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When Army Should Not Be Simply “Neutral”

Pakistan has a long and unfortunate history of military interventions. The influence of military on the political system of Pakistan is so unfathomable that even politicians are often found threatening their opponents of allowing a military intervention if in case the other does not reconcile with its political rivals. Many believe that the military is de facto the executive in the case of Pakistan, where military generals dictate all the major internal and foreign policies. History tells us that the military does not like powerful politicians and it tries to bring forth potential rivals in order to curb their growing powers and public influence and eventually imposes Marshall Laws.

The prologue is further evident from the fact that this nuclear capable country does not trust its civil leadership and bureaucracy for the protection of its nukes and has entrusted its army for the same job. Few years back, as the democracy had taken the track back after lengthy eight years, civil government had to face serious backlash when it tried to bring military’s intelligence wing under civil control and this feud had ended in the complete impotence of civil government and it had to remain under impression of an imminent military intervention throughout its five years term.

The disproportionate involvement of military in civil affairs buys it loud criticism from country’s civil society and has made the institution, especially its spy agency a controversial entity. Whereas, many are concerned toward the tendency of criticizing military amongst democrats  and terms it as a potential  existential threat to country and its defense institutions, especially in the milieu of Islamist militancy in its north and its tense relations with India. Recently, a media house was a subject to massive criticism for airing blasphemous transmission in its pursuit to involve Pak Army in a murder attempt on its journalist.

It is a perception internationally that the Pakistan’s strong defense establishment is imperative to avoid any disintegration and to keep the nation united, more importantly to keep militants away. The same notion is also propagated by the Pakistan Army in its public relations initiative and not to forget Musharraf’s slogan of “Pakistan First” that he used in order to justify his rule.

After discussing the haunting political history and its serious implications on country’s existence, the current situation offers the country a chance to revive itself from the current dilemma and eliminate the mistrust between its civil and military leadership. The army has intimated in a press release that it is neutral in current political feud between politicians. But how an army can be neutral? Has it assumed the role of an independent body like of judiciary? Does not it come under elected executive that happens to be the Prime Minister in case of Pakistan? In any such circumstance, the military should align itself with the legitimate government in order to assist it with its right of governance. An intruder rushed into your house and you called police for help, police instead of taking any action against the culprit assures you that your Police is “neutral” and advises you not to worry. Will you appreciate Police for being impartial? Pakistan cannot afford any more political uncertainty and military interventions. Military should ensure it to civil government that it will act as per the executive orders and will not try to sabotage its civil authority in any way. Let the politicians deal with the politicians and leave the neutrality to higher judiciary to decide the right and wrong, constitutional and extra-constitutional.

It is a moment when the course of history can be altered if army does not play into the hands of opportunist politicians and opportunist politicians do not call for any extra-constitutional resolution to current political standoff between government and PTI & PAT dyad, the country could avoid it from falling into another Marshall Law or possible could put an end to any such possibility. Otherwise, an army intervention will further intensify polarity among the society and will increase the deprivation among neglected population groups, especially in small and backward provinces. Also, the countrymen will not be able to see the democracy for many years to come and will come across a despot sitting on every other chair and will only be able to find refuge reading Faiz and Faraz. God Bless Pakistan!

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