ISLAMABAD: Severely criticising a recent ISPR statement on poor implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) by the civilian set-up, several political parties — mainly the PPP — assured the PML-N government of their complete support in any eventuality.
“I am disappointed with the governance of the present government. But the ISPR and the corps commanders have no right to publicly talk about the democratic and constitutional government of Nawaz Sharif,” Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said while speaking on a point of order in the Senate.
“Keep on indulging in my character assassination, but you will find Aitzaz Ahsan and those sitting on the opposition benches with you in case of any threat (to the government),” he said in an apparent reference to recent personal attacks on him by some ministers on the floor of the house.
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Mr Ahsan said it was Mehmood Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) who had been talking on the matter over the past two days, regretting that no-one from the PML-N had the courage to speak out.
Indicating tensions in civil-military ties, the military leadership had gone public on Tuesday with its concerns about poor implementation of the NAP and warned that efficacy of its counter-terrorism efforts could be undermined by inadequate supporting actions from civilian agencies.
The ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) issued the statement after a corps commanders’ meeting presided over by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif.
“There is no doubt that the present government is absolutely incompetent. But can the military make such an announcement through an official statement after the corps commanders’ conference,” said Farhatullah Babar. “The ISPR statement itself is a manifestation of poor governance of the rulers.”
“We can also ask questions about your governance, Mr Commander,” he said in an apparent reference to the army chief.
“You almost daily tell us about the killing of foreign militants in Tirah Valley and other tribal areas. Please tell us the names of at least two militants,” he said. Similarly, he added, there were many questions in their minds about the ongoing Operation Zarb-i-Azb. “However, we do not ask such questions publicly believing that the army is doing a good job.”
Mr Babar said he would like to know why the army chief had not raised the issues at a meeting on national security issues presided over by the prime minister only two days before the corps commanders’ conference.
Retd colonel Tahir Mashhadi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement stood up and pointing to the empty seats in the house said the governance was “so good that no-one is there on the treasury benches”.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani promptly commented, “That’s why they (the government) get such remarks.”
The only defence for the ruling party came from Professor Sajid Mir of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith who became a senator on the PML-N ticket.
He said the army had directly or indirectly ruled the country for years and the country’s present plight was only because of military interventions.
The army, he said, should remain confined to its own domain, instead of becoming a supervisor of the civilian government.
Though Nehal Hashmi of the PML-N took up the issue but he made no mention of the word ‘army’ in his speech. But, he said a message should be sent to all institutions that parliament was watching them and no-one could cross the constitutional limits.
Nauman Wazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf indirectly supported the ISPR statement when he said that at a meeting also attended by Peshawar corps commander, the government had made certain commitments regarding economic activities in the troubled tribal areas. But no commitment has been met by the government or donor agencies.
Independent Senator Mohsin Leghari said the government itself had been inviting army for different jobs that should have been done by civilian departments.
He said the ISPR statement should serve as a wake-up call for civilians.
Usman Kakar of the PkMAP accused the media and some so-called intellectuals of supporting “undemocratic forces”.
“All institutions must be subservient to parliament. But it is not happening,” he said. “There has been constant interference in foreign and internal policy matters by intelligence agencies.”
He asked the government not to compromise on the supremacy of parliament and democracy.
Mr Kakar said it was people who had offered most sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.
The Senate chairman again advised the government to convene an in-camera session of the parliament or of the upper house to discuss issues related to foreign policy and NAP. He said all institutions must keep in view the rules of business, particularly the rule regarding the “mode of communication”.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2015