On April 24, 1915 the combined forces of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand attacked Gallipoli to topple the Caliphate in Istanbul. They were in for a surprise. General Mustafa Kamal Pasha and his troops fought valiantly. Badly bruised and defeated, the attackers had to retreat on April 25, 1915. It was the last victory of a Muslim General 102 years ago. Since then there have been coups and overthrows of their own governments with General Sissi of Egypt being the latest.

Mustafa Kamal then went on to create a Turkish Republic. He moved away from the Arab influence and created a new language with Roman script. He openly said, ‘I am a dictator so that Turkey may never need another’. He was given the title of ‘Ataturk’, the father of modern Turkey. Today the country is the most developed and the strongest member of the Ummah. Indeed he was a benevolent General. Why has such khaki benevolence been missing in Pakistan?

The question of khaki benevolence has been raised several times. Recently, I went around looking for answers. The purpose of this article is to highlight the positives without discussing the negatives though I firmly believe that Ayub Khan’s first martial law on October 27, 1958 derailed both democracy and our freedom. Had elections been held at that time under the agreed 1956 constitution, Pakistan would have been united and the first country to enter the ranks of ‘Asian Tigers’. On the positives three areas of ‘khaki benevolence’ came to mind (war on terror and security, 1970 free and fair elections, formation of NADRA).

Three Army chiefs (Kiyani, Raheel, Bajwa) have delivered internal security with valiant efforts in the war on terror. Though the mission continues, the country is much safer today; cleaning the mess left by their predecessors has been a major achievement of the khakis. Today, the forces are professionally led and battle hardened to take on any internal or external threat.

The free and fair elections of 1970 established democracy in the country. Opinions differ on the outcome but in 70 years it is the only credible electoral exercise. The truly elected assembly then went on to formulate the unanimous 1973 constitution which has proven to be a major milestone in our democratic journey. Two martial laws (1977, 1999) tried to deface this article of faith but it survived. Most unilateral amendments have been done away with, only a few irritants remain which should also be removed in totality.

A credible ballot is an essential requirement of democracy which has been missing since then resulting in third rate political leadership that the country has to endure. In a recent gathering of journalists and intellectuals I posed a question, ‘Will we see another credible election in our lifetime? Instead of an answer, I was confronted with a counter question, ‘Why’? I was surprised by the response. Everyone was of the opinion that no one was interested in an honest ballot as it does not suit them, that is why no electoral reforms have taken place despite the disputed 2013 elections and the Nasir-ul-Mulk Commission report, that pin-pointed several irregularities. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) continues to be in disarray. The autonomy of NADRA is also under threat. The Interior Minister has been chairing the meetings of the board against established norms of business.

The National Identity Card scheme was introduced by the democratic government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). It was an efficient but manual system. With the passage of time and technological improvements the database needed a revamp. Then the Afghan refugees and multiple cards proved to be a menace. In the year 2000, the government of General Pervez Musharraf created NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) which was later turned into a bill in 2002. Major General (Retired) Zahid Hussain, a friend of the President and a fellow artillery officer was appointed the first Chairman. Rs4 billion were allocated for establishing the new entity. After squandering Rs1.2 billion, the authority was unable to issue a single computerised NIC (National Identity Card) in one year. Finally merit prevailed and Brig (Retired) Saleem Moeen, an Electrical Engineer of EME Corps and a graduate of UET Lahore was appointed Chairman in 2001. By 2004, the authority was in full production mode and was able to pay back the seed funding thus becoming financially independent. Usman Mobeen, an IT Guru from MIT, who is the current Chairman is credited for producing the vital codes which were then assembled together to produce a credible citizen’s database.

The above three areas of khaki benevolence stand out; it is time to build on them. Today, the country needs security and a credible ballot to move forward for which NADRA has a major rule to play. Activists like me desire another honest election before we hang our boots. Rogue political elements and their parties are not inclined to let the people decide. Khakis, being the only functional institution in the country have to break ranks with the rogues and side with the people to deliver another free and fair electoral exercise as was accomplished in 1970. The nation will be indebted to them for their benevolence which may erase the negatives of the past which also includes the political bounty hunters of today. Their agencies have enough data which calls for action not for themselves but for the nation. As stipulated in the constitution, ninety days of interim government followed by a Khaki controlled electoral exercise is the only way forward to come out of this mess. The event will then be remembered as the fourth khaki benevolence for the nation.


The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.