Recently, Dr Tahirul Qadri disclosed his agenda to reform “the rotten lot of politicians” within three weeks. Otherwise, he would lead a four million march of his supporters and followers to Islamabad to demolish ‘Zardari’s citadel’ like Mohammad Morsi did in Egypt. Also, he hoped, the army would willingly support his movement as it did when Nawaz Sharif threatened to march towards Islamabad for the restoration of the judiciary. Dr Qadri, however, is mistaken as he has lived too long outside Pakistan to correctly judge the people’s desire. They do want change, but through a democratic process. And that change is in the offing, as the caretaker government will be established, perhaps, in the next two months. He is, in fact, suggesting a Bangladesh model and, undoubtedly, some of our political parties are ready to buy into the charade that he is conducting.Keeping in view Dr Qadri’s agenda, I was reminded of Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan’s role in 1977 that paved the way for  military takeover. It is very interesting to read the contents of Asghar’s letter to General Ziaul Haq and the reasons put forward by him that sound so similar though not so scholarly as Dr Qadri. Asghar’s letter reads: “I am addressing this message to the chiefs of staff and officers of the Defence Services of Pakistan.“It is your duty to defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan and to obey all lawful commands of superior officers placed over you. To differentiate between ‘lawful’ and an ‘unlawful’ command is the duty of every officer. Everyone of you must ask yourself whether what the army is doing today is ‘lawful’ activity and if your conscience tells you that it is not and you still carry it out, you would appear to lack moral fibre and would be guilty of a grave crime against your country and people. “You should by now have realised that military action in East Pakistan was a conspiracy in which the present PM played a Machiavellian role. You know the circumstances in which military action in Balochistan was engineered and how completely unnecessary this action has been. You are also aware of the utterly unnecessary military action taken last year in Dir in NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). If you have any interest in national affairs, you must also be aware that during the election campaign the nation expressed its powerful disapproval of the present regime. Following the people’s rejection of the government, you should have been surprised at the election results in which the PNA that could muster such overwhelming popular support, could only get eight out of 116 seats in the Punjab. You must surely know that many people were not even allowed to file their nomination papers. Was it not too much of a coincidence that no papers could be filed against the PM and all the CMs of the four provinces? That those who dared to try, ended up in spending a few nights in police custody? One of them has still not been traced.“Those of you who were even remotely connected with duties in connection with the March 7 election would also know of the blatant manner in which rigging took place; of the hundreds of thousands of ballot papers of PNA candidates that had been taken out of ballot boxes and were found in the streets of Pakistan following the election. You would also have seen the deserted polling stations on March 10, the day of the provincial polls, following the call for their boycott by the PNA. Nevertheless, the government media announced that an unprecedented number of votes had also been polled at the provincial election and the percentage was said to be more than 60. Then surely you must have followed the movement, which called for Bhutto’s resignation and re-elections in the country.“The coming out of women in thousands on the streets in every city and town with babies in their arms was a scene that no one will forget. These were the women, who Bhutto claimed had voted for him. The movement proved.......that he and his government had been completely rejected by the people. The death of hundreds of our youth and the beating of our mothers and sisters was a scene that may well have stirred you to shame and sorrow. Have you ever thought why the people put themselves to so much trouble?“Why must mothers come out to face bullets with babies in their arms? Why do parents allow their children to face police lathis and bullets? Surely, it is only because they feel that they have been wronged; that they have been cheated. That their basic right to ‘hire and fire’ their rulers has been denied them. They understood, when we told them the truth that the constitution, which you as officers of the defence services are sworn to defend, had been violated. Article 218(3) says: ‘It shall be the duty of the Election Commission constituted in relation to an election to organise and conduct the election, and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that it is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against’.“This, my friend, was not a just and fair election. Bhutto has violated the constitution and is guilty of a grave crime against the people. It is neither your duty to support his illegal regime, nor can you be called upon to kill your own people so that he can continue a little longer in office. Let it not be said that the Pakistani armed forces are a degenerate ‘police force’ fit only for the killing unarmed civilians. How else can you explain the shooting of a spirited lad whose only fault was to show the ‘V’ sign to the army in Lahore the other day. The spirit of adventure; of defiance rather than servility needs to be encouraged in our youth and this unfortunate incident is a blot on the name of the army, which would be difficult to wipe out. “As men of honour, it is your responsibility to do your duty and the call of duty in these trying circumstances is not the blind obedience of unlawful commands. There comes a time in the lives of nations when each man has to ask himself whether he is doing the right thing. For you that time has come. Answer his call honestly and save Pakistan.”Asghar rejoiced when Bhutto was hanged and made a horrible example for others. Whose head Dr Qadri is now demanding? He seems to be on the wrong side of history in his demand to “save the country and not politics.” Pakistan came into being as a result of the political movement launched by Quaid-i-Azam. In 1971, Pakistan used military power to correct the political split, but failed. Apparently, there is no other option than to follow the path the nation has set for itself, i.e. free and fair elections, so that the new democratic order takes its corrective course to remove the scars of the present order.

The writer is a former chief of army staff.Email: