The army and politics

  • Perception can sometimes become reality

Addressing the JUI-F’s Islamabad sit-in, Maulana Fazlur Rehman complained of interference from above in every election in the past, including the one in 2018. He called on the Army to stop this or it would become controversial. Later, PPP chief Bilwal Bhutto-Zardari maintained that the Army’s presence inside and outside polling stations in the 2018 elections had made it controversial which should not have  happened. Responding to the criticism, the DG ISPR has claimed that the Army is not interested in politics. “The country’s defence doesn’t allow us to answer such allegations,” he said. “We are busy in defending the country.”

While the DG ISPR’s reply to the Maulana provides some clarification on the matter, a perception has now been formed that the army is heavily involved in politics no matter how far it may be from reality. And recent events have contributed to this. How does one explain the phenomenon of the TLP? How come the party which claimed that it did not believe in the country’s Constitution was allowed to occupy Faizabad, paralysing all traffic between Rawalpindi and Islamabad for about three weeks? Who paid money to its workers for traveling back home?

A supreme court judge asked the same questions in his decision on the Faizabad dharna and is currently being tried by SJC- the merits, timing and urgency of the case against him have been questioned by senior members of the legal fraternity.

There was a time when many people in Pakistan believed whatever was said by Army spokesmen. But things have changed after Army dictators ruled the country directly for 30 years and indirectly controlled it for the rest. Pakistan was made to pay a heavy price on account of the acts of commission and omission by military rulers including the separation of East Pakistan under Gen Yahya Khan, the loss of Siachen under Gen Zia ul Haq and a costly military misadventure under Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Currently the media in Pakistan is facing an unprecedented level of censorship and control that no particular institution wants to own up to it making it all the more suspicious. But there is a good idea where instruction, directions and advice originate from. Unfortunately for them the electronic media has demolished all iron curtains with the result that things kept secret in the past can no more be hidden.