Sunday, March 3, 2024
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The army’s call for accountability

By Saeed Malik

There are many definitions of Democracy. One of these which hits the mark is that Democracy is a system of government which holds the rulers accountable. Another is, that this is a system which prevents the onset of oligarchy or plutocracy.
When a Democracy is grounded in a system motivated in a “returns on investment” ethic i.e invest ten crores to get elected in order to make fifty, neither of the above definitions could possibly work in our case.
The first objective of those elected in a “return on investment” system has to be the returns. Thus it is a system which is blatantly founded on corruption in which what is “good” is not good governance, but hefty returns. Mega corruption, which destroys governance, is seen as mega achievement.
Before Musharraf’s misguided term at the helm there was a sense of shame, no matter how frayed, attached to theft. There was therefore some hesitation to plunder the land openly. But he legitimized and made corruption respectable through his infamous NRO. And this opened the floodgates of crime and immorality. Plunder with impunity became the watchword for the rulers and their underlings who facilitated them.
To avert any possibility of accountability the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and the police had to be converted from public servants into private lackeys, and thus destroyed. To subvert the role of parliamentary opposition and further de-fang another institution which traditionally holds government accountable, the infamous Charter of Democracy ensured that the opposition too would be brought to the table and allowed its own share in the plunder of the country.
As the judiciary, bureaucracy, and the police were all subverted, it was conveniently forgotten that these were the institutions which collectively formed the apparatus of governance, and that with their destruction, good governance could never be possible. But good governance is for the good of the people, who never mattered much, especially when considered against the prime motivation of amassing huge personal wealth by the rulers.
And no one would have cared about this either. Because all those whose “caring” matters live in clover, for whom all governance is good, because they inhabit a world beyond such humdrum considerations. Unfortunately though this is the time of operation Zarb e Azab during which the army has been inflicting one tactical defeat on the terrorists after another.
But these tactical victories cannot be converted into strategic ones, unless on the heels of these tactical victories good governance follows, the plunder of the country is brought to a halt, and the colossal sums stolen are reimbursed to the state. In this war of destabilization of Pakistan it should be quite obvious that the weaker pincer is that of physical terrorism expressed in terms of assassinations and explosions.
Much the more deadly assault is being carried out by what has come to be known as economic terrorism i.e the financial hollowing out of the country. This can implode a country without a single enemy soldier having to move, as happened to the USSR.
It is in light of this that recently Gen Raheel advised the Government to pull up its socks and concentrate on providing good governance to the country. But so sensitive are both the government and the opposition to the norms of a bastardized democracy they are running, that they have taken this advice as a treading on democratic toes by the military.
For General Raheel, it is imperative that the plunder of the country be brought to a prompt end, and the perpetrators be taken to task. Ultimately it is the soldier in whose hands the fate of any operation lies, because it is he who implements the plans of the generals on ground. The general is therefore dependent on the soldier. Our soldiers have been giving their lives for the success of Zarb e Azb for months. And yet they see every day that arch criminals–the thieves, the looters, the plunderers, are being escorted out of the country under VIP protocol.
This must make them smell a rat somewhere– a suspicion of a partnership or an understanding between the army high command, and the mega corrupt of the land. From FATA to Karachi, the soldier in daily knocking out the foot soldiers of the enemy, and yet he sees enemy “generals’ escaping with the connivance of the government! This cannot go down well with him, because if he had to choose between the enemy foot soldier and the high flying plunderer of national assets, his natural ‘class’ sympathy will be with poor i.e the terrorist foot soldier, and not with high and mighty plunderer. The fact that the latter are immune from arrest or any accountability cannot be good for his morale.
It is generally well known that for about two years now, the army has been requesting cajoling and admonishing the government to pay heed to governance, but those at the helm are so committed to their rightful privilege to loot the state, that protected by the laws of the state and its constitution, and feeling no threat from the frayed institutions of the state which ordinarily ensure accountability, they believe their impunity to be impregnable. And thus they have no incentive to pay heed to the admonitions of the army.
For our leaders, the slogan of this spurious democracy and a defaced constitution afford twin walls of protection behind which to hide and play with national destiny. When Rome was felt to be under threat, all other laws were set aside and only the supreme law of security of the state held sway, ” for what laws would survive if Rome itself perished?”
Our present rulers have created a situation, through massive plunder, through emasculating the institutions of governance, and a constitution so tampered with, to give them both political longevity and immunity, so that the state and the constitution today stand opposed to each other. The interests of one are antithetical to the interests of the other.
The army will have to make a choice to stand with a constitution which is an alibi for a corrupt political elite, or to stand with the state. If it decides to stand with the state it must do the following:
a.  Formally have the entire senior leadership commit to standing with and for the state by a signed resolution, so that it lends cohesion and thus protection to the army as a whole.
b.    To redefine national security imperatives and include mega corruption as such an imperative.
c.  Not to impose military rule on Pakistan, but to make certain through its primacy of power not to allow any of the imperatives of national security to be infringed.
d.  To force trials of those guilty of inflicting economic terrorism on Pakistan in anti terror courts, and to ensue restitution of looted national wealth back to national coffers.
e.    To weed out political dross during a period of national government, make for an even political playing field, and hold elections. During the tenure of this national government, to push through all essential legislative additions and amendments to be formally incorporated by the next government through formal legislation. Included in new regulations should be measures that the job of legislatures of tomorrow will be restricted to only legislation, so that the present system of “return on investment” politics is buried.
f.  To reform and reorganize the bureaucracy and the police and to put in place statutory guarantees such that they be insured against being recast as private servants to any political leadership. To put these institutions back on their feet, the services of many of those in retirement who had a reputation for integrity and ability, should be requisitioned.
All this wont be easy, but dedication and will, shall make it doable. To set the ball rolling, the army should put together all the abundance of evidence which they have, and place it in front of the Supreme Court for an in camera, time-bound trial.
Only if the judges of this court decide that the country is not as important as technical niceties of law, should imposition of military rule even be considered.

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