By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*
As anticipated, the earlier article referred above “The Army isnt wearing Trousers” has stirred up quite a storm showering me both with bouqets and brickbats.
Surprisingly, the vast majority, especially fellow military officers, serving and retired, supported the perspective. Most sent direct messages, perhaps afraid of offending the institution. But some brave souls did boldly defend the perspective publicly on social media forums.
Others questioned, not the content, but the timing and were curious to know why now. One close friend, a retired 3 star called and anxiously enquired if I’d lost my mind! You’ve gone wonky, he said!
A few, in classic whataboutism listed the Army’s achievements in response. As if good work absolves corruption! To all these groups I offer this postscript as an explanation.
However a small minority of mindless ignorant sheep, also let loose an invective of criticism, some questioning my patriotism, my motivations, looking for hidden agendas, and that last refuge of the proverbial scoundrel, implying sectarian overtones. None presented any arguments, except abuse.
To them I offer nothing but my contemptuous silence and my pity! They deserve nothing more!
To those who I owe an explanation let me state unequivocally that if anything, I should have written on this issue much earlier, because it is now at the center of Pakistani politics and Nawaz Sharif’s evil designs and game plan.
Over the years, I found a large number of educated good, decent and well meaning Pakistanis supporting Zardari and Nawaz, despite their unbridled loot and plunder and their wholescale destruction of Pakistani public sector institutions. This support, at least to me, was an enigma.
But what was even more surprising was their single minded opposition to Imran Khan, despite his relatively clean record and relentless jihad against corruption and institutional decay and fight for a better Pakistan.
Upon closer scrutiny and digging deeper, one was surprised to discover that flowing underneath this support for Nawaz and opposition to Imran, was a simmering anger and discontent against the Pakistan Army, despite the sacrifices of its officers and jawans in the past decade and a half!
It then became clear that through some perverted logic, the support for Zardari and Nawaz and Asma Jehangir was more of a Bughze Fauj rather than a Hubbe Nawaz or Hubbe Asma. And it was in this context that one can also now understood the anti Imran sentiment, because of a perception that the Army had been behind his rise.
But what has potentially very serious and grave consequences for Pakistan is the manner in which Nawaz has cunningly converted this anti establishment wave into his political narrative. A tactic that has further widened the schism!
So cleverly has this looter played his cards, that many people while convinced of Nawaz’s corruption, view his ouster not based on his corruption but because of differences with the army. Completely untrue of course, but such is the power of this narrative that he has put the Army in the dock as well.
Notwithstanding any and all reasons, the fact is that there is a significant anti army sentiment, which must first be recognised, then addressed. And only the Army can do it. No one else. Otherwise these vultures will get away with their corruption and loot and plunder. Perhaps not Nawaz or his daughter or son in law, but the system that he and Zardari represent.
And that is why I wrote my piece before it’s too late.
I am convinced as are many others, whether we like it or not, that the Army today is the bedrock on which Pakistan rests and survives. It is the only institution that stands between order and total anarchy. And therefore it must survive. Both from attacks from outside but also from decay from inside.
So its critical to acknowledge, call out and most importantly address this growing perception of the Army being the “Big Brother” untouchable, unquestionable and above criticism.
If this perception remains unchecked than it will create a dangerous divide between the Army and population at large, which is exactly what our enemies desire.
The Army cannot pontificate from a higher moral ground, running down civilians, holding political leaders responsible for all our ills, if it does not hold itself to even higher standards of accountability and open to criticism and accountability. And thereby not giving an opportunity to crooks and plunderers like Nawaz Sharif to regain political strength.
It is not Nawaz who is strong it’s the Army which has not successfully addressed the anti establishment sentiment. And hence my few examples which created this perception of untouchablility and high handedness.
The answer lies, not in shooting the messenger, but paying attention to the message. An Ostrich like approach will not work. To be consciously blind to one’s faults and mistakes is perhaps a bigger curse than ignorance. Combine the two and you have a catastrophe!
If one doesn’t know, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If one turns a blind eye, doesn’t mean the problem will go away.
If we don’t fix our own errors, we are doomed to suffer the consequences and that Pakistan and the Army can ill afford.
A good friend is one who tells you that you have bad breath. Especially if you happen to be a spouse or a girl friend or boy friend who you love dearly!