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CJ asks military to keep away from politics

April 17, 2011

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in a group photo with the visiting officers of Command and Staff College Quetta at Supreme Court Building.-APP

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said on Saturday the oath of the armed forces called for true allegiance to Pakistan by upholding the Constitution and by keeping away from political activities.

“I am persuaded to say this (because) during my talks with one or two very high-ranking officers, I discovered that they did not know the implications of the oath taken by the troops of Pakistan,” the chief justice observed in an address to a delegation of officers of the Command and Staff College, Quetta, at the Supreme Court building here.

Last week, the chief justice had suggested to bureaucrats not to follow illegal orders by their superiors and instead abide by their conscience and the law.

Noting at the outset of his speech the prime duty of the armed forces to defend the country against any external aggression or threat of war, the chief justice said that “the prime duty of defending the supremacy of the Constitution lies upon the Supreme Court”.

He pointed out that the 1973 Constitution, for the first time, introduced a new chapter for the armed forces containing provisions pertaining to their command and functions and an oath by every soldier to “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution and that he should not engage himself in any political activities whatsoever”.

Recalling that before the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution, members of the armed forces used to take oath as prescribed in the Pakistan Army Act of 1952, Justice Chaudhry said the framers of the present statute made a conscious effort to delineate the armed forces’ role so as to make them responsible for the nation’s defence and security and also to safeguard the Constitution from any adventurism.

“Let me tell you that the role of armed forces has been clearly defined in Article 245 of the Constitution, which envisages that the armed forces shall, under the directions of the federal government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so,” he said.

He told the officers that the Supreme Court, through different judgments, had also held that the solider and the citizen stand alike under the law and therefore both must obey the command of the Constitution and show obedience to its mandate.

However, he recalled, the “recurring conflict between the under-developed political system and well-organised army” in the country’s history when he said political crises were followed by military intervention and military rule.

“Thus, there emerged a vicious circle of brief political dispensation followed by prolonged military rule – a state of affairs that brought many setbacks and hampered the process of evolution of constitutionalism and democratic system of governance.”

Quoting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s saying that “a country does not have to be fit for democracy; rather it has to become fit through democracy,” he said military interventions in the political process always weakened democratic institutions and adversely impacted on the constitutional and legal development in the country.

He regretted that democratic elected governments “never truly consolidated democratic institutions” and said: “Neither, they were able to enforce good governance, economic progress or the culture of rule of law in the country.”

The primacy of unelected institutions over representative organs left parliament weak and subservient to the executive, he said, noting that Pakistan did not have a popularly or directly elected legislature from 1947 to 1970 and that this situation also retarded the political development of the state.

He emphasised that since Pakistan was being governed by a written constitution, all powers and duties of armed forces must flow from the provisions of that charter that a heavy responsibility lay upon the shoulders of their officers to adopt patriotism and highest moral and professional standards. “Only then you will be able to defend your country from extraneous threats.”

Before concluding his speech, the chief justice quoted the remarks made by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in an interview to the Sindh Observer: “Now, if we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you work in cooperation, forgetting past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed.”

Welfare of the people must be the supreme consideration of all institutions and all functionaries of the state, Justice Chaudhry said, adding: “In adherence to constitutionalism and legal principles lies our salvation and future development as a civilised nation.”