By Lt General (retd) Tariq Khan
In the recent past, it appears that I may have offended a lot of people by my suggestions on a technocrat/national/NSC style government. My recommendations seem to have affected numerous stake holders whose lives apparently may be radically encroached upon if these recommendations ever see the light of day. I apologize to those who I seem to have hurt by my insensitivity towards their plight, where status quo serves them best and must never be changed. All the same, I will try and justify my position in a better manner and hope to make more sense than before. Yet there are others too have based their argument against my recommendations only because of my association with the Army and rejected my views on account of that association alone. They have then used the occasion to unfairly bash the Armed Forces, conveying their messages through me, who they take, as a representative of the Armed Forces. It is why, I am constrained, to not only clear my own position on the subject but that of the Army as well of which I am neither a spokesman or a representative in any way. However, this paper should not be seen as one in defence of the Armed Forces but more for explaining the original concept of administrative changes recommended.
Some of the arguments against my proposal and which need to be addressed are:
1. The process and recommendation are unconstitutional: I do not think they are, and whatever adjustments that need to be made would have to be done through a constitutional route and would remain a product of legislation. How this would be done needs to be worked out but it can be done and is a separate study. After all, inclusion of the Objectives Resolution into the constitution was done by a dictator simply to satisfy his whim? Then the 18th and the 13thamendment that removed Article 58 (2) B from the Constitution was a radical alteration done by a parliament to serve its own ends. There has been no turning back since and with no check and balance, the government in chair is allowed free-for-all to every resource, its distribution and its application. At any rate, the Constitution, which everyone holds sacrosanct, is violated with impunity on several occasions when one studies Article 62 and 63 specially with reference to dual nationality, default payments and education standards. In fact, implementation of Article 62 and 63 remains a moot point since most legislators would be disqualified if the law was implemented in letter and spirit.
2. Then for those who have objected to my association with the Army and they feel that a retired officer has no right to give his opinion; I cannot apologize for my past and will not. I am proud of my military background and if given an opportunity, would never change that life for another. Some people have exposed their ignorance by lamenting, ‘Why was he silent when in service’. For their education, it’s a norm and practice within the service that one does not voice his opinion in public. It’s not a talk show. Yet an officer, who stands on his honor and dignity, always voices his opinion and shares his reservations at an appropriate forum. His views can be summarily dismissed, accepted, ignored or rejected. That’s how the military works. Nevertheless, by which law, norm or practice are retired military personal debarred from giving an opinion? It’s an opinion, that’s all and must not be confused with an executive order. I have failed to understand, that where a country can have a dentist as a President and a cricketer as a Prime minister (which, incidentally, is a good thing), why would some people like to single out retired military personal from even suggesting a solution to the problems of the country?
“A silver-tongued charlatan and a half-wit society are made for each other! When these two come together in an election, a great disaster happens: Charlatan comes to power!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan
3. People feel that the system we have is good enough and that it is delivering or may do so, in the near future. I am willing to accept this argument; if this is what all want, then who am I to suggest that it be changed or altered? Let it then continue in the better interest of the nation and the well-being of its people, which is apparently visible, within this system, to some. My suggestions, for an alternative form of government, was only in the event that there was a general consensus that the current system was not working. By watching what’s on TV and listening to people on the street, I am still convinced that the system is dysfunctional but I concede that I could be wrong. Others feel that we must stop ‘experimenting’ and should carry on as we are but as we look at it, the economy, the fiscal situation, inflation, unabated corruption, depreciation of the Rupee, all point towards a dysfunctional government. For less fault of its own but more on account of accumulated follies of the past, the Government has arrived at a point, where it no longer enjoys any functional depth. It is not in a position to provide relief to society and the country, in real terms, because all options have been exhausted. Thus not doing anything, or changing the way we do business, to me, is not an option but a road to self-inflicted injury and disaster.
4. People protested at the recommendations that I had made but not a single argument rebutted anything I had proffered. I was constrained to conclude that the objections were motivated more because of who I was, than what I was suggesting. Thus criticism was directed more towards my person, which is fine with me, since I had chosen to go public and thus natural that I expose myself to all kinds of emotions, but this kind of criticism does not lead to any constructive conclusion. One argument could be that no change is needed, to which I have already conceded if that’s what the majority want but there could still be other arguments leading to alternatives to what I had suggested and that would have not only been welcome but could have allowed for an informed and sensible debate. I came away with the impression that people had taken a position and were not willing to give up that position regardless of any logic, reason or rational presented.
5. Some others felt that the Presidential System never worked in the past. I tried to explain, that what I was recommending was a package that was based on reforms and not just a Presidential System. These reforms included judicial reforms, de-politicization of the police, smaller provinces, accountability, meritocracy, changes to the Constitution, separating religion from the State functions. Thus the System being recommended was not just bringing in a presidential system. Yet, on the other hand, in my opinion, Pakistan developed fastest and did the best in President Ayub’s time. We got Warsak, Mangla and Tarbela Dams, PIA was the number one airline in the world, Pakistan’s industrial growth was the fastest in the region, we had a very strong diplomatic presence the world over and our economic growth was impressive. He subsidized fertilizers, modernized agriculture, developed the world’s largest canal irrigation system, spurred industrial growth by liberal tax benefits and the GNP rose by 45%. Then there was the Zia era, whereas, I cannot agree with his Islamization of Pakistan but all the same, the economy did reasonably well, he commanded unprecedented respect in the OIC and he managed the Afghan War considerably well. Then there was the Musharaf era, and again the economy did well but mistakes were made in handling the judiciary and supporting the MQM, yet by and large Pakistan was doing much better then, than what we see today. Nevertheless, I am fully cognizant that people will not agree with my evaluation, despite that facts and figures that can be studied, verified, measured and compared simply because of the positions taken. However, I have neither proposed a Presidential system without the reforms that I have suggested, nor have I insisted that this was the only way forward and instead, have remained open to any other suggestions or alternatives that could either improve, replace or modify whatever I have proposed.
6. Instead of offering alternative views, opinions and arguments in the wake of my recommendations some have deliberately used the occasion to attack the Army. The weight of these opinions is evident by the divide we see displayed on the TV daily. Half attack the Army for supporting the government, which it should do in any case, being part of the government, and the other half attack the Army for supporting the PML(N). Such radically opposed opinions can only be seen as frivolous and childish, selectively applied to support relative political arguments. Then of course there some silly arguments that must not be allowed to muddy the water. One being, that I should explain the 1971 War as if Pakistan having lost the 1971 War somehow mitigates my suggestion for a better governance system for the country. In fact, I can explain the breakup of Pakistan but neither is that the substance of our discussion nor am I the person who has the answers to it. I was commissioned in 1977, how does that make me relevant to 1971 War and why should it? There are also people who love to bash their own Army – ‘they never won a war’. I would recommend such people to first read, if they can, and then understand the mission and objective of the Army; ‘To deter war through conventional means and to defend the territorial integrity of the Country if attacked’. Nowhere does it order the Army to fight a War somewhere else in the world but if the people want that, I am sure the Army would not fall short of their expectations provided they are willing to weather the consequences. Nevertheless, the Pakistan Army is the world’s largest and most popular military contingent in the United Nations, the world over. It is the only Army which evacuated 2.5 million people from their homes in Swat and resettled them in Rustam, Mardan, conducted operations in Mingora, cleared the area and supervised the return of the people within 3 months. Something unprecedented in military history anywhere in the world. It was also the only Army standing its ground at the end of the day in the War against Terror after a US led International Coalition of 38 Countries failed in Afghanistan. Distractors would say, ‘That’s conquering your own land’ – well that is the nature of modern war, it’s called Low Intensity Warfare. The Arab Spring was a product of this war. It devastated Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan and many more – very few realize that Pakistan was on the menu, that maps were drawn up showing a Pakistan divided into four regions. It is time to set aside prejudices and acknowledge that the Army fared well and established the writ of the Government as well as peace all over, keeping the country united and stable under very trying circumstances.
7. My association with the Army in no way makes me a spokesman for the Establishment or the Army, nor is it my desire to be one. My views are my own, motivated by own experiences, familiarities and exposures, just as any other citizen of Pakistan. The Army neither needs me to defend or promote its point of view, which in any case, may very well be at a tangent to the conventional thought or standard practices of the system in vogue that I may have in mind. Nevertheless, unfair criticism and downright lies must be addressed by those who are in the know of military matters since these create a negative perception that is false. Perceptions are more important than reality because we mount a course of action on a perception. People attentively listen to a hostile Indian retired major Guarav Arya’s narrative as opposed to Pakistan’s own. Well this may be disappointing to some distractors but there are no islands in Australia in possession of any senior leadership. In fact, there are no such islands anywhere. An average officer of Pakistan Army of any rank does not resettle abroad but remains rooted to his own country. Unlike other institutions, no serving officer has dual nationality or is in possession of foreign citizenship. Of course there are odd cases of wrong doings but these are exceptions and exceptions never make the rule – the bulk do. Also, the Army is not structured on angels and there are cases of corruption and misappropriation. The Army is structured on rules, regulations and laws which are implemented in the functioning of the Army, however, some individuals do manage to circumvent the system. Most people are who are involved are held accountable – yet some get away. However, this does not reflect on the Army in general in its conduct, character or demeanor. The signature of a relative corruption free Army lies in the punctuality of the rank and file, that no vehicle stops because it has no fuel, that no activity is canceled because of misuse of resource, that no man is denied his share of rations and that pay and allowances are assured and always in time. The Army stands out as it did in the rehabilitation of the country after the 2005 earthquake. There was international recognition of how the Army conducted itself and it is now a common example quoted as a best practice all over the world. The handling of the floods in 2010 were no less a feat and one can go on with many examples. Some people, cannot find it within themselves to appreciate anything that the Army may do and justify the Army’s performance in aid to civil power as a norm. No, it’s not a norm, especially when all other institutions are dysfunctional and lack the will, capacity or capability to handle a crisis. Everywhere, civil administration handles disasters and is only reinforced by the armed forces if so needed. The armed forces are never a front-line response agency to be the first and the only ones dealing with a disaster. It’s alright to be critical but trying to attack your own Army for no apparent reason, serves no purpose – after all, your country will always have an Army in it, if not yours – it will be someone else’s.
8. So moving on to the substance of the matter. My proposals to dissolve the assemblies and have a suitably modified NSC run the country was never intended to usher in a direct or indirect martial law, which a lot of people are accusing me of. To me, the suggestion, remains within the Constitution and is only way to undertake reforms through a technocrat-national government to stabilize the country and ensure that a direction is determined for its future development and progress. I am apolitical and as such have no preferences but the fact of the matter is that system has become so corrupted that it is now dysfunctional. It cannot deliver. Hard decisions have to be made which the current system will never support even if we have an angel sitting on the top. The system I have recommended has been the savior of many other nations including the Asian Tigers – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan. No country in the world has recovered from the bad situation such as what we are in today through the practices that we follow and if there is any such example, I would love to be educated on it. Technocrat governments world over have come into place to help their nations recover from some crisis or other and examples that can be studied with countries that have technocracy are Germany, Italy, Greece and the Czech Republic, amongst many others. The process of stabilization and recovery should lead to a Presidential system later. The Quaid wanted such a system and considered it the most suited for Pakistan and this is in writing. The presidential system exists in many countries of the world and is a product of democracy so I do not understand why such a hullabaloo about it here in Pakistan. To rubbish the recommendations proffered on the basis that it is martial law, unconstitutional, experimental or something unheard of, actually is no argument. People who are critical of change are either those who have most to lose and least to gain by such a change, or then those who have fallen victim to the propaganda of the naysayers.
Pakistan is in a difficult situation – far more than it has been in the past and over the years. Business as usual will not help the country recover from where it has fallen to. Institutions such as the IMF can now dictate how the country ought to conduct its affairs. Who does not know today that the IMF just as the UN, is the veritable authority of the United States and will promote only the interests of the United States. Very soon our red lines, sacrosanct to our independent standing, autonomous presence and sovereignty will be violated by our very own leaders in a quest to survive as the tongue-in-cheek justification. This will include the nuclear capability, economic cooperation with China and our stand on Kashmir. The recommendations that have been proffered are in relevance to these matters – to give Pakistan a chance to stand on its own feet, make its own decisions and be a proud nation.
(This article is written by Lt General (r) Tariq Khan, the man who fought the war against militancy in most critical time of Pakistan’s history. He led active military operations as Brigadier, IGFC and as Lt General of Pakistan Army.As Commander Central Command and Corps Commander Lt General (retd) Tariq Khan was part of important decision making relating to Pakistan’s security )