An Iron Fist in Velvet Robes

Late Wednesday night, the Ministry of Defense submitted to the Supreme Court that the Army and ISI are operating outside the control of the federal government. The following day, a military spokesman told an international news agency that the armed forces want the democratically-elected president to be removed.

In an exclusive report, Reuters news agency says that a military spokesman has stated publicly that the armed forces want the democratically-elected president removed from office, and that they are hoping the judiciary will provide them cover.

“Who isn’t fed up with Zardari? It’s not just the opposition and the man on the street but people within the government too,” said one military source who asked not to be named.

“But there has to be a proper way. No action is being planned by the army. Even if we tried, it would be very unpopular and not just with the government and the opposition but most Pakistanis too.”

Understanding that a march on president’s house would be very bad PR, the military is looking to flex an iron fist in velvet robes.

“We want anyone involved, be they in government or elsewhere, to be punished. But it is not for us to do anything. If the army moves to do anything it would have national as well as international repercussions,” said another military source.

“So that is not likely. Anything that has to be done has to be done by the Supreme Court.”

This is an astonishing statement. Article 243 of the Constitution is quite clear:

243. Command of Armed Forces.-
(1) The Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces.

What would be the response of Gen Kayani if he found out that one of his subordinates told the media that they wanted him removed as COAS? What would be the response of Gen Kayani if his subordinates were openly operating outside the chain of command, making decisions and carrying out operations without approval?

Presumably, such acts of insubordination would undoubtedly be considered Mutiny under Section 31 of Pakistan Army Act 1952:

31. Mutiny and insubordination: Any person subject to this Act who commits any of the following offences, that is to say, –

(a) begins, incites, causes, or conspires with any other person to cause, or joins in, any mutiny in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan or any forces co-operating therewith; or
(b) being present at any such mutiny, does not use his utmost endeavours to suppress the same; or
(c) knowing or having reason to believe in the existence of any such mutiny or any intention to commit such mutiny, or of any such conspiracy, does not without reasonable delay give information thereof to his commanding or other superior officer; or
(d) attempts to seduce any person in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan from his duty or his allegiance to the Government of Pakistan;

shall, on conviction by court-martial, be punished with death or with such less punishment as in this Act mentioned.

Wait…just a second…what does that section (d) say? Hmmm…