PAKISTAN: The AHRC appreciates the Prime Minister’s resolve to place the army under civilian rule

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

AHRC-STM-213-2011 (12-23-2011): The Prime Minister has accused the Pakistan army of hatching conspiracies against the elected parliament and government. The PM, in an address to the National Assembly session, has hinted that conspiracies are being hatched to ‘pack up the elected government’ pointing at the army and making a strong assertion that parliament is the highest of all the state organs. He declared that all the state organs, including the military, are answerable to the parliament and the government would not allow anyone to claim to be state within a state.

Prime Minister Gillani’s speech was the outcome of the statements submitted in the Supreme Court by the Chief of Army Staff and the chief of the ISI, the inter services intelligence agency, in the case of the ‘Memo Gate Scandal’ wherein the former Ambassador to the US was implicated by a Pakistani-American businessman for writing a memo to former chief of the US army to use his offices to stop the Pakistani Army and ISI making a coup against the civilian government. Through the memo the Pakistani-American businessman was also accusing that President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Zardari, being a boss of the Ambassador was involved in writing a letter against his own military top brass.

During the submission of the affidavits in the Supreme Court, the Chief of Army Staff and the chief of the ISI have submitted their own statements showing their disassociation with the federal government. Through their affidavits a strong message was sent to the nation that the Pakistan army is above the government and does not respect the civilian governance and the Parliament. In addition to their arrogance they also have not followed the formal procedure by sending their affidavits through the Federal government of Pakistan. A statement was submitted by the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence declaring that the government does not have operational control over the army and the ISI. It was a clear sign that the army did not recognize the civilian government and the Parliament.

The Pakistan Army is acting like a wild and unrestrained animal in its efforts to overthrow or undermine the elected government and the Parliament and has started its own probe into the Memo Gate Scandal without taking prior permission from the government. The army took the help of some politicians and media houses who were nourished during the former military governments in order to agitate and start a smear campaign against the civilian setup. These groups, on the alleged guidance of the ISI, made the Memo Gate issue a direct threat to the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. The opposition party in the Parliament, instead of participating into the inquiry by the Parliamentary committee on defence, filed a case in the Supreme Court to appease the army and the ISI so that the army should also become party in the case against the government.

Prime Minister Gillani’s strong message against any military conspiracy to take over the country was highly welcomed by the citizens of Pakistan who have faced 32 out of the 64 year old history of the country under military control. They watched in helpless despair as the country became a security state and all fundamental rights, including the right to have the government of their own choice, usurped.

Prime Minister Gillani’s stand on the issue of the army’s conspiracy was not new. He has, in fact, mentioned many times that there were conspiracies against the Parliament and the civilian government but until now, has never mentioned the army and ISI. It was first time he pointed his finger towards the powerful military establishment. He also pointed out that Osama Bin Laden was able to remain safely in the country for six years while the army turned a blind eye to his presence. He also questioned as to who had authorised this. Indeed, this is a question that the Pakistani people have been asking. The army hierarch have, arrogantly, ignored this issue and instead pointed the finger at the Americans for their high handed actions and took shelter behind the Anti-America sentiments.

The Asian Human Rights Commission appreciates the strong stand of Prime Minister Gillani and the members of the Parliament in taking the people into their confidence on the issue of the conspiracies hatched by the army. Since 1958 the army has never allowed a civilian government to see out its full term under the Constitution of the land. It has always abrogated the Constitution in taking over the country. Whenever the people have been allowed to form the government of their choice the army has always remained in the background putting a halt to the efforts of the elected government to effectively govern the land.

Throughout the 64 year history of Pakistan there has been almost ceaseless interference and conflict between the army and the civil government and this was even extended to the judiciary when the previous dictator, General Musharraf imprisoned judges of the Supreme Court, judges of the higher courts and even the Chief Justice himself.

The AHRC fully appreciates the announcements of the Supreme Court on several occasions that it would never again allow a military dictatorship or any unconstitutional action by the armed forces. These assertions by the Chief Justice and the judiciary have strengthened the civilian government to stand firm against the military conspiracies. The AHRC urges the government to remain firm in its resolve to ensure democracy, rule of law and the provision of fundamental rights to the people of the land. The government must take this opportunity of putting the military firmly in its place as the servant of the people, not their rulers.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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