Our nation has been repeatedly informed that Generals take over the government breaking the constitution because the politicians invite them. This message has been reiterated so effectively that it has become an uncontested and unchallengeable truth. From myth it has attained the status of reality at least in Pakistan. Just yesterday a learned judge of the SC also mentioned it in his observation. General Musharraf as well frequently mentions how politicians used to request him to take over when he was the COAS. Stories of politicians celebrating the overthrow of the civilian governments are highlighted and pictures of them distributing sweets are flashed. These arguments are used to justify the military takeovers and ruling generals are portrayed as incredibly reluctant people who are forced to act due to intense social and patriotic pressures. Before accepting it as an obvious reality let us explore the facts rationally.
The first inference one gets with the theory of Generals taking over on politician’s invitations is that the generals are very obedient and subservient to the politicians. This obedience is to the extent that they appear meek and helpless in front of them. Anyone even slightly aware of the political dynamics of Pakistan would testify that nothing could be farther from the truth. There are two very serious discrepancies with this theory. 1. If the generals are so obedient to the politicians that they take over on certain politician’s invitation, why they don’t quit when asked by the same people? 2. This compliance seems to be very specific and only extends to the opposition politicians and that also to only one demand. This compliance does not extend to the majority parties or any demand other than to take over. The facts are different. In Pakistan even a PM with two third majority could not persuade the COAS to welcome foreign dignitaries. That much for compliance. These serious inconsistencies are sufficient to make this theory look suspicious and ridiculous.
Even if this argument is partially true it cannot justify the military takeovers. It’s not the rights of the politicians but those of the people of Pakistan that get trampled by military rulers. They lose their right to choose their rulers. More than the politicians it is the people of Pakistan who are punished. A message is sent to them that they are not fit enough to rule themselves and need a big brother holding a big stick to guide them, not a very flattering message. It is their judgment and wisdom that is dishonored. My people deserve better treatment.
It might be true that political support coming out of the political circles does help the Generals to take over but still it does not justify the desecration of the constitution. It is just like an unwise person keeping his house unlocked does not justify the burglars due to the golden opportunity given to them. Similarly if someone leaves his keys in the car still no where in the world the car thief can get away with the argument that because of the owners foolishness I got an opportunity so it is fair. In such cases the unwise lawful owners are certainly to be blamed but still the burglar or the car thief remains responsible for the crimes. Likewise some politicians might be blamed for inviting the generals but this argument cannot and should not justify the military takeovers desecrating the constitution.
If we look at the global village we live in, we find that such reasoning is not accepted anywhere in the world. Two wrongs do not make one right especially when it is a wrong of colossal magnitude like breaking of the constitution. Corruption scandals and invitations in India did not cause military takeovers in India, nor did the Watergate or Clinton’s scandals in US. The world has come a long way from the cold war era when such arguments were entertained and military takeovers accepted as legitimate. On close scrutiny it comes out clearly that behind the benign façade there were political exigencies of the super powers that lent credence to the acceptability of such flawed reasoning. Even now if military takeovers are occasionally tolerated it is basically for the sake of conveniences of the world powers and not their convictions. Unfortunately in today’s business minded world these conveniences come in the form of cost cutting by the strong at the expense of the weak. We are made to pay for others misadventures.
These flawed self-serving arguments must be resisted because they harm the interests of 160 million people. It encourages the budding Bonapartists by telling them that it is justified and acceptable if they take over the civilian government breaking the constitution. This single step is considered high treason in our and most foreign constitutions. Then it also includes their violation of oaths, which is considered appalling in all societies. We must try to close all doors and options leading to extra constitutional ways because these are detrimental to the nation. If we analyze the genesis of most of our problems whether terrorism or political instability, intolerance or extremism; the roots of all of them can be traced to the adventurism of a few violating the constitution. This unhealthy practice must be checked immediately and vehemently.
We must give the message that no one will be allowed to violate the constitution of Pakistan under any pretext. Invitation by politicians or their corruption or any other reason will not be accepted as a justification for disobeyance of the constitution and breaking of the oath. As long as such arguments are entertained, the ambitious but unscrupulous generals will keep on finding hopeless politicians inviting them to take over. Their only hope of coming to power is associated with generals and they oblige by inviting them and the Generals respond by sharing some power with them. Pictures of politicians celebrating military takeovers appears a bit like hundred Iraqis celebrating the American victory in 2003, a scene repeatedly flashed on the TV screens. It was all staged and exposed within a few years. We don’t need such displays here.
We need some soul searching if we want to live as a respectable nation in the new century. We must accept the hard truth that Generals do not violate the constitution because some politicians invite them but simply because they want to and can. We must lend the kind of dignity to our constitution it deserves because it is the mother of all laws and institutions in the country. It’s violations hurt the main pillars of the nation and nothing in this world justifies the desecration of constitution or punishing of 150 million Pakistanis at the hands of its paid employees. Let everybody know the nation will not allow anyone to get away from such attempts easily. We have to take the bull by the horn and protect our rights and the country. Let us make our generals subservient to the constitution instead of the opposition politicians. After all it is the future of our children that is at stake.