The exalted image of the Pakistan Army that had taken a life time to shape up and consolidate in my mind, has been shattered in the last few months. The fault has entirely been mine. The generals didn’t change a bit in their thoughts in the last five decades; it was my own perception of them which was wrong all along. I should have made these conclusions long ago. Journeying back through time, I tried to figure out the achievements of our warriors in the 55 years of Pakistan’s existence during which the country gave them 45% of its budget every year; in the process, enslaving its population and the future generations in a whirlpool of debt.
Just look at what the military (demands and) gets from the nation. Besides their gadgets (meant for display and rhetoric alone) there has been an abundance of personal benefits for the military brass. The expensive and often multiple housing properties , the allotment of choice agricultural land, business ventures through on-job connections, fleets of staff cars, duty-free Mercs for the Chiefs, thousands of military batmen for household work and quotas for the warriors and their children in every national facility. Add to it the post retirement jobs for every general and as many brigadiers and colonels as the Chief can accommodate.
Currently there are a dozen generals in foreign ambassadorial assignments alone. In fact, the civilian government sector is teaming with hundreds of military officers either still in uniform or on a post-retirement second (or third) stint. Wapda, railways, PIA, steel mill, police, central and provincial civil services, all the governor houses, overseas missions, sports bodies, educational institutionsé.the military-wallahs have infiltrated every facet of the society. This is in addition to the tens of thousands of post-retirement military men who are having a second go at employment in quasi-military organizations like Fauji foundation, Army Welfare trust, Shaheen foundation, Baharia foundation etc. This is happening in a country where educated unemployment is a major curse and has forced thousands of talented young men and women to flee the country in search for honorable living elsewhere.
Our army brass never tires of its competition with the Indian army, yet never compares their own perks with their counterparts in India. I bet the Indian soldiers do not get even half the perks of our warriors? And for what they get, the Indians haven’t performed badly in any of the wars we have had with them. Can the generals of the Indian army, in spite of their coveted achievements of 1971, even dream of the life style of a Pakistani general, serving or retired?
After this colossal dole out, what is the Country getting in return? Has the army ever done the job that it is (over)paid for? In the summer of 1965, Operation Gibraltar was launched by Pakistan’s GHQ to wrest Kashmir from Indian occupation. Not a bad idea. However, the plan fell apart without achieving even a resemblance of its objective because it was fallacious in its vision, execution and efficiency. It response, the Indian forces launched an offensive in Haji-Pir and threatened Azad Kashmir requiring Pakistan to initiate a relieving counter offensive (Operation Grand Slam). This also fizzled out due to the dithering of the generals under command of a mediocre C-in-C, General Musa. The compounded follies allowed India to launch a full scale offensive on the 6th of September on the International border, almost taking Lahore while our generals were napping.
In the end it was Tashkent which provided “Field Marshall” Ayub with face saving from a disastrous adventure from which he and the country never recovered. As a cover up, Ayub’s spin doctors launched an avalanche of propaganda in the local, government controlled media to hoodwink the nation that the military machine under his command had “defeated” the Indian army that had “sneaked in the dark”.
One could not help get amazed at the naivety of our generals when a similar stupidity was repeated by General Musharraf in 1999 in taking Kargil heights and expecting India to sit back and watch. Common knowledge is the fact that the army generals planned and started the Kargil operation without prior consent of the civilian government. Then after the Kargil fiasco, Musharraf’s intelligence sleuths launched a media disinformation campaign claiming that “while the army had captured the Kargil heights, it was the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif which surrendered the victory to the Indians”. In reality much of the initially captured territory was re-occupied by the Indians when Musharraf allowed the Indian air force to bombard the entrenched Pakistani soldiers without providing them any air-cover. In the process hundreds of lives were lost from our side.
It was not just a military success for Indians, it was also a huge diplomatic and propaganda victory for them since they found much support amongst the Americans and the Europeans for their view point. Domestically, it resurrected Vajpayee’s ruling BJP government from the political grave that it had been heading for. For Pakistan and Musharraf, Kargil was a humiliating defeat. Yet Musharraf called the operation “a great military success” in his typical bombastic manner. In any other country he would have been court martialled for the disastrous results. Not in Pakistan!
I hope by now, no one has any illusions about the reasons behind the 1999 coup. It was not done to dismiss “corrupt” politicians or sanitize the political scene or restore the country’s pride. These are fraudulent excuses. The coup only happened when a legal and elected civilian Prime Minister representing the people of Pakistan, exercised his legal authority to dismiss an incompetent subordinate. It is simple as that!. But poor Nawaz, he was helpless against the guns of his own generals. Generals in Pakistan always emerge “faultless”. They got away with much bigger blunders before; this was small fry. With the doubters, they can always deal using the 111 brigade (of army commandoes). So what if they cannot defeat the Indians or liberate Kashmir? They can surely defeat their own countrymen and capture the Prime Minister’s house and parliament in no time!
A short recap of 1971, lest we forget the humiliation engraved on our hearts. Then, like in 1965, the military as well as the civil leadership was in army hands. It was November 1971; war clouds were looming over the subcontinent after Indira Ghandhi had publicly declared her desire to capitalize on the “opportunity of a century”. Lt General Amir Abdullah Khan a.k.a. “Tiger” Niazi, like his successors in the years to come, was not to be brow beaten by the Indians. Thumping his chest in front of the foreign journalists, he declared that the enemy tanks will have to roll over “this chest” before entering Dhaka. But the enemy did not trouble Niazi’s fragile chest. It captured Dhaka in no time, without him having to offer a fight! Niazi happily handed over his revolver to Lt General Jagjit Singh Arora at the Paltan Maidan ceremony in front of an abusive crowd of Mukti Bahinis and the world media. Rest of Pakistan was just stunned with disbelief and dejection.
The disgraced Niazi, instead of committing a suicide to salvage some honour for himself and his country, held a kebab party for his victorious enemy counterpart. I am not left with any words to shame him and his institution. Other commanders like Maj. General Farman Ali, fled for their lives and left 90,000 soldiers of the largest Muslim army in the world to surrender in abject humiliation. A Muslim general commanding a large and well equipped army, had surrendered to the forces under the command of a Parsi (Manekshaw), a Sikh (Arora) and a Jew (Jacob). No wonder Indira Gandhi chuckled in victory, claiming that “Today we have taken revenge for the 1000 years of Muslim rule in India”.
The defeat and surrender in East Pakistan is only part of the story of 1971. What happened on the Western front is equally despicable. With the Indian army concentrating its troops on the East, our GHQ cannot claim that their own forces were “heavily outnumbered” in West Pakistan. Yet we lost thousands of kilometers of territory in Shakargarh sector in Punjab, hundreds of soldiers (perhaps more) were martyred in the deserts of Rajistan in an abortive “offensive” and strategic heights were lost in Kashmir (that were never regained). It was rather kind of Indira Gandhi (more likely it was American pressure to keep its anchor in Pakistan for future needs) which saved Pakistani army from total rout. Generals Yahya, Hamid, Pirzada, Mitha etc. were in no position to do anything to save Pakistan. “Brave” Yahya, the Commander in Chief himself was too drunk, sitting in the laps of entertaining women like Aqleem Akhtar, to be able to think or act, perhaps even wetting his pants like he did in one of his inebriated states, a few months earlier in an international conference in Iran.
Yet no dent appeared in the prestige of Pakistan army. No heads rolled, no court martial, not even any a mock trial. All the generals and brigadiers got scot-free. Worse still, the blame was shifted to the civilians. The diluted Hamood ur Rehman commission report was hidden away from the people of Pakistan for 30 years, even denied of its existence. Then it was partially released — only when the Times of India had put the contents on the Internet for the whole world to see. You would have thought that the military would have been shamed and there would be some remorse, some apologies to the nation and at least a token show of accountability. If you thought so, you must be kidding yourself. “Come off,” said Musharraf, the Generalissimo currently in charge . “The 1971 defeat was not a military defeat. It was the politician’s fault” (hinting at Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto). Having said that, it was business as usual for Musharraf and his junta. He and his men had plenty of other jobs to do, the most important being the complete conquest of their own countrymen.
Each military general who has held political power in Pakistan, also has the distinct honor of losing some territory or strategic asset to the enemies. From Ayub’s losses in 1965, to Yahya in East Pakistan and Kashmir, to Zia ul Haq’s loss of Siachen Glacier to Musharraf’s retreat from Kargil and Afghanistan; there is no shortage of military “achievements”. To compensate, form time to time the army launches military operations to conquer its own people. In 1970s it was the operation against the civilians in Baluchistan, in the 1990s it was the city of Karachi and now, it is the tribal territories of the Pushtoons, at the behest of our American masters.
There is truth in comments of some foreign military analysts when they say that Pakistan army may have good captains but not many capable senior officers. Small wonder! Repeated coups, repeated trampling of constitutions, persistent political-intriguing, martial law and civil administration duties and a constant desire to carve a political role for themselves, leaves them little time to train for the art of warfare. It doesn’t matter to them if the rest of the country silently scorns them for neglecting their real duties. The helpless and down trodden people of Pakistan can do little else to influence their own destiny. . For the few who dare to oppose the generals, there is always something to sort them outé.the NAB, some hastily discovered corruption/criminal charges, exile oré. the gallows! It is sufficient for the generals that a few dozen political prostitutes are always around them, eager to sell themselves out and dance to GHQ tunes in order to give the generals a fake aura of credibility.
It is comical that the army has always insisted on making every civil institution accountable to them yet has never submitted itself to any civilian check. There is always that bogus logic given to us that the military has a fool proof “internal” accountability system. But is it the reality? The truth is, like the politicians of our country, the generals as well are neck deep in corruption. Dare anyone ask how the sons of Generals Akhtar Abdul Rehman and Zia ul Haq became billionaires? The late General Fazl e Haq was quoted to be the richest general in the world in his days. The Afghan war of 1980s made many filthy-rich generals and brigadiers in Pakistan, from kickbacks and even worse crimes that better not be discussed here. Each martial law brings a windfall to the colonels and brigadiers who preside over the military courts. All this has been going on for too long and one can challenge it only at one’s peril.
Have the people of Pakistan ever thought as to why are we not allowed to challenge the military corruption? If we, as the citizens of Pakistan are encouraged to curse the corruption of the politicians, even watch the hanging of one of them on a fraudulent charge, why has army become such a sacred cow? Is an army man more patriotic than the rest of us? Why is there no talk about the one billion dollars spent on that white elephant called the Al-Khalid tank project. After spending all that money, what was the need to look for tanks from Ukraine and that too under suspicious financial deals? And why is no one taking General Mirza Aslam Beg to task, making him accountable for the 100 million rupees of public money that he squandered on political dish outs. Benazir in her tenure as the Prime Minister, once offered the Army Chief General Kakkar, a “gift” of a denationalized industrial unit, at throw away price. What for? It was evidently a political bribe, but was happily accepted and the general was rich by a few tens of million rupees almost overnight. Ojhri camp (ordinance depot) disaster took over a thousand civilian lives in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and billions of rupees worth of damage was done but none of the generals responsible for it was held accountableé. The list is endless. I am just trying to make a point, not debating in a court of law.
Talking about courts of law in Pakistan touches the sorest of nerves. What the generals have done to the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, was high treason. Period! But imagine their bravado; they not only got away without any fear but have trumpeted around with unabashed arrogance and contempt. This was only possible because the superior courts of Pakistan have become partners in crime with the military generals in subverting the rule of law. Who should the people of Pakistan turn to, for justice? Challenging the military in Pakistan is tantamount to challenging the Almighty Himself. Laughable it seems, yet such is the hold of the army over the country that the generals committing high treason are allowed to frame laws, lay down rules of conduct and pass judgments on others.
A few weeks ago I was attending a course in one of the universities in UK, where I happen to meet a group of Muslim students. One of them, a Malaysian, commented on a news item which reported the killing of a dozen Pakistani army soldiers by Pakistani tribesmen and their allies fleeing American persecution. In turn some of the “rebels” had also died. It was a shameful incident in which Muslims on both sides were killed, at the behest of the Americans. The Malaysian student asked me: ” Has Pakistani army become a mercenary army now?”. ” Aren’t you fighting for America and killing fellow Muslims simply because America is giving you a few million dollars?” she askedé. Mercenaries? Beyond my wildest dreams, I had never thought of Pakistani army being labeled a mercenary army. To me, they have always been soldiers of Islam and defenders of the nation. Yet the accusation had substance and I had no answer to it. My head just hung in shame.
Why is it that nearly 100,000 Pakistani soldiers are fighting fellow Muslims in the tribal belt under supervision of the Americans? They have no business in being there. Their job is in Kashmir or for that matter in Gujarat (if they have any spine). Thousands of Muslims were burnt alive by Hindu fanatics right at our doorstep but Pakistan, with more than a half million army equipped with nukes and missiles, could nothing to save them. Its military is more concerned with fighting a war for the Americans, a war which in reality is against the political, economic and military power of Islam. Isn’t it disgraceful? All this is happening when the fanatics and psychopaths of the Evangelical Church, the Synagogue and the Temple have joined hands to lay siege to the followers of the Mosque, around the world. These anti-Islamic forces are being aided by loyal “allies” (the corrupt, tin pot generals and the despotic kings and emirs) from within the Muslim community.
I pose this question to the military officers of Pakistan, all of them, who can read me. Why is that labels of parasite and mercenaries are being hurled at you? It is not coming from your enemies, but by your own well wishers. No point in running away from the charges. These issues need to be addressed with honesty and introspection. Of course an easy way out would be to dismiss everything by the usual bombast and rhetoric or blame people like me to be “mutineers”. But when your life long supporters turn into bitter critic, it is time for serious thoughts.