Bear Baiting

The Ex-Servicemen have always represented the best of traditions of the Armed Forces. They have a proud record of sacrifice in stout defence of the country’s national interest. This image has been tarnished by four military dictators and their henchmen comprising coteries of high military officers, a segment of the judiciary and many politicians. General Ayub Khan set the pattern, which was followed by his military successors. The legacy of dictatorial rule has impacted every facet of the society and destroyed the integrity of the institutions of the state. Widespread corruption, rigging of elections, unmerited promotions and a culture of elitism widened splits in the country. The seeds of the separation of East Pakistan were all sown in his period of rule.

General Yahya remained too drunk to apply his mind and faculties to the affairs of the country. He had a small group of incompetent, inexperienced and inept people around him, who were taking all the decisions. They had no foresight or vision and just kept blundering their way through. They took this country towards a war, the conspiracy for which was hatched and planned by India and Sheikh Mujib, years in advance. Given the situation and the circumstances that prevailed, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, or for that matter any other country, could not have fought and won that war. It was forced on Pakistan by India who chose the time as well as theatre of operations (East Pakistan) after a long drawn campaign of subversion. The inevitable result was an ignoble defeat and the separation of East Pakistan.

Yet, no lessons were learnt. The despicable period of Zia rule characterised by brazen use of state power for devious projects, even resorting to conspiracy and murder, was ushered in. Zia employed a new dimension of psychological war against his own people in their own country. New techniques were developed to build false illusion of own good performance while belittling and vilifying political opponents was let loose with a measure sophistication and a lot of gall. Every institution of the state was wrecked by placing sycophants and cronies in position of power and authority. Not even the Army was spared. He promoted to the rank of four-star General two officers who had never even commanded a Corps.

The military regime of General Parvez Musharaff (Retd) is the most contemptible of them all. He made lying and deceiving an art form. He made private deals with foreign countries on matters of state and courted the lowest of the low in the political class to maintain himself in power in the face of mounting opposition and public anger and anxiety. The antics of Musharraf are recent history; the memory is still fresh, and the country is still reeling from its aftermath of his rule. Pakistan continues to suffer the consequences of the deals he made to prolong his rule after it was no longer possible to postpone general elections. The return to Pakistan and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto are still subject of intense internal and international scrutiny, anxiety and debate.

Both the Army Chiefs who carried out a coup d’etat after the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution committed ‘high treason’ in violating the Article 6 of the Constitution. They had drawn their power and authority from that crime and not from the support of the armed forces as it is wrongly believed. They were supported by an acquiescent judiciary that invoked the dubious ‘doctrine of necessity’ to legitimise their usurpation of political power and which endorsed the constitutional amendments made by them by a PCO. That they continued to rule after they completed their three to four year term in office of the COAS shows that their rule was not underpinned by any law or rule but their violation of the law and the constitution. The PCO was not endorsed by the armed forces in any form or any forum; it was legitimised by the judiciary and upheld by a national assembly elected under the PCO. The moot point is now well understood by the new generation of Ex-Servicemen who did not serve in a colonial army of British India. Out of uniform they are a part of the civil society and they did not shrink from adding their voice to that of the civil society against illegitimate rule by the Army Chief before and during the Lawyers’ Movement.

In contrast with military adventurers, the Ex-Servicemen are a symbol of the country’s honour and dignity. They have served their country with their sweat and blood and upheld the honour and prestige of the armed forces as well their country. Every day of the 62 years of Pakistan’s history they have stood guard on country’s frontiers whether deployed along the Line of Control in Kashmir or in readiness to discharge their statutory responsibility to defend the frontiers of the state. There are countless examples of those who stood up, opposed and even defied the illegal orders and designs of the usurpers. Many sacrificed bright careers to raise their voice of disapproval of vile usurpers. They suffered and many and are still living a life of oblivion in distant lands. They had a purpose, a vision and a dream for this country. They stood up for it and paid the price while a handful of opportunists took all the legal and illegal benefits. Like many others among bureaucrats, politicians and their hangars on, the beneficiaries of the loot must face the ire of the nation and indictment by the state.

The case of General Parvez Musharaff (Retd) is, however, different to all other dictators who are now in their graves. The list of his crimes is so long, heinous and of far reaching consequence, that it must be dealt with all seriousness of purpose, urgency and due sense of responsibility. Again the forum has to be the Nation, the Judiciary and the Parliament. What the Ex-Servicemen have been emphasising is that he should not be given a safe exit and that he must face all the charges and respond to all the allegations against him.

What is most painful and regrettable is that he is still free and he continues to remind each of us that fruits of ‘high crime’ includes impunity from censure and immunity from prosecution. He is still debasing the image of the Army and the country, which he had already rendered murky in his nine years of misrule of this country. What no one understands is why he is still staying in the Army house and enjoying the uncalled for and illegal hospitality of the Army he brought into disrepute.

He has taken several tours abroad where he was hosted and welcomed by those whose cause and interest he had served. The most shocking event occurred on 24 and 25 March this year; Pakistan’s TV watchers suffered the ignominy of watching General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf ‘perform’ for the India’s audience during a Conclave of ‘India Today’ at Delhi. Why did he undertake this trip is a beguiling question? Even his own daughter was at a loss to understand the need! Whatever his reasons, it was BAD FOR PAKISTAN as he exposed Pakistan, its Army and the ISI to ridicule by the biased Indian audience. General (Retd) Musharraf put up an animated defence, yet it does not detract from the fact that it was poor judgement by him to go to Delhi at this juncture. The spectacle he presented resembled Bear Baiting – a despicable ‘sport’ in which a hapless bear whose teeth have been extracted and claws removed is chained to the ground and ferocious dogs are let loose on it. In this unequal contest, the captive, defanged and clawless bear provides entertainment to the spectators as he takes ineffective swipes against frenzied hounds that have the freedom to attack from any direction. As this unfair contest progresses the owners of the dogs and the audience cheer, happy at the plight of the poor bear. Unfortunately, as the Question and Answer Session progressed at Delhi, Gen (Retd) Musharraf appeared more and more like that tired and beleaguered bear; his discomfiture made Pakistanis wince in pain.

It is fairly obvious that Gen (Retd) Musharraf, with his penchant for publicity and misplaced self-confidence, walked into a trap laid by ‘India Today’. Being an Indian Magazine catering for the Indian viewers and audience, it had a field day putting on show a well-known Pakistani figure whose discomfiture was much enjoyed by all of India. ‘India Today’ played its cards very well. It did not only “arrange” a suitable audience but also gave further evidence of their talent for demonisation by screening an “ugly” villain-like profile of Musharraf at the beginning and the end of each part. An individual’s dignity, generally speaking, is his own business but when a person has enjoyed a high position, then it is incumbent upon him to ensure that none of his words or actions do not damage the dignity of his country and the prestige of the office he once held. Unfortunately, this was not the case at Delhi because General (Retd) Musharraf’s ill conceived decision to go to Delhi thus allowing Indians to poke fun at Pakistan and its institutions. Pride in ones identity is a priceless possession that is of special value to any one in the armed forces. The pride has been built over a long time of dignified conduct and it must never be allowed to be tarnished, certainly not at the hands of an adversary against who they fought four wars.

The spectacle of ‘Bear Baiting’ aside, we, the members of Pakistan Ex Servicemen Association (PESA) would like to know whether the rule of Not Participating in Politics for two years after retirement, applies to General (Retd) Musharraf? If it does, as indeed it must, the Government of Pakistan (GOP) must enforce it. The GOP must force General (Retd) Musharraf to vacate the old Army House; it is long overdue. In any case, General (Retd) Musharraf owns two houses in the Askari Housing in Karachi alone. Finally, if General (Retd) Musharraf wants to play ‘non-party political’ politics, he should do so at his own expense and not use the GOP facilities of Accommodation, Transport or Security. The people of Pakistan, and members of PESA demand accountability of his actions and deeds during the period he illegally usurped power and caused incalculable damage to Pakistan.
Issued by Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Association (PESA) to the press and the public

The above press release makes an important point about the nature of the authority of the Mafiosi. It is derived from crime; a person who commits one murder (or one coup d’etat) would do so again because he can be hanged only once. The ordinary people are intimidated by the Mafiosi when the state is unwilling or unable to punish the criminals. The MQM murdered 600 policemen in Karachi and no one was punished. Now the Pakistani Taliban are at it. ‘Rule of Law’ is the only proper instrument against them all. Justice requires law to apply to everyone equally and fairly. The national stage is now set to obtain fairness and justice. PESA says it must begin from the top. It is right. + Usman Khalid+
Received via email-

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