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EditorialPolitical adventurism over COAS appointment

Political adventurism over COAS appointment

Politicians’ indulgence in dragging institutions in the national politics is not a new thing. This has happened in the past and still is in vogue despite terrible results. Often statements and actions by politicians create uncalled for controversies. An unsavory choice of words during the heat of political agitation by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over the appointment of new army chief has created a ripple effect. Since the toppling of the PTI government in April, PTI Chairman Imran Khan is seeking military establishment’s intervention for his reinstatement as the Prime Minister. Time and again, he has accused the establishment of remaining ‘neutral’ and not supporting his stance about the alleged US involvement in the regime change fiasco through a no-confidence motion in the parliament. Lately, he had stirred a controversy by saying that the coalition government is scared if a strong and patriotic army chief is appointed. The statement somehow gives a hint that such appointments are made on personal interests and not on merit. The statement did not go well with the institution of army and the latter had to issue a press release showing its utter disappointment over the remarks. The previous statements of the PTI chief showed that he was not satisfied with the army chief’s response to the toppling of his government. However, his latest suggestion that General Bajwa should be given extension till election of the new government, has created a new confusion. He has suggested that the important appointment should be deferred till fresh elections while the incumbent coalition government has opined that it would appoint the new army chief according to the constitutional process, as it was a prerogative of the sitting prime minister.

Succinctly, the constitution is clear and any discussion in the public is uncalled for. There are set rules for key appointments that need to be followed and nobody needs to pose questions on such appointments till one has clear evidence of violation of merit.

Amid the conspiracy theories and the debates that such moves had stirred earlier as well, the political parties should realise that they have not done much to improve the democratic system in the country. While the opposition has resorted to the politics of agitation, the government did not bother to come clean on the allegations to improve transparency either. The trust-deficit between political parties and the general public deepened and the resulting vacuum had to be filled in by someone; hence resulting in army coups in the past.

For long, Pakistan has been governed by ad-hoc decisions. There should be continuity in the democratic system, and everyone should follow the standards set by the constitution. Moreover, the silence of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the issue of next COAS has also stirred quite a few controversies. Although it is entirely at the discretion of the prime minister when he wants to reveal the name of the next COAS, under the prevailing circumstances, he should have at least broken his silence on the issue to put the conspiracy theories to rest.

Lastly, Pakistan has seen military rule for almost half of its life. Political parties either did not exist as popular entities or were banned during most of that period, and politicians were demonised to such an extent that the results are evident to date. Furthermore, the behaviour of political parties has not helped much to consolidate their image in the eyes of public either. It is about time that the political parties realise the need to strengthen the democracy as well as educating the public in this regard.

Notwithstanding the weaknesses of democracy in Pakistan, under no circumstances the democratic system is to be derailed or spoiled through the interference of institutions. For the short and long term progress and stability of Pakistan, it is imperative to strengthen the democratic model of governance without resorting to pretexts and justifications to discard it. The biggest loser in the process of derailment of substituting democracy with dictatorship is always simply one: Pakistan.

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