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بدھ، 29 اگست، 2012

It is our own war!

After mischievous propaganda by some political segments about purported joint operation there were hostile outpourings that it was not our war and Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani himself had to set the record straight by categorically stating that "it is our war".

As the army chief put it so succinctly in his Kakul azadi parade address, no army can succeed in its mission without the people on its back. Of course, military has unqualified support from the people of Pakistan, but the politicos and organs of the state are at loggerheads. Factionalism has decimated the national cohesion and the society is divided vertically, horizontally as well as diagonally on ethnic, sectarian and regional lines, presenting a scene of a divided house. Unfortunately, some of our intelligentsia, media men, commentriat and analysts have the penchant for denigrating armed forces. Private TV channels provide the platform to the elements that project military action against the Taliban as a proxy war fought on behalf of the Americans; thus glorifying terrorists, and demoralizing the security personnel fighting the terrorists.
One renowned columnist, Mr. Khaled Ahmed in his article carried by local English daily under the caption ‘General Kayani’s war’ has resorted to unwarranted criticism on COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and tried to confuse the issue by using distorted logic and by twisting the facts. He wrote: “Not only is the army openly in exclusive charge of country’s foreign and security policy, it is the real power in Pakistan behind the façade of democracy”.

 He goes on to recount the Osama bin Laden episode, Salala incident and Raymond Davis case and describes General Kayani’s decisions as populist rather than realistic.

He criticized General Kayani for orchestrating anti-drone campaign, and also stated that going to the Supreme Court during memogate case was a mistake. He accused the COAS for “letting the proxy warriors of the army flex their muscles even after solid evidence of their acts of terrorism outside Pakistan.” It is true that Osama’s killing had come as a huge prize to President Barack Obama’s administration and a tremendous booster to his own campaign to recapture the White House in the forthcoming elections but there are many a slips betwixt the cup and the lips.

Of course, Osama episode had pushed Pakistan in dire straits both internally and externally - internally putting question mark on Pakistan’s ability to defend sovereignty, and externally tarnishing its image as state ensconcing terrorists. Many politicians, opinion leaders and so-called analysts criticise the war as an action against our own people at the behest of the Americans.

Of course, it was America’s war to start with, but over time it has become our war. It is time for all democratic forces to join ranks with civil society, build an across-the-board national consensus and take ownership of the war. In other words, War on Terror by Pakistan is a national effort and not the sole domain of Pak Army. Those elements blaming the Army, as an institution to have absolute control on its direction and conduct are highly misinformed and spreading disinformation.

As regards the point raised by the author about Pakistan military’s preponderance in security matters and foreign policy issues, it has to be mentioned that even in the entrenched democracies weightage is given to their advice. In the US, Britain and in India — the largest democracy in the world — political leaderships take decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership. It is a matter of record that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and agreement to that effect was about to be inked when the army prevailed upon the prime minister and convinced him that India would lose strategic advantage, and Indian forces would be vulnerable if India withdrew from Siachen.

In 2006, the then Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General JJ Singh had stated: “We have conveyed our concerns and views to the government and we expect that the composite dialogue between the two countries will take care of all these concerns”.

US and NATO’s Admirals and Generals often address press conferences, issue statements and warn their governments of the consequences of flawed decisions.

A year before his retirement, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wrote an essay, in which he was critical of US government’s efforts regarding strategic communication with the Muslim world, stating that no amount of public relations will establish credibility, if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting. He wrote: “The Muslim community is a subtle world we don’t fully - and don’t always attempt to - understand. Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative.” There was yet another example of former Commander NATO/ISAF Stanley McChrystal criticizing his leadership, though he was sacked when he and his subordinates passed derogatory remarks against military top brass and top civilian leadership.

In 2006, a blistering assessment of British policy in Iraq from the country’s top soldier General Sir Richard Dannatt had left Tony Blair reeling when he said that troops should come home within two years - contradicting the then Prime Minister’s policy that the military will stay “as long as it takes”. In unprecedented comments, he had warned that the army could break if British soldiers are kept too long in Iraq. He even criticized the then prime minister Gordon Brown for his government’s failure to arrange proper gear and equipment for the forces in Afghanistan, holding him responsible for the deaths of British soldiers.

But in Pakistan there has been at least one incidence whereby the then Chief of Army Staff Jehangir Karamat was asked to resign by the elected prime minister for having suggested that National Security Council should be formed to discuss the security issues with a view to have better understanding and liaison between the civil and military leadership. The then prime minister felt offended; and the rest is history. 

By Mohammad Jamil

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