The army is considered to be the strongest institution in Pakistan. One could be proud of this fact if it was based on the army’s strength and efficiency. But the army is the strongest political institution. Constantly, the army has been termed as the “third umpire” in the PTI/PAT versus Nawaz Sharif standoff. Is this what the army has been reduced to? To protecting unruly political mobs from themselves, rather than purging the ills of terrorism? Since Musharraf’s ousting in 2008, the army has been trying to avoid taking overt control of politics and worries that American financial assistance would be jeopardised by a coup. It should also have little interest in prolonging the turmoil on the streets of Islamabad at a time when it is engaged in a long-delayed assault on the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. But the institution is opaque, and there is no one script that it can be seen following.

While the soldier on the front-lines are the unquestioning patriots, sadly their leaders, the top brass, have left Pakistan a legacy of constant interference into civilian affairs. In the current political crisis, the Army has been divided in how it should approach the issue, with Army Chief Raheel Sharif advocating non-interference as opposed to five other important generals allegedly pushing for force, as reported on Friday by an international news agency. But the general opinion seems to be that its not because the Chief believes in neutrality and democracy, but that he is biding his time. This amounts to tacit support for the Sharif government and puts the army in a strong position if Nawaz gets to stay in power. Raheel needs to be sure his team will back him in case he makes a move, though by next month he will be hiring his own corps commanders. While the foot soldier fights for our freedom, these men fight for their power.

Defence Day is celebrated in remembrance of the soldiers who defended Kashmir, as well as Lahore, against India in the 1965 war. Pakistan lost 3,800 braves, because in the words of Lord Tennyson, “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” Let this Defence Day be for those who do and die, soldiers who are currently fighting a war, the underpaid, hard working, unrehabilitated, on the front-lines for our freedom. These are the men and women who songs are sung about, who deserve the most poetic accolades and who inspire us to love Pakistan. The nation salutes them.