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Power of the establishment

Updated Feb 22, 2016 01:29pm


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The writer is former DG, FIA.
The writer is former DG, FIA.

Nothing intrigues me more than the power of our security establishment. National interest is shorthand for the interests of an institution that reigns supreme. Let us consider the recent news that has gone largely unnoticed or has been deliberately ignored. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign received a jolt when the State Department confirmed she had used her personal server to send some top secret emails.

Our present envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi apparently acted as an informal messenger between the US administration and former army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani, going by the contents of an email to secretary Clinton from Vali Nasr, then a senior adviser. However, the entire message that Ms Lodhi shared with Mr Nasr was edited out of the text. It was sent three days after Raymond Davis’s arrest in Lahore on Jan 17, 2011, on charges of killing two men. The incident had caused a serious rift in US-Pakistan ties.

While the US authorities have so far kept the Pakistani general’s message secret, may we in Pakistan ask our military authorities and the Foreign Office what information or message was conveyed by the chief through non-diplomatic and informal channels days after the Raymond Davis incident in Lahore? Our political and diplomatic authorities had cried themselves hoarse over the American’s non-diplomatic status and a murder case was registered by Lahore Police. What happened after some time was a compromise surreptitiously achieved before a court of law invoking provisions of ‘diyat’ or compensation money and the killer was whisked away by our spooks to a plane waiting to take him back to the US.

No one had the courage to ask the military elite some tough questions.

It was the same army chief during whose tenure US Navy SEALS conducted a raid in May 2011 in Abbottabad — near a military academy and garrison stationed nearby — and reportedly found and killed Osama bin Laden. After that, the civilian political authorities allegedly used informal means through a serving ambassador in Washington to send a message across to the US military chief to use his influence to persuade his Pakistani counterpart and ‘buddy’ not to overthrow the inept political leadership in the wake of the resultant public outcry.

If a military chief resorts to informal diplomacy through a former diplomat, it is kosher; if the political leadership tries to convey a message through informal sources, the establishment cries ‘foul’.

Remember Memogate? Let us briefly recapitulate. An op-ed in the Financial Times on Oct 10, 2011 created a furore in Pakistan. Mansoor Ijaz, an American of Pakistani ancestry, wrote a damning indictment of the ISI, stating that after the raid, “a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned me with an urgent request”. He wrote: “Asif Ali Zardari … needed to communicate a message to White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels”. He said that “the president feared a military takeover was imminent. He needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup….”

The memorandum was reportedly delivered to Adm Mike Mullen on May 10, 2011 requesting his “direct intervention in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to Gen Kayani that delivers Washington’s demand for him and Gen Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus — that this is a 1971 moment in Pakistan’s history”.

This was explosive stuff. Who in his right mind would offer such terms of abject surrender to the US interests and that too in writing? What was the Zardari-Haqqani duo up to? Could a Pakistani ambassador ever write such a petition? Was he representing Islamabad or Washington? Ambassador Haqqani was recalled from Washington.

The real target of petitions moved before the Supreme Court by Mian Nawaz Sharif and others became apparent. A full bench conducted a hearing on Dec 1, 2011. Nawaz Sharif himself appeared in court and spoke. The registrar called me during the proceedings to say the court was considering my name as independent investigator in the memo case. I told him I first wanted to see the court order and the terms of reference.

Meanwhile, the order was announced the same day. Why this haste? Why no notice to the state and respondents before appointing a commission? I thought I would be called to court at the next hearing and my consent would be sought. Instead, I received a court order on Dec 2 seeking my consent “with respect to performing national duty as head of the commission”.

What was it all about? Was it a ‘national duty’ that I was being called upon to perform or act as a hatchet man on behalf of the security establishment who were gunning for Zardari and his henchman in Washington? What was Nawaz Sharif doing in court looking like an advocate? What happened to the Charter of Democracy? Was he being used by the establishment? Why was I being dragged into political intrigue or a case in which I might have questioned the motives of the clandestine meetings between the former ISI chief and a man with alleged links to Washington? Memogate smacked of intrigue. I responded immediately and expressed my inability to undertake the assignment as head of the memo commission.

Memogate was no Watergate. Like Nixon, Zardari did not have to resign. It got one scalp — that of Hussain Haqqani, who was alleged to have had the memo written and conveyed to Mike Mullen. No heads rolled after the OBL raid; no one had the courage to ask the military elite some tough questions.

The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs. It is this deep state that has curtailed and trimmed democracy, ensuring the country stays rigged in favour of a small but self-aggrandising elite. And until that changes, democracy in Pakistan will remain imperiled.

The writer is former DG, FIA.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2016

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (94) Closed

akash Feb 22, 2016 01:52am

Sir, Respect. One of sanest voices in Pakistan. Just hope you have enough protection.

Malik Feb 22, 2016 03:02am

Thank you for calling a spade a spade..

Syed Feb 22, 2016 03:54am


Harmony-1© Feb 22, 2016 04:29am

@Akash - Yes, that is correct. We appreciate our courageous writers like that too. I wish you can covey the same sentiments when your writers address your issues here.

Jawaid kamal Feb 22, 2016 06:30am

Great insight , it is a big holoween party, everyone has a mask on.

Jamal Feb 22, 2016 07:06am

Its time we send the "boys" back to barracks, this time for good.

Noor Nabi Feb 22, 2016 08:11am

You are a voice of integrity and sanity. May God protect you and keep you out of harm's way.

haider the rebel Feb 22, 2016 08:30am


Secular Pathan Feb 22, 2016 08:43am

Just love you Tariq Khosa Saab. I respect officers like you even though I don't like the police etc

Nadeem Feb 22, 2016 09:25am

The civil-military imbalance needs to be corrected. It will happen when politicians deliver results, when they implement Rule of Law and win peoples' hearts and minds, just as in Turkey.

Nero Feb 22, 2016 09:34am

Tariq Khosa showed highest order of professional conduct while investigating terrorist attack in Mumbai. Today I can safely assert that he is probably the most professional and straight talking police officer, across both India and Pakistan.

Srinath Feb 22, 2016 09:36am

It takes a brave soul to hold mirror to the Establishment. Pakistan needs more Tariq Khosas!

Mian Amir Hakim Feb 22, 2016 09:45am

A good article. "It is actually the incompetence riddled with all sort of corruption and nepotism that invites non state actors on to the governing stage. Undue favors like extending terms of Army chiefs to please and gain their support destroys the core competencies of the institution itself thus rendering it unprofessional".

sh.jamil Feb 22, 2016 09:46am

He is calling the spade a spade.

S. Holmes Feb 22, 2016 10:57am

A fine piece there,TK. With the ability to ask and face tough questions, democracy has a fighting chance. And dubbing ruffians and spoilers of various types as ‘elite’ begs another question.

Umair Feb 22, 2016 11:25am

Pakistan exists because of the brave souls like you sir !

Khizar Hayat Abbasi Feb 22, 2016 11:27am

Excellent piece showing mirror both to establishment and self-aggrandizing politicians

AW Feb 22, 2016 12:11pm

Tariq Khosa is right on the money that the security establishment is never questioned and it remains accountable to no one which is not how normal countries function. Major part of the problem is that we have never had a high integrity and a competent representative civilian government or for that matter any effective civilian institutions, thus creating the vacuum for the security establishment to take over all matters in its own hands. The questions we should ask are: Does the security establishment has a choice? Who is expected to fill the vacuum? . It is not entirely the fault of the security establishment.

Munir Kakar Feb 22, 2016 12:21pm

It is too good to believe- retired IG calling a spade a spade. The perch of high moral ground of peaking plainly and bluntly has remained empty and unoccupied. But Khosa Sahib has made it to the top. Wish him good luck and safety.

Qsdogar Feb 22, 2016 12:44pm

Man, May you stay safe now onwards.

wellwisher Feb 22, 2016 01:33pm

the security forces have damaged nation.No one talks about the money they have accumulated.

Azmat Shah Feb 22, 2016 01:44pm

Straight talking - geat

Imran Feb 22, 2016 02:02pm

Wonderful and to the point. What stupid we are to be befooled time and again by the self-aggrandised elite. Everything they do is kosher while the same done by civilians is illegal and treachery to the country.

Syed Rizvi Feb 22, 2016 02:30pm

It is a reality that there is no alternative for a third world country other than to be subservient to the dictates of the super power like U.S. ; so Pakistan is not an exception especially knowing what happened to those who dared defy; like Iraq, Liby and now Syria.

Kashif Feb 22, 2016 02:37pm

@Jamal and handover the nation to Men? These Men, Sharifs, Bhuttos, Pagaras, Chaudhrys, Wattoos, Pirs, Gilanis, these corrupt men of ruling class have ruined Pakistan, no where to go.

Arslan Feb 22, 2016 02:40pm

@wellwisher Musharaff ruled for 9yrs, has he and his family got more wealth than Nawaz or Zardari for that matter? How many current and retured Generals you know of who have more wealth than Shariff and Bhutto families? Please let's talk facts. Soon there will be lies about Raheel Shariff having an empire and unlimited wealth. A few prominent politicians owned just bicycles a decade or so back, now they have business empires - seriously, where did they get all that money from in such timeframe?

Ammar Feb 22, 2016 02:43pm

@Harmony-1© Only that voice is sane which addresses sensitive issues of Pakistan. India is too perfect to have issues.

Yuvraj Feb 22, 2016 03:20pm

the last paragraph sums it all. Excellent article.

Abdullah Feb 22, 2016 03:35pm

Honest and Articulate.

Harmony-1© Feb 22, 2016 03:35pm

@Ammar - Yes, that must be the reason then :)

PaKSane Feb 22, 2016 03:54pm

@JAMAL .. these boys are the one who are keeping the country from being sold out by your beloved politician who neither has any patriotism nor ethics to face the law.

It is no doubt Pakistan had its fair share of corrupt military dictatorship and few bad apples but this does not overshadow the fact the boots are the one who are eliminating the terrorism created by everyone internally and externally.

We need Pakistan back to its full glory and it can only happen if you and me stop supporting incompetent in parliament.

Ali Raza Feb 22, 2016 03:57pm

@Arslan get your facts straight about Musharaff.

Distorting facts doesn't help.

Bilal Dogar Feb 22, 2016 04:11pm

Bravo! Gutsy article

khanm Feb 22, 2016 04:13pm

what measures have been taken that in future these sort of blunders are avoided.After everyone has had a chance to bluster, posture, and pontificate,we are left with one basic question: under any foreseeable circumstance, would it be in our national interest or personal interest.we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance for Pakistan, not the political parties.we have a rubber stamp assemblies and president who are suppose to calm / brief our people with sober decision-making in the national interest.unfortunately we dont have a real government.Real government is about looking beyond the vested to the national interest,setting up the necessary conditions to enable the next, more enabled and more empowered generation to achieve a country as prosperous, a people as content,as ours deserve to be.

M.Saeed Feb 22, 2016 04:15pm

The writer has done a good job

Arabian Sea Feb 22, 2016 05:30pm

"The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs."

That says it all. Couple this with another report in the newspaper today informing that Pakistan is the the 10th largest arms importer in the world. This would have been fine if we had been tenth highest in Millennium Development Goals as well. Is arms really a priority. For two generations, nuclears arms were considered to be worth all the grass that we have eaten. Even after nuclear arms deterrence should we go on bleeding ourselves dry buying arms.

Akbar Feb 22, 2016 05:33pm

Excellent article.

Ray Feb 22, 2016 05:40pm

Finally a sane voice has told us the back channel story.

Imran ali Feb 22, 2016 06:26pm

Sir,great respect for you...for expressing sentiment of million of people of Pakistan...

Amir Dewani Feb 22, 2016 06:46pm

The Pakistani 'armed force', as I know from the media reports , is one of the most disciplined and trained forces in the world. Unfortunately, the civilian governments, when in power, invite them most willingly to intervene in controlling the internal problems because of the failure of the civilian institutions.Today, as I am watching your electronic media report, the opposition party is asking for the military even to do the population survey? So, how do you reconcile the situation? Why not to admit the fact that there is a lack of quality leadership? That there is slogan mongering, rhetoric, wastage of precious resources, leakage and pilferage of it everywhere, but no accountability. Otherwise, the Pakistanis are all democratic minded. Just look at the health, education and non-existence of social security for the poor. Dale Carnegie said "Don't find fault, find the remedy".

Syed Hamid Mahliqa Ahmed Feb 22, 2016 07:10pm

Courageous man.

BJK Feb 22, 2016 07:18pm

Legitimate points

saeed Feb 22, 2016 07:54pm

I never knew our FIA had such insightful and intelligent people working for it.

Mustafa R. Feb 22, 2016 07:57pm

There are two wrestlers in the ring of Pakistani politics, Security establishment and the Corruption establishment. The corruption establishment is an alliance of 3 C's; Colonialism, Corruption and Cronyism. The colonialism of pre-1947 has not died but dawned myriad of new facades; foreign ambassadors acting like viceroys, World Bank, IMF and thousands of NGO's.

aceleaf Feb 22, 2016 08:43pm

Excellent piece. Needed lot of courage. Kudos! We need these corrections for our future generations.

Dr. Ali Ahmed Feb 22, 2016 08:55pm

With all due respect, the article is well-intentioned. However, the ground reality in Pakistan is that the so-called democratic forces have failed to deliver time and time again. And now, they are also running out of the excuse of not being given enough time to fulfill their agendas. The PPP government got a full tenure and see where that got us. The only cause for which our politicians seem to unite is for protecting their wallets, case in point being the hue and cry over NAB. Unless the political forces turn over a leaf and fix their priorities, the nation will keep having to turn elsewhere for their needs and survival.

Zarqa Feb 22, 2016 09:00pm

Thank you so much sir for giving words to our thoughts.

zainab Feb 22, 2016 09:07pm

@Arslan Do you know who owns the posh Defense area in Karachi?

Mustafa R. Feb 22, 2016 09:11pm


'It takes a brave soul to hold mirror to the Establishment. Pakistan needs more Tariq Khosas!'

Pakistan has millions of Tariq Khosas,

Nadeem Feb 22, 2016 09:27pm

Being realistic here, civil govts can ask questions to military ONLY when they themselves are clean enough. Western democracies are a good example where no one can question the integrity of law-makers! Nearly 100% of our political regimes have been totally corrupt and have been busy in looting country's wealth (look at NAB's recent references that starts from former president, PM Nawaz and goes down to the parties' members). Also, they have never been able to focus on being the real 'law-makers' and still are busy constructing roads & bridges. It's definite for the establishment to take over most of the things when no one from civilians is there to take a lead..

GAWAL MANDI YA Feb 22, 2016 09:43pm

Once the civil government shows maturity,when they truly work for the people,make smart decisions,have solid policies including foreign and domestic,thats when they earn the respect of everyone,including the military.Don't give the military a chance and they will never have any ground to stand on.But when its the same ol same ol situation,what choice does the military have? If we had a strong government,I would totally support it,right now,I just don't see any reason to back the government.

berni Feb 22, 2016 10:07pm

I suggest the defense budget be slashed by 10% p.a. and given to education. Thanks DAWN for this brave article.

Nuh Feb 22, 2016 10:20pm

I salute to Dawn administration and the writer...... and pray for their safety.

Rustom E Hind Feb 22, 2016 10:51pm

salute sir

sassy Feb 22, 2016 10:52pm

While what the author has implied may be true, He never the less misses a very pertinent point.

The Military Establishment is the only reason this country still exists on the world map and why this country has not been turned into a rubble like Libya, Iraq, Syria. Yemen and Afghanistan. Its this very military that is no pushover when it comes to deep geo-politics, It is the only reason Imperial America has kept its frustrated hands off Pakistan, So the establishment is justified to play its game to the best of its understanding even if once in a while things don't go smoothly.

If it was left to Pakistan's Democracy and its corrupt political class, we would be well into the dustbin of history, I say more power to our Military.

Azhar jamil Feb 22, 2016 10:58pm

Every one elite is corrupt in this country, almost. So who can question- no one- because every one is doing his job, serving his family only.

anony Feb 22, 2016 11:14pm

I just don't understand why Zardari is not made to face trail for all the actions he took against the interest of Pakistan.

Kedar Feb 22, 2016 11:21pm

The writer points out the extremely fragile nature of politics in Pakistan. It is this instability in the Pakistani establishment that needs to be rectified. For that we must congratulate NS for his tenure.

Hopeful Feb 22, 2016 11:24pm

We need Snowden.

idrees Feb 22, 2016 11:48pm

Majority of the ruling politicians and officers ( all classes n categories) running government machinery lack character and thus are unable to bring to the tip of their tongue what goes in their heart. They are compromising as they know any bold stance may deprive them from the loaves and fishes they hanker after. They are only tacticians without a grain of character. Only a man of character can ask daring questions from the military establishment.

Tariq Feb 22, 2016 11:53pm

The minority of generals prevails because these so called politicians are absolute incompetent, corrupt and has no moral authority.

malik nawaz Feb 23, 2016 12:07am

Very well written...................poor Imran Khan

Syed Zafar Kazmi U.S.A Feb 23, 2016 12:09am

Very bleak, very gloomy, very distressful state of affairs as so honestly and courageously bared open by the author. O, God please protect Pakistan and its wonderful people from the ravenous vultures that never get satiated feeding off its flesh, blood and bones.

HAMZA Feb 23, 2016 12:11am


ayub Feb 23, 2016 12:11am

An excellent writing by a man of integrity.

Syed Zafar Kazmi U.S.A Feb 23, 2016 12:19am

@Nadeem " It's definite for the establishment to take over most of the things when no one from civilians is there to take a lead..". If I am not mistaken it seems to me like you are presenting a defense for the establishment although the unfortunate fact is that when everyone is busy plundering, not even the establishment, that has the most power, privilege, and resources, wants to miss the opportunity and in fact goes many miles ahead to plunder the hapless nation and that precisely is the reason after so many military takeovers that the democracy could never be able to take any roots and the institutions never strengthened.

Farhan Feb 23, 2016 12:22am

Hope this changing works for T20.

Third Party Feb 23, 2016 12:25am

What a brave revelation !! Hope the military establishment is listening ....Also this is warning piece for the chest-thumping so-called nationalists here in this forum...

Bupi Feb 23, 2016 12:41am

Eye opener to all in Pakistan .

Kamran Feb 23, 2016 12:45am

Dear Mr. TARIQ KHOSA Thank you for your services to our beloved country Pakistan.

ajit Feb 23, 2016 12:49am

Excellent article. Honest and Articulate. Pakistan need more Tariq Khosas and Hussain Haqqanis to be in 21st century.

cheebz Feb 23, 2016 12:55am

there is a thing call credibility/goodwill... Army uses that at times of crisis or problems.. where as when civilian govt is even doing the right thing or talking honestly, it gets taken to task.. because it has no credibility or goodwill with the public.. i.e. Imran Khan has credibility and goodwill, hence there reason his party is strong/surviving due to cashing in this goodwill/credibility at times of crisis and gets out unscathed.

SNA Feb 23, 2016 01:18am

Pakistan can not be turned into a real democracy as it is missing in our genetic constitution. Army, Police, FIA, Politicians, Civilians etc. are all alike. Only Power matters, who ever has it behaves the same way.

Kamal Feb 23, 2016 01:33am

The whole truth and so loudly.

Farooq Feb 23, 2016 01:56am

Please stay safe Sir. You are a man with great integrity as seen from your articles.

Taemoor Khan Feb 23, 2016 01:58am

Great article. It is clear as day that the security establishment has a clear conflict of interest in strengthening of democracy in pakistan.

Ajaya K Dutt Feb 23, 2016 02:38am

@Harmony@AMMAR : Yes. India is not perfect. But far close to it then almost ALL the countries in the world.

sajjad Feb 23, 2016 02:41am

Mr. Khoso, I and a lot of public are not interested at all in these intrigues. Instead, as long as the basic needs (yes the basic needs: food, cloth, house, health, education, employment, equality, justice, merit) for a state public are not provided by the State Government which dwells at the valley of loot & corruption (being non-eligible of leading the nation), it is a good feeling to see the self-aggrandising elite vs so called public elected members.

Zack Feb 23, 2016 03:16am

@Nadeem You are right but these corrupt and crooked politicians have to be taught a lesson.

Zack Feb 23, 2016 03:19am

@Arslan Musharraf has not stolen money like others

Shahid Feb 23, 2016 03:37am

The historical equation between our political forces and the establishment has always been that of a bandit and a corrupt policeman. Whenever people get tired of this bandit (the politicians) who reins their neighborhood, they start asking the policeman to cage in the bandit and take over the charge of their neighborhood. But the worst of it all is that people never get a relief because when this policeman takes over the charge, he just brings in some other bandits to aid him in running of the neighborhood.

Ahluwalia (A Proud Punjabi from village AHLU near lahore) Feb 23, 2016 03:39am

Honesty and integrity are the missing links in the power circles/brokers in India and Pakistan. That's why a common man was/is never be able to meet his day to day basic needs. Did we really get our independence from the British? Looks like on August 14 and 15, 1947 both countries were hijacked by the thugs and 70 years later we are still paying the price. May GOD bless both of our nations.

syed.ali Feb 23, 2016 05:37am

@Jamal Please do not debate national security.

syed.ali Feb 23, 2016 05:38am

@Noor Nabi I agree with your comment with one exception, irresponsibility.

IMKHAN Feb 23, 2016 06:21am

Why does their conscious wakes up after retirement, they have a duty to the nation while serving to expose these....

Lost Lakha Feb 23, 2016 07:18am

May I request the readers to please read the article by Mustafa Zafar, appearing in Daily Dawn under the head of "When Iqbal Called For a Muslim India, Within India".

Then read Sir Winston Churchill on India's future subsequent to partition of India as a whole.

I certainly would have quoted his his exact words to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the state of affairs as seen and witnessed is exactly the same as foreseen by him about 70 years back. But then, I have my doubt and apprehension that the moderator would not like people to know the fact, reality and the truth.

sufyan Feb 23, 2016 08:58am

i love it... someone has courage to raise these question

Larkanavi Feb 23, 2016 09:33am

Civilians will always pin all blame on the Generals as an easy scapegoat. They should look at their own misconduct. How many Generals have looted the wealth like the civilian rulers? The champions of so called democracy never bothered to give freedom of expression to media. It was eventually a military man, Musharraf, who gave freedom to media. The mushroom of TV channels that we see today is all thanks to Musharraf. I am no admirer of military rule but I want genuine democracy not hereditary rulers. As long as the corrupt and inefficient civilian politicians are around I would want an honest man as the country's ruler regardless of what dress he wears.

Ghalib Feb 23, 2016 11:11am

"National interest is shorthand for the interests of an institution that reigns supreme." says it all.

wasim Feb 23, 2016 12:02pm

uncertainty, what do they really want?

Javed Arshad Feb 23, 2016 03:09pm

Civilian democratic governments must demonstrate good governance to reduce military interventions. If they are in a contest of corruption one after the other and muk muka policy - there is no hope for strengthening of democracy.

ABDUL MUQTADIR Feb 23, 2016 07:56pm

The security should be Audited and the Budget checked by Civil Bodies

ABDUL MUQTADIR Feb 25, 2016 01:52am

@Larkanavi Good points BUT no civilized country should allow any General to overthrow elected Government. If anything, the Public through voting should eliminate bad eggs. The overthrowing was started in 1958 by so called 'Good General' but that was the beginning of this bad tradition and breaking of Pakistan was initiated then. A very lasting and huge damage to Pakistan by this General.

ABRAHAM Haque Feb 25, 2016 03:59am

@Kashif and you think corruption does not include usurping power