It is heartening to hear CoAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa emphasise upholding the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. In an indirect manner, he also indicated that the army was committed to its job of national defence and security, implying, in the minds of some commentators, that the institution he heads is not intervening in politics. These statements come as a direct refutation of the views expressed by General Pervez Musharraf (retd) the other day, in which he counter posed saving the country as more important than adhering to the constitution. Of course, the absconder from justice and former military dictator was attempting a mea culpa for all he wrought during his years in power. The malign effects of Musharraf’s policies, including twice violating the constitution and the murders on his watch of Nawab Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto, are still with us in the form of a nationalist insurgency in Balochistan and political instability in the country as a whole. And it is worth mentioning that he managed to escape from the country and the treason and murder cases against him to enjoy life in Dubai and continue to pontificate from there on national affairs. General Bajwa on the other hand, was expressing the sense of the Corps Commanders meeting he had just presided over. The military, as no one knows better than the CoAS, has its hands full with the war against terrorism and the security issues on our borders. Unfortunately, given the history of our country, whenever politics takes a turn for the worse, as is the situation after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court, the military willy-nilly gets dragged into the fray even if it does not wish to. It is therefore refreshing to hear the CoAS categorically focus on the military’s critical tasks while adhering to the rule of law and the constitution.
Nawaz Sharif’s march from Islamabad to Lahore along the GT Road is under way as these lines are printed however, there are portents of trouble. The security agencies have emphasised that terrorist threats loom and asked Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N marchers to adhere to the security plan they have chalked out. There are also fears of clashes along the way between PML-N and PTI supporters. Nawaz Sharif, while putting on a show of popular support after his ouster, must calibrate his steps carefully so as not to contribute to exacerbating the instability that threatens. Arguably, his interests lie in remaining within the confines of the law and peaceful protest so as to improve the chances of his successor, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s government serving out the rest of the tenure of the PML-N government and thereby positioning the ruling party to make an even stronger showing in the coming elections. Instability at this point could tempt non-democratic forces to attempt once again aborting the march of democracy and imposing technocratic solutions that have failed in the past and are likely to fail again. While the political culture of the Muslim League (in all its manifestations over the last 70 years) is not that of a party of protest, if anything the opposite (malleable), the circumstances nevertheless compel a public show of strength by the PML-N to dispel depression in its ranks, keep up morale, close ranks and pave the way for an even greater triumphal return to power in the next elections. This scheme requires stability and normality. If the PML-N in its wisdom has decided on a show of strength, there are voices advising against such a course. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah of the PPP advised Nawaz Sharif on the eve of the march not to indulge in such actions in the month of August and so close to August 14, which Independence Day has acquired a seminal character because of the country’s 70th birth anniversary. Nevertheless, the people of Pakistan deserve to be served by their political leaders in a manner that helps the country to remain stable, deal with the internal security and external defence challenges with the help of both the civilian and military leadership and pave the way for a better future for Pakistan and its citizens.