Newspaper Articles

On extensions – By Ali Aftab Saeed, Pakistan Today

Haroon Rashid, Media for Imran Khan

In Pakistan, old soldiers just don’t fade away

Source: Pakistan Today

Haroon-ur-Rasheed recently in a newspaper article fantasised about Imran Khan’s great relationship with General Kayani after becoming Prime Minister in 2013. According to Hamid Mir, when asked about this, Imran’s comments on Kayani were unpublishable (for reasons best known to Mir). What was publishable though is that Haroon had pissed Imran off so much that kuptaan told him never to mention him with Kayani in the same piece again. Either the head-coach-cum-motivator and kuptaan are not exactly on the same page, or it’s a case of both playing to different galleries according to a carefully thought-out strategy. If it’s the former, what a pity that two indispensable assets of Pakistan won’t be working together for the national cause! If it’s the latter, a minor problem would be posed by the fact that the sipaah-saalaar is due to (finally) retire in 2013, which happens to be the election year (unless the Arif of current times knows something that we don’t).

Not that this promising partnership of the charming couple cannot be realised with something as simple as another extension. Also, you don’t change generals during a war. And remember, we will be electing a new president as well in 2013.

And then there is that other event that makes 2013 a year of paramount importance: the untimely retirement of the Chief Justice. This catastrophe can be averted though by his simply asking for months in service that he lost when he was dismissed by Musharraf. While I am not aware of all the technicalities concerning extensions of this kind, I am fairly confident that even if he has drawn salary of the aforementioned period-in-wilderness as arrears, this won’t amount to an insurmountable hindrance. Being the conscientious man he is, I am sure the CJ will ungrudgingly return the basic pay of those months when he wasn’t Chief Justice-ing, thereby removing the last obstacle standing between him and a well-deserved extension.

This nation’s comparatively short history is replete with such conscientious acts. Gen Zia started this magnificent tradition whereby a four star general indicates any location of his choice and the government is responsible for building him a custom-made house on it to his satisfaction. There is this catch though: In order to get this house he has to surrender the plot of land he got when he was promoted to Lieutenant General.
Of one of our famous former COASs, it is said that he was in love with the plot and wanted the custom made house too. Being a man of uncompromising integrity, he asked his quarter master general for help and the latter suggested that the whole thing could be taken care of by an application from the general. The general bought the plot on government-rate, and therefore he was able to have his cake and eat it too – without compromising on his high moral standards.

Then there is the affair of the “lieutenant general” plot for another high profile general, famous for his exploits in the original Afghan Jihad. Everybody expected him to nominate Lahore, Karachi or Sialkot because of expensive real-estate in these cities but instead he chose, of all places, Quetta! The surprise was soon transformed into admiration when it was realised that he had picked a 4 canal piece of land smack in front of Lourdes hotel. The general proved that his intelligence success in the Afghan campaign wasn’t a one-off fluke, and that he indeed had ears and eyes everywhere. And all this in strict adherence to letter and spirit of the law!

Compare these conscientious and god-fearing acts with, for example, the actions of an ex-lieutenant general, who eyed a katchi basti on land owned by Railways and transformed the 141 acres into the famous Royal Palm, reportedly causing a loss of Rs 4.82 billion to the national exchequer because the land utilisation charge had been reduced from Rs 52.43 to Rs 4 per square yard! But this kind of blatant disregard for morality is an exception rather than the rule in Pak Army. I see that we have digressed a bit.

Coming back to the subject of extensions, Saeed Akhtar has been given an extension as GM Railways. He has the reputation of someone who always keeps a briefcase by his side and apparently is on very good terms with Bilour. Rao Suleman Qamar’s “extension” (appointment to MD PIA one week after retiring as Air Force Chief) also proves that our patriotic analysts are terribly wrong when they opine that Pakistan has a lot of talent. If there was any talent, why would our seniors have to work in their old age, when the poor souls should be allowed to have a much deserved rest?

Coming back to extensions for judges; when a judge retires, for two years he (rightly) abstains from joining any government job of lower stature than the one he retired from because of the sanctity of his former designation. Justice Ramday served as an ad-hoc judge immediately after his retirement, albeit on a strictly serving-the-nation basis. I doubt if the current CJ will have any of it, so the only way we can avail of his many exceptional qualities for a while more is by an extension, which he so obviously deserves.


The writer is a member of the band Beygairat Brigade.