- Army chief says armed forces respect all institutions and will also preserve its dignity and institutional pride
- Analysts, political leaders reiterate need for mutual respect between govt and armed forces
In what is being taken as a veiled warning to the government in wake of criticism of the armed forces in the recent days, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Monday said the army respects all the institutions of the country but it will also preserve its own dignity and institutional pride at all costs.
Gen Sharif’s statement is most likely related to the treason trial of former army chief Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf. It was earlier reported that the army chief had advised the government to let Musharraf go abroad for his medical treatment and to look after his ailing mother.
While addressing officers at the army’s Special Services Group (SSG) Headquarters in Tarbela, the army chief said Pakistan Army has contributed immensely towards national security and nation building and will continue to deliver on its mission.
“The army never has and never will shy away from rendering any sacrifice in ensuring a formidable defence and security of the motherland,” he was quoted as saying in an ISPR press release.
Last month, a special court indicted Musharraf on five counts of treason over his suspension of the constitution and imposition of Emergency in 2007, when he was trying to extend his rule. Musharraf’s indictment has broken an unwritten rule that the top ranks of the military are untouchable. He has pleaded not guilty and faces the death penalty if convicted.
NOTHING AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT:
Commenting on Gen Sharif’s statement, defence analysts dispelled the impression that the army chief’s statement was a warning for the government, adding that it was apparently aimed at lifting the morale of troops.
These views were expressed by former IB chief Masood Sharif Khattak, Brig (r) Mahmood Shah and senior journalist and TV commentator Syed Talat Hussain.
Commenting on the issue, Talat Hussain said that the ISPR’s statement could be in response to the recent remarks made by two federal ministers, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Asif, separately in the National Assembly and in a television talk show.
Hussain said that there were rumours that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to adopt a Turkish model to deal with former generals.
“There is a feeling in the army that despite its support for the continuation of democracy, the institution was being maligned,” he said adding that Gen Sharif may have found it more convenient to issue a statement instead of taking it up with the prime minister directly.
On the federal ministers’ remarks, former IB chief Masood Khattak said, “Every state institution should try to avoid a clash or misunderstanding. The prime minister has taken a notice of the statements made by two ministers.”
Pakistan is heading towards political maturity, however it seems that some people are still trying to instigate a clash, he said rejecting the notion that Gen Sharif’s statement was a warning by the army.
Brigadier Masood Shah said that army was a very sensitive institution and the issue of Musharraf’s trial could hurt the sentiments of the common troops.
“In my opinion, political government should be on the driving seat in general. But it does not mean that one should try to undermine an institution like army,” he said. However, he too denied the COAS’s statement as being a warning for the government, adding that there should not be any opinion which targeted army as an institution.
RESPECT IS IMPORTANT:
Commenting on Gen Sharif’s statement, Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Faisal Sabzwari told Pakistan Today that it was the responsibility of all the state institutions to accord due respect to each other to safeguard the democratic system.
“How could the dignity and respect of state institutions be ensured if ‘selective justice’ is accorded to a former army chief,” he questioned adding, ”If you want to try Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution, this trial should start from October 12, 1999 and not from Nov 3, 2007.”
Moreover, Sabzwari argued, “Even if you want to save the skin of some blue-eyed, the trial must include all abettors and facilitators. Why a single man is being tried and why all clauses of Article 6 are not being observed?”
He said that no state institution including the armed forces should be targeted and no scapegoats should be made. He said for the sake of saving the democratic system, the dignity of all state institutions should be protected and preserved.
Independent Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Jamshed Dasti said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not learnt the lesson from his bitter past and was trying to confront the army again.
Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, Dasti said that if Musharraf was being tried in high treason case, then his predecessors should be also brought to court. He alleged that the premier and his cabinet did not give importance to suggestions and concerns of parliamentarians and took all decisions on their own.
Pakistan Today made repeated attempts to get the government’s view on the army chief’s statement but Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid remained inaccessible.