A COAS Upholding Constitutional Supremacy Can Help Overcome Challenges Confronting Nation

A COAS Upholding Constitutional Supremacy Can Help Overcome Challenges Confronting Nation
During a cold evening in Islamabad, I was asked a question at a meeting that made me sweat. This meeting was being hosted by a western diplomat and was also attended by three diplomats representing as many countries and three local politicians.

The diplomat of a European country asked me about the possibility of a martial law in case of a default. I smiled and turned to the Defense Minister Khawaja Asif asking him to respond to the question.

Mr. Asif responded to the concern at length, basically ruling out both a default and a martial law. He also insisted that the situation was going to get better after the appointment of the new Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).

He was constantly asked to reveal the name of the new chief of the armed forces, and all he said was that the decision will be made in a few days.

A rather curious diplomat took me to a side of the hall and asked me if I believed his stance about a default, and I pointed at a similar statement made by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. “I’m not an economist,” I said.

He then asked about a prominent individual’s talk in my presence about a martial law.

I told him that Pakistan has had four declared martial laws, so when there isn’t one in the country, we curse the undeclared ones. This is a historical fact and we condemn it all the time so we can avert the threat.

The diplomat wasn’t going to let me escape his questioning that easy, so he asked as to why the entire political elite and the media was so invested in the matter if they were so against military intervention in politics.

He added that an army chief reports to the secretary of defense, but in Pakistan, the post seems more powerful than those of the President or the Prime Minister. It’s so hyped as if a field marshal is going to take charge.

I looked away. Baat tu sach thi, mager baat thi ruswai ki (what was said was true but embarrassing).

On Saturday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto warned President Arif Alvi against impeding the appointment of the military chief. What could be more embarrassing?

As Pakistanis, we are now quite used to threats and abuse, but when a foreign minister sends a warning to the supreme commander of the armed forces, it certainly invites a great deal of global attention.

I decided to investigate more about the remarks which were made despite the notion that President Alvi won’t interfere in the matter.

The official I spoke to responded that President Alvi was unconstitutionally attempting to create a consensus between the government and Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, while Chief Minister Punjab Pervez Elahi had advised the former premier to seek an extension in the term of the incumbent army chief.

Elahi, he maintained, had also asked Imran to let the post-election regime appoint the new COAS.

It also came as a surprise that a senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had recently frequented London and Rawalpindi to get General Bajwa an extension, while he was holding farewell meetings.

The presser was thus an attempt to negate these efforts. Soon after his presser, Imran announced to hold a rally in Rawalpindi on November 26 to announce a plan of action, which makes his trail of thoughts clear.

As far as the PTI Chairman is concerned, he shouldn’t be under any false impression of being a populist or someone who could dictate a military chief, after a U-turn from his anti-US and anti-establishment narrative.

He has essentially destroyed his narrative that won him recent by-elections, and dismayed his supporters.

Imran Khan is making fruitless attempts at reviving ties with military after using every weapon in his arsenal against them.

His demands related to snap elections, military chief, chief election commissioner, and a self-suiting FIR in the assassination case never saw the light of day, and he is now embroiled in the Toshakhana scandal.

The government, too, seems to think at the moment that the incoming COAS is the answer to all prevailing issues.

The interests of a state and not a government’s, should be a military chief’s priority. The interests of the state lie in the supremacy of the Constitution, and a COAS who adheres to it can solve half of the country’s issues.

Translated from Hamir Mir’s piece for daily Jang.