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De facto versus de jure rulers of Pakistan – by Ardeshir Cowasjee

As far as the army chief is concerned he has to do nothing but wait and deal competently with the menace of militant extremism that stalks the land.

The other day I had a conversation with a man less than half my age, a well-educated democratic Pakistani, and on-the-ball as far as happenings are concerned in what is not Jinnah’s Pakistan but rather a mishmash of Ziaul Haq’s theocracy and a corrupt, dysfunctional, governance-free autocracy.

A question I posed: who now is the most powerful man in Pakistan? Without pondering, his immediate response was: the chief of army staff. Now, this happens to be a de facto reality, no matter what anyone may say to the contrary. News items in the media, almost on a daily basis, tell us who Gen Ashfaq Kayani has met — from the US secretary of state and all other visiting US civilian or military fireman down to functionaries of our own government.

On March 16 ‘key federal secretaries’ met the general at GHQ to sort out our foreign policy, which the army runs. Such is the dominance of the army in the life of Pakistan — admittedly the sole organised fully functional institution we have that can still hold high its head despite the setbacks of the periods when it has wielded de jure power.

The army has no rivals. The ‘supremacy of parliament’ is but a myth. Not only is it not supreme when it comes to the Pakistan Army, but it is also subservient to the presidency over which reigns the de jure co-chairman of the party in power, who in turn has no option but to heed Kayani’s ‘advice’ on all vital policy matters.

Conspiracy theories concerning those who are, as it is known, ‘in power’ abound. As far as the army chief is concerned he has to do nothing but wait and deal competently with the menace of militant extremism that stalks the land, abundant in our western border areas and spreading fast downwards through the lush Punjabi plains.

The army is his and he can give extensions of service to whomsoever he may choose and there is little that the supreme commander or the supremacy of parliament can do about it. The press front-pages news of extensions of service given, of promotions made (even of brigadiers to major generals), then raises objections which are rightly ignored by the army.

The supreme commander, in his precarious position, put in place by Master USA can but acquiesce, for he is as sure as are we that whatever is done by Kayani is in consonance with the desires of Washington.

A rather nasty conspiracy theory doing the rounds is that the quickest way to bring Pakistan to its knees, literally, was to appoint the present president. Time will tell on that one, but as long as the army reigns supreme, de facto, as opposed to the supremacy of parliament, existence as we know it will carry on.

The army has for long been on top of it all, even prior to 1958. Pakistan’s first military attaché went to Washington in 1952.

He received instructions from the then commander-in-chief Gen Ayub Khan and defence secretary Iskander Mirza that his main task was to procure military equipment from the Pentagon and that there was no need to take on board either ambassador or foreign office as “these civilians cannot be trusted with such sensitive matters of national security”. Ayub Khan was appointed defence minister in a civilian government in 1954.

As to the right of Kayani to make his own appointments, readers are referred to a letter published in this newspaper on March 13, written by one man of integrity who has sustained respect over the years, his integrity amply proven by the fact that he has never been able to succeed in politics.

Air Marshal Asghar Khan has this to say on the “recent extension of service given to some generals”: “A service chief is within his rights to recommend to the government any such step which, in his opinion, is in the interests of the country or of the service he commands.”

There has been much of a kerfuffle over the extension given to the ISI head, Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha. It is obvious that both the army chief and Washington have decided that at this stage of the operations being conducted against the Taliban a change in intelligence command would not be advisable. That is not difficult to comprehend.

Having mentioned Asghar Khan and the ISI, I am reminded that there still lingers in the Supreme Court of Pakistan Asghar’s human rights petition of 1996 concerning the disbursement by the ISI of state money to influence politics — the elections of 1990.

The ISI, which has within it a ‘politician cell’, has been at play meddling in the political field since the days of Ayub Khan when he was jostling with power and held his elections the result of which was a foregone conclusion.

It held its hand in the 1970 elections, the only completely free and fair elections we have had. Since then, in 1977, 1988, and throughout the 1990s it has been heavily involved in sorting out governments. Active involvement in the 2008 elections was not necessary as the sympathy vote took care of that one.

In 2006, soon after Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry took office I had occasion to remind him of Asghar’s petition and requested that he hear and finally decide this pending matter of national importance. Events intervened. May I again, with all due respect, request that the petition be resurrected (judgment was reserved by the then chief justice of Pakistan at the last hearing in 1999, 11 years ago) and before the air marshal and some of those involved go to different place, it finally be decided.

Source: Dawn

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  • De facto versus de jure – 2
    By Ardeshir Cowasjee
    Sunday, 28 Mar, 2010

    “Since the advent of this democratic government, the world has been at a loss to know who to talk to in Pakistan — a great stumbling block, and it is only the US and to a certain extent the UK who have sorted themselves out and decided that the chief of army staff is the man.”

    A UNIVERSALLY accepted truth is that the government we have is powerless, that the state is non-functional, and that law and order has fled (if it ever has been with us during the past four decades).

    Thanks to the last of the military dictators and the myriad private television channels he gave us that bring the nation news from wherever, we are made aware of the above fact on a daily basis.

    For instance, we have seen on our screens the beating up of errant citizens by a police force that seems capable solely of wielding a danda, the beating up, blackening of faces and the stringing up on poles of thieves in Lyallpur (Faisalabad) by irate citizens. We have read of the student in Peshawar who was killed by his fellow students for playing his radio at night, and in Karachi we have read of citizens catching and killing criminals, even burning them alive.

    Meanwhile, our nervy president and his band of sycophantic advisors and ministers (many of whom should rightly be behind a set of bars) continue on their merry way, clueless and “eyeless in Gaza”, with a prime minister frozen into compliance with his party co-chairman’s equally nervy desires, who manages to remain expressionless and presides over a grossly oversized cabinet the members of which he is hard-pressed to recognise.

    In the news this past 10 days have been the meetings held in Washington between a supplicant Pakistan and the USA. According to a Washington Post editorial of March 23, “… when asked what it seeks in a strategic relationship, the government of Asif Ali Zardari proposed a lengthy laundry list that mixed worthy proposals, like more access to western markets, with requests for advanced military hardware and other favours that reflect its continuing, unhealthy preoccupation with India. For example, it wants a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States similar to that struck with New Delhi. That should be a non-starter for a host of reasons, including Pakistan’s failure to come clean about its involvement in the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Iraq and North Korea”.

    A news item in the same publication on the same day headlined ‘Army dominates Pakistan agenda for US talks’ told us that “analysts say it is the head of Pakistan’s army General Ashfaq Kayani, also attending the talks, who has set the agenda for Pakistan on security-related matters….”

    On March 21, a New York Times headline read ‘Army chief driving Pakistan’s agenda for talks’, over the news, “In a sign of the mounting power of the army over the civilian government, the head of the military, General Ashfaq Kayani, will be the dominant Pakistani participant in important meetings in Washington this week”. And headlines over a Reuter’s report the same day, ‘General Kayani in Washington: Pakistan’s most powerful man’. The opening sentence: “So much for democracy.” Then, “Inside Pakistan itself, the political parties have been at loggerheads, leaving Kayani looking like the only national figure who remained above the fray”.

    Enough said. Since the advent of this democratic government, the world has been at a loss to know who to talk to in Pakistan — a great stumbling block, and it is only the US and to a certain extent the UK who have sorted themselves out and decided that the chief of army staff is the man. Last month in India, when US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he was visiting Pakistan the next day, he was asked who he was going to talk to. A number of people, he said, but most importantly with General Kayani. Why, came the query, why not the president? “Because Kayani is the most important man out there.”

    Kayani started out as an apolitical army chief, intent upon putting back the army in the place it is intended to occupy in the constitutional frame of the state. Through no fault of his but purely due to the incompetence and intransigent attitude of the politicos, he was soon dragged into the culmination of the lawyers’ movement and the judicial crisis which he neatly sorted out with a wave of his stick.

    At the US’s urging and behest, which cannot be ignored in any way being as we are what we are, he moved against the advancing Taliban of the Swat valley and its environs. Having sorted that problem out, he moved his army into South Waziristan for a further sorting out of the militant threat. There was never any doubt that he was the man who called all the shots when it came to military involvement.

    Then slowly but surely, as the government dithered and flailed away helplessly, he began to gather up the reins and became the man regarded by many inside and outside the country as the de facto ruler of Pakistan. He not only masterminded the latest parleys in Washington but he was the quiet mastermind behind the Pakistan-India foreign secretary level talks and it was not until he gave the nod that they proceeded. It is also known that he is also fully aware of the water issue between the two countries and has uttered on that matter.

    At home and abroad there has been much recent speculation as regards Kayani’s future because as per army rules he is due to retire in November this year. Since he has granted extensions to a number of his lieutenant-generals, for reasons best known to him, there is a strong feeling that his term in service will also be extended — in the national interest, of course.

    The week ends, we remaining assured that a strong silent stoic hand holds the helm.

  • De facto versus de jure – 3
    By Ardeshir Cowasjee
    Sunday, 04 Apr, 2010

    In the British army, upon which were modelled the armies of India and Pakistan, ‘field marshal’ was the highest military rank. A field marshal never retires — the rank is conferred for life.

    The British chief of the imperial staff was usually a field marshal as was the chief of the defence staff when that office was created, and certain members of the royal family are accorded the rank. Current practice since the 1990s is that no field marshals are routinely appointed in peacetime — the rank must obviously be earned by generals who have proved themselves in times of war and whose military background warranted its bestowal.

    Two field marshals have been appointed by the Government of India since 1947. The first appointed to this rank, whilst still a serving officer, was the then chief of army staff, Gen Sam Manekshaw in 1973. A much-decorated Second World War officer, he was conferred the rank by the Indira Gandhi government, largely in recognition of his leadership during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971.

    Gen K.M. Cariappa was appointed field marshal in 1986 by Rajiv Gandhi’s government, more than 30 years after his retirement from the Indian army. He was a member of the Army Sub Committee of the Forces Reconstitution Committee, which divided the British Indian army into the Indian and Pakistani armies after the partition of India in 1947. He served as the Indian army’s first commander-in-chief, India’s first Indian chief of staff, and led the Indian forces in Kashmir during the Indo-Pakistani far of 1947.

    Pakistan has had but one field marshal, President Ayub Khan. He staged his coup in 1958, after having been appointed defence minister in 1954 whilst the serving army chief, turfing out the man who had supported and nurtured him, Maj-Gen Iskander Mirza, Pakistan’s last governor-general and its first president. Ayub Khan declared himself president immediately and appointed Gen Musa Khan as the army commander-in-chief .

    It is generally noted and agreed by all sources that he was a ‘self-appointed’ field marshal. A perusal of the histories of the Pakistan army, including that of my friend Shuja Nawaz — Crossed Swords — surely the definitive history of our army up to the era of Gen Pervez Musharraf, glosses over any whys or wherefores of Ayub’s elevation, nor is any justification anywhere else officially accorded to it.

    There is but one source that might explain the circumstances surrounding the appointment of our field marshal (which his military background cannot justify). On Aug 13, 1976, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed a note to his major-domo Aziz Ahmed, to the army chief of staff and to the cabinet secretary, the subject ‘The elevation of Gen Ayub to the rank of field marshal’.

    “I will tell you how Ayub Khan became a field marshal. When he promoted Lt Gen Mohammed Moosa to the rank of general and made him commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army he told me in Nathia Galli in 1959 that he was worried over the quarrel between Gen Moosa and Gen Habibullah [the father of Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan who rightly should have been made chief of army staff in October 1998]. He told me that he was worried about Habibullah’s intrigues and ambitions. He asked for my advice on how to place himself head and shoulders above their squabbles.

    “I told him that one way of doing it was to show complete impartiality, fairness and justice, and I made the other suggestion rather cynically. I told him that since it was essential for him to be head and shoulders above the others, it would be better if he elevated his own rank from that of a general to that of a field marshal. He thought it a brilliant idea. He was simply overjoyed but as all his reflexes were influenced by monetary considerations, much to my surprise he said, ‘The idea is brilliant, it will create stability but we will have to persuade Mr Shoaib, the finance minister to agree to the financial aspects of the proposal.’ Of course Mr Shoaib agreed. Ayub became field marshal in October 1959.

    “At that time I was leading the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The formalities were completed in my absence. The cabinet willingly agreed to the proposal. All members of the cabinet, except Moulvi Ibrahim, the then law minister, dissented. I was informed that Mr Manzoor Qadir tried to give the impression of not being wholly in agreement but that was only for the sake of showing his convenient integrity. After the decision was taken at Karachi, Ayub Khan told his military secretary to phone me in New York and to thank me for making such a sound suggestion. I am therefore the hero of Ayub Khan’s valorous battles. Of course, the object of this note is not to dismantle the man. Some of us can still refer to him with respect. I am only setting the record straight.”

    Bhutto (may his soul rest in peace) was a deeply complexed man, prone to bullying, and to continually justifying his dodgy actions. What provoked him to ‘set the record straight’?

    Ayub Khan, as of course was the case with his military presidential successors — Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf — held his presidential powers legally and lawfully as upheld by the apex court of the country. They were the ‘de jure’ men, and we are now assured that never again will there be others to be so acknowledged. We are in the ‘de facto’ days, which, we must admit is preferable and perhaps safer all round.