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What would Kayani have done?

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s speech of June 2006 has set off a storm in the country in April 2014. This may be the only speech that had an incubation period of eight long years before it was noticed.

Khawaja Asif was an opposition MNA at the time he made the speech in parliament. He could never imagine that his words would come to haunt him a decade later and he would have much explaining to do.

However, the news media went berserk over the statement of the army chief that “the army will uphold the sanctity of all institutions but will ‘resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride’”.

Analysts on TV and print media interpreted the statement according to their own perceptions. While it went on, Khawaja’s decade-old speech was continuously aired by different TV channels besides being circulated on Internet forums as ‘a must read’.

It was unfair to Khawaja – the quoting of his old speech in a new context. He, however, stands out among his peers for his lucidity, integrity, and incorruptibility.

Many analysts have linked the army chief’s statement with Pervez Musharraf’s ongoing trial in the court. It started when Musharraf, after prolonged dithering and instead of appearing before the court, lodged himself in the AFIC. He remained there for almost three months.

People thought his decision to take refuge in the hospital on the face of adversity was improper. He is the head of a political party. It might have disappointed his camp followers, especially when he had no choice but to appear before the court.

When speculations about the civil-military relations flourish, and anchors of some TV channels have a field day, let’s imagine how the old spymaster, Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, would have handled this particular situation were he the COAS.

Kayani’s two terms as army chief were most demanding of his faculties. He had to perform a high-wire act to balance himself while trying to satisfy the overbearing and intrusive US generals on one side, and keeping the national interest supreme on the other. Admiral Michael Mullen even blamed Kayani for duplicity. Such were the pressures he faced.

Understandably, Kayani had advised Musharraf against returning to the country where he would open a Pandora’s box of problems for himself and for the institution. A deep man, with a sharp sense of recent and past history, he proved right. How much Musharraf must wish he had listened to his successor.

What would Gen Kayani have done in the present situation when the current COAS chose to make a statement that has caused ripples in civil-military relations? Kayani would simply have met the prime minister to speak his mind to him.

The bubble would have deflated quietly without the overly enthusiastic anchorpersons getting any whiff of it. That was typical of chain-smoking Kayani, also known as the thinking general. During his extended tenure Kayani was felt – not heard.

Since this government came to power, it has had cordial relations with the khakis. The present COAS, selected after months of deliberations, has a family history of serving the armed forces. Hence, small irritants must not be allowed to blow out of proportion and cause upheaval in the national life.

Pervez Musharraf’s case is in the court; let the law take its own course. There’s no place for unwarranted remarks by Musharraf’s lawyers even in jest that the judiciary saved its chief, the army should save its own chief.

Lastly, whenever the politicians castigate each other there, accusations are hurled around of having grown and been nurtured in the military nursery. It’s time to stop talking about who nurtured whom. The hackneyed phrase is also sickening.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email: pinecity@gmail.com

Iftekhar A Khan, "What would Kayani have done?," The News. 2014-04-17.
Keywords: Social sciences , Political science , Political aspects , Mass media , Armed forces , Military-Pakistan , Politicians , Judiciary , Gen Musharraf , Gen Kayani , Khawaja Asif , Admiral Michael Mullen , United States , Pakistan , MNA , TV , AFIC , COAS