Appointment of a new ISI Chief
ISLAMABAD:(APS)PILDAT welcomes the appointment of the new ISI Chief well before the retirement of the incumbent, especially in the wake of the rumours that the Army/ISI is backing the protests in Islamabad that has gained momentum after Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s press conference on September 01, 2014.
In the past, the appointment of ISI Chief had been a potential subject of controversy between the Prime Minister and the Army Chief especially when the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto appointed Lt. Gen. (Retired) Shamsuddin Kallu as the head of ISI that was taken as an indication of her lack of trust in a nominee from within the Military. But General Kallu failed to deliver, as rooted Military interests in the ISI did not cooperate with him. He did not get the support as was expected.
Apparently the appointment of Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar as the new DG ISI was discussed well before time and an agreement was reached between the Civil and Military leadership. This can be termed as welcome approach in the context of the sour and unpleasant situation occasionally faced in the past.
A 6- Point Way Forward on Earnest Civil-Military Dialogue
Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP hit the nail on the head when, he proposed, while addressing the Joint Session of the Parliament, a Face-to-Face in-Camera Dialogue between Civil and Military Leadership to address the simmering issues in the perennial tussle between the two since the creation of Pakistan.
Earlier, Senator Raza Rabbani also pointed to the need of an earnest dialogue between the Civil and the Military.
Given the ascendancy of the Military in Pakistan and the repercussions it has on our institutional, societal and political behavior, the need for an honest dialogue has long been felt in Pakistan. PILDAT is the only indigenous organisation of Pakistani citizens that has been facilitating a structured periodic track-two dialogue between the civil and the military for a decade. The dialogue process, run through a Dialogue Group on Civil-Military Relations, which has eminent Pakistanis with both the civil and military backgrounds, was initiated and continually facilitated with the firm faith that we need to create a consensus on broad national security issues by inviting and seriously considering the input from the armed forces. The dialogue process has contributed a fair share towards a greater public acceptance of the principle of civilian control on defence and national security. The dialogue process has also contributed to the understanding that the civilian democratic leadership needs to address some serious systemic and capacity issues before their leadership is factually established.
Senator Babar’s other proposals to resolve the current political impasse included suggesting the Government to withdraw the notification of Calling Army under Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan, calling the political demonstration a display of distorted Civil-Military relations, allowing the opposition or Mr. Imran Khan to head the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, implementation of Articles 321 & 352 of Charter of Democracy (CoD) to address the issues of Civil Military Relations, and National Assembly and Senate relevant Committees to discuss the Geo Standoff. He also proposed that the Committee should be headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain or Senator Raza Rabbani.3
An earnest dialogue, as proposed by Senator Babar,is needed not just to resolve current issues; it is a requirement for bridging the gulf in perceptions on both sides. While we as a country may muddle out of the current political crisis, a candid dialogue will help fix the institutional political and societal mindset that has given birth to the omnipresent civil-military conflict. The details of the proposed dialogue may need to be debated and agreed upon. Can the existing National Security Committee become the platform to undertake the proposed dialogue? Will the Parliamentary committees on Defence in the two Houses be able to initiate the dialogue? These are two of the many questions that need to be answered. Political and Military leadership, intellectuals and security experts should seriously consider Senator Babar’s proposal and try to agree on the details and modalities of the proposed dialogue.
Army United on all Fronts
The ISPR DG rejected the speculations that the Army was not united and that due to weeks of mounting anti-Government protests in Pakistan, five Corps Commanders of Pakistan Army suggested to overthrow Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s Government. This was reported by the international news agency, Reuters, on September 05, 2014 quoting a sitting minister close to Military circles.4 The DG responded, “Jab Army Chief faisla kerte hain tou puri fauj us faisley ke mutaabiq chalti hai aur ye bohat mushawarat ke sath faisala kia jata hai”.5 Translation: ‘When Army Chief decides, the entire army follows that decision. Decisions are taken after extensive consultation in the army.
During the month, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif called on the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Mohammad Nawaz Sharif twice.
The COAS called on Prime Minister on September 01, 2014 at the PM House, Islamabad. According to sources, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif informed the Army Chief that he will not resign in the wake of protests by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).In the meeting that lasted over two hours, the Prime Minister and Army Chief discussed the on going political crisis in detail and its repercussions.6
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif called on Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif at Prime Minister House on September 22, 2014. It was a one-on-one meeting. The COAS, reportedly, informed the Prime Minister about Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the progress made so far by the Armed Forces in eliminating terrorists from Pakistan. The Prime Minister commended the efforts of the Armed Forces and the sacrifices given by them in making Pakistan a safer country. He also praised the efforts of Pakistan’s Armed Forces in providing prompt relief to people affected by recent floods. Comprehensive rehabilitation strategy for the IDPs of North Waziristan and regional situation in the wake of political changes in Afghanistan also came under discussion during the meeting.7
Moreover, Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff on September 05, 2014. Reportedly, General RaheelSharif stressed that political dialogue should continue with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan AwamiTehreek (PAT) for a meaningful resolution of the prevailing political crisis. They also discussed the security situation in the country along with issues related to law and order situation.8
Significant Accomplishments of Pakistan Army – but where is the Civil Administration and Police?
Director General ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa addressed a press conference on September 12 and informed of some impressive recent successes of Pakistan Army in its fight against terrorism:
The entire gang involved in the murder attempt on MalalaYousafzai, Kainat and Shazia on October 9, 2012 has been busted and 10 terrorists have been arrested in an intelligence-led joint operation of local military formation, ISI, MI and Police.
Terrorists involved in attacking Quaid-e-Azam Residency in Ziarat have also been arrested.
Terrorists involved in attack on Quetta Airport and Khalid Aviation Base have been killed.
The terrorists involved in Raiwind, Lahore and Naval Dockyard, Karachi attacks have been arrested.
These are all impressive achievements by any standard and Pakistan Army should be commended for these important successes. However the real success will be when our Police and Civil Administration are trained, staffed and equipped to a level that they can handle domestic security challenges without the frequent support of the military.