A final word has eventually come from the President. In the much awaited address to the nation, General Pervez Musharraf has clearly stated that he will keep the office of the Chief of Army Staff and towards this, he indicated 2007 as the possible deadline. The President also gave rationale for the purpose.
The address has not sprung any surprise in that it was very much expected that the President would announce continuation of the status quo. No one was anticipating that the General would make any dramatic announcement in the backdrop of repeated statements emanating from Government circles providing justification and excuses for the President to hold the two offices.
The hope on the contrary, if any, was dashed when the National Assembly and the Senate passed the bill allowing the incumbent President to keep the office of the COAS for an indefinite period. Therefore, it was a foregone conclusion that the uniform is there to stay.
In fact, the Government side itself mishandled the issue by over blowing it time and again. First, there were negotiations spread over a long period with the MMA and other Opposition parties on the issue, then an agreement was arrived at with the Majlis, it was also mentioned indirectly in the 17th amendment and finally a bill was introduced, debated and passed by Parliament.
Thereafter too, the controversy persisted mainly because of overreaction from the Government side to the statements of the Opposition on the subject. Uniform was not a big issue as people have other concern mainly pertaining to their economic conditions, poverty, unemployment, rising inflation, corruption and utter disregard to the principle of merit.
It was understood that President Pervez Musharraf is there and he is to continue because of various compulsions including domestic problems, regional developments and international situation. Anyhow, now that the President has categorically stated that he would not shed his uniform, the controversy must come to an end as the country cannot afford any chaos or trouble.
Though in their first reaction, the MMA and ARD have understandably vowed to launch joint struggle against the decision, yet they better not agitate the issue on streets. First of all, recent developments clearly proved that the two alliances are unlikely to see eye to eye on the strategy to be adopted.
Secondly, people are now fed up with agitations and they would not indulge in negative politics. Opposition is well within its right to oppose any decision and express its point of view but there is hardly any justification to take things too far.
And though, the address of the President was devoted entirely to the issue of uniform yet he also referred to many things to build his argument in favour of the decision to keep wearing the uniform. One such point was his emphasis on ideological moorings of Pakistan and in this connection he mentioned Quaid’s speech of April 12, 1948 in Peshawar. The President expressed his firm commitment to the vision of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal.
We welcome this reaffirmation on the part of the President. It was very much due in view of the fast gaining impression that the country was being pushed towards secularism. This perception developed not only because of policy statements by American leaders and conclusions of some recent studies carried out by the United States but also some moves on the domestic front as well.
These included attempts aimed at defacing of the syllabus and distortion of our culture, harsh dealing with the religious institutions, the way Madaris are being asked to reform themselves and unabated propaganda campaign unleashed by some so-called NGOs at the behest of their Western masters to malign and belittle Islam and our cultural and social values.
We have repeatedly cautioned that Pakistan’s main strength is its ideology and if we deviated from the lofty ideals of the founder of the State then Pakistan would cease to be Pakistan and just remain a piece of land devoid of any genuine strength.
There is nothing wrong with the enlightened moderation as Islam lays emphasis on exploring the universe. It calls upon the believers to seek knowledge and carry out research and development for material and spiritual uplift. We should pay attention to scientific and technological development, as criminal negligence on this aspect has been the main hurdle in the way of our progress.
However, we must not allow a free for all situation where NGOs get blank cheque to do what they can to weaken our social and moral fabric. We hope the President would take measures to rein in those who are making controversial statements about Two-Nation Theory and creation of Pakistan and are also fanning parochialism on this or that ploy or pretext.
As we look at it, the President, in his speech was very much sure to dilate upon the issue of uniform and make a categorical statement but contrary to expectations he did not make any announcement about construction of big dams. Instead, he only made an oblique reference by saying that he would soon give good news to the nation on the matter.
The nation has been hearing about good news since long but all promises have so far remained a lollipop. It seems that once again the issue of big dams is being exploited for political advantages and there is no seriousness on the part of the Government to grapple with the grave problem of shortage of water.
There were frequent pronouncements by the government leaders, which suggested that the President was about to make the crucial decision on this topic. It was widely believed that during the course of his speech, the President would also announce launching of one major dam but his speech has caused extreme disappointment to the people.
We feel sorry to point out that on this issue the President is unnecessarily dragging his feet. It was more than a year back that he had expressed his commitment to initiate work on construction of big dams to resolve the twin problems of water and power shortage.
And for this, he had even formed two committees, parliamentary committee to take care of the political issues and the technical committee to come up with recommendations purely on the basis of merit. The political committee is believed to have submitted its interim report while the technical committee is far behind the schedule.
General Pervez Musharraf had also given a clear-cut deadline of June 2004 for making announcement about construction of dams but now he is relying on the much misused term of ‘soon’. There is no justification for delay when the experts are warning about the impending dangers to the national economy.
Is it the fate of the people to experience perennial load-shedding even after paying too much for the hydel power when there are ample water resources available to generate electricity? We are already witnessing shortage of wheat and the problem is going to become more complicated in the time to come if no attempts were made to bring more area under cultivation.
As a matter of fact, General Ziaul Haq had ample opportunities to take bold steps to accomplish this significant task. Yet he could or did not. That is why people are still blaming him for lack of courage and commitment on this vital account.
Should we feel optimistic that General Musharraf would not follow his footsteps?