For 62 years of its 75, Pakistan has been ruled by 4 Military rulers, Generals Ayub (10), Yahya (2.5), Zia (11) and Musharraf (9) for a total of 32.5 years and two families the Bhuttos and Sharifs for 30 years.
11 years from 1947 to 1958 by a motley group of 7 Prime Ministers ranging from 4.5 years (Liaquat Ali Khan) to 2 months (Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar)
Also from 1953 till 1958 and prior to declaring Martial Law in 1958 and taking over, the then Army Chief, General Ayub Khan was also Minister of Defence and Minister of Interior, in every civilian cabinet.
Each one of our Army Chiefs who took over came with the avowed intent to remove a bunch of corrupt, squabbling, greedy politicians, who in their eyes, and generally also in the eyes of a sheep-like, herdlike, flock of people, subjugated by centuries of slavery, was not good for Pakistan.
Interestingly, every Martial Law regime was widely hailed and welcomed.
However, the ultimate consequences of these military takeovers, despite strong economic growth and a semblance of discipline and law and order, were disastrous for Pakistan on two fronts.
One they weakened every single civilian state institution as the military mandate overruled civilian processes and rules.
Over a period of time competent, honest, upright civil servants police officers, judges, etc. were replaced by incompetent, dishonest and corrupt ones.
But, of course, It didn’t happen overnight but progressively over decades as the cancer spread resulting in the current devastation we see.
Secondly and far worse were the kind of politicians and judiciary our military rulers nurtured and promoted to legitimize and prolong their rule.
This class of weak, corrupt, criminal like plutocrats and kleptocrats crept into positions of governance and power, into senior judicial appointments, the political class no better symbolized than the Sharifs and Bhutto/Zardari families.
These two families, added fuel to this devastation of civilian institutions and its complement of civil servants, by deliberately and consciously weakening these institutions, promoting corrupt loyalists into these civilian institutions and then through whom hijacking the state and unleashing an orgy of mass-scale corruption, nepotism, and incompetence which we see today.
The only institution, relatively, which survived this terrible onslaught of devastation and destruction was the Army because of the independence and power they had acquired through their 32 years of rule, vested in one office of the Chief of The Army Staff and not allowing any questioning and interference by these corrupt politicians into their domain.
Therefore my considered perspective is that Pakistan can only become a strong, viable country if two major fundamentals undergo major reform.
1- The Command and Control structure of the Armed Forces holds its Chief accountable.
2. Electoral reforms to break the stranglehold of the current lot of corrupt mafia-like politicians over who get into legislatures and governance.
There is universal agreement amongst all thinking Pakistanis that until and unless the unbridled, unchecked, unaccountable supreme power of the office of the Pak Army COAS is not constrained and held accountable, Pakistan will continue to suffer overt and covert interventions by the holders of this office as we have seen in our history, with its worst manifestation today of an Army Chief conspiring with a foreign power and the same bunch of vagabonds, who have looted this country, to oust a legitimately elected government and replace them with this same bunch of looters and plunderers who raped and pillaged this country for 30 years.
While it is clear that the strength of our Army, or any Army, as an institution, is based on their unquestioning obedience to orders of a superior to enable it to perform its military objectives of single-minded focus in attacking or defending against a military foe. This unquestioning obedience leaves no room, and should not leave any room for questioning the orders of a superior in the heat of battle or worse, disobeying them.
This is the very essence of military potency and effectiveness.
Otherwise, there would be chaos and seriously harm the effectiveness of the Army’s fighting ability.
This unquestioning obeyance of orders starts from the very top, the office of the COAS, which we call the unity of command and discipline to the hierarchy.
So far so good!
But, and this is the biggest but of all.
The Army Chief is like a god. His power if exercised properly is what gives the Army its potency. And if exercised wrongly, destroys the nation as we have seen happening since 1958.
The maxim, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is no better manifested than in the office of our Army Chief.
When any incumbent COAS decides, in consultation with a few of his senior generals, to use this tremendous power and authority to carry out a coup or brazenly and blatantly interfere in the workings of civilian governments, knowing that the institution will in all likelihood support him, given their discipline and obedience, results in what we see today in Pakistan.
So, hypothetically even if Imran or anybody were to come back with a 2/3 majority, with every constitutional, executive and legislative power which accrues to him, legally and constitutionally, we will continue to run foul of the parallel brute power of the Army Chief.
This is guaranteed as we have seen in the past and as we have seen now this past month!
No reform, no new system, Presidential or Westminster no governance structure will ever seed, grow and sustain till this unaccountable power of the Army Chief is not held accountable.
In Part 2, I share how to address the issue of the unbridled power of the Army Chief and how to cleanse our politics of the corrupt and criminal politicians who have hijacked the country.
Haider Mehdi is a Geopolitical commentator/blogger on national and international affairs. Formerly a media anchor, corporate leader, management consultant, start-up entrepreneur, and military officer, he tweets @SHaiderRMehdi and blogs on shrmehdi.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Pakistan Week.