LAHORE: Former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg says the army and the political government have a clash of interests because of which the democracy is at the “tipping point”.
Talking to The Nation today, he said the army wants to root out terrorism and corruption while politicians have joined hands to shield their own interests. “There is no possibility of the army stepping back as such a move will shake the very foundations of the country.”
In his opinion the government’s reaction to the ISPR press release will adversely affect COAS Gen Raheel Sharif’s upcoming visit to the United States as he would not be in a position to talk to the US leadership from a position of strength. Still, he believes that the visit should not be called off at this stage.
Asked if the situation had reached a point of no return or something could be done to avert any kind of political disaster, he said: “This is a very critical time which needs a very careful handling by both the government and the army.”
The former army chief said although the ISPR press release referred to lack of good governance, the real issue was the obstacles the army was facing in proceeding against terrorists and corrupt people. The ISPR did not talk of these issues in so many words because of its limitations, he explained.
He said being a former COAS he knew well the army’s mindset and to what extent could it reveal or conceal something.
He said after launching operation in Karachi the army and the rangers had found that terrorists had tentacles everywhere and even political leaders and moneyed people were supporting them. Also, he said it was detected that Indian intelligence agency – RAW – had penetration even in an agency like Karachi Water Board, which was a matter of serious concern for the defenders of Pakistan.
The situation is so grave that the army will not return without eliminating terrorists and taking the corrupt to the logical conclusion, he emphasized.
He said it was regrettable that instead of strengthening the hands of the army and rangers to help them accomplish the mission they had been assigned, political forces had got united in support of the very elements the defenders of Pakistan were supposed to proceed against.
The unity among the PML-N, PPP and the MQM at the time of the election of the National Assembly speaker should be seen in this perspective, he observed.
At present, he said it was the PPP and the MQM which were facing action because of their misdoings. But the PML-N also fears that they too would be sitting in the dock pretty soon and it was because of this common threat that the parties with divergent views and programmes were seen together.
The ruling PML-N is also deeply involved in corruption, alleged the former army chief, when asked what would be the basis for anyone to proceed against the party in power.
He said there were allegations of corruption in the Nandipur Power Project and the Qatar gas deal, which needed a thorough probe.
Gen Beg claimed that Gen Raheel has been discussing with the prime minister corruption allegations in various projects. “This has brought the democratic system to a tipping point,” he said.
Replying to a question, Gen Beg said going back was not an option for the army as people would curse them for leaving the agenda unfinished. “The army is doing what the people want it to do.”
According to Gen Beg, deficiencies in the implementation of the National Action Plan could be handled through administrative measures.
He said the government was not doing what it should be doing to deal with the corrupt and terrorists. Anybody arrested during the past eleven months was not taken to task, he pointed out.
Asked which institution should take what step to ‘normalise’ the situation, he said the political institution should keep aside its political interests and extend fullest support to the army to enable it to complete the mission it was assigned. Only then, he said, would the demands of the country’s security be met.
Q: Does the political system face any threat?
A: Those running the system must know that the reaction the parliament has come up with is not justified. The government is fully aware why the ISPR had to issue the statement and what it was referring to.
In response to a question, the former COAS said that Gen Raheel was leaving for the United States much weaker because of the statements being made by various parliamentarians. He said although Gen Raheel would discuss matters like Pakistan’s nuclear programme and the Afghanistan situation, even at the negotiating table he would be thinking about developments back home.