LAHORE - Former Army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg on Monday proposed a three-point formula to normalise the tense civil-military relations, warning the government of an Egypt-like change in case urgent steps were not taken in accordance with his suggestions.
He said the high treason case against Gen Pervez Musharraf should be dropped and he should be allowed to go abroad; the Pemra should ensure that no TV channel telecasts programmes that undermine the prestige of the army; and ministers or other leaders should be barred from speaking against the people who defend the country even at the cost of their lives. Talking to The Nation, he said the civil setup would face no threat and the situation would normalise within no time if the government acted in the light of his suggestions. Otherwise, he said, a military general would take over, just like Gen El-Sisi did in Egypt, and the United States would support the change for its own interests.
Gen Beg was of the firm view that the Constitution would not be able to block a military intervention if the rulers did not give the army its due respect. “ZulifikarAli Bhutto had said the 1973 Constitution would bury martial laws, but it was the martial law that buried Bhutto”.
Critical of the flawed decision-making process of the present government, Gen Beg said the rulers did not properly calculate the likely negative fallout of their policies. According to him, the government takes decisions first and thinks later. As a result, its damage control measures don’t yield results. Gen Beg said the army was like a family and Gen Musharraf was its former head. The way he was insulted created unrest in the rank and file which forced Gen Raheel Sharif to issue a statement that army will defend its honour and dignity. Compared to the anger of the soldiers, Gen Raheel’s statement was ‘very soft’ however, he claimed.
He said it was after Gen Raheel’s statement all government functionaries had gone on defensive and they were offering explanations that they did not want to insult the army. Such people should have been careful before issuing derogatory statements, said Gen Beg.
The army, he said, would not tolerate the way Gen Musharraf was being singled out for trial. Similarly, he said, the former president-COAS could not be held responsible for ‘high treason’ as what he was accused of having done did not fall in this category. A treason charge on a former army chief was just not tolerable.
Making a strong plea for permission to Gen Musharraf to go out of Pakistan, Gen Beg said if a man like Hussain Haqqani could be allowed to leave the country despite a very serious charge against him, why the former president-COAS couldn’t be given a similar treatment.
Explaining his argument that the US would support a general in power in Pakistan at a time when it was leaving Afghanistan after 13 years’ stay in Afghanistan, Gen Beg said the US always felt more comfortable in dealing with one man rather than an elected parliament.
He said when the US interest called for a change in Pakistan because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it got Zulfikar Ali Bhutto eliminated and brought Gen Zia to the fore. Likewise, the US supported Gen Musharraf when its interests in Afghanistan so demanded.
According to Gen Beg, had a political government been in power in Pakistan in 2001, the US would not have got the kind of ‘facilities’ in Pakistan that Gen Musharraf had allowed them. Replying to a question, the former COAS said the US had deep penetration in all departments of Pakistan and it could bring about a political change at any time of its choice.
“I don’t say that Gen Raheel Sharif is going to become Gen El-Sisi (by overthrowing the political government), but a lot can happen”. He alleged that the propaganda against the army and ISI was part of the US agenda as it was the most effective way of creating tensions between the civil and military leadership. “The higher the tension, the easier the change”, Gen Beg said.