Are civil military relations souring again?

God and the soldier we adore, in times of danger not before; / The danger past and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the soldier slighted.-Anonymous

Are civil military relations souring again?

I must begin by admitting that this effort is prompted by an article I read the other day by an individual whom I have held in some respect. He used to be someone who suffered from a disease that is extremely rare today; conscience.

I must also repeat myself, I am not a conspiracy theorist but do realize that occasionally, one may come across a conspiracy. The author who prompted my article is a conspiracy theorist and has always laid claim to “inside information” from some mysterious source. I must also admit that I have no sources; mysterious or otherwise.

And therefore, I am forced to attempt at reasoning. And everyone knows that no soldier should be expected to reason; not even a former one. Those who wish to stop reading this; should stop here, or read it with a pinch of salt.

In the article, the author lists a litany of complaints against the military dating back to 2008 to build a pattern in the Pakistani “rogue” military and leads up to the accusations that Raheel sought or wanted an extension and implied that the foul campaign targeting Gen Bajwa’s religious beliefs was also the army’s doing; which was followed by a leak to London Times to the effect that junior officers would be unhappy if Bajwa towed the government’s line.

That there is reason in some of the earlier complaints is a fact; though these too are mixed with dubious accusations. But, when he decided to conclude with the accusations regarding Raheel and Bajwa; accusations which I know are untrue, I felt compelled to pen this.

Perhaps his mysterious source no longer sings to himor he has, regretfully, recovered from his rare ailment? Whichever be the case, for someone who has built a reputation of being perceptive due to the services of a mysterious source, his moral views on leaks seems misplaced.

Freedom of speech is a basic right and must be protected. But nor should freedom of speech be misused in the belief that it will go unchallenged. But, perhaps the author is also confident that, if challenged directly, he can, like Javed Hashmi, tender his apology and retract.

Both these generals are far from perfect. Since Raheel’s tenure is over, his performance can be dissected. His critics may have a lot against his performance. Of which, there could be lots that is justified. But few will dispute that his performance has been laudable and better than any predecessor.

I also have another, far more worrisome and insidious concern.

Since the attack on the Indian post at Uri, of which we were falsely accused, I have been detecting a pattern emerging in the effort to malign the military “establishment”.

What makes it fascinating is that it comes from a diverse sources and targets different individuals but, ends up tarnishing the military establishment and weakening it thereby. The “Dawnleaks”, as the author calls it; wherein Poor Almeida became the “front-man” for reporting a leaked report which Almeida referred to as “orchestrated”.

These are followed by wild accusations (and subsequent retractions) by a Makhdoom. And then this article. An artful blend of fact and fiction; blended well enough for the fiction to also be believed.

While I am not a conspiracy theorist, I also do not believe in too many coincidences. And all these incidents follow each other, carefully spaced but from varying directions; attacking different targets, but achieving the same end: maligning the military establishment.

If all these are not coincidental, they have to be the conception of an amazing mind. Joseph Goebbels could have learnt from this person.

And if this is one mind, there can be no other behind it except the elected government. And if the elected government is behind all this, it can only be to one end i.e. to regain the political space it lost to the military establishment.

That worries me.

Let me add two more admissions here; I am a democrat who believes in the supremacy of the elected people. And, while I have absolutely no love lost for the PML (N); of the options currently available on our political horizon, I believe it does the least damage to my country.

Therefore, if the elected representatives wish to regain political space, not only is there nothing wrong in doing so, it is a laudatory act which must be appreciated and supported by all citizens.

So what worries me is not what the government wants to do, but the manner in which it is doing so, if it is doing so.

Whatever it’s past, the military is the only institution of government which still enjoys the trust of the peoples. They trust neither government, nor parliament, nor the bureaucracy, nor police, nor even the judiciary. But they still trust the military.

The method(s) for regaining political space should be those which restore the confidence of the peoples in the three ‘pillars of state’ and all organs of governance, rather than to tarnish the image of the sole institution that still enjoys their trust.

And, as far as pressure on the COAS is concerned, apart from the permanent pressures that this office suffers from, the only pressures being added come from this conspiracy, not from junior officers. Only a couple of months in office is hardly sufficient for young officers to even begin to be appointed or disappointed.

That worries me.

I can only hope most earnestly and sincerely that I am wrong.


The writer is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute