Military in the dock

A stern counter-narrative – an indictment really — has been provided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. In the context of missing persons in Balochistan and FATA and unaccountable payments made to politicians in the Mehrangate case, the CJP told the ISI and MI: “You need to get it out of your mind that you are superior and others [civilians] are inferior… Who gave you the right to hound people? You are insensitive to the human loss that the families of missing persons have suffered  because of you.
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BUSTING THE MYTH OF ‘BLOODY CIVILIANS’  

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by Najam Sethi

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A stern counter-narrative – an indictment really — has been provided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

In the context of missing persons in Balochistan and FATA and unaccountable payments made to politicians in the Mehrangate case, the CJP told the ISI and MI: “You need to get it out of your mind that you are superior and others [civilians] are inferior… Who gave you the right to hound people? You are insensitive to the human loss that the families of missing persons have suffered lately because of you.

This is a big allegation against you – there is a hue and cry throughout the country that you abduct people and then dump their dead bodies”. The CJP remarked: “As much as you consider yourself loyal to this country, perhaps we are more loyal than you…If a judge is bound not to break a traffic signal, then why will he allow you to subvert the constitution of the country?” Outraged, the CJP thundered against the ISI and MI: “You’re an arsonist. You have set Balochistan on fire.

We ask you time and again and you always tell us stories. Are we here to listen to your stories?” Summing up, he observed: “The agencies have become insensitive to such issues and are the biggest violators of the country’s law and order. They are not working as per their mandate. They are not above the law. We cannot compromise on the interests of the State.”

General Kayani’s allegation that the intelligence agencies are being “maligned” (wrongly or maliciously accused) is incorrect. Since the 1980s, Pakistan’s history is witness to the shenanigans of the ISI and MI in bribing and browbeating politicians, sponsoring parties, destabilizing governments, provoking conflict, subverting constitutions, abetting assassinations, “disappearing people”, standing above the law. This explains why the heat is on them now when the media and judiciary have come of age and politicians of all shades have agreed to establish civilian supremacy over the military.

General Kayani wonders why the CIA and RAW and other intelligence agencies are not subjected to such scathing criticism in their own countries. The answer is simple: unlike in Pakistan, all such national intelligence agencies are generally staffed by civilians, led by civilians, monitored by civilians and accountable to elected and representative civilians. There is no conflict of interest in these countries between their agencies and the national interest as defined by their elected civilians in government.

There is a bigger issue underlying the civil-military tension in Pakistan. In democratic societies, the military is subservient to the civilians who own responsibility for the military’s acts of omission and commission. That is why the military is not “maligned”. Not so in Pakistan where the military has historically billed itself as a sacred cow that stands above the law and constitution in the so-called interest of “national security”. But the development of a consensus in Pakistan about the primacy of democracy and civilian supremacy has made the military’s supra-constitutional position untenable. The criticism is therefore aimed not just at making the military both accountable and subservient to civilian perceptions and interests but also at challenging the military’s paradigm of “national security interest” (which ignores peoples welfare) and counter-posing it with “social security” interest (which takes into account military security).

The military has historically been propped up by two factors: the mullahs for legitimacy and America for rents. But Pakistanis have now come of age to reject the notion of the mullahs for legitimizing governance and America for dependent economic development.

It is not surprising that a civilian critique of the military should have materialized in the last decade. It was during General Musharraf’s regime that both mainstream parties were sidelined and alienated. It was during his time that the media was freed and shackled in turn. His agencies ignited a fire in Balochistan. His generals kicked out the judges. He sold out Pakistan to America for dollops of military hardware. His policy meddling in Afghanistan without stitching up tensions with India has led to overreach and vicious blowback.

If General Kayani insists that the “mandate and domain” of the military cannot change, he should brace his institution and himself for more rather than less criticism in time to come.

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More from Najam Sethi on Wonders of Pakistan: 1.  Balochistan Update

Source, Title image
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