Justice for all

Lieutenant-General P K Rath, a serving Indian general, was convicted in a court martial for Sukna land scam on Friday. His service seniority was reduced by 15 years in terms of pensionary benefits and two year loss of seniority. He was found guilty of issuing a no-objection certificate (NoC), signing an illegal memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a realtor and hiding the deal from his superiors. Rath is the senior-most serving army officer in India to have been convicted. The conviction of a senior army officer in India should serve as a wake-up call for Pakistan. We should emulate their example.

Both India and Pakistan got their independence in the same month, same year, yet the way these two countries progressed is completely different. India is the world’s largest democracy. On the other hand, Pakistan has been juggling between military rules and inefficient democracies all these years. Even now, it continues to remain under the khaki shadows despite the fact that a democratic set-up is in place. There have been many corruption scandals in Pakistan’s military forces but no action has ever been taken against either retired or serving officers. As far as the politicians are concerned, alleged corruption charges against them make headlines but when it comes to corruption scandals in the military, they are either swept under the carpet or never come out in public. A recent example is that of the lease of the Pakistan Railways Golf Club in Lahore, which involved three retired generals. Land scams are a norm in our military while other corruption tactics involve kickbacks on arms deals, etc. No government, military or civilian, has held any army officer responsible for the massive corruption that takes place on a regular basis. It is because of the military establishment’s strong hold over our political system and the media. Fear of retribution is one of the foremost reasons why military scandals are always ignored.

The only way Pakistan can ever become a real democracy is when we stop treating some institutions as “sacred cows”. Transparency in the military, starting from the defence budget, should be mandatory. Justice must be served across the board. Truth, when selective, may console but cannot heal. Justice, when compartmentalised, may restore order but not peace.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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