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?
2016 has been a historic year of global change. First there was Brexit, then the surprise election of Donald Trump. There are now expectations that the far-right Marine Le Pen could win national elections in France as well. However, for the next few weeks, all attention in Pakistan will be on the changing of leadership at GHQ.
Quiz: Without using Google or doing any other research, for how many countries can you name their Army Chief?
Maybe you knew Dalbir Singh? Anyone else? Now ask yourself how many of those countries are successful democracies?
Here is the point: For almost every major power in the world, close attention is paid to elections for who will be the next person to lead the country. In Pakistan, we treat elections like a TV drama. Serious attention and commentary is only given every three years when we await the appointment of a new Chief of Army Staff.
Discussions about extensions dominate newspaper headlines and TV talk shows, then predictions about leading candidates and who would make the best Army chief. This year we have even seen campaign-style posters and billboards lining the streets! Does this happen in any other democracy?
In the world’s successful democracies, Army chief is an important position, but it is a hired position to serve under the elected leadership. Outgoing Army chiefs do not go on victory tours, and not taking an extension is not considered as an example of extraordinary leadership, it is expected behaviour.
Issues of Foreign Policy and National Security have always belonged to the military. During the last few years, Law and Order has been handed over as Rangers have taken increasing role in policing and military courts have taken over from judiciary. With CPEC, military is taking an even greater role in managing the economy (nevermind that they are also taking an increasing role in the economy through their various business interests). Our obsession with changing Army Chiefs exposes the truth about our democracy: It is, for the most part, a facade that hides the fact that we live in a military state.
Yesterday was an important day in troubled provice Balochistan. Top civil and military leadership, including Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Balochistan CM Nawab Sanaullah Zehri along with Chinese officials and businessmen attended the grand opening ceremony at the Gwadar port. The event was marked by hope and optimism as the first sign of CPEC’s promise has come to pass. However, the grand opening of Gwadar port was not the only event to take place in Balochistan this weekend.
The day before the nation’s top civil and military leadership were celebrating in Gwadar, hundreds of citizens were mourning and wailing in Khuzdar where a blast tore through shrine of Shah Norani killing over 50 and injured hundreds more. The sectarian terrorist attack was claimed by Islamic State.
CPEC has been declared so important to Pakistan that 15,000 troops of Special Security Division have been assigned to protect CPEC projects and Chinese nationals. But have similar efforts been made to protecting our own citizens who are facing targeted attacks?
COAS Gen Raheel Sharif has said that ‘We are ready to pay any price to turn this long cherished dream into reality’. By transferring security resources from protecting vulnerable communities to protecting Chinese development projects, are we paying that price in our own blood?