Will Gen Raheel Face Qatl-e-Amd Case?

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered police to register murder case against the then Islamabad chief of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a drone strike in 2009. One could argue that it is a complete waste of time and resources since the accused is no longer in Pakistan and the chances of US sending their former spy chief to face murder charges here are less than zero. The response being that the case provides not only symbolic importance but the opportunity to fully explore a case that determines a legal precedent about whether or not drone strikes are murder. However, there is an interesting predicament: Last month, Army officially inaugurated Pakistan’s own fleet of armed drones, which Gen Sharif announced would be used in strikes against militants.

Gen Raheel Sharif oversees Pakistani drone operationIf drones strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, then drone strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for COAS Gen Raheel also. The counter-argument to this would be that the state reserves the right to use force, but there are certain complications with this response.

It is true that states reserve the right to use force in enforcement of the writ of state, but this power is not unlimited. The state cannot anyone kill without justification. It may be easy to bring a case against a CIA chief as that agency is unpopular, but in many parts of FATA, Pakistan Army is unpopular also.

However there is another important point: Even if the state has the power to order drone strikes, the CIA defence could also include the question of whether the CIA drone strikes were carried out under the sanction of state authority. Remember when Wikileaks exposed that Army was secretly requesting more drone strikes in Pakistan even while anti-drone public sentiment was being whipped up?

All of these questions are purely academic in nature, but they present the difficult problems that arise when Army carries out certain policies in secret while whipping up public sentiments against those same policies. This is not a justification for drones, but we have to face the fact that if we truly believe in ‘rule of law’, we can’t do the exact same thing we condemn others for doing and get away with it.

Gen Athar Abbas Most Terrifying Revelation Is Not What You Think

Haqqanis: father and son

Major General Athar Abbas served as Director General ISPR between 2008 and 2012, but it is his more recent statements to the press that have really made headlines. Speaking to a journalist, the retired General has accused former COAS Gen Kayani of cowardice, suggesting that the former Army chief did not order an operation in North Waziristan out of fear.  But it is not these accusations that should terrify us, after all we have not heard Gen Kayani’s explanation. What should truly terrify us is something that Gen Abbas let slip that has far greater consequences for our national security.

Continue reading

New operations against terrorists: Proof of pudding is in the eating

national security meeting

Are the winds changing direction? New reports indicate that after tens of thousands of graves have been dug, the government is finally preparing to take action against jihadi militant groups. COAS has briefed the Prime Minister on action against terrorists, and PM has chaired highest level national security meeting to review the prevailing security situation, and Express News has now reported that ‘the government has decided in principle to launch a military operation against groups attacking the nation and killing thousands of citizens’. While this is a welcome development, it remains a decision in principle only, and many questions remain. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it remains to be seen whether we have reached a turning point, or whether this is another topi drama meant to appease certain superpowers and buy time.

Continue reading

Creating National Consensus Against Terrorism Requires Action, Not Just Words

COAS Gen Kayani

COAS Gen Kayani said earlier this month that the nation must create national consensus against terrorism. Of course, the Army Chief is 100 per cent correct, but the path to that consensus requires us to forge a new consensus on the legitimate use of force in society. Continue reading

GHQ Should Set An Example

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

The military is often referred to as the only competent institution in Pakistan. Leaving aside debate about whether this is a fair assessment, there is a reason that people look up to the military other than what we’re taught by Pakistan Studies and ISPR. People look up to the military because, for whatever its faults, it has displayed a professionalism and order where other institutions look messy and unpredictable. In this way, the Army sets an example for professional conduct. But part of professional conduct is accountability, and its here that the military has a unique opportunity to set an example if only they will take it.

Asghar Khan case has proven something of an embarrassment for the military that does not like to see its dirty laundry washed in public view. Already this week we have the like of Ahmed Quraishi clumsily trying to justify security agencies secret payments to political parties as innocently trying to “financially strengthen political parties by a decade of military rule”. Such amateur propaganda is amusing, but when officials push back against Supreme Court proceedings, it takes a different tone.

Gen Kayani criticised Mehrangate proceedings saying that the allegations could undermine national institutions and prove detrimental to the country. With due respect to the Army chief, I would like to offer an alternative analysis.

Talking to a group of senior journalists at PM’s House, Gen Kayani noted that “I took a conscious decision four-and-a-half years ago not to take part in politics and since then the army has stayed away from politics and I stand by my decision and will stick to it.” I take him at his word. But the Asghar Khan case is not about what is happening now, it is about what took place years ago. To this, the COAS “stressed the need to avoid fighting with history but to keep an eye on the future while staying in the present”.

I don’t think we should dwell on the past too much, either. But I do believe we have to learn from our past mistakes so that they are not repeated. Part of that is openly investigating past mistakes so that there can be a public record that dissolves conspiracy theories. Another reason is so that clear standards can be set for the present and future.

And there’s a third reason, too, that should not go unconsidered. By holding its own officers accountable for their mistakes, the military can set an example for other institutions and society as a whole. If the military is the most competent institution and it allows bad actors to get away with meddling in politics and manipulating elections, what is to stop anyone else from following suit?

When Gen Kayani insists that Army no longer meddles in politics, this should be celebrated as progress in our democracy. But if he covers up for past political meddling, it will be only natural that a doubt lingers in the minds of some. By holding military officers to account for acts that he has declared as unworthy of the Army, the respected Army chief will prove his standards not only in words but in actions also.

Today, Army is used constantly as an example of professionalism, order, and merit. While other institutions and society as a whole wrestle with issues of political and professional accountability, the Asghar Khan case gives the military an opportunity to set an example here, too.