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DG ISPR’s Response To Musharraf Verdict Was Uncalled For

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Umer Farooq argues that the DG ISPR’s statement against the Musharraf treason verdict created doubts about his constitutional status and raised the questions as to what a military spokesman could say or couldn’t say. 

Imagine Inspector General Punjab’s spokesman disagreeing with a High Court decision through which a former IG has been sentence to death. Imagine again the police spokesman telling the public that there was a great anger in the ranks of police against the decision of the High Court and that their IG (who has been sentenced to death) could not be a criminal as declared by the court as the IG has been credited with arresting hundreds of dacoits, “Give IG justice” the spokesman would tell the court. Can you even imagine? No you cannot even imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan. You know why? Because police doesn’t have any sense of entitlement in our society.

Army, on the other hand, have a very strong sense of entitlement and therefore it could cause a political controversy just by declaring that the Special Court order through a former army chief has been sentenced to death was totally unacceptable. They can declare the High court order against the principles of justice and ridicule it openly, as if they have a position in the constitutional scheme of things, which puts them at par with the highest judicial forum in the country.

Army and its top brass’s sense of entitlement have increased manifold during the past 10 to 15 years during which they have fought a war against terror in the north western part of the country.

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This sense of entitlement could play havoc with the democratic institutions and constitutionalism in the country, fear many leading intellectuals.

It doesn’t matter that this sense of entitlement or strong feelings about it could put the military top brass in to some kind of direct confrontation with the judiciary. It also doesn’t matter that the assertion of this sense of entitlement will set a very strong precedent of a powerful institution—in possession of most of the guns in the country—refusing to accept a court verdict coming from the highest judicial forum in the country.

The picture that emerges from the Press Release of ISPR on death sentence to General Musharraf is as follows: Court has sentenced to death a former army chief and the rank and file of the army has refused to accept the verdict. In the press release, the military spokesman has simply refused to accept the court verdict as valid and has instead appealed that General Musharraf should be given justice in accordance with constitution.

All these bold statements are coming from the military spokesman, creating doubts about his constitutional status and raising the questions as to what a military spokesman could say or couldn’t say.

Reforming Pakistan’s political structures and institutions for achieving political stability is not a very difficult task. You just have to stop some people from continuous prattle. Foremost among these will be the Chief Military spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, who will have to be stopped from commenting on incumbent government’s decisions, court verdicts and visiting foreign dignitaries’ public assertions.

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Anyone thinking about reforming Pakistan’s political structures and institutions for achieving political stability in the country will have to think first in terms of bringing Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Directorate under the control of civilian institutions or under some kind of parliamentary scrutiny, if we want to avoid confrontation between institutions.

There is so far no voice in the country demanding a stop to the continuous prattling coming from ISPR—so far in the last ten years the military spokesman has, through his tweets, humiliated incumbent prime minister multiple times, insulted a foreign dignitary, rejected a government notification and a court order.

DG ISPR, or ISPR occupies no role in the legal and constitutional scheme of things of the country. After watching all these drama coming from ISPR, the brief note of the chief justice comes to mind in which he has stated that armed forces must operate under the law.

Meanwhile, a brigade of retired army officers have been unleashed on the electronic media to criticize the courts and to defend the former army chief who has been sentenced to death for treason.

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Naya Daur