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Archive for October, 1999

Accountability

While everyone seems to understand that the first priority of the military regime should be the economy, public anger about the loot of the national treasury engineered over the last 50 years (but far more pronounced over the last two decades) makes accountability the primary objective in the public perception. For “the great silent majority” who have seen the quality of their lives deteriorate even as a privileged few became rich beyond compare, it is important to take the looters to task. The disparity between the haves and have-nots has to be seen to be believed, the middle class has virtually been wiped out, bringing the 23% of the nation’s poor to a high of 40%. Since the economy is inter-connected with the accountability process the success of the government will lie in effecting a fair but ruthless exercise in this respect. What is recovered of the ill-gotten wealth will show up in the balance sheets of the nation’s economy as positive cash flow. The credibility of the Chief Executive and his team will largely rest in the public perception of whether and how accountability is carried out, without fear and/or favour or selectively and/or as an eyewash.

One of the first moves of the Chief Executive has been to appoint newly promoted Lt Gen Syed Mohammad Amjad as the Head of the Accountability Cell. Amjad who has an excellent reputation both of integrity and competence, will have his work cut out for him even though he will have the benefit of having plenty of material on politicians and some bureaucrats from Ms Benazir’s period of rule about Mian Nawaz Sharif, friends and associates and likewise during Mian Nawaz Sharif’s governance stint on the likes of Ms Benazir, etc. Sifting through the material to locate fact from fiction will be quite an exercise. This represents just the tip of the iceberg when one takes into account the highway robbery carried out on a wholesale and continuing basis by the bureaucracy for over five decades. To assist the new head of Ehtesab, the Chief Executive has made an excellent choice in Maj Gen (Retd) Inayatullah Khan Niazi, a man of impeccable character and integrity. A soldier to the core Gen Niazi has a history of being blunt, forthright and unswerving in doing the task given to him. Together they will make an excellent team.

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Selecting a dream team

In the matter of changes in the Army, the Chief Executive has shown surefootedness in making promotions and appointments, which has been nothing short of brilliant, almost immediately after his tenure started in Oct 1998. More important than the present configuration is that it augers well for the future because those promoted on merit and merit alone would ensure the same when they reach the top. That was very much on display on Oct 12 when Gen Musharraf’s “young Turks” carried out their precision-perfect bloodless counter-coup. In his moves in the civilian sphere he has also done very well except that in a couple of places he seems to have compromised in the sense that the appointees may be good in their relative fields but below the expectations of public perception which expected a higher quality.

Let us start with the National Security Council (NSC). Mr. Sharifuddin Pirzada is certainly one of the outstanding constitutional lawyers of his time and that extends for almost the whole of Pakistan’s existence. However, he is better known for his regular stints with military regimes. Military rule and Constitution should not go together as a matter of conscience and principle for legal eagles. While Mr. Pirzada may have given excellent legal advice to military men over the years, each of the military regimes was a failure in the ultimate analysis. My late father would remind me ad nauseam, “never reinforce failure”. In the individual context Mr. Pirzada may be the perfect recipe for legalising the issues but, as much as Pakistan needs a break, the Chief Executive needs to make a clean break from the past.

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Opportunity of a lifetime

As Muslims we live with the strong belief that whatever happens to man is ordained by God, given the bizarre events of Oct 12, 1999 destiny has thus blessed Gen Pervez Musharraf and his colleagues, who now have a God-given chance to do good by this nation. Frankly one envies them this opportunity of a lifetime to correct the many wrongs in this country, to set this great nation firmly on the road to prosperity in the new millennium. At the turn of the century, our new military rulers stand unequivocally at the crossroads of destiny, where will they take us? Will they rise above themselves to secure the nation’s future or wallow in the type of petty selfishness and greed that has brought this nation symbolically to its knees? Going by Gen Musharraf’s address to the nation, lightning seems to have struck him. A keen student of history, his message was to the point and carefully crafted, more important his body language was sincere.

The military hierarchy cannot make any excuses for inexperience, they have 3 distinct periods of military rule, almost 22-23 years of the 50 or so years since independence, to have learnt lessons from, they should be clearly able to distinguish right from wrong in the matter of governance of a nation. Over the years much emphasis has been given in the military to all-round knowledge, the present crop of generals is better educated than their predecessors, moreover military culture inculcates constant self-analysis. Plans for the country should thus be based on logic as well as pragmatism, spelling out clear aims and objectives. The Chief Executive’s readiness to declare his assets is by itself a momentous event; it sets a fine precedent for the future.

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Inevitable power play

To quote a saying emblazoned in the Ingall Hall in the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), “it is not what happens to you that matters but how you behave while it is happening” (paraphrasing of it would be “it is not the exit that matters but the manner of it”). That Mian Nawaz Sharif was on a sinking ship was quite apparent for some time, he simply hastened the process by trying something that had been anticipated by the military hierarchy, an attempt to sack the incumbent Chief and put his original favourite in place. Having, got away with it on Sept 29, 1998 with JK, fostering Ziauddin as the new Chief of the Army on the afternoon of Oct 12, 1999 not only amateurish, it was simply mind-boggling, particularly in the face of clear warnings in the print media from friend and foe alike that GHQ was braced for it as far back as Oct 98. Gen Musharraf, then the new COAS, had completed the deterrence by his round of postings of hand-picked officers into critical three-star slots, particularly Chief of General Staff (CGS), and Commanders 10 Corps (Pindi), 4 Corps (Lahore) and 5 Corps (Karachi) (my article “Power Play” in THE NATION, Oct 17, 1998).

Mian Nawaz Sharif is a very nice man personally but politically his personality seems to change from Dr. Jekyll to that of Mr. Hyde. The last 3 years have shown he learnt no lessons from the previous 3 years out in the cold beginning 1993. Ms Abida Hussain MNA, and former Minister in his cabinet, in a recent interview on BBC has used the words “potentate” and “imperial”, even though she is speaking as a woman politically scorned her description of him is uncomfortably close on both counts, adjectives one can hardly use for a “democrat”. The former PM had closed himself to advice except for an inner circle, a bunch of mindless sycophants that usually travelled with him far and wide. Survival seemed to be the primary mission, to the exclusion of everything else, in particular good governance. For the past year many had repeatedly tried to point this out to him, some bluntly, some obliquely, in the face of the flattery that surrounded him, none effectively. The tendency was to “shoot” the messenger of bad tidings. On the other hand, unlike his elder brother, Mian Shahbaz Sharif may be more abrasive, he was “hands-on” in the matter of governance and Punjab flourished (relatively speaking) in comparison to other Provinces. Frankly PML (N) would be better off in the future as PML (S). At least the man is credible about whatever he promises and he delivers.

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The army and discipline

A cryptic announcement became the subject of headlines on Saturday Oct 8 that Lt. Gen. Tariq Pervaiz Commander 12 Corps based in Quetta, had asked for early retirement i.e. four months before he was due in Feb 2000. Actually by age his retirement date was Nov 7, 2000, so he has prematurely retired a year early.

TP, as he is generally known to everybody, is a soldier’s soldier. I met him first in PMA in 1964 when we were “stick orderlies” to the President Field Marshal Ayub Khan at the passing out in October 1964 of 30th PMA (Lt. Gens. Ziauddin DG ISI and Iftikhar Hussain Shah, DG Air Defence Command, were respectively Senior Under Officer and Junior Under Officer of Qasim Company, the company I belonged to while Lt Gens Salahuddin Tirmizi and Saeeduzzafar were of the same Course in other companies). TP was from 33rd PMA, a term senior to me. Another point in common was that he escaped from a POW Camp in India in 1972, I had escaped earlier. He was originally from 6 Punjab but he later joined the same unit in which I served during the 1971 war, 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh). In fact he took over the command of D Company from me. My batman from 1971-74, Mohammad Akram, passed on to his service and stayed with him for nearly 15 years, thereafter coming back to me for a short time after release from the Army. As such one can say we had quite a few things in common.

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National service

Third world countries must learn to mobilise their manpower resources at the ab-initio youth stage for the ultimate future of both, the individual and the nation. Countries with diverse ethnicity and other problems emanating from sect if not caste, religion if not race, etc must evolve a process to bring the young together in one giant melting pot that will merge all the differences and bind them together to promote national integration. No country has a mix of more nationalities and religions in its populace than the US of A. It did not become a Superpower purely on its economic and military strength, USA became a Superpower because of the proper exploitation of its manpower potential, Along with the freedoms of democracy, universal conscription was mandated by law at a critical part in its domestic history, finessed by the Peace Corps initiative by John F. Kennedy that reached out to the world. Community service is at the heart of the American society and it is because of this selfless hands-on labour by a cross-section of the populace that the US has been able to cope with the major fault lines in its multi-ethnic multi-racial diverse religious populace. All four major wars, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnam, brought together whites and blacks, rich and poor, the educated and the illiterate, into one massive cauldron that wiped out all differences in the same manner as we envisage in Islam. In Pakistan, we have a major polarisation of society as the rich become richer and the poor poorer, all men becoming unequal. This further manifests itself in the Sindhi-Mohajir divide, the Shia-Sunni fault lines, etc. The penchant for separation along regional/religious lines is not confined to Pakistan alone but is increasingly a problem all over the world, in many cases in bloody manifestation thereof e.g. Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, etc. We pride ourselves in having the basis of our nationhood in Islam, yet we do not take concrete steps in ensuring all are equal in all senses of the word.

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National Service

Third world countries must learn to mobilise their manpower resources at the ab-initio youth stage for the ultimate future of both, the individual and the nation. Countries with diverse ethnicity and other problems emanating from sect if not caste, religion if not race, etc must evolve a process to bring the young together in one giant melting pot that will merge all the differences and bind them together to promote national integration. No country has a mix of more nationalities and religions in its populace than the US of A. It did not become a Superpower purely on its economic and military strength, USA became a Superpower because of the proper exploitation of its manpower potential, Along with the freedoms of democracy, universal conscription was mandated by law at a critical part in its domestic history, finessed by the Peace Corps initiative by John F. Kennedy that reached out to the world. Community service is at the heart of the American society and it is because of this selfless hands-on labour by a cross-section of the populace that the US has been able to cope with the major fault lines in its multi-ethnic multi-racial diverse religious populace. All four major wars, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnam, brought together whites and blacks, rich and poor, the educated and the illiterate, into one massive cauldron that wiped out all differences in the same manner as we envisage in Islam. In Pakistan, we have a major polarisation of society as the rich become richer and the poor poorer, all men becoming unequal. This further manifests itself in the Sindhi-Mohajir divide, the Shia-Sunni fault lines, etc. The penchant for separation along regional/religious lines is not confined to Pakistan alone but is increasingly a problem all over the world, in many cases in bloody manifestation thereof e.g. Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, etc. We pride ourselves in having the basis of our nationhood in Islam, yet we do not take concrete steps in ensuring all are equal in all senses of the word.

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Nuclear fears?

Day in and day out, some knowledgeable experts both in Pakistan and in India, are holding forth on the stated Indian nuclear doctrine and what the Pakistani response should be. From the muted response it has exacted from the west, it is clear that the Indians have not stirred any hornet’s nest, on the contrary there seems to be grudging acceptance of the reality that a nation that has five to six times more people below the poverty line than the entire population of Pakistan, will divert enormous resources to become nuclear in an increasingly de-nuclearized world. Unlike for North Korea, there is no hint of India being accorded the “rogue nation” status for holding the world’s cynosure in utter contempt.

Part of the fears of an “Islamic Bomb” stems from the fundamentalist label accorded to the more conservative Muslims because of the tenacity of Islamists in battle in both the Afghan and later the Chechnyan war, mainly due to their unflinching faith in God and their religion, thus causing them to accept death in battle, Shahadat, as a blessing. The west particularly the US, is apprehensive about their capacity for harm if they should lay their hands on nuclear weapons. Frankly, the likes of motivated Shamyl Basayev admirable though he is, is enough to scare anyone. All religions have fundamentalists, the Hindu kind is not only the most virulent but concentrated in a far smaller area, thereby maybe escaping attention, but not its potential for lethality. More than in any other religion of the world, its hatred for other religions is only surpassed by its brutal suppression of its own low caste. Such are these people that they could raze an Islamic icon like the Babri Mosque to the ground with their bare hands on the plea that many hundreds of years ago a temple to Ram stood in the same given place. Given the fact that the only country in the world has ongoing conflict, whether openly or in clandestine fashion, with almost all of its neighbours, one can feel concerned about their capacity to do mischief in the region and even beyond to the extent of the range of their missiles. After all, when their stated enemy is Pakistan and it has developed the Prithvi as Pakistan-specific, why is Agni with a far more ballistic capacity, on the launching pad? Not only Pakistan but the entire region (and beyond) has reason to fear India’s long-term ambitions to establish hegemony, the west is playing into Indian designs by mouthing barely audible murmurs of protest.

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