Use of military, whether in a developed or developing society, is always the last option to be used. Only when entangled in the vortex of internal or external security crisis, calling the help of armed forces can be justified. But Nawaz Sharif led federal government has called on army in order to avoid the upcoming challenges from the political opposition, leaving their chores upon the shoulder of Pakistan Army and it has probably ignored the repercussions it may entail.
The government seems to have made the decision in haste. Complete handing over of the federal capital to the army, which is already busy terminating insurgency and fighting the war of survival for Pakistan, can only be equated with acceptance of failure.
The picture it would depict to the world is that the government was strong enough to use civilian forces to guard the federal capital when the suicide bombers were blasting in every corner of the country but kneeled before the ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘Insafians’ when they announced to march to the capital. It is indeed the first political victory of the latter and a sign of defeat from the former.
The Nawaz government seems to have not discussed and deliberated minutely upon the repercussions of invoking Article 245 of the Constitution; the provision that empowers the government to call the army to act in aid of civilian power.
It must not be forgotten that the very provision was once invoked by the most powerful Prime Minister of Pakistan and then he became so helpless to revoke it and had to surrender before noose of death which followed the imposition of Article 245. He was none other than Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
On the occasion of presenting interim Constitution, late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made historic remarks. He confidently said, [blockquote style=”2″] If you are not vigilant and if you do not handle things carefully, if the politicians make mistakes and if we indulge in petty matters, go along destructive channels or fight amongst ourselves, it is just possible that the bygone era (martial law) might recur.”[/blockquote]
The late PM probably forgot his own words and indulged himself in such a closed end tunnel that soon after 1977 general elections, when the opposition refused to accept the results, he imposed mini-martial law by calling upon army to act in aid of civilian government. The invocation of a constitutional provision that ended up with tons of problems like the imposition of full-fledged martial law at a later stage, execution of Bhutto himself, influx of religious mercenaries, and the suspension of constitution for nearly 8 years, to name few of them, costing Pakistan an unbearable loss.
Today the situation is not very much different from what it was in 1977. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) is not ready to accept the election results of a few constituencies, yet heading one of the provincial governments. Their members in the lower house are duly elected and sworn in as a result of the same election which they are calling rigged.
Federal government’s requisition to the army under Article 245 to take the federal capital in control for 90 days is somewhat a confused move. The situation does not warrant calling the army to control a relatively peaceful city. It would leave unfading affects upon the overall scenario.
It must not be forgotten that by invoking Article 245, the government has involved itself in the unending crisis that may wrap up the federal government. More than PTI, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) or any other force, and another ill advice like that of calling the army for help might act as the last nail causing the exit of the government.
By the virtue of Article 245, the high court of that province (in this case the federal capital) ceases to enjoy its jurisdiction. If any serious law and order situation is somehow created in the area, the army enjoys an implicit power to suspend certain fundamental right including freedom of movement and freedom of assembly etc. If the army exercises such powers, it would worsen the situation in already tense political environment.
Article 245, as one can read between the lines, requires to be invoked in circumstances such as when there is an external aggression or a threat of war. And also when defence, security, strategic, and sensitive installations are under serious threat of attack. Neither PTI nor Awami Tehreek has guts to attack the sensitive installations nor do they intend to do so.
The reason cited by the federal government about the potential attacks from TTP in retaliation of operation Zarb-e-Azb is nothing but a façade. It is actually unnecessary dragging of the army into political affairs of the country and is equal to the shifting of political burden over the shoulders of army.
Nawaz Sharif is testing his own medicine. As far as PTI is concerned, it tabled very simple demands to investigate the votes casted in four constituencies. Had the demands been met, it would not have forced the PTI to stage the march. For Tahirul Qadri too, the Punjab government’s incompetent coordination and the ‘shooting at sight’ saga proved to be a golden opportunity to seize the attention of media and use it as his trump card for achieving his political (or God knows what) objectives.
Political problems can only be solved through political means. The politicians cannot be expected to fight the terrorists hiding in the rough terrains of the tribal areas. Similarly the army is not expert at solving purely political issues the way it could be dealt with by the politicians.
Nawaz government may have made a disillusioned, futile attempt in defusing the tension, whereas Article 245 is nothing but an addition to the brewing problems. Such decision may have been made over a cup of tea in a cabinet meeting, but if the sanity does not prevail, the fear is that it would end with spilling the blood of many political workers being used by the parties. If the imposition of Article 245 is not lifted without wasting time, it would create more problems for the government and will also badly affect the operational capacity of the armed force in conducting the operation Zarb-e-Azb.