Of civilian martial law

Published December 14, 2011

THIS is with reference to Ayaz Ahmad’s letter ‘Of civilian martial law’ (Nov 28), in which he criticised the role of politicians in the imposition of martial law. He summed up his concluding remarks: “So what are the politicians complaining about martial law? Have they conveniently forgotten the doings of their most ‘charismatic leader’? Can anyone please explain?”

What he said is partially true; at best, it could be described as ‘half-truth’. I have profound respect for and belief in the professionalism of my country’s armed forces, except for a bunch of power-hungry generals.

First, if historical evidence is anything to go by, there is no denying the fact that the history of Pakistan would be quite different today had it not been for the illegal transfer of power to Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan on March 25, 1969, by the outgoing military dictator Mohammad Ayub Khan who had already ruled the country for 11 long years. The transfer of power was illegal for being in violation of the 1962 constitution.

Secondly, the tragedy of military action in East Pakistan in 1971 and subsequently Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s assumption of power as the first civilian martial law administrator could have been avoided if military dictator Gen Yahya Khan had prevailed and transferred power to the leader of the majority party voted in by a majority of Pakistanis in the 1971 election.

Besides, there was no need for military action in East Pakistan after Lt-Gen Sahibzada Mohammad Yaqub Khan and Admiral Ahsan had expressed their note of dissent on the decision of military action.

Thirdly, Gen Ziaul Haq’s premeditated plan to take over on July 5, 1977, was evidenced from its timing, which coincided with a tentative agreement reached between opposition leaders and prime minister Z.A. Bhutto on a reelection around the same period. Mr Bhutto’s precipitous foreign tour at that time before formally concluding the agreement was unhelpful.

In the words of the late Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, a similar agreement on holding of elections had also been reached among politicians before the promulgation of martial law on Oct 12, 1958.

Before concluding my views, I raise a few queries to be answered by readers.

(1) Could anybody please explain to me what circumstances prevailed on Oct 12, 1999, which justified Gen Pervez Musharraf’s wresting of power from a democratically-elected government? And why did he transgress his three-year tenure given to him by the Supreme Court?

(2) Is there any justification for inordinately prolonged martial law regimes in the country (even if an emergency situation prevailed at the time of takeover)?

(3) Could anyone respond to the queries that I raised in my letter, ‘Foreign aid: lack of accountability’ (Oct 28), which dwelt on how a praetorian state was encouraged in our society with a major chunk of foreign aid going to the military without any audit of their accounts.

The bottom line is: we have never experienced genuine democracy in Pakistan. The fact is successive military regimes masqueraded as elected governments propped up their cronies, held sham elections/referendums while genuine political parties/leaders were discouraged.

There is no politician worth his name today in our country, barring a few exceptions, who does not trace her/his origin to those martial-law regimes. So why complain about the doings of politicians and of their ‘charismatic leader’?




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