On 23rd March 1940 the Lahore Resolution was adopted by the All India Muslim League at their moot at Manto Park Lahore. It is termed by many as a milestone in the history of India, and as others would like to say a landmark in the history of the Muslims of the sub-continent.
Ever since I can remember the day started with a Defense Forces parade to mark the “articulation of the desire of the Muslims of the sub-continent to commit to a separate home for them,” which in effect shifted the All India Muslim League stance of asking to protect and advance Muslim identity, rights and interests under constitutional guarantees under a federal system in British India; to the demand for the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India.
As a military brat I remember it was as a day to dress up – father in his service dress bedecked with medals, and we in our so called Sunday best. The main parade was held at Rawalpindi Race Course Ground, with parades in all the provincial capitals. My earliest remembrance of this is the parade in Peshawar, with all its fanfare and pomp and show.
After a few years the Defense Forces parade venue shifted to the parade avenue in Islamabad, opposite the President’s house, the last parade being held seven years back in 2008, and then discontinued citing the security threat as reason.
In the build up to the parade 2015, the media has been abuzz with different versions of the same story.
Talk shows and print articles have harped on the “need and timings of the parade;” others on the “cost of holding the parade and the need for constructing a new parade venue;” and yet others beating threadbare the easy to raise the ire of peoples comment of Army (kha gai, literally meaning) “eating” the country’s budget.
All this conveniently forgetting the Government in its zeal to provide “cheap and convenient transport facility to the masses,” had turned the Blue Area and the Parade Avenue in Islamabad into the Metro Bus track, which is past its completion date with no end in view, still to prove its efficacy for the people it is supposed to serve!
This made me think of the reality of the resource allocation in the Budget of Pakistan.
A short and easy to understand percentage wise breakdown of budget 2013-14 taken from the Budget documents shows an allocation of 32% for Interest Payments; 17% Defense Affairs and Services (includes Defense Administration, Defense Services, Employees Related Expenses, Operating Expenses, Physical Assets and Civil Works); 15% Federal Public Sector Development Program; 8% for Running operations of the Government; 7% for Subsidies; 5% for Development Expenses; 2% on Civil Pensions and Provision for Pay and other Pensions; and 12% allocated for all other activities requiring money from the federal exchequer.
This should dispel the common perception that one, the Army takes all, because Defense Forces include the whole defense machinery including Army, Navy, Air force, and their ancillary departments and infrastructure. And two, of the 17% all three services get their share under a formula. So the Army does not get it all.
Yes the Army is the largest and most visible component of the defense mechanism in the country. But does that mean that whole brunt of peoples anti-whatever sentiments should be directed towards it?
Are we forgetting that the current political dispensation has increased the visible inequalities and alienated the people from the democratic system as practiced today? Has this weakening of the political space surrendered space to the military in governance, maintenance of internal security, countering terrorism and extremism and even infrastructure development? Giving rise to the impression that the government is living with the blessings and on time borrowed from the military top brass?
Karl von Clausewitz is supposed to have said, “The best form of defense is attack.” Today we see this taken out of the military context and applied to almost every field to justify gaining the desired ends. However it is important to remember that “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” (Clausewitz again); the defender having the advantage of home terrain, with the offence turning into a rout as has been seen in military history more than once.
Or are we taking the silence as silent acceptance and forgetting the military is defending ground they hold sacred, and which politicians talk of as unimportant; waiting for the offence to peter out before launching an offence to obliterate all opposition?