Dark Side of the Moon
By Naafeh Ali Dhillon
On 29th May 2011, journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad went missing and on the 31st of the same month his death was confirmed by his family. Later, it was revealed that his death was in fact a murder and the ISI was suspected of the heinous crime. Prior to his death Mr. Shahzad had received threats from the ISI due to his reports and speculation of the military being complicit with the al-Qaeda and according to most sources, including the American government. The ISI had hence, allegedly killed Mr. Shahzad.
In July, the website of popular American music magazine Rolling Stone was blocked in Pakistan, shortly after they published an article highlighting the military of Pakistan’s insane spending. It was reported that the percentage of state budget designated for the military is just as much as the percentage that is taken up by the US military. As a matter of fact the US military takes up less.
The Wikipedia page about the suspension of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by General Pervez Musharraf is still today.
The Pakistani military has repeatedly taken extreme and at times, inhumane and illegal measures to curtail the spread of information that may harm and bring about the truth about the antics and the wrongdoings of the military. Not only that, the military has repeatedly intervened in the politics and the governance of the country which has done more harm than good and benefited only the military itself.
In 1948, when Mohammed Ali Jinnah ordered General Douglas Gracey to send troops to Kashmir, he refused to comply on the basis that he would not order British troops to go and kill British troops. Furthermore, he threatened to resign if this was to be forced. Some historians think that this incident set the precedent for an army general to refuse to follow his orders and instead practice at his discretion.
In 1951, an attempt to instill a coup d’état against the government of Liaquat Ali Khan took place. The attempt, mainly known as the ‘The Rawalpindi Conspiracy’, was planned and led Major General Akbar Khan in conjunction with eleven other military officers and four civilians, one the notable civilians being Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The attempt was foiled and all the conspirators and anyone complicit was tried in secrecy and Major General Khan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz were both convicted and sentenced to long term imprisonment. Curiously, in 1957, Prime Minister Suhrawardy, who was also their defense attorney during the trial, obtained a reprieve for most of the conspirators. As a result, the conspirators walked away freely when they should have been tried for treason and hanged. Later in 1971, during Prime Minister Bhutto’s tenure Akbar Khan was appointed as the Chief of National Security and Faiz Ahmed Faiz was appointed to The National Council for Arts. It should be noted that General Yahya Khan favored Bhutto in his run for Prime Minister.
On 7th October, 1958, President Mirza declared martial law due to the political instability and coup ensued, led by Ayub Khan, who actually was deemed by Jinnah as highly incompetent, which lasted for 13 years. As a result, Pakistan became a victim of a major flaw of capitalism as about 80% of the banking, over 90% of the insurance capital and over 60% of the entire industrial capital was in the hands of only 22 families; corruption, favoritism, nepotism and bribery had blown out of proportion; economy had become stagnant; the people were denied their most basic right, such as free speech and political freedom and the secession of East Pakistan.
In 1973, power was finally handed over to the civilians or at least an illusion was portrayed as such, that is, until Prime Minister Bhutto tried to steer his own way and control the military. The military in response created the ANP and when they realized that Mr. Bhutto was too politically good to be cornered this way, a coup ensued in which he was ousted by General Zia-ul-Haq, was arrested and falsely accused of conspiring in a murder and hanged till death.
In 1977, Pakistan welcomed its third military dictator and evidently, by far, the most incompetent one. During his eleven year tenure the people of Pakistan went through a period of terrible oppression. Their right to free expression and political freedom were violated repeatedly. Siachen was lost to India. MQM was created. The country went through the worst kind of Islamization and above all, the Taliban and the extremist ideology was given birth to. It’s safe to say, that in one way or the other, every person is still suffering Gen. Zia’s wrongdoings and almost makes us want to believe that his death really was ‘a divine intervention’.
In 1988, once again democracy was put in place and this time was mostly involved in a power tussle between Benazir and Nawaz Sharif. What they both had in common was that whenever they encountered the military top brass apprehensively and tried to consolidate their hold over the military, they had their governments dismissed. During Nawaz Sharif’s second term, a rogue General, Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of Army Staff at the time sanctioned a covert operation to venture into Kashmir, without the approval of the Prime Minister, which almost caused a nuclear war between the Pakistan and India. It was after American intervention that conflict was resolved. Afterwards, when the time came for the military to answer for its actions; a coup ensued and the Prime Minister was exiled and Pakistan got its fourth military dictator.
In 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf established himself as the incumbent. In his endeavor to legitimize his government, a referendum was held in which 98% of the voters favored him. The integrity of this referendum has been questioned over and over again and regarded by most as illegitimate. This wasn’t Mr. Musharraf’s only illegitimate act during his reign; he also suspended the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by which he invoked two main clauses of the Constitution of Pakistan. Apart from that, his tenure gave Pakistan its energy crisis, which the country isn’t even close to solving along with the self-righteous War on Terror. It is for a fact that Musharraf had the opportunity to capture and hand over Osama Bin Laden right in the beginning but instead he decided to let him to go in order to rake in as much aid from the US as possible, practicing General Zia’s methodology.
In more recent times, military intervention in politics seems to have been reduced but that doesn’t mean that the military hasn’t done anything. Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces was a huge blunder on the part of the Pakistan military. Bin Laden was found living in a safe house in Abottabad which was just 1.3 km from the Pakistan Military Academy. Now what does this tell us about the sincerity and the integrity of the Pak military? And if were to be naïve and believe the lies that the military was trying to feed the country, that they really didn’t know about bin Laden living there, shouldn’t the top brass in the military be fired because of their incompetence? But naturally, the Prime Minister wouldn’t dream of it because otherwise he would be risking himself to being ousted.
The grim, bitter reality is that the military isn’t the guardian angel which the people of Pakistan think it is. In other words, it’s a parasite. The military has done more harm than good for Pakistan. Pakistan’s salvation lies in reconciliation with India, but the military has repeatedly stymied any effort that has been made towards this. The reason being that about more than 70% of the state budget is spend on the military mainly due to India. If Pakistan has reconciled with India then there would be no point in such an insane spending on the country’s defense. The military is answerable to no one for its actions when it should be. The military’s policies, actions and spending should be open to scrutiny and criticism by the parliament. The military should do as directed by the Prime Minister and not practice at their own discretion and stay aloof from politics.
Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that any of this would happen anytime soon. Changing the policies, especially regarding the benefits that all military personnel receive, is next to impossible and the civilian government isn’t strong enough to stand up to the military. This is partly because the majority of people in Pakistan blindly believe that the military wants nothing but the best for the country and that the military is constituted of do-gooders and also because the people trust the army a lot more than they trust the politicians. The unfathomable thing is that the military is constituted of people and if people in general can be corrupt and dishonest then why the notion of the military being so corrupt, bizarre? The thing is that everything’s that’s good and bad in this country is due to the military and that no movement in the history of Pakistan has been successful without the backing of the military.
What’s required is uproar, a stand. A stand needs to be taken against the injustice by the public. The people of Pakistan need to become aware of the crimes committed by the military and take action against them. Justice should be served. It’s won’t be easy, but then again, it never is. The transition of power is never easy or peaceful, there will be tragic losses, but in order to prosper this will be necessary.
The politics in Pakistan are influenced by the three As – America, Army and Allah. We need to change this. It should be influenced by nothing but our national interests.
‘’Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted”. (Quaid-e-Azam to the Armed Forces; Aug 14, 1947)