General Mirza Aslam Beg
Former chief of army staff
It is indeed very difficult to say ‘No’ to temptation, because the truth is what the famous American Comedian, Bob Hope addressing a young lady, admitted: “I can stand anything but temptation.” This is the kind of phenomenon we have experienced and suffered, during the last fifty years of our checkered history of Civil-military relationship.
Those who could not resist temptation are altogether a different category such as Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf. They suffered from Bob Hope syndrome. There are others, who abated and encouraged such tempters, like ACM Asghar Khan, resulting into imposition of military rule:
a. In 1977, when agreement was reached between the PPP government and the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), it was Asghar Khan, who revolted against the Government-PNA agreement and sabotaged it. Maulana Kausar Niazi, in his book “Aur Line Cut Gai” has described this incidence, in some detail:
“By morning 2nd July 1977, complete agreement was reached. ACM Asghar Khan was not happy with the agreement and entered into heated argument with Mufti Mahmood and Prof Ghafoor. Mufti Mahmood asked him “after all what do you want and what do you propose.” Asghar Khan shouted: “Your all get lost. I will handle the matter myself and I am prepared to give the guarantee that after military take-over, Army will hold elections within ninety days.” On hearing this, there was a pin-drop silence, when Mufti Mahmood spoke: “Do you realize what you are talking about?” Asghar Khan shrugged-off the question and derogately uttered the word. ‘Hoon’, as he walked away.”
b. As the agitation continued, ACM Asghar Khan got impatient and wrote to General Ziaul Haq, urging him to remove Bhutto and take-over the reigns of the government, because “Bhutto, as Prime Minister, was extremely dangerous for the country.” General Zia read-out his letter to the officers in one of the conference in GHQ. Dr. S. M. Rahman, Advisor Psychological Operations, to General Zia, was present. He writes about this letter in his article titled “National Propensity to Rise in Crisis”, published in daily Nation on 21 October 2005:
“The politicians, therefore, must make a solemn resolve that they would never create conditions that would gravitate the military to intervene. I do recall that a very distinguished politician of Pakistan, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, wrote a personal letter to late Ziaul Haq, persuading him to dismantle the Government of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and if he did not do it, he would be doing great disservice to Pakistan, or words to that effect. That letter, I thought, has reinforced Pakistan’s transformation into praetorian state or at least had facilitated that process.”
General Zia obliged ACM Asghar Khan and imposed martial law, and started Bhutto’s trial. As the trial grew lengthy, ACM Asghar Khan became impatient because, he wanted Bhutto to be hanged as soon as possible. Addressing a public gathering at Kohala, he urged General Zia to hang Bhutto soonest, or hand him over to Asghar Khan, who himself would “Hang Bhutto from the Kohala Bridge.” General Zia again obliged ACM Asghar Khan and hanged Bhutto on 4 April 1979 in Rawalpindi jail and “made him a horrible example” to the great satisfaction of ACM Asghar Khan and Henry Kissinger, the American Secretary of State. Perhaps Asghar Khan hoped to be the next Prime Minister, after Bhutto was eliminated, but that was not to be.
The third category of tempters are rather rare, who are tempted to act, but lack passion “to go full length.” General Waheed, the COAS in 1993 ordered, both, the President and the Prime Minister OUT, and held elections under an imported Prime Minister. General Waheed thus violated the oath of the Armed Forces and also the Constitution of Pakistan, setting a praetorian trend in the Army, which resulted into Musharraf’s military rule.
The fourth category is of those, who have rejected temptation and supported democracy and rule of law:
a. On 17th August 1988, when the three services chiefs namely, Admiral Saeed Ahmed Khan, Air Chief Marshal Hakimullah and myself, assisted by DGISI Lt Gen Hamid Gul and Judge Advocate General of Army, Brigadier Aziz Muhammad Khan, restored the Constitution and handed over power to the people, within three hours of General Zia’s death an unprecedented act of correcting the course of democracy.
b. In 2008, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani restrained the ISI and prevented General Musharraf from manipulating the elections as he had done in 2002. General Kayani’s NO, led to ouster of General Musharraf and “democracy was put on its course.”
Pakistani nation has got used to frequent military interventions, creating a class of opportunists who are ever ready to cooperate, and the foremost amongst them are the politicians and the sycophants, waiting for such an opportunity. These days one can hear loud voices, urging General Kayani to intervene. In fact they are testing Gen Kayani’s nerves, whereas, he wants the people of Pakistan to clear the mess, themselves.
No doubt, Army Generals have committed serious mistakes in the past. Even crimes have been committed, causing great loss to the nation and disrepute to the Armed Forces. It was time now to establish a level of civil-military relationship, based on rule of law and justice. This is the process, the nation is passing through now, which must not be disturbed. Credit goes to our political institutions, the judiciary and the Armed Forces, who will persevere, Insha Allah, and steer the country on its democratic course and a brighter future.