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Media: a force to be reckoned with

Published Nov 16, 2012 02:54am


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— File Photo

In the history of the country, never have so many retired generals been in the dock or been talked about this much in the media at the same time for their past deeds and misdeeds. The scenario is made more eye-brow raising by the fact that the list of generals under media scrutiny include a former chief of army staff and two ex director-generals of the Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI).

The current times are clearly unprecedented, and needless to say, the development has incensed the incumbent top military leadership.

On November 5, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani passed a very public statement stressing the need for all state institutions to work within their constitutional limits. Many also interpreted his words as an implied warning against media trial of army officers both serving and retired.

In any case, his statement is thought to have emboldened the accused generals, who have stepped up their defence.

Deliberated attempts have been made to resuscitate their images as over the last fortnight or so, the generals have appeared on television and approached print media journalists with documentary evidence in their favour. Others are writing regular emails to clarify their position in relevant cases.

However, the common theme to their defence seems to be that as army men they were subservient to the civilian leadership, and simply carried out orders issued by the relevant governments.

For instance, former army chief General Aslam Beg in a detailed interview with a private television put the entire blame of the army’s involvement in politics on late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who in 1975 established the ISI cell in the Presidency.

On the ISI-Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) saga of 1990 general elections, General Beg, without going into details, claimed he only followed lawful command of the then late President Ghulam Ishaq.

“How could I refuse orders of the supreme commander of the armed forces (President Ishaq),” snapped General Beg, when the host of a TV talk show questioned the involvement of army in politics under his command.

Gen Beg even claimed that the army’s role in politics had legal cover until October 19, 2012, when the Supreme Court cancelled the ISI cell in the Presidency.

Visibly perturbed over how the media was grilling them, Gen Beg retorted: “You (media) people are hurting the institution of army.”

If this was not enough to warn the government, media and judiciary, Gen Beg predicted rolling back of the entire system, if “the trial of the former military officers continued in the public domain.”

Similarly, former DG ISI General Asad Durrani, who along with Gen Beg has been declared guilty of distributing money among IJI politicians in the 1990 elections, has put up a strong defence during his television appearances.

Gen Durrani too argues that Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the brains behind the scheme of things.

In a recent interview, Gen Durrani said that since President Ishaq and Army Chief General Beg were fully on board with regard to distribution of funds among certain politicians, he as DG ISI could only follow their orders and handed over the money to the selected politicians.

Three other generals - Lt-Gen Khalid Munir Khan, Lt-Gen M. Afzal Muzaffar, Maj-Gen Khalid Zaheer Akhtar - in the headlines for the Rs2 billion loss that the National Logistic Cell (NLC) incurred between 2004 and 2008 too claim they were simply toeing the line.

The three accused generals have approached the media with documentary evidence showing they had worked according to the policy laid down by Mr Aziz's government to invest in the stock exchange, which eventually led to the colossal loss.

The three retired generals were recently re-instituted to face a military court trial, after being found guilty of corruption and irregularities in investments by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly. The GHQ is yet to conclude its inquiry report.

Meanwhile, in a completely separate case, another former ISI chief, General Javed Ashraf Qazi is busy writing emails in his defence as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigates his role in the controversial lease of Pakistan Railway (PR) land in Lahore.

General Qazi and two other retired generals, Lt General (retired) Saeeduz Zafar and Major General (retired) Hassan Butt, who were office-bearers in PR, have been accused of leasing 150 acres of PR land in Lahore to a private party on much cheaper rates as compared to the open market.

General Qazi argues that as former minister for railways, he only put railway land into commercial use, which had brought monetary benefits to the cash-strapped Pakistan Railways.

“The golf course was earlier under the use of a handful of railway officers, which is now generating billions of rupees for the PR,” he insists.

The openness with which the generals are approaching the media is a turn around from their stiff attitudes. Earlier, the same generals would have gotten away by avoiding all talk of the cases It is clear that the military establishment has realised that the changed dynamics and the new reality of the media in the country.


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Comments (11) Closed

pathanoo Nov 16, 2012 08:39pm
My fear is that all this will be pushed under the rug once the public attention is diverted to one of many important unsolved issues. Guarantee you one thing though......NO GENERAL IS GOING TO JAIL.
Cyrus Howell Nov 24, 2012 08:04am
"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned and the era of corruption in high places will follow. The money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." . -- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864, from a letter to Col. William F. Elkins
masroor durrani Nov 17, 2012 12:29am
Generally no general goes to jail. They are stuff above the human beings in Pakistan
imransaudi Nov 16, 2012 10:37am
Sons of King impression is coming to an end. Escaping of Gen. Musharraf to London speaks volume of the end of game. Let Afghanistan issue be solved than the weight of army over weak shoulders of poor peoples should also be analysed.
Akram Nov 16, 2012 04:57pm
Capt CM Khan, I agree with you. Inshallah it will happen in time. The rigging of elections however is nothing less than treason against the people. the guilty must be punished.
Capt C M Khan Nov 16, 2012 09:05am
A Spade must be called a Spade. I am happy with the media but it must also show the plight of the Hazaras the other monorities and the corruption of other politcans and judges as well.
Nasir Nov 17, 2012 03:55pm
What about the sale of KESC and railway land in Karachi to Arab investors, has anyone investigated that? One was done under the current PM and the other under the same fauji head of railways.
ZULFIQAR Nov 17, 2012 04:48pm
Nothing Will be Change because ARMY is Very Very Powerfull then all the peoples including media...
ZULFIQAR Nov 17, 2012 04:49pm
Nothing Will be Change because ARMY is Very Very Powerfull then all the peoples including media
akhter husain Nov 17, 2012 01:38pm
Nice article that gives briefly the flaws of our statecraft.Instead of nipping the evil in the bud we let it grow to become an uncontrollable monster. We missed the golden opportunity in 1953-54.when constitution assembly was not restored by the then judiciary.On top of it, all illegal take overs by uniformed men were validated,even allowing them to promulgate new constitutions,or make amendments at will.As we are not in a habit of learning from past mistakes,the media is now trying to play the same role that was often played by judiciary.They are not bothered about the after-effects which the commoners are going face and suffer from.The top-notches of all fields will join hands and take over the country there by making the people live like trained animals..
Ahmed Nov 17, 2012 09:44pm
Media is a potent weapon which should be used to guard us and not to target our own nation, now many media persons will not agree with this statement and will argue that media is infact defending the nation by exposing wrong doings but there is a marked difference in exposing the wrong doing and maligning an institution. Who will try if media commits a crime??? i think none, no one dare talk about media which is continuously targeting the national institutions specially those who are responsible for our defence. If as per Article 63 (1) (g) a member of parliament can be disqualified from being elected or chosen for even ridiculing or defaming the armed forces then what about media? the Constitution of Pakistan is mute on this sensitive issue. There is a dire need to have effective laws regarding media and all those involved in wrong doings in media should be held accountable too. Laws should be promulgated to have a check on propaganda on media specially against our nation and fundamentals on which this nation was built. Lets see media will like to have such laws or not.