Saturday February 24, 2024

Is it time for the Elephant to come out?


March 07, 2015
DUBAI: There is a lot of muted, between the lines, talk in the media and in political and intellectual circles about a “soft coup” that, analysts claim, has taken place and the elected political government is now a second banana, which is a synonym for the second fiddle.
Examples of this soft coup are given by quoting the emergence of the new synergy in handling issues of national importance, so far restricted only to national security, terrorisma and to some extent law and order. Some call it the “Apex Committees Doctrine”.
As in politics where power has shifted from elected central executive committees to core committees of a few selected individuals, relations between the establishment and the political world have been taken over by the Apex Committees, it is argued.
What this means is that in every key forum where right decisions are needed, and quickly, the Generals, in their full gear, sit stiff-necked, looking straight into the eyes and ask for issues to be tabled, discussed and decisions taken, with deadlines set, tasks assigned and the course defined. No more hanky-panky, as they say.
Starting with the apex committee set up after the Peshawar Army School massacre to form military courts, such committees have spread to the provinces and recently to Karachi where it was decided to further expand the doctrine to lower levels by creating three sub-committees in Sindh where the GOC of the area would represent the army. Muted critics refer to this phenomenon as the elephant stepping out of the room.
But since the subjects so far, and I repeat so far, covered by the apex committees are related to security, terrorism, intelligence and warfare, politicians have gone along with the doctrine but with a pinch of salt though some grumbling was reported.
The Sindh CM once said there will be no regional committees and apparently looked like revolting against the Karachi decision on postings and transfers without apex committee approvals by

freezing all such changes for three months. It has already created a tiff.
With the background of the so-called soft coup now a bit clearer, I want to move on to a more controversial statement, or even a proposal, that could actually remove the clouds around this hush-hush “compulsive intervention”, as many media analysts call it.
The crux of my argument is: if this apex committee doctrine is acceptable to the politicians, without any serious objection, in some matters, why it cannot be accepted in other matters which are agitating the minds of majority of people who have been crushed under the weight of mismanagement, mis-governance, corruption, cronyism, favouritism, unethical practices, violation of rules, laws and outright dictatorship and corruption in many civilian matters, be it land grabbing, contracts, price manipulation, stock exchange ups and downs and so on.
I have to explain this statement clearly, as it will be twisted and spinned out of this world, lambasting me for calling for military rule against the democracy that we have.
I am not calling for the army to take over and sweep away democracy. What I am saying is that if the elephant in the room can speak IN SOME big rooms on SOME SUBJECTS why it cannot come out of the closet and speak on ALL SUBJECTS. Can it be done? It can be.
Everyone laments and cribs that “institutions” are not working in the country and no one knows how they will be made to work. Here is one way:
— The Chief of the Army Staff should schedule a speech at the National Defence College and invite all the big guns, the PM, his cabinet, NA speaker, the CMs, the Chief Justices, the Chief Election Commissioner, all federal secretaries, IGs, heads of all institutions like NAB, SECP, CCP, FIA, CAA, PIA, OGDC, media bosses etc. etc., all the 200 or so men who run this state. All his Corps Commanders should also be there.
— He should open his speech by saying: “I am not going to overthrow the government but the Army, from now on, will fully stand behind everyone who takes bold and correct (may be politically sour) decisions, who follows the law, refuses to indulge in corruption, refuses to turn and twist the Constitution and shows courage against misguided hypocrites who have acquired power, either through the ballot or cronyism.”
— He can then go on to give some examples, without directly embarrassing or naming anyone, thus making it clear what he means. The hush-rush contracts of billions, the Senate imbroglio, oil shortages, outflow of billions and many more.
— He should call his message a wake-up call, but should not issue any warning.
— But as it has happened numerous times in the past, and is happening now, and will happen in future, the right message through the appropriate messenger should then be conveyed by Pindi at every critical time to the right person/institution, no matter if it has political consequences or repercussions.
— The institutions need confidence and courage and without warning or issuing the threat of a takeover, the army should now play its role, as it has already decided to play it subtly through the Apex Committees. It is time for the elephant in the room to show its face and size.
— It must be realized that terrorism is not just to kill people with bombs and guns. It is also terrorism if you starve people to death and when you yourself fly on a national airline chartered plane and carry 80 specially cooked dishes for your entourage and family at the public expense. Likewise, when wrong decisions hurt and sometimes kill people, it is economic terrorism.
When it is said repeatedly that everyone should contribute their two cents to reform the system and improve governance, how long would people, individuals, institutions and intellectuals wait?
What kind of a mess would be the last straw on the camel’s back?
Or are we all waiting for the system and the country to collapse and crumble?
If a soft coup has taken place, let it then be extended to places where it is desperately needed. Billions upon billions are being taken away from the country; no one has the courage to challenge the looters and plunderers.
The tragedy is that it is all being done in the name of democracy.
Where are the checks that are an essential and a vital part of any democratic system?
We have to apply brakes, and now, before the crash comes with fatal consequences.