By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 21 Aug 2019
Alea iacta est “The die is cast”!
Gen. Bajwa remains in the saddle for three more years and the air is rife with pros and cons including those who hold, private, their counsel! This isn’t a simple black and white binary issue but reopens the whole issue of civilian vs military supremacy in the affairs of the State and our history of Martial Laws.
Hence, here’s a perspective about military rule, their power and influence and the issue of Gen. Bajwa’s extension.
Most Pakistan Army Chiefs, since Gen. Ayub, barring Gen. Musa and Gen. Tikka and the operational heads who administered the Army during Martial Law regimes, like Gen. Arif, Gen. Iqbal, etc, have all been powerful & exercising influence and control, beyond their mandate.
So, let’s get this reality out of the way and not quibble further that four Martial Laws, 33 years of military rule, a series of very weak and corrupt civilian administrations, always looking askance at the Army to bring down the “other guy” have resulted in this current state of affairs.
But in my view, perhaps the more important question, is, whether these military takeovers were simply a consequence of unbridled personal ambition by the individuals who undertook them or were their significant extenuating circumstances which lead to such acts, all clearly illegal and unconstitutional when undertaken and before they were validated by a spineless and pliant judiciary.
And let’s also not forget, in all cases widely welcomed and acclaimed by the people on the streets and the political class whose political enemy was removed!.
So let’s rewind back to the 1947 -1958 period before Gen. Ayub’s Martial Law.
In our first 11 years from 1947 to 1958, we had 7 Prime Ministers, with tenures ranging from 4 years to 1 month.
If PM Liaquat’s 4-year period is excluded, we had 6 Prime Ministers in 7 years, averaging 14 months per Prime Minister.
India had 1 Prime Minister for 13 years, from 1947 to 1964.
Here’s the roll call!
- Liaquat Ali Khan
14 Aug 47 -16 Oct 51.
Tenure: 4 Years 2 Months, 2 Days.
Reason tenure ended: Assassinated.
- Khawaja Nazimuddin
17 Oct 51- 17 Apr 53
Tenure: 1 Year 6 Months.
Reason tenure ended: Dismissed by Governor-General Malik Ghulam Muhammad who also dissolved the Constituent Assembly.
- Mohammad Ali Bogra.
17 Apr 53 to 12 Aug 55
Tenure: 2 Years, 3 Months, 26 Days.
Reason tenure ended: Dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Mohammed.
- Ch. Mohammad Ali.
12 Aug 55 to 12 Sep 56,
Tenure: 1 Year.
Reason tenure ended. Removed by his own party through vote of no-confidence.
- Hussain S Suhrawardy
12 Sep 56 to 17 Oct 57.
Tenure: 1year 1month
Reason tenure ended: Resigned because of a revolt in own party and withdrawal of support from coalition partners
- I I Chundrigar;
17 Oct 57 to 16 Dec 57
Tenure: Shortest: 1 Month, 29 Days.
Reason tenure ended: Vote of no-confidence by own party and coalition partners.
- Sir Feroze Khan Noon
16 Dec 57 to 7 Oct 58
Tenure 9 Mo, 21 Days.
Reason tenure ended: Dismissed by Governor General Iskandar Mirza who declared Martial Law and appointed himself President
One assassination, three dismissals by Governor General, three removed by own party.
The tenures getting shorter, dismissals more frequent and political infighting at its worst. This was democracy at work in Pakistan in its earliest years! A bunch of cats and dogs squabbling over political power!
While many of us haven’t personally lived through this period, but by researching and seeking primary insights from those who have, clearly the country was fed up and tired of this gory, cut and thrust and palace intrigues between a squabbling bunch of power hungry politicians, pouncing on each other in the dog eat dog political arena of Pakistan.
Gen. Ayub’s Martial Law – 1958.
While its hard to predict a hypothetical future of what may have happened had Martial Law not been declared by Governor General Iskandar Mirza in October 1958, appointing himself President and then being unceremoniously dismissed 13 days later by the Army Chief, Gen. Ayub Khan, who was Minister of Defence in his Cabinet and declaring himself President, but here’s a hypothesis worth reflecting upon.
In my considered opinion, given what was happening in the political landscape of Pakistan as briefly narrated above, Iskandar Mirza’s and Ayub’s Martial Laws and takeovers were inevitable. If Gen. Ayub had not taken over in 1958 he would have done so in 1959 or in1960.
This military takeover was inevitable, especially given that Gen. Ayub had been already been brought into the Cabinet as early as 1954, as a serving Army Chief, and had been witnessing first hand the serious political instability and infighting that ensued and of course supported by our “good friend”, the USA.
USA had decided that Pakistan was to be their “front line state” against the spread of Communism in Asia, with India having cast its lot with the then USSR.
Hence for them a military strongman was a much better option than a bunch of squabbling cats and dogs to deal with.
They clearly had a huge hand in Gen. Ayub’s takeover and the subsequent red-carpet treatment he got on his visit to the USA, videos of which we so proudly share nowadays, were nothing but to flatter and fan Gen. Ayub’s ego and not a testimony to our “greatness”, as we mistakenly assume!
Pakistan was a classic USA foreign policy strategy which they have followed for decades, and visible even now, in their support of the many monarchist and quasi dictatorial governments in the Middle East.
But to 1954 to show how it all started!
After Governor General Ghulam Mohammed, dismissed PM Khwaja Nazimuddin he also dismissed the legally elected Constituent Assembly to prevent it from changing the constitution, and restrict his powers as Governor-General.
In so doing he sought the support of Gen Ayub, who provided troops to control communications with London and avoid any possibility of the Queen being advised to replace the Governor-General.
Gen. Ayub, was also inducted in the subsequent “Cabinet of Talents” as it was called, as Minister of Defence.
And then treachery!
Our Courts, weak kneed and spineless as always, supported Khawaja Nazimuddin’s illegal dismissal and in an inglorious shameful judgement by Justice Mohammad Munir, the then Chief Justice, who in my opinion along with Governor General Ghulam Mohammed have been two of the biggest villains of Pakistan’s political history, far greater than any Military dictator, upheld the illegal dismissal as “lawful”.
These two wretched creatures stabbed deep into the entrails and soul of this young fledgling nation and upheld this terrible unconstitutional act under the infamous “Doctrine of Necessity” which formed the legal Casus Belli” for subsequent military takeovers by Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf, against legally elected governments, weak and corrupt they may be.
Justice Munir had to go back into canons of British law dating to the 13th Century to justify this constitutional murder and Ghulam Mohammad’s illegal dismissal of the Prime Minister and the Constituent Assembly.
This man, Munir, quoted amongst other things the Maxim by Henry De Brocton’s, an English jurist of the 13th Century (1210 to 1268) “that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity”, and the Roman law Maxim of Sir William Ivor Jennings, a British lawyer and academic (1903 to 1965) that “the well-being of the people is the supreme law”.
In my opinion, Governor General Ghulam Mohammad’s and Justice Munir’s citizenship and all privileges, honors and awards be withdrawn, they should be posthumously tried, and convicted for High Treason.
Their names and any references removed and blacked out from all official records.
So the civilian Governor General invites the proverbial Camel, Gen. Ayub Khan into his tent in 1954, make him the Defence Minister in the Cabinet member, ask him to do a lot of his political dirty work and then stupidly expects him to quietly ride away into the “sunset”.
That’s why, in my view, the civilian rulers of Pakistan simply invited Gen. Ayub’s inevitable 1958 Martial Law! And this of course in no way condones or supports this illegal act!
Also lets not forget our intellectuals who have been part and parcel of conspiracies against elected governments.
In the famous but failed 1951 Rawalpindi conspiracy by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan, against PM Liaquat Ali Khan, we had the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz, our famous poet laureate, who we quote endlessly, as one of the main co-conspirators, along with several other civilian left wing intellectuals like Sajjad Zaheer other writers, poets and a sprinkling of left leaning military officers.
Unfortunately, the seeds of dissension, discord and conspiracies are embedded deep in our psyche, whether it is a military general, a politician, a Judge, or an intellectual.
Iss humaam may sub nungay haen!!
There’s an interesting end-note to Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan. He subsequently, in Dec 1971, went on to become Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s National Security Advisor and the architect of his two infamous fascist jackbooted semi military organizations, the Federal Security Force and the People’s Guard. In early 1972, Gen. Akbar visited our house in Islamabad and asked our father, Col. S. G. Mehdi, a former SSG Group Commander, then retired, to establish these two organizations for Bhutto. Our father refused saying that they would turn into Hitler and Mussolini type Brownshirts and Blackshirts, which they did and the FSF becoming the ultimate cause of his hanging!
So, hence, should we also, like was done to Cromwell, dig up their bones, put them on trial and hang them as we demand of others, who we condemn for subverting Pakistan’s democratic order?
Gen. Yahya’s Martial Law – 1969.
Of the four military takeovers, in my opinion, this had the weakest credentials and pretensions of being forced upon the Army.
This was a clear grab of power by one man, Gen. Yahya.
After 11 years of Gen. Ayub’s rule, there was in place some sort of a semi democratic order and a functioning government and parliament.
When pressured to resign by Gen. Yahya, Gen. Ayub, who should have handed over power to the Speaker of the National Assembly as per his own Constitution, did not, but as is said, asked Gen. Yahya to take over, because Gen. Yahya did not allow him to hand over to the Speaker.
However weak and powerless he may have been, he should have had the moral courage, something he always lacked, to even make this last token act of handing over power to the Speaker, at least in writing and at least earning some respect in history. But he didn’t and will forever be remembered for this lack of moral courage!
Gen. Yahya’s Martial law was a disaster. We lost half the country. Our Army defeated, and a devil incarnate in the shape of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Bhutto and Gen. Za’s Martial Law – 1977
For starters, Bhutto was our first and hopefully last Civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Using these draconian powers, Chief Martial Law Administrator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, at the stroke of midnight on 1st January 1972, nationalized our entire Industrial, Business, Health Care and Education sectors, a Caligula type act of total insanity, from which we have never really recovered and also disenfranchised all Urdu speaking migrants from India, living in Sind, mostly Karachi, from their evacuee property rights.
He appointed a weak pliant loyal yes man, Gen. Tikka Khan, as his Army Chief, but was eventually trapped in his own Machiavellian web when in March 1976, he appointed another seemingly innocent, very loyal, very pliable, Lt. Gen. Zia ul Haq as the Army Chief.
He did so by superseding 7 generals, thinking that Gen. Zia would be as loyal and pliant as Gen. Tikka Khan. The reason being the obsequiousness and flattery the then Lt. Gen Zia had apparently showered on Bhutto when he had earlier visited Multan in November, 1974, for his installation ceremony as the Colonel in Chief of the Armoured Corps, another “honour” bestowed on him by Gen. Tikka Khan.
Rumour has it that Gen. Zia never forgot the insults meted out to him by Bhutto on that occasion as Bhutto mingled with officers and guests with Lt. Gen Zia, following close behind, holding Bhutto’s glass of Scotch Whiskey, from which Bhutto would periodically sip and then arrogantly hand back to Gen Zia to hold and not the waiter with the tray.
This must have been very humiliating for Gen. Zia, himself a teetotaller, and known for his outward religious piety and 5 times daily prayers! But some say he did it readily and willingly to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister.
In March 1977, Bhutto massively rigged the national elections and faced huge street protests and nationwide agitation. He declared Martial Law in three cities, Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad, imposed an Emergency in the country and acquired vast dictatorial powers. Three Brigadiers refused to carry out orders to fire against civilian demonstrators and the Army for the first time faced serious mutiny in their ranks.
On 5th July, Gen. Zia, reluctantly, as quoted by Gen. Faiz Ai Chisti, Gen. Zia’s closest advisor then, ousted Bhutto in a coup, declared Martial Law and became the Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Gen. Chishti famously narrates how Gen. Zia told him when the coup was being planned. “Murshid Marwa na dayna” “…..My Teacher, hope you don’t get us killed!……”
So again, yes the Coup was clearly unconstitutional and illegal! But was it inevitable?
If you know your history and understand how Pakistan was heading towards a one-party fascist state, under a very ambitious and megalomaniac individual with dictatorial intent then clearly yes!
In my opinion it was Bhutto, through his own unbridled ambition and actions, who we must hold directly responsible for Gen. Zia’s takeover and for the terrible dark years of Gen. Zia’s regime!
Civilian Governments – 1988 to 1999 and 2008 and 2019
The Army has by now been in power for 25 years, very powerful with influence across all sectors of the Pakistani state. Its Chief continuing to exercise immense power and influence and becoming the “mediator” in the political and palace intrigues between the PPP and PMLN Government.
Basically Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both highly corrupt and deliberately weakening State institutions so they could loot and plunder at will.
It is sad to hear from PPP supporters and many others as well, many well educated, about “Benazir the Democrat” who valiantly fought against the “vile dictator” Gen. Zia, from the safe confines of overseas exile, leaving her people to be jailed and whipped, but being totally deaf, dumb and blind to her and her husband’s corruption, her misgovernance and her deliberate destruction of civilian institutions.
And Nawaz. Oh that odious man!
Except for his most ardent supporter whose pockets have been filled with Nawaz’s largesse or those whose entire political and business interests are aligned to him and his family, who today can look me straight in the eye and say that Nawaz is an honest man?
In my view he perhaps has been the most destructive of all our civilian rulers!
This odious man consciously, systematically and deliberately dismantled the infrastructure of all our civilian state institutions to the extent that today in 2019, they are completely dysfunctional.
But the 2008 to 2018 period will perhaps be long remembered as one of total institutional destruction of state institutions and unbridled loot and plunder by both Zardari and Nawaz, in complete control of all State institutions except the Army!
Gen. Kayani, arguably, perhaps our most brilliant and effective military Chief, who basically won the war on terror by clearing 6 of the 7 agencies of the TTP and the terrorists, was a major influence during Zardari’s period, including bringing the lawyers movement to an end!
Unfortunately, his personal reputation has been deeply scarred by the alleged corruption of his brothers or at least one brother. My only request to him is that he must come out and publicly clear his name and not sit silent, provided he is not guilty of any personal misconduct either directly or in facilitating those of his brothers.
His silence is deafening!
Gen. Raheel, who seemingly seemed to exercise a lot of influence over Nawaz, thanks to ISPR and his own physical persona, really didn’t. Nawaz had him wrapped around his fingers! And, as is common knowledge, owes his Saudi assignment to Nawaz Sharif!
But post Musharraf, the Army Chief had acquired even more power as evidenced from Gen. Kyani’s 6 years as Army Chief.
So the questions is why did Gen. Musharraf take over?
Was he a power hungry ambitious general hell bent on taking over, or a well meaning albeit an ambitious military commander who wanted to solve the Kashmir issue via Kargil, tactically brilliant but strategically and politically stupid and unworkable, which set him and Nawaz on a collision course and the inevitable consequence of the October 1999, coup!
1999 – Nawaz Sharif and Gen. Musharraf’s Martial Law!
This is now post Kargil and the relationship between the PM and Army Chief, Gen. Musharraf is frosty.
Nawaz has already had two unsavory encounters with two previous military Chief. Once with Gen. Waheed Kakar, who mediated in the spat between him and President Ghulam Ishaq and made both resign in 1993 and then later in 1998, forcing Gen. Jehangir Karamat to resign as the Army Chief.
What happened on October 12th, 1999 is a dark episode in our history. A sitting Prime Minister orders that the plane in which the Army Chief is returning from Sri Lanka should not be allowed to land in Pakistan, endangering not just his life but all the other passengers. He then appoints another Lt. Gen as his Chief.
Constitutionally and legally Nawaz was absolutely in his rights to appoint a new Army Chief, but the way he did it was extremely dangerous and could have potentially incited a mutiny within the Army.
So again, sadly, what happened subsequently was inevitable!
The Army, as is its DNA, stood by its Chief and removed an elected Prime Minister!
Why does the Pakistan Army follow its Chief, right or wrong is a question many ask!
The answer is simple!
Indoctrinated in their core DNA is the phrase “Ours is not to question why but to do and die”
I say this not for cheap hurrahs but to make a non military mind understand that if officers and troops in an army start to question the orders of their superiors then the Army splits into rogue militias as we see so often in Africa, the Middle East and earlier in South America and results in civil war, killing, violence and destruction.
Imagine a Pakistan in which we have our military generals fighting each other across the length and breadth or Pakistan, a nightmarish doomsday scenario!
Gen. Bajwa’s extension
It is controversial. My opinion voiced many time earlier, is that no Army Chief should be given an extension and the institution must be stronger than the individual!
But the question is why the extension?
Here’s my view.
Gen. Bajwa, ever since he was a young officer, has publicly advocated civilian supremacy over military rule. He was very critical of Gen. Musharraf’s take over and stated it many times as a young Lt. Col, risking his promotion and future career prospects. In fact, the main reason he was appointed Army Chief by Nawaz was because of these views and his strong criticism in Corps Commander meetings during Gen. Raheel’s tenure of any actions to interfere or take over whenever such talk surfaced!
As Army Chief he’s walked a very difficult line, studiously avoiding interference, wherever possible, especially in the post Panama period.
Like many even he was not aware of the level of corruption that Nawaz had done.
He and the army have been the victim of a very powerful and malicious campaign, orchestrated by Cambridge Analytica through a $20 million consulting assignment given to them by Nawaz Sharif, before they shut down in the scandal.
But even today, Cambridge Analytica, now under another name, continue to provide Maryam Safdar and the PMLN, the anti Imran and anti Army narrative which feeds and has fed the social media pipelines for several years. “Wardi kay peechay Dayshath Gardi” and “Khalai Makhlooq” and “Selected” were coined by Cambridge Analytica types, as were many others.
Gen. Bajwa has a sterling reputation of being clean, authentic and transparent. Sometimes too transparent as he has shared his concerns about Pakistan and its future in addresses to military gatherings.
Like many Pakistanis, he believes that PM Imran is sincere and a great hope for Pakistan, despite his and his governments many challenges and inadequacies and they have both developed an extremely close and strong personal and professional relationship based on mutual trust and respect!
He also believes that non state actors should not be instruments of state policy and hence the Afghan deal with the USA achieved great breakthroughs under his watch! He has been a strong advocate for peace with India, and but for Modi, we would have had much better relations!
Consequently, PM Imran values Gen. Bajwa as one of his most effective and closest advisors, and given the paucity of competence around the PM, this is a rare silver lining amongst the pack of jokers surrounding the PM!
PM Imran also believes that Gen. Bajwa has displayed and in some cases delivered on his clear intent to help strengthen and rebuild civilian institutions and doesn’t want to stop this momentum by bringing in a new green behind the ears Chief.
Gen Bajwa’s international reputation is also a plus for the PTI government, were he not to turn rogue.
I cannot answer this definitively, but my gut and what I know of him, says, no!
But if he did, then we can say goodbye to all that he and Imran have worked towards, which is civilian supremacy and rebuilding Pakistan!
So hence the extension gets a wary and qualified yes, even though past extensions do not give us much comfort. But only time and Gen. Bajwa’s conduct will tell us if PM Imran made the right decision.
Downsides. Every new Chief brings in his own team. At least a dozen positions are re shuffled which brings in dynamism, renewed energy & vigour. Extensions do not as the incumbent relies on his old team!
And extensions strengthen the individual over the institution.
I think this is the best opportunity for the government to institute the five-star, Chief of Defence Staff position and elevate Gen. Bajwa to this role when his current terms expires in November, 2019 with full operational authority over the three service, including the Army so he retains operational control.
And also create a 4 star Vice Chief of the Army Staff position which acts as the CDS’s second in command and a 4 star Chief of Strategic Command (our nukes) post.
In the current scenario these two can easily be filled by the two senior most Lt. Generals. Nadeem Raza and Sarfraz Sattar, in November 2019, and hence doesn’t stop the upward movement of promotions.
One great benefit of this system in the long run is that the CDS, who must be from the Army, given their overwhelming preponderance will invariably be filled by one of the 4-star Army posts, hence ensuring continuity.
Gen. Bajwa, the nation watches with bated breath, the trust entrusted to you!
Your tasks are to help rebuild Pakistan, strengthen civilian institutions, restrict military footprint to their constitutionally mandated role and ensure civilian supremacy in all affairs of the State!
For this, a grateful nation will forever be indebted to you!