..AND NOW, THE ARMY!

by
Zeenath Jahan

It was with dismay that I read of Gen. Karamat's 'resignation'. Dismay that, if free speech was denied to the highest in the echelons of power, what hope do we, the common people of Pakistan, have?

Do no one but the Mushahid Hussain's of this world have a monopoly on 'good sense'?

What do we learn of Mian Nawaz Shareef's psyche when we see that he could not have a working relationship with four COASs, two Presidents and one Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

General Karamat's level headed and logical statement about the REAL state of affairs pertaining in the country, urged him to speak up for a National Consensus; for a decision making body that might help control the Prime Minister's penchant for going off like a half-cocked rifle (as in his announcement about the Kalabagh dam and the SHARiat bill); for the participation of all concerned Pakistani's in the running of a country fast falling to pieces.

Economic insolvency stares us in the face, (we have long passed the rubicon of Moral bankruptcy), a massive brain-drain is in progress, violent sectarianism is running amok, and a bloody civil war might be around the corner.

All right minded Pakistanis realize that a country cannot be run on the whims of Abbaji and/or the latest 'pir' in attendance. We have seen the unrestrained and unbridled behaviour of politicians, and the Army for that matter, as under the late unlamented Gen. Zia ul Haq. If Pakistan is to survive, if we are to regain a modicum of our fast eroding credibility, we must seriously consider the benefits of a broad-based decision making machinery.

A Government that is serious about improving the situation in Pakistan would have taken some time to seriously study the suggestions of the COAS of the Pakistan Army, since he based his views on the day-to-day information he received from various Intelligence bureaus about the national/international situation. Instead we lose not one, but three good generals. What does the 'resignation' of these honest soldiers imply?

Do we take it to mean that honesty and good sense have no place in Pakistan today, a Pakistan where only sycophants can air their 'views' and prosper?

Do we take it that it is not on the cards to speak up for anyone BUT the Punjab?

Is Pakistan going to end up as a glorified Punjab?

Do the smaller provinces and their grievances not matter at all to the

Federal Government in the Federation of Pakistan?

We of the smaller provinces were relieved to hear someone with clout speak up for us. We of the smaller provinces are as much a part of Pakistan, as the Punjab; and as much, if not more, Patriotic. We, of the NWFP, are not Pakistanis by default, we VOTED for Pakistan. Why then are our champions rejected as a danger to the integrity of the Federation of Pakistan?

My dismay at Gen. Karamat's resignation led to outrage when I heard that Lt. Gen. Ali Quli Khan Khattak, the man groomed and trained to take over from his Chief, was superceded. Is the office of CGS irrelevant?

Or was Lt. Gen. Ali Quli superceded BECAUSE he is the only remaining serving Lt. General from the NWFP?

I would be most interested to know the reasons put forward by the Prime Minister of the 'heavy mandate' for ignoring one of the very best officers of the Pakistan Army. Especially after witnessing the charade played against the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The excuse given for ousting CJ Sajjad Ali Shah was that he had been promoted out of line. The Government had taken the high moral ground of seniority/merit being the guiding force for its decisions. If the decisions of Nawaz Shareef's Government are actually influenced by merit and seniority, then why was the most senior, the most meritorious officer of the Pakistan Army superceded?

Was not the CGS the most senior Army Officer?

Had not Lt. Gen. Ali Quli been considered a better choice (over Gen. Musharraf) for the office of CGS?

Is not a CGS more important than a Corps Commander?

It has been said that since Ali Quli and Pervaiz Musharraf are course mates, they are equally proficient. This is not quite true. Without denigrating Gen. Musharraf's professionalism, it is evident that at every step of his carreer Ali Quli has been ahead of Pervaiz Musharraf. They both attended the 29th. PMA Long Course(1961-62), but it was Ali Quli, as one of the top cadets, who was selected for training at Sandhurst. At Sandhurst Ali Quli was one of the 12 Senior Under-Officers. Few, if any, foreigners are selected for the post.

Lt. Gen. Ali Quli is an infantry man, in an infantry based army. Passing out of Infantry School, (Quetta) with flying colours (1966), he went on to be Instructor (1978) and then Commandant of the Staff College (Quetta, 1992-93).

He has commanded an infantry battalion twice, (Kel, Azad Kashmir 1976-78 and 1983-85 in Sind while involved in anti-dacoity operations) and a Division in Sialkot (1990-92). After his posting as DGMI (Director General Military Intelligence) from 1993-95, he was promoted to Lt. Gen and commanded the 10th Corps, which, besides being the largest and most prestigious army corps is one that is engaged in active operations.

Gen. Musharraf has never held the post of Principal Staff Officer, a necessary precursor to the more important office of COAS. While Lt. Gen. Ali Quli, besides being the present CGS, held the post of PSO for the 10th Corps from 1986-88.

Unlike Pervaiz Musharaf, Ali Quli, besides his stint at Hussainiwala sector in the '65 war, saw action in 1971 while engaged in active operations in East Pakistan. Brig. Liaqat Bukhari has written extensively in the urdu media of the Bhairab Bazaar and the Belonia operations that Ali Quli participated in, while in the Army Air Operations. (He had joined the Army Aviation where he received the Best Flier Trophy in 1968). After the 1971 surrender, not only was his the only unit NOT to surrender to the Indian army, but they saved the lives and honour of 175 women and children by flying them out of Bangladesh.

One paper extolls the choice of Gen. Musharaf as a 'true' Pakistani; does that, by extension, mean Lt. Gen. Ali Quli is not?

Son of Lt. Gen. Habibullah Khan Khattak, Ali Quli comes from an illustrious politico-military family of the NWFP. Is it not true that Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef himself decorated his (Ali Quli's) paternal uncle, Muhammad Yusuf Khan Khattak, for his unstinting and meritorious efforts during the struggle for Pakistan?

Some columnist marked Ali Quli as a 'PPP man', in order to explain the inexplicable supercession. Is it not true that one of the first actions of Z.A. Bhutto was to imprison Lt. Gen. Habibullah Khan?

A third generation Army man, Ali Quli's son, Capt. Khalid Quli Khan Khattak is the fourth generation to be inducted into the Baluch Regiment. Inspite of being the CGS, Ali Quli did not stand in the way of his son being posted to the dangerous, hardship post at Siachin. Principles have always been his guiding light, and it seems, his undoing.

What was found in Lt. Gen. Ali Quli's professional/personal record, to justify his being superceded? Is it possible that it is his unblemished record, that stood against him, since it speaks of a man who would not be bent to the wishes of those in power? Or was the fact that he refused to make the 'piligrimage' to Raiwind held against him?

Or are we are missing something in the meeting between the proclaimed offender, Altaf Hussain, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the sudden elevation of Lt. Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf?

Uncertain situations are a perfect breeding ground for rumours; all sorts of ideas come to ones mind; all sorts of scenarios are looked into; to make sense of a senseless situation.

Nawaz Shareef would be well advised to look at what happened when Z. A Bhutto elevated Gen. Zia ul Haq over his senior officers. History does have a queer habit repeating itself, and when the chips are down, we expect Gen. Musharraf's loyalties to stand by Pakistan, as any true patriot!

Ali Quli Khan is one of the most honourable, level-headed, gentle, pious, and generous men I have ever met. He is a man who commands respect, without demanding it. In these days of hypocritical mouthings of values, this is not something to be sneered at. In the Army he is known as a good soldier, upright, honest and professional, above the various army cliques and groupings. Maybe, these very qualities stand against him today?

The people of the smaller provinces are deeply disturbed at the messages emanating from the Federal Government. First, the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was unceremoniously ousted; then AVM Abdul Rahim Khan Yusufzai was superceded, and now Lt. Gen. Ali Quli Khan Khattak.

Is it not enough for Punjab to be the largest province, the Big Brother, in the Federation of Pakistan, or like our Punjabi Prime Minister is absolute power its only goal?

What does the future have in store for a country whose Prime Minister meets with a proclaimed offender, and invites civil war by encouraging half-baked fanatics to go out into the streets and kill opponents of a bill that will make him omnipotent?

Was not the disaster of East Pakistan lesson enough for our politicians to realize they cannot run rough-shod over the people's sentiments?

These and more questions disturb me. One by one, National Institutions have been systematically weakened, eroded and destroyed. Institutions that helped bring Pakistan together as a viable Federation. Each wrong decision in the past has led to a weaker, more emasculated Pakistan.

Today, Pakistan once more stands at a cross-roads. Can we afford any more misadventures by the ruthlessly ambitions? As a patriotic Pakistani, I bleed for my country.

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