Civilians: the only ones ‘accountable’

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the government faces no threat from any scandal and those targeting the government will be disappointed. He was confident that the next general elections will take place in 2013 as per schedule. All this is all very well, but when Mr Gilani said that the military and civilian leadership are on the same page on national issues, it begs the question: how so? How is the military on the same page as the civilian government? If it means that the government is on the military’s page, then that is more accurate because whenever it comes to the military’s sins of omission and commission, their leadership is let off the hook. Remember the Abbottabad raid or the Mehran base attack? Who in the military was made accountable? No one. When the military’s morale was at its weakest after the May 2 raid, it was a golden opportunity for the civilian leadership to take back what rightly belongs to the democratic government under our constitution: decision-making powers across the board. Instead, what we saw was the PPP government standing behind the military, consequently strengthening its hand even further. As far as this government goes, there is only one page, which says: appeasement of the military. First it happened in parliament and then at the All-Parties Conference (APC). Both times the PPP government brought grist to the military’s mill. Whether this was done for the consideration that this would help the government complete its tenure or pressure from the military establishment or both is anyone’s guess. What can be said with certainty is that had the government taken a bold step by making the military accountable, the people of Pakistan would have stood by the civilian leadership. The chances of that happening now, especially after the ‘Memogate’ scandal, look slim.

“If [Husain] Haqqani remained as the ambassador, it would have influenced the inquiry,” said Prime Minister Gilani. Why is it that the civilians always have to be made accountable at the drop of a hat while the powerful military can get away with anything and everything? Mr Haqqani said he decided to resign “to bring closure to this meaningless controversy threatening our fledgling democracy”. In principle, his decision is sensible but some sections of the media have taken it upon themselves to pronounce him guilty even before any proper enquiry has been conducted. Now the Right is out in full force to somehow topple this government. This is the kind of opportunity that the undemocratic forces are always waiting for. Any attempt to dislodge an already weak civilian set-up will benefit the military establishment. The political class would do itself a favour by not giving in to the anti-PPP hype and let the government complete its tenure. When politicians jump in the fray to make a democratically elected government weak on any and every excuse, the undemocratic forces take charge.

Civilian supremacy should be the target of all politicians, both in and out of power. The only way to make Pakistan a strong, progressive country lies in the civilian leadership wresting its legitimate supremacy from the overweening military. The military has its vested interests in keeping the political class on its toes all the time. The PML-N should not fall for this trap again. Mian Nawaz Sharif has been consistent in his stance on civil-military relations; he should not give in to the anti-democratic forces now just because of the upcoming Senate elections in March 2012. The Opposition as well as other political parties should let the electorate decide in the next elections who rules.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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