all serving officers back from civilian posts. Coupled with doling out residential plots, this "deputation to civil govt" mechanism on a wholesale basis was a patent bribe refined by his predecessor to increase the expectations of the officer corps and thus retain their loyalties. This mercenary approach was appalling, not unlike the modus operandi of feudal warlords and hereditary chieftains. This munificence extended to ambassadorships. Unfortunately many good officers got clubbed with them to serve out their service. Nothing was done for "welfare and contentment" of troops until Kayani took over. The next major step restoring the Army's credibility was when Army-officered intelligence institutions were made to stay away from the electoral process, effectively barring the ISI and MI from political shenanigans. Easing out Gen Musharraf from the President's chair in August 2008 in a respectable manner was another Kayani plus, that he compromised on NRO remains a negative.

We should not have gone into FATA when we did, once in we should have finished the job, why was Baitullah Mahsud allowed free rein? Was this deliberate vacillation meant to ensure Musharraf's indispensability to the US? The prime favour the Army once enjoyed with the Pakistani masses was restored substantially by the magnificent manner it is conducting battle in Swat. The officers-other ranks Shaheed ratio is 1:5, extremely high by any standards. Tragically, many retired officers have lost their sons in battle in Swat, a second generation sacrifice of leading from the front that cannot be eulogized in mere words alone. The mixed bag of Musharraf rule-misrule badly stained the Army's reputation, this dark blemish has almost been washed off by the blood of these young martyrs.

Musharraf's policies were motivated to hang onto power, making many undeserving uniformed individuals without professional merit (or for that matter, integrity) millionaires many times over. Coincidently like their generous benefactor, many had never seen combat. Loyalty to one individual rather than their duty to the Army and the nation got them prized job after job, and lucrative real estate. Challenging for the Army Chief to name the handful who really deserved such largesse!

The real scandals came, rightly and wrongly, from managing the Defence Housing Authorities (DHAs) Karachi and Lahore, Corps Commanders Karachi and Lahore being coveted postings, to quote my August 02, 2003 article entitled "CREEK CITY, BLEAK CITY", "Uniformed personnel must lean backwards to ensure that nothing happens that will give added ammunition to those who make it their business to criticise the uniform, at the very least they should exercise discretion in such ventures. For the sake of their operational mission statement, I put it to the President in his capacity as COAS, kindly disassociate HQ 5 Corps from DHA Karachi and HQ 4 Corps from DHA Lahore with immediate effect. If not, give them a Deputy Corps Commander each to pursue the Corps' operational mission statement", unquote. The Armed Forces and millions of serving and retired servicemen got an undeserved reputation, fanned assiduously by motivated interest into hatred for those in uniform. This was patently unfair to the Armed Forces.

Self-cleansing in fair and equitable manner must protect the legitimate rights of those serving or retired. Those retiring after rendering good service to the nation must have a house over the heads on retirement. The Army Housing Scheme (which must be emulated by the Civil Service, Federal and Provincial) is a tremendous initiative, a fair process being employed in its implementation. Monthly installments deducted from the officer's pay would hardly be enough on retirement, balance money will still need to be paid off when he retires and takes possession of the house. To finance the remaining debt he is presently allotted an additional plot. The doling out of "plots" has led to scandals, this practice should be stopped forthwith. Instead of allotting an additional plot it would be far simpler for the State to take 50% of his commutation of pension and assume the balance debt, calculating an equitable formula for years of service. The families of Shaheeds must be allotted a house, the country owes them a roof over their heads. Similarly the families of all those who die during service must be given a house. This same mechanism must also apply for the civil service, all those in govt service given same facilities as their uniformed counterparts.

Why name anyone, if anybody thinks it is not public knowledge already, he should think again. One unworthy individual is trying to sell one of his houses in Karachi for Rs 90 million while young officers are spilling their blood in Swat and FATA, should we call it blood money? While the Army must redeem itself, the price to be paid is actually a bonus, to rid itself of these parasites who have no business wearing the uniform that is drenched with the blood of the officers and soldiers who are actually fighting and dying for their country. An internal confidential accountability process should ensure a maximum of one house on the Army Housing Scheme and (in keeping with the present practice) one residential plot. If any officer has more, this must be surrendered, the money being refunded (at commercial value when it was sold) to the State. The present military hierarchy can set an example by doing this on voluntary basis to show solidarity with the young Shaheeds.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecuted many bureaucrats for "living beyond their means", yet those in uniform clearly breaking the same covenant escaped justice. The NAB officers investigating this were almost all from the Armed Forces, how about requisitioning their services and targetting those in uniform still serving, and later, against those who may have retired but have clearly illegally used their position to enrich themselves? A caveat, anything inherited because of family ownership must be outside this ambit. Income tax statements are a matter of record, check the person's worth when he was promoted to Brigadier (or equivalent rank) against his present valuation? This fairly easy process does not need a chartered accountant. Any misstatement or attempt to hide facts should be treated as perjury, and prosecuted as such.

The Army is crucial to Pakistan's existence, whatever the democratic nature of its Constitution. The very nature of this country makes them the guardians of the integrity and the sovereignty of the State in all senses of the word. Deserving full credit for taking his command away from "Civvy Street" and making it into a battle-hardened machine, Kiyani's final step towards full redemption will be tremendous blow against institutionalized corruption. It will encourage accountability throughout the country, perhaps even goading the Supreme Court to declare NRO the black law it is. How can anyone in authority sleep at night when corruption is rampant and blatant, and our young ones are dying for this land? Only with the Army's reputation redeemed will the country be prevented from sliding into an abyss. Swat gives us an opportunity, the blood being shed by our young ones should not be spilt in vain.

M. Ikram Sehgal

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