The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has certainly burst the bubble of hope of the anti-democracy elements for a military coup by supporting the continuation of the democratic process and transfer of power through impartial elections, besides emphasising the army’s subservient role to a civilian government.

Reportedly, General Kayani said that he “fully supports the idea of holding a free, fair and transparent election leading to a smooth transfer of power in the country”; a dream that is likely to be fulfilled very soon. Adding that “he had assured the Chief Election Commissioner of full cooperation on the matter.” He rightly maintained that “the army has stood by the democratically-elected government during the past five years” as required under the constitution and it is the voters’/people’s prerogative to choose their own representatives.

It is, therefore, hoped that the General’s categorical statements would set at rest the speculations about a possible delay in the polls and the installation of a caretaker set up for a longer period. Such an arrangement - as was being hoped by the detractors of democracy and elements hostile to people’s ascendancy - was only possible through the  army’s intervention.  However, now since the COAS has finally spoken his mind on the issue, there remains no possibility of any extraconstitutional action to derail the democratic process and delay in elections in the country.

General Kayani’s statements, indeed, reflect a paradigm shift in the thinking of the military commanders in regard to the role of the army in a state, which is in consonance with Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision.

The Quaid, while reminding the army officers at Staff College Quetta on June 14, 1948, about the significance of oath of allegiance to the constitution, said: “I should like you to study the constitution,which is in force in Pakistan at present, and understand its true constitutional and legal implications when you say you will be faithful to the constitution.”

Undoubtedly, the constitution bestows on the army the role of defending the country’s frontiers and acting in aid of the civilan government as and when called upon to do so. It has no role in matters related to governance, But unfortunately, the Quaid’s advice was lost on the military adventurers whose shenanigans not only have pushed the country off its cherished path, but have also confronted it with intractable challenges.

The military’s role and conduct as an institution, barring a few individuals who defied and decimated the constitution, has been beyond any reproach. It is, therefore, not fair on anyone’s part to castigate the institution because of the indiscretions of those individuals.

The army under the leadership of General Kayani has strengthened its credentials as supporter of the democratic system and the government by resisting all temptations and exhortations of the anti-democratic forces to wrap up the system. The sacrifices rendered by the army in fighting the menace of terrorism deserve unqualified accolades of the nation.

Equally laudable are the efforts of the government in defending democracy against debilitating odds and creating conditions for the smooth transfer of power; the support lent by the opposition, especially the PML-N, by desisting from rocking the boat as in the past; and the judiciary that has repeatedly vowed not to allow any unconstitutional move from any quarter, in addition to its unflinching faith in the democratic process.

All these development are indicative of the fact that our political system has attained maturity and the politicians and the state institutions have finally recognised the pivotal role of democracy in advancing and achieving our national goals.

Democracy is a global culture. The nations that are on top of the world achieved that coveted position through it. That also is the vision and legacy of our Founding Father. We are duty bound to zealously guard and nurture it. Any deviation from it is tantamount to betrayal of the objectives of independence. The only way to deal with the adverse circumstances that threaten our existence as a nation, and re-choreograph the path to our cherished destination, is to show unswerving commitment to the Quaid’s vision. Our political leadership needs to adopt a nationalist outlook for removing systemic maladies that are obstructing our social, political and economic progress, as well as jeopardising our national unity.

Needless to say that the task is arduous and challenging. There are no quick fixes to address the issues that we are currently facing. Hwever, they can be dealt with through an evolutionary process in a democratic environment.

Isn’t it a pity that even after more than six decades of our existence as an independent nation and having gone through macabre tribulations and sufferings, we refuse to learn from history. We lack the ability to make rational choices; our responses to the challenges are characterised by impulsive streaks; we have failed to develop an urge that galvanises and inspires the efforts of the nations to remain in quest of a purposeful change with the determination to leave a healthy legacy for the posterity; and we continue to live in the present completely impervious to the need  to maintain linkages with our past  and fashion our future in conformity with the national aspirations and the emerging realities.

Having said that, we have also seen democracy at work during the last five years: politicians from across the political divide sitting together to revive the constitution and settling the question of provincial autonomy through the 18th Amendment; resolution of the issue of distribution of financial resources from the federal divisible pool through 7th NFC Award and other contentious issues through the 19th and 20th Amendments. These are far-reaching changes and reforms whose benefits would become apparent gradually.

As a final word, if our politicians remain wedded to the new spirit of cooperation to settle national issues after the upcoming elections, it would not be difficult to effect further systemic changes to improve governance, meet challenges, and evolve a national strategy to change the economic profile of the country.

Fortunately, we now have an independent media playing an admirable role in strengthening democracy. We only need to keep our faith in democracy and everything will start falling in place.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: ashpak10@gmail.com