By Muhammad Ali Ehsan
Don’t engage in a conflict that you know you can’t win’ is a military lesson that the former military Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may have come across many times during his distinguished service in the military.
He may also have experienced during his long service how at times ‘incompetent, dishonest and corrupt leaders, subordinates, allies and partners’ create awkward and embarrassing circumstances that take the matters beyond an operational commander’s control and thus contribute to his embarrassing defeat.
It is for history to judge and determine the professional competence and military achievements of General Kayani but unfortunately for him it is his brothers who seem to be all set to influence it. One thing is for sure history when written will never remember General Kayani without mentioning his brothers and they might as well play a huge role in a final act to influence how history remembers General Kayani – As a national hero or a villain?
How many of us remember the names of the brothers of Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar, Gen Jehangir Karamat or even Gen Pervez Musharraf? Why was it that the brothers of Gen Kayani were so well known and so famous? All along we not only knew who they were but also knew what they did.
Was it not inappropriate on part of the General to continue to allow his brothers to pursue their ‘shoddy business interests’ in the business vicinities and locations where his control and influence mattered? Whether it was DHA plots, purchase of land or building contracts Gen Kayani’s brothers were part of some very profitable and lucrative deals – all during the tenure of their brother as Chief of Army Staff.
It didn’t take the ‘NAB spotlight’ to introduce the ‘Kayani brothers’ to us, they were already in the national limelight for the last many years. The period from 2008 2013 was a period in which rampant corruption wounded Pakistan’s soul. Those who occupied the highest offices in the country during this period unfortunately made these offices victims of their own behaviors.
The long list of corruption charges against the Prime Ministers of that time, the corruption charges and the case against Arsalan Iftikhar the son of Former Chief Justice Supreme Court and the involvement of Kayani brothers in the real estate deals reduced and weakened public confidence in the integrity and reliability of our state institutions.
During this period in which the country was being damaged emotionally as well as psychologically the major question being asked was How can favoritism, nepotism, cover-ups and intimidations be stopped and prevented if the top officials of our institutions themselves are subject of such allegations? To imagine that leaders occupying these high offices at that time were not aware of the risks that they were taking would be an understatement.
Their confidence in the continuity of their fixed behavior and their complete and utter reluctance to admonish and prevent ‘alleged corruption’ right in their own backyards by relatives and friends diminished the honour and integrity of the very offices that they had taken oath to serve. Since the time NAB has decided to summon Kamran Kayani over the investigations into the Rs 16 billion DHA City Lahore scam all major national television channels have been running the story of ‘Kayani brothers’.
While Gen Kayani himself has taken the option of ‘stonewalling’ and remaining silent on the issue his brother a retired brigadier is all over the TV channels to defend the allegations. His repeated argument and a weak one on almost all channels so far has been that ‘we should be taken as individuals and not as the brothers of former army chief’. My question is that if they were only ‘individuals’ would they venture so far ahead of their business competitors and be where they are today?
Kamaran Kayani is obviously camped in Dubai where President Zardari is which reminds me that could President Zardari be what he is today without being the husband of Benazir Bhutto? Would Bilawal Zardari be anything without being the son of President Zardari? Would Hamza Shahbaz , Maryum Nawaz or Shahbaz Sharif be who they are and where they are without being the relatives of ‘three times Prime Minister’ of Pakistan?
The list goes on…If DHA’s were not real estate and property development organizations administered by the army the association of ‘Kayani brothers’ with the former army chief would not have mattered. Rules or laws have been and are circumvented but if there is a rule or law that ties the hands of a person occupying the highest office it is the ‘rule and law of morality and ethics’. Ideally, Kayani brothers should have nothing to do with DHA if their elder brother had subscribed to the military taught ‘laws of ethics’ which prevent the growth of favoritism as well as nepotism in and around the military.
General Kayani like any Chief of army Staff was the final authority that approved the posting and appointment of not only all the DHA Administrators who all are serving brigadiers but also the Corps Commanders who act as the Presidents of the DHA’s. While the whole army was a witness to the involvement of the ‘Kayani brothers’ in the fast developing/growing business activities their elder brother did little or nothing to keep them away from the ‘areas’ where he exercised influence and control.
The major question at this stage is not whether the General knew and approved of the ‘alleged wrongdoings’ by his brothers the major question and an important one is Should or Shouldn’t the moral and ethical values have prevented General Kayani from disallowing his brothers access in the areas that he influenced and controlled? The readers may visit ‘V Corps Pakistan’ on Wikipedia and see the tenure of Lt General Sajjad Ghani as Commander V Corps.
The general officer who was set to retire in less than 12 months was posted as Corps Commander Karachi by General Kayani only few days before his own retirement. In the eleven months (November 2013 October 2014) that General Ghani spent in the Corps the General was seen spending more time in DHA and playing Golf rather than giving time to the formation he commanded. Ironically, General Ghani stands out as the Corps Commander of Karachi with the least tenure. Why would General Kayani post an Officer retiring in eleven months time to a sensitive Crops like Karachi?
The greatest thing that General Raheel Sharif has brought to the office of the COAS is integrity and his reputation for honesty. Press reports suggest that it is since last six months that General Raheel Sharif ‘green lighted’ NAB’s action against any corrupt serving or retired military officers. The ‘man on the saddle’ has the work cut out for him. He cannot ride both the horses- be influenced by assumptions / advice that NAB’s action against senior military officers will inflict lasting and permanent damage to the institution he leads and also spearhead and lead aggressively against corruption committed by the politicians and the bureaucracy in the country.
If the General wants to be remembered as a military leader who played a meaningful role in ‘restoring institutional discipline, order and credibility’ his green lighted process of accountability must proceed at a fast pace and without exception to any ‘holy cows’.