There were times, definitely good times, when people in the civil did not know much about the Armed forces except the name of the chiefs. With the passage of time especially after 1958 when the Army Chief Gen Muhammad Ayub Khan usurped the power from the last Governor General of Pakistan Mr. Iskandar Mirza in a coup, the civilian people came to know about the military's might and what it can do to the constitution. The public also came to know about the army ranks when the military courts were constituted to try the criminals in the civil. Once in power, Ayub Khan tried to remain in the power by getting involved with the politics and political leaders of the country. Then he started with the long term development programs in the country. He violated the oath taken by him and the advice of Quaid-i-Azam to the army not to get involved in politics but defend the frontiers of the country and continued to rule the country for the next decade or so. There is no doubt that he brought an industrial revolution in the country and got tremendous foreign aid and investment during his tenure but he definitely derailed the democratic system of the country which otherwise would have given a better political stability to the country as compared to our neighbouring country.

With continued interference in the civil affairs and imposition of Martial Laws at regular intervals, the civil governments which ruled in between became more conscious of the military senior hierarchy and had their say in the promotions, appointments and postings of the army generals without bothering about the merit system and other traditions in the army. In other words, the civilian leadership should be blamed for politicising the army and meddling in the military affairs. It started with ZA Bhutto who appointed Gen Zia-ul-Haq as Army chief superseding many competent and able generals thinking that he would be harmless during his rule (which he realized in the death cell saying it was his biggest mistake of life to appoint Zia as his army chief). Similarly, Nawaz Sharif committed the same mistake by appointing Pervez Musharraf considering his humble and non political background instead of the senior most Gen Ali Kuli Khan. Then Nawaz Sharif committed yet another mistake by dismissing him while he was in the air (outside the country) and appointing an engineer officer as army chief without following the proper procedure. The contingency plan of takeover was already there and once again the nation faced Army rule for another decade till the military ruler also committed a mistake by allowing the return of two heavyweight political leaders to Pakistan and the elections debacle in 2008. So he had to step down under great public pressure. After Pervez Musharraf, the present government of PPP started the politics of reconciliation and the country saw a period of extensions to Army Chief and DG ISI to play safe not realizing that it is very dangerous to block the promotion of deserving people. It causes frustrations amongst the aspiring persons. The desperate and frustrated persons can do any thing violent or indulge in conspiracies.

Now-a-days the media and the politicians know so much about the army that they know the results of the promotion boards before the affected officers know about themselves. All brigadiers who are approved for the general's rank and the likely posting of the generals are already known in the civil. The latest is that the new ISI Chief Gen Zaheer is being interviewed and briefed by the PM which was never a practice before 1990. Army just follows the constitution and policy decisions of the ministry of defence or that of the supreme commander. The awe and the demeanor of the army has been finished. It is more of a civilian army than a professional army.

MUHAMMAD AZHAR KHWAJA,

Lah ore, March 20.