No army of the world should have any political future including our own Khakis. Professional soldiers realize this reality and keep away from meddling in politics. In the US, the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. During the Nixon impeachment process, his Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig advised him to clamp martial law but he refrained. In the UK when the Labour Party was getting strong and the civil war was raging in Ireland, Lord Mountbatten gave a similar suggestion. Indira Gandhi in India, Pierre Trudeau in Canada and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) fell into the trap and imposed emergency in the country followed by military action. In the end, all regretted their decisions.

The military adventurists in Pakistan were very ordinary soldiers. Except for Yahya Khan, their military record was poor. Ayub Khan should have been sent home as a Major when he abandoned his unit in Burma. About Zia, General Gul Hasan wrote, ‘Not fit to be an officer.’ The 1965 war saved Musharraf, otherwise he would have been court martialed. The Pakistan Army is a professional outfit which has suffered immensely due to adventurism by a non-professional leadership, and it must review how these individuals made it to the top.

Despite his shortcomings, the people of Pakistan tolerated Musharraf, mainly because he was well-meaning as compared to the democratic demons in the country at the time. His decision to contest the Presidential election in uniform and mishandling of the Chief Justice case caused his downfall. The Pakistan Army under the professional leadership of General Raheel Sharif has not only kept away from politics but is willing to clear the mess in Waziristan and Pakistan, which is a good omen.

Who is behind the poor governance in the country and what is the role of Khakis in this mess? There are no simple answers to this question. Between 1958 and 2014, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of the remaining rivers that we have, as three of them were handed over to the Indians against all international laws. Zia amended clause 25-A of the 1973 constitution, whereby every Pakistani had to be literate by 1985. The time deadline was replaced by “within a reasonable time’, which loosely translated to mean Never.

Ayub Khan’s meddling in politics started with the murder of the first Prime Minister (PM) Liaquat Ali Khan. Khawaja Nazimuddin the stalwart of the Pakistan Movement was made to step down and Baboo Ghulam Muhammed was appointed Governor General. After the complete manipulation of the democratic process by introducing Baboos like Iskander Mirza, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Muhammed Ali Bogra etc., martial law was imposed in 1958. Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance (EBDO) was issued and the entire political leadership eliminated. Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy bravely fought back. Even the military tribunal could not prove his corruption.

Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) was created to build the political future of the usurper. Democratic demons were introduced in the arena, and the same process continues until today. Civilian institutions built by the founding fathers have been rendered dysfunctional mainly by the demons with help from their Khaki benefactors. After the partyless 1985 elections, each legislator was given a quota for recruitment in return for their loyalty. The Chaudhry’s from Gujarat focused on the department of their forefathers and recruited heavily in the police against all merits. The Sharifs did the same in education, irrigation and revenue departments. On his last day in office as Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Nawaz Sharif doled out thousands of plots to the party workers leaving LDA with no funds for the development of these societies.

With four martial laws and 56 years of manipulation, the Khakis have not been able to secure a political future. In this misadventure, the nation has suffered at the hands of the democratic demons produced by them through manipulated elections (1977, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2002, 2008, and 2013). It is time to return to the barracks but in a phased and planned manner.

Democracy cannot be manipulated. A tainted ballot does not quality for a mandate; in fact it negates it. Which system are we trying to save? We have had enough of demons who are now on both sides of the divide. PML (Q) continues to support, while PML (N) desires to control the Khakis. Both there approaches have become irrelevant. Pakistan needs a strong army to protect the territorial integrity of the nation for which they have to operate on the borders and stay in the barracks leaving the political arena to the duly elected leadership.

Today, governance is the biggest challenge faced by the nation. Those of us who have experienced both the rise and fall of the motherland can certainly play a role. Pakistan started from scratch. The founding fathers built institutions for the development of the nation. Since 1958, institution bashing has been going on with empire building. Empires cannot sustain a nation; only functional institutions can. The only functional institution left in the country are the armed forces, and they certainly have a role in nation building and exorcism of the very same demons that they have produced. Pakistan is a constitutional democracy in which the role of each state organ has been defined. Massive cleansing, followed by an honest ballot and finally the return of the Khakis to the barracks, is the way forward for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

n    The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.