A Commendable Initiative

Dawn, July 22, 2006
Ex-generals, MPs want military out of politics
By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, July 22: A group of retired generals, sitting and former parliamentarians and academics have called for disengagement of military from political power by separating the offices of the president and army chief.

“Besides being a constitutional office, the office of president of Pakistan is also a political office (and) combining presidency with the office of Chief of Army Staff politicises the latter post as well as the army,” said the group in a letter addressed to President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and heads of political parties.

Expressing concern over political polarisation and extremism in society, the group stressed the need for conducting dialogue for peace and conciliation.

“Democracy can only be authentic when there is real separation of powers and when all institutions of the state abide by the roles assigned to them by the constitution.

“True federalism will only be possible through political, financial and administrative decentralisation of the state,” it said.

The group includes serving and former members of parliament, former ministers, former governors, two former directors-general of ISI, two academics, a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute and an editor.

“After conducting a series of extensive discussion for over one-and-a-half years, the group has unanimously agreed to seek urgent attention of the heads of the highest public offices and heads of political parties to help reduce growing political polarisation and to desist from taking extremist, inflexible positions,” according to the letter.

The group urged restraint and moderation on all leaders in order to initiate and conduct a sustained dialogue that alone could ensure a peaceful, orderly transition to complete and authentic democracy. The group held consultations in Islamabad during 2005 and 2006 under the auspices of a civil society forum ‘Pildat’.

“Due to a variety of factors, the state and society of Pakistan today face serious challenges to internal cohesion and stability. Despite the existence of elected legislatures and the prospects of the next elections, there is a deficit of trust and credibility that marks virtually all political relationships. Increasing polarisation reflects the dangerous forces of exclusion and dominance.

“Preoccupied though the people may be by critical issues as also by their day-to-day struggle with the quality of life, the whole nation deeply desires that conciliation, which is a collective and shared responsibility, rather than confrontation, (should) be the way forward. The onus is on the leadership of all institutions and organisations, specially the elected representatives of the people and those who hold public office.”

The group said the 2007 elections would not be credible without neutral and impartial caretaker governments, both at the centre and in the provinces.

Genuine empowerment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan is essential for transparent elections. For this purpose, it is necessary for the district administrations to be placed under the control of the CEC during the 2007 polls, it suggested.

“All the political parties of the country also have a major responsibility to learn from their past mistakes and commit themselves to strengthening democratic institutions and traditions so as to ensure the rule of law and good governance at all levels.

“To achieve these paramount objectives, the political parties must exercise restraint and respond positively to any offer of dialogue to make free and fair elections possible.

A sustained dialogue between the leadership of principal institutions and organisations is the vital pre-requisite to ensure a peaceful, orderly transition to complete and authentic democracy.”

The group has appealed to all to refrain from taking extremist positions and hurling threats and charges against each other.

Those who have signed the letter are: Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir, Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, Javed Jabbar, Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, Dr Khalida Ghous, Lt-Gen (retd) Moinuddin Haider, Mujibur Rehman Shami, ruling PML Senator S.M. Zafar, PML-N leader Sartaj Aziz, Brig (retd) Shaukat Qadir, PPP MNA Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Lt-Gen (retd) Talat Masood, Lt-Gen (retd) S. Tanwir H. Naqvi, Shafqat Mahmood, Dr Parvez Hassan, Shahid Hamid, Lt-Gen (retd) Hameed Gul and Ahmed Bilal Mehboob.


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