Role of military in governance opposed

Published December 21, 2004

KARACHI, Dec 20: Former air force chief and president of the National Democratic Front, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, on Monday declared that there was no constitutional role for the military in governance.

He was speaking in a seminar organised by his party at the Karachi Press Club to discuss the "Roadmap for a strong Pakistan." Referring to Quaid-i-Azam, Mr Khan said the founder of the nation had not perceived any role for the military other than obeying the orders of elected representatives.

In this context, he recalled a conversation of Quaid-i-Azam with junior officers on August 11, 1947, and said that when Col Akbar Khan - later involved in the Pindi conspiracy case - had complained of placing foreigners at the helm of affairs even after independence, Mr Jinnah emphasized that as a government servant, their (military) job was to obey the orders of the elected representatives.

Mr Khan also remarked that the military could not up till now absolve itself of the responsibility for the break-up of Pakistan. He slammed the regime for wasting national resources on unproductive projects like constructing a flower in Islamabad at a cost of about Rs2 billion and a new gate near Lahore for Rs0.5 billion.

He also called the huge cabinet a burden on Pakistan, where judiciary had been manipulated by the rulers. Mr Khan claimed that because of its dictatorial mentality, the country had suffered irreparable damage.

The former chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah, said there was no writ of the government, which he said, had failed to protect the life and property of its citizens. He said that kidnapping of judges from Shikarpur was a clear manifestation of the government's failure in providing security.

Mr Shah said there was no constitutional role for the military in governance, but regretted that military interventionists had never allowed any civilian government in Pakistan to complete its tenure.

He said the judiciary helped the military whenever it (military) intervened using the doctrine of necessity, and also declared it legal. Citing the Asma Jehangir case, Mr Shah said it was declared in the case that a military commander was not above the constitution. He referred to Article 6 of the Constitution, which was aimed at preventing military intervention.

Justice Shah said the doctrine of necessity was not in the country's interest, adding that if the military was to be given a role in governance, it could be done so by bringing amendments in the constitution. After all, he said, it was done in the case of the 17th amendment to enable Gen Musharraf to retain his uniform until December 31, 2004.

Mr Elahi Bux Soomro, the former speaker of the National Assembly, was of the view that unless the judiciary was made all powerful, the very integrity of Pakistan would remain in danger. He criticised the elements that had made the politicians whipping bags.

Mr Soomro said that the country had eight prime ministers from 1947 to 1958, but none of them was accused of corruption; however, after the coup in 1958 and onwards, no one could claim that honour. Therefore, he said the establishment should not target politicians.

He was of the view that democracy and the rule of law were linked with each other, but when session judges and magistrates - responsible for dispensation of justice - were being kidnapped then, there was no democracy and no rule of law. He described it as pathetic that relatives of these judicial officers were begging the kidnappers and God for their release.

Former justice Mian Burhanuddin said that even after 57 years, his village was without clean drinking water, schools, hospitals and roads, while electricity was a rare commodity.

He was of the view that the 1973 constitution had been mutilated over the years, and provincial autonomy, which was the basis of a federation, had been bypassed by those with vested interests. He said the federation would survive only when rights of the federating units are respected, adding the Quaid-i-Azam had never envisaged a one-man-rule for Pakistan.

Nazim F Haji called for equitable distribution of wealth among the people, because he felt that the widening gap between the rich and the poor and political strangulation was bound to lead to a civil strife.

He said it should be made obligatory on civil servants to use the same public transport, educational institutions and health facilities as were available to the common man. Even the top brass of the military should be made to use the same, he maintained.

Dr Dildar Ahmad Qadri stressed the need for shunning the narrow-minded and short-sighted approaches, which he said were the biggest curses for the Muslim world. He called for religious tolerance for overcoming present day problems and moving ahead while meeting scientific challenges.

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