PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has asked the armed forces of Pakistan to give a pledge that they would never violate the constitution and impose martial law in the country. Nobody knows better than Mian Sahib that the Pakistan Army has always been the supreme power in the country and has ruled it whenever it so desired without being answerable to any person or institution. It is the most powerful and disciplined organisation which for all practical purposes works under no organ of civilian government. Have we forgotten East Pakistan? General Tiger Niazi, surrendered to an Indian general with his head down in shame. But the civilian democratic government of Mr Bhutto could not take any action against General Niazi or any other army top brass responsible for this humiliating defeat. Even the report of Hamoodur Rehman Commission which had held some generals responsible for the debacle was not made public, let alone any action against them. They all died their natural deaths serving Pakistan government in high positions during General Ziaul Haq's rule. To our shame the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report was leaked to India and was subsequently published from New Delhi, some years ago. But it has not yet been made public by the Pakistan government. Going back in time, it may be recalled that on the fateful night of October 7, 1958, Governor General Iskandar Mirza made his suicidal move at the behest of Ayub Khan. He dismissed the central and provincial governments and assemblies, abrogated the constitution of 1956 which he had sworn to defend and preserve, promulgated martial law throughout the country and appointed Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. All political parties were banned and the entire political process grounded to a sudden halt. In the presidential order of the day, Iskandar Mirza said: "For the last two years, I have been watching with deep anxiety, the ruthless struggle for power, corruption, the shameful exploitation of our simple, honest, patriotic and industrious masses, the lack of decorum and the prostitution of Islam for political ends. The mentality of the political parties has sunk so low that I am unable any longer to believe that the elections will improve the present chaotic internal situation and enable us to form a strong and stable government capable of dealing with the innumerable and complex problems facing us today. We cannot get men from the moon. The same group of people who have brought Pakistan on the verge of ruination will rig the elections for their own ends. The constitution which was brought into being on March 23, 1956, after so many tribulations, is unworkable. It is full of dangerous compromises. Pakistan will disintegrate internally if the inherent malaise is not removed. It is said that the constitution is sacred. But more sacred than the constitution or anything else is the country and the welfare and happiness of the people." More or less the same language has been used whenever martial law has been imposed on the country. This was the beginning of the army's supremacy over the civilian governments. After falling seriously ill Ayub Khan decided to step down and hand over power to Army Chief General Yahya Khan rather than the speaker of the National Assembly who happened to be a Bengali. Thus he violated his own constitution which required that "should the president vacate his office he should hand over power to the speaker." Likewise, Mr Bhutto's democratically elected government was thrown out by his most trusted Army Chief General Zia who imposed martial law in the country taking advantage of PNA agitation which was dying its own natural death after being exhausted. General Zia, a mediocre general of religious background, who of all the people was selected by Mr Bhutto for the top job of the army chief over some of his more deserving seniors was the most fatal mistake of Bhutto for which he paid with his life. It may be mentioned that General Zia along with navy and air chiefs had issued a statement a few days before the fall of the Bhutto government affirming their devotion to the prime minister whom they were planning to stab in the back. As General Zia sat in a meeting with Mr Bhutto and his Cabinet colleagues on that fateful evening of July 4, 1977 celebrating and meekly applauding Mr Bhutto's sagacity and diplomatic acumen in reaching an accord with PNA leaders, he had already finalised his plan to stage the military coup against his benefactor, a few hours after he finished his dinner at sixty minutes past midnight. The date on the calendar had changed to July 5, 1977. History is witness that whenever democratic governments become weak and ineffective, corrupt and self-serving, unable to solve people's problems of poverty, hunger and disease there is always a general waiting in the wings to grab power, as Musharraf did with Nawaz Sharif, Ziaul Haq did with Mr Bhutto and Ayub Khan did with Iskandar Mirza. The only protection against martial laws is a strong civilian government which has full support of the people, which is honest and just and works devotedly for the welfare of the common man. It may be remembered that only the strength of the people can defeat the strength of the army. The writer is former director news, PTV