October issue 2004

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 20 years ago

To doff or not to doff the uniform — that is not the question. Not anymore. The appointment of a Vice-Chief of Army Staff has officially confirmed General Musharraf’s intentions.

In an interview with two Pakistani correspondents from his favourite base, Washington, the President of Pakistan, General Musharraf declared that he would stay in uniform till 2007. Which, according to him, is what 96 per cent of “his” people want. Not to mention Mr. Bush and and his merry men.

Why, Mr. Armitage in a recent television interview complimented the General for “driving on the road to democracy.” Never mind that several representatives of “his” people in the assemblies are vociferously demanding that the army return to the barracks. So long as the Bush fires rage across the world, the General is going nowhere.

Meanwhile, the army is going everywhere. From Pakistan Steel Mills to KESC to KPT to NAB — you name it and a general is already in place as the top gun. Civilians have been sidelined and accused of inefficiency, of corruption, of poor governance. Ironically, the army has yet to better civilian performance in any of these sectors.

And that goes for politics too, unless giving the country three prime ministers in as many months, or securing a resounding victory for Shaukat Aziz in Tharparkar, or getting PPPP legislators to defect to the PML(Q), or bombing Wana and South Waziristan in search of Al-Qaeda terrorists causing massive “collateral damage,” or refusing to give the poor farmers of Okara their tenancy rights, counts for good governance.

If anything, the army has managed to institutionalise its own role in politics through the creation of the National Security Council and, alongside, consolidated and furthered its economic interests by expanding its business empire to include banks, bakeries, fertiliser units, leasing companies and real estate. In short, Pakistan is their oyster.

Given the army’s current penchant for politics and economics, and their obsession with introducing ‘real democracy’ in Pakistan, one is left wondering if they are interested in their own profession anymore. Incidentally, the slogan of Ideas 2004, the army’s ‘spectacular’ show of firepower that brought traffic in Karachi to a standstill, was ‘Arms for Peace.’ When generals are in the driving seat on the road to democracy, it is their narrow vision of world peace that rules the day.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.