Khawaja Rahat Latif

Lieutenant General (retd) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, the former Defence Secretary, was removed from service by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, because he had sent the two affidavits - one from COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the other from DG ISI Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha - to the Attorney General, who, in turn, sent them to the Supreme Court. The honourable Prime Minister blamed the Defence Secretary for not meeting the requirements of the rules of law, adding that the affidavits should have been sent to the Attorney General through the Ministry of Law.

But if the Prime Minister’s statement is correct, then why didn’t the Attorney General return the affidavits to the Defence Secretary with a word of advice on the rules of law or the SOP (Standing Operating Procedure)? By not doing so, doesn’t the Attorney General fall into the category of being guilty? It seems that Mr Gilani wanted to show his authority by pressurising the defence services. Strangely, he has gone back on his words and said that the COAS and DG ISI filed their affidavits in accordance with the law.

Undoubtedly, the Prime Minister has the constitutional authority to dismiss the Defence Secretary. (He also used it against Major General Mahmood Durrani and sacked him when he was Chairman National Security.) But where is the grace that a seasoned political leader, like the PM, should demonstrate? Moreover, there is an SOP for proceeding against the government employees, who do not follow or deviate from the chain of command. So, the question is: Was a showcase notice issued to the General or an inquiry conducted before he was sacked?

General (retd) Lodhi has been a distinguished career officer. His appointment as Defence Secretary was a right choice. The General during his service handled cases of various nature, involving hard decisions, very effectively. Thus, treating him like this shows the political immaturity of the present leadership and also the absolute absence of grace. The Secretary Establishment, instead of towing the line, should have advised the Prime Minster, accordingly.

General (retd) Lodhi is justified in seeking redress of his grievance from the Supreme Court. If the dictates of democracy are to be followed, he is strictly adhering to the democratic method. The Prime Minister is a great advocate of democracy. Surely, he should appreciate that the armed forces personnel, both retired and in-service, are strong believers of democracy. Hence, they would not stand injustices; this is their training. We as a nation need to support the rule of law, so that democracy takes firm roots in Pakistan.

I am not questioning authority of the Prime Minister Gilani. However, the Constitution of Pakistan provides protection to every citizen. The government servants deliver while working under the Constitution; whereas, individuals matter the least. We ought to make democracy strong. The institution can only be institutionalised, if the law is followed. We can only become a civilised nation, if we ensure the application of law equally on everyone. Indeed, merit and justice cannot be achieved through any other method.

In 1993, Mian Nawaz Sharif was removed from premiership by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan (late), who had the authority to do so. Despite this, the Supreme Court overruled the President and returned Mian Sahib to the chair of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, because the reasons given by Ishaq Khan did not justify his removal. So, this is democracy!

The writer is a retired major general and managing director of Pakistan Education Network - a project of Ministry of Education.