How will COAS respond to Gen Ghafoor’s possible violation of Article 243?

DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor Tweeted something incredible earlier today.

The General’s Tweet has received a lot of praise on social media from opponents of PMLN and Nawaz Sharif, but there is a serious problem here. Gen Ghafoor did not Tweet as a private citizen, but as “Official DG ISPR.” By doing so, he may have violated the Constitution.

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 COAS Gen Bajwa if he found out that one of his subordinates Tweeted that he ‘rejected’ his notification? What would be the response of Gen Bajwa if his subordinates were openly operating outside the chain of command, making decisions and carrying out operations without approval?

In the worst cases, acts of insubordination would even 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.

Gen Ghafoor’s mistake has now become Gen Bajwa’s problem since he is responsible for discipline inside the ranks. Gen Raheel famously dismissed officers for failing to live up to the high expectations of honour and behaviour expected in the Armed Forces. Now his DG ISPR is acting in open insubordination in possible violation of the Constitution.

How will COAS respond? Will he make an example of the ISPR chief to send a clear message about the importance of respecting rule of law and chain of command? Will he launch a commission to investigate problems of insubordination in the ranks? However the Army Chief chooses to respond will tell much about the internal order of the Armed Forces, and the state.

Are We A Lawless Country?

While some debate whether supreme law of the land is the Constitution or the Quran, I am here to offer another possibility. We have many laws, but we are a lawless country. Let us look at the evidence. First there is PEMRA’s notice to Bol News directing not to air Aamir Liaquat due to hate speech.

“During several weeks it has been monitored that Amir Liaquat host of the programme Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga, in the episodes broadcast on BOL News from January 2, 2017 to January 24, 2017, has willfully and repeatedly made statements and allegations which tantamount to hate speech, derogatory remarks, incitement to violence against citizens and casting accusation of being anti-state and anti-Islam, on various individuals.”

In a country with rule of law, Bol would respond by appealing the notice through proper legal channels. Here, though, the media group not only defied the notice completely, they allowed the banned personality to abuse the government agency on the air!

Next is the case of a massive land allotment to the ex-Army chief. Media reports that Gen Raheel had been gifted 90 acres of prime land in Lahore sent shockwaves and serious questions about the decision were debated…for one day. Then the Army gave a warning about the limits of discussing certain legal matters.


In case it was not clear, the phrase “This debate with intent of maligning Army” is a direct warning to anyone that any further discussion will result in severe action, just as when Army carried out similar threats against media groups in the recent past. Even analysts who are very pro-Army have noted the anti-democratic nature of ISPR’s warning, but such objections assume we are living in a society ruled by laws. This may be true in theory, but what is the reality?

 

Justice Khosa U-Turn on Rule of Law?

Justice Asif Saeed KhosaOnly a few months ago, Supreme Court of Pakistan maintained the conviction of Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri and even re-included terrorism charges so that there can be no doubt of his crimes. Heading the bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa gave a strong statement about the importance of respecting rule of law especially on sensitive matters.

“Will it not instil fear in the society if everybody starts taking the law in their own hands and dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy on their own rather than going to the courts,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had later asked.

Quoting instances such as the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, Justice Khosa had asked whether an individual has the right to act on his own in such matters without even first ascertaining the facts.

Justice Khosa was praised at the time for his bravery in making this statement, but now there are questions about whether Justice Khosa’s courage has reached it limits as the justice appears to have made a massive U-turn on the importance of rule of law.

According to media reports,  a Supreme Court bench has denied bail to the publisher of 102-year-old Ahmadiyya publication Al-Fazl despite that he has been rotting in prison for three years on blasphemy and terrorism charges even though the police had yet to submit the case’s challan in trial court. Here is what Justice Khosa reportedly said this time.

Justice Khosa observed that unfortunately when matters pertaining to religion were under consideration one had to ignore the law.

In one case, Justice Khosa bravely states the importance of rule of law. Few weeks later, a complete U-turn and he justifies ignoring the law if matters of religion are under consideration. Isn’t this the same justification used by TTP terrorists?

This is a dangerous precedent if a respected Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared that law may be ignored if matters of religion are involved. There must be an investigation and explanation provided by the Court. President Mamnoon Hussain should take notice of these reports and if necessary refer Justice Khosa to Supreme Judicial Council for review. Otherwise, a Justice of Supreme Court may have declared any illegal acts can be justified if matters of religion is involved.

A Familiar Tune

Gen Raheel with Secretary Kerry in Washington

Much fanfare was made of COAS Gen Raheel’s recent trip to Washington, with even the supposedly independent Express Tribune publishing an embarrassingly sycophantic editorial praising the Army chief’s trip. Now that the celebrations have died down, more sober assessments are finding nothing to write home about. One analyst noted that the trip had a sense of deja vu around it, and he is correct. Even the General’s much touted “Legion of Merit” award from the US appears to be little more than diplomatic theatre. Six of the last eight recipients were high-ranking Pakistani military officers including former COAS Gen Kayani. These diplomatic visits are always more about theatre than substance, though, so that is not surprising. What is more bothersome is the feeling of deja vu one is getting at home.

Continue reading

The Obvious Answer to Court’s Questions About Articles 62 and 63

Supreme Court of Pakistan

A three member bench of the Supreme Court has requested the Chief Justice to weigh in on the proper interpretation of Articles 62 and 63 – articles that require elected officials to be “good Muslims” and prohibits them from defaming the Armed Forces. The respected Justices decision to send this request to the Chief Justice instead of answering the question themselves speaks to the task at hand. In fact, it is an impossible task.

Continue reading