General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s November 5 address to a gathering of officers in the GHQ, in which he raised issues that were having an impact on the professional efficiency and morale of the Pakistan Army, was a sombre and realistic assessment of the military’s pulse. The message carried in the address went much beyond the assembled audience and sought to remind the nation of the vitiating environment that were beginning to take shape, causing concern and causing unease within the army’s rank and file.

The Army Chief is responsible to his command to ensure that its institutional concerns, beyond the realm of his own authority, are communicated to the authorities concerned; irrespective of ruffled feathers or cross-grained disposition towards the obtaining flow of events and opinions. By no means, it is a sanguine undertaking; it can carry political and professional costs, yet a commander is duty bound to respond, however unsavoury the ensuing backlash.

This is primarily the reason as to why, in military service, the attribute of moral courage - the courage to unflinchingly articulate honest opinion - rises to prominence, as one advances in rank, seniority and the expanse of command entrusted to his care. When he sent a message through his GHQ address, this is exactly what the COAS was doing in utter sincerity and loyalty to the army he has the honour to command.

Avoiding being pugnacious, the communication was a pragmatic articulation of the prevailing state of affairs that retained the balance of treading the middle plank. There was nothing threatening, accusatory or offensive about it and it did not seek any confrontational high ground; nor did it militate against any other national institution.

Despite that fine balance, the manner in which it was received by a section of the media or rather a few media persons, it could only be termed as impetuous and self-righteous. Perhaps, a much misjudged cue had been taken from the contents in the address of the Chief Justice whose proceedings appeared in the press alongside the reporting for COAS address.

The Chief Justice’s deliberations, made during his address to a delegation of participants from the National Management Course at the premises of Supreme Court building, again reflected a well articulated thought process that propounded the supremacy of the constitution, overarching above all the national pillars of power. One could also not take umbrage at his thoughts on the character and nature of national security in the present-day scenario. “Gone are the days when stability and security was defined in terms of numbers of missiles and tanks as a manifestation of hard power available at the disposal of state,” the CJ had said.

With the dimension of internal security having forced a large segment of Pakistani army to get deployed on counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency responsibilities in Fata and Balochistan, one could not agree more with him that it were not missiles or tanks that could retrieve us from the morass of the current mess. In fact, if one was to extend the logic of his thoughts, it is the officers and ranks of the Pakistan Army and its national commitment to carry the day for Pakistan that stand between peril and the nation.

This brings us to the crux of the issues raised by General Kayani, which led to an unbridled assault on the army as an institution seeking to dent its sterling and shining image based upon allegations of misconduct by some senior officers long since retired. It was incomprehensible as to why the army as an institution be bashed for personal and individual doings of a few individuals, who were currently irrelevant to the system.

Not too long ago the media had also carried images of senior serving officers appearing before the court on the issue of the missing persons in Balochistan. The message that emerged was, perhaps, that the officers and personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) were involved in this lamentable phenomenon. A fact that got clouded in the process was that the FC was not deployed in Balochistan by choice and had rather been requested for by the provincial political setup in ‘aid of civil power’. The question if these investigations were any conclusive leading to definite answers and pointing to any culprits, goes a-begging.

Also, the Manual of Pakistan Military Law (MPML) duly approved and acknowledged by the constitution provides a terra firma (meaning solid earth) for addressing such maladies within the military domain. The military tradition and law dictates that all offences committed in uniform are tried under the acts of MPML and not under the glare of media flashlights. This is by no means peculiar to Pakistan, but a universal practice.

If the Army Chief was anguished, there were solid reasons for his concerns. As if on a cue, a plethora of cases belonging to the yore had suddenly and collectively emerged in the Supreme Court as well as the NAB. The sudden and negative focus, accompanied by a media tirade based on pure rhetoric, obliterated the line separating the accused from the culprit. It also, by default or design, sought to create a wedge between the command echelons of the army by eroding the bonds of trust between the leaders and the led.

The power to command flows from the character and integrity of seniors at all levels and if these very attributes are tarnished, then the bond of comradeship and respect begin to strain and chafe. Those acquainted with the army culture would vouch that it harbours no soft corner for the morally and financially delinquent, who are cast out without making a spectacle, albeit under acts of military law.

Pakistan’s armed forces stand out as an incomparable national asset, which enjoys tremendous respect by the people. This appreciation and admiration is hard-earned and well deserved. Their unswerving loyalty, devotion to serve and unflinching readiness for sacrifice set them apart in a class of their own. Their ability to form the pivot for the nation to rally around has made them a target for the forces, who, in this time of manifest weakness, want to irreparably damage Pakistan. Their internecine clash with equally vital national institutions can only be wished by people, who are not our friends.

Harmony and synthesis of institutions is the bedrock of national security; not tanks and guns as the honourable Chief Justice has rightly mentioned in his address.

The writer is a freelance columnist.