Editorial Asian Age
The Army's dis-dain of civilians is not news in Pakistan. But the fact that the civilian leader ship has chosen to stand up is extraordinary.
Historically, Pakistan has been a state driven by crises, much of them self-generated in order to attract international -chiefly American -assistance and attention. At a fundamental level, this has been the case because all institutions created in the name of democracy have been permitted to be overwhelmed by one of them, the Army, to such a degree that there has been wide acquiescence in the belief that the armed forces know best. Is this unhappy, if hugely undemocratic, state of affairs in a state of flux? Is it changing? Are unusual and unanticipated processes being unleashed in the country? Or is it merely that what is perceived as the all-powerful Army is just lying low in the face of an extraordinary challenge from the country's civilian government?
The questions are legitimate, but no one might have the answers yet.
We shall know the score only as we go along. But what's clear is that surprisingly for Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has stood up in Parliament and demanded that the Army and its shady intelligence arm, Inter Services Intelligence, frequently called “a and state within a state“, report to Parliament to the country's elected government. He also pulled up the ISI chief for not first briefing the elected PM on his conversations with Ijaz Haidar, the Pakistan-American businessmen at the centre of the dubious “Memogate“affair.
Tantalising developments such as these have not occurred before. Mr. Gilani's sharp comments came after the defence ministry acknowledged in Parliament that the Army and the ISI do not report to the defence ministry. Just two days ago, the Pakistan Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, did not show up at an official dinner hosted by show up at an official dinner hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari. The Army's disdain of the civilians is not news in Pakistan. But the fact that the civilian leadership has chosen to stand up in the House to demand compliance from the Army is certainly extraordinary. There have even been rumours that the government may sack the Army chief and the head of the ISI. Such developments denote the gulf that has grown between the country's real rulers -the armed forces -and its apparent rulers. More, they are likely to induce shock among Pakistan-watchers.
What gives the civilian leaders courage is a mystery. Is it some foreign power? Or is it merely competitive politics in relation to cricketer turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, whose popularity is rising as elections draw near. In such a situation, India in particular needs to observe caution. India and Pakistan have this week engaged in high-level discussions on confidence-building measures.
Nevertheless, we should remain on guard against surprise manoeuvres initiated by the Army or at its behest.
Source: Asian Age, New Delhi