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Carnegie's eye opener

The institution's conclusion that threat of Islamic militancy is a myth created by the Pak army is true, writes Wajid S Hasan.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 19:39 IST

In a recent article "Whither Pakistan Army" I had summed up that Pakistan army had never had it as bad as now in matters of its image, reputation and its professional worth. I had also stated that its name has been so badly soiled that the cleaning is beyond any laundering. '

I quote: "Except for few individuals, coteries and self-servers there is hardly anyone in the country who has any word of praise for the institution that has assumed and imposed on itself the role of the best brains, best rulers, best defenders, best guarantors of national integrity and most worthy to claim monopoly over patriotism."

My summing up of the present deplorable state of the institution and its herd of white elephants described as Bonpartist generals, more or less, was endorsed by Air Chief Marshal ® Nur Khan in a candid and outspoken interview that he gave to PJ Mir of ARY television network the other day.

I was happy to see the aging Air Chief Marshal speak out not because it was much of endorsement of what I have been writing. He stood out as one man from the military who has the courage of conviction to speak the truth. While most of the retired top brass prefer to sit quiet, play golf, share and enjoy to hilt the benefits of pelf of power doled out to them to keep their mouth shut, Nur Khan has rendered an enormous service to the nation by calling a spade a spade. He minced no words in warning the nation and the military as an institution that another East Pakistan-like situation was at hand (Balochistan and South Waziristan).

And it was entirely the making of General Pervez Musharraf who was out there to destroy Pakistan. It is he who has made the perception popular that the Pak Fauj is not Pakistan's army but an occupation force serving the interest of its foreign masters. Pakistanis need to wake up to the grim reality and unite to free the institution of those who have sold it out.

A profound concern over the suicidal drift, according to Nur Khan, has become a core issue not only among well-meaning Pakistanis but is shared, by and large, by the retired army generals, air force and naval officers. I am told by people who serve as ears in the corridors of power in Islamabad that similarly disturbing are the views that are being expressed in the army messes and they smell from under the surface simmering gunpowder.

After all, never before in the history of Pakistan as now so many attempts were made by the military personnel to bump off their chief unceremoniously. Some of the young men, who failed in their mission, have been sentenced to death by handpicked military courts and are awaiting execution.

Nur Khan has added to those saner voices that have been pleading for restraint and national reconciliation. He also believes that further continuation of the present regime would lead to fatal consequences as had been the case vis-à-vis East Pakistan under General Yahya Khan. He shares the widely held view that General Musharraf has converted Pakistan army into a political party.

He has advised Musharraf to give up his obduracy, stop playing foul with the destiny of the nation and urged him to seek the return of both the former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif. He wants a level playing field, let there be free and fair elections to enable the nation to chose its representatives to run the government with their consent.

As regards cases of alleged corruption are concerned, Nur Khan believes that these cannot be allowed to hamper return of democracy. I share the view that the conduct of an elected public representative can at best be judge by the people who have the powers to vote him/her in or vote him/her out. He also cited democratic societies where corruption cases have continued against many in power. He mentioned about those who have corruption charges and are serving the General. Censure against such persons can only be affected once they are convicted.

How right Nur Khan is! It is only Pakistan where civilian, popular and elected political leadership is character-assassinated, persecuted, prosecuted and convicted without a court sentence. Take the case of former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto and her spouse Asif Ali Zardari. They have been haunted through judicial trickery for over nine years now. And of course, through prodigal spendings running into billions on hiring expensive lawyers, boarding and lodging of the NAB officials in luxurious hotels (£ 15000 for one night dining).

The General and perhaps the institution he represents (although some would like to give benefit of the doubt to the institution) have inherited a Bhutto-phobia that now seems to have become incurable. He lost face in Switzerland where his NAB hounds failed to 'tear' Ms Bhutto to pieces by their illegal concoctions when the witnesses produced by them refused to malign the former prime minister and did not testify against her as wished by the regime. Their exoneration of her is a slap on his face.

For a decade it was claimed that a property known as Rockwood House in Surrey was purchased through corrupt proceeds and belonged to Benazir Bhutto. Now it has been proved, through the Isle of Man High Court judgement, that former prime minister Bhutto did not own the property. Moreover, despite the best efforts of the regime to unethically create a conflict of interest with the liquidator, the High Court ruled that the charges of corruption were unproven.

Frustrated by its defeat in a foreign jurisdiction and making no headway in Geneva where investigations have recorded testimony that exonerate the former prime Minister from wrong doing, the regime is now seeking to pressurise the PPP leadership by attempting to seize their property. This is not being done for corruption or for any criminal act but on the account of "absenteesim" - an illegal contraption manipulated by the regime that has been challenged by former prime minister Bhutto and her husband before the higher judiciary through her defence counsel through whom they have always been present in the cases propped up against them.

It needs to be mentioned here that this absentee law was part of many Bhutto-specific laws that the regime had introduced among many others in its sustained attempts to break the PPP through malicious persecution of its leadership in 2002.

Benazir Bhutto was elected to the Parliament in 2002. To stop her taking her seat, the regime introduced this absentee law and through a handpicked accountability judge sentenced her for being absent from court when she was present in it through her attorney. She has appealed against this arbitrary action and her appeals are pending decision before the courts.