LAHORE – In an apparent reaction to the recent verdict by the Supreme Court (SC) against two former generals for rigging the 1990 polls, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Monday that no single institution could define national interest or exceed its role under the constitution.
Last month, the SC had ruled that the military must stop interfering in politics. However, the military chief, in a rare public statement, warned: “Any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and armed forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.” He said that any attempt to create a distinction between the army leadership and the troops was against the spirit of cohesion of the armed forces, and that the military would not tolerate it. Addressing a group of officers at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, Kayani said: “Weakening of the institutions and trying to assume more than one’s due role will set us back. We owe it to the future of Pakistan to lay correct foundations today.”
“We should not be carried away by short-term considerations which may have greater negative consequences in the future,” he added. The army chief said that Pakistan was going through a “defining phase”, adding, “No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong while defining the ultimate national interest.” He said that all Pakistanis had a right to express their opinion and the national interest should only be defined through consensus. Kayani’s statement, issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), did not explain the context of the top general’s remarks, but to many observers it appeared as a reaction to the verdict given by the top judiciary against former generals.
But a military official, who requested anonymity, gave the impression that Kayani’s remarks were a reaction to the ongoing criticism against the military leadership on the media. “The army chief is mindful of the feelings in the ranks and cadres of the army, and this ‘uncalled for’ criticism is affecting the morale of the military cadres,” he added. On October 19, an SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered the government to take action against former army chief General (r) Mirza Aslam Beg and former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General (r) Asad Durrani for distributing millions of rupees among selected politicians to influence the 1990 general election, which the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lost at the hands of the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI). – Pakistantoday