Extension, media and consensus

Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is to be given a three-year extension to his term of office to maintain continuity in the country’s battle against religious militants, a move that western analysts said would bolster Pakistan’s anti-terrorism fight and cement its role in neighboring Afghanistan. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who announced the extension, said the decision to extend Kayani’s term reflected “his effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country.”

Political analysts and experts in Pakistan have warned that the three-year extension of Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani’s tenure will undermine the authority of the country’s parliament. Human rights activist and renowned lawyer, Asma Jahangir, has also expressed concern over the extension. She termed the decision a disappointing measure, and claimed that the country’s democratic process is weak.

“Our 63 years of history is evident that every general damaged the democratic process whenever he was given a promotion or extension in his job,” Asma said.

Arif Rafiq writes at Afpak Channel:

Perceptions aside, three more years of Kayani could conceivably provide continuity to both Pakistan’s military and political setup. In recent months, the consensus in Pakistan was that Kayani would receive a two-year extension. Gilani’s choice of three years was a surprise. But not by mere coincidence, Gilani’s government also has three years remaining in its tenure. And so it’s certainly possible that there is a deal between Gilani’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Kayani, perhaps involving foreign guarantors, to let this ship sail for three more years (with Gilani wearing the captain’s hat steering an imaginary wheel and Kayani actually in control). Indeed, Gilani alluded to a possible deal when he said today that Pakistan’s four major “stakeholders” — the president, prime minister, army chief, and Supreme Court chief justice — are in a “secure position” till 2013. […]

And so for Kayani, who has managed to become the darling of many of Pakistan’s nationalists and Islamists, there is some risk involved in continuing for another three years as army chief. If he ties himself too close to the PPP, he — and more importantly, the Pakistani Army — could lose a critical support base and sink along with the current government, unless he maintains a political distance and continues to pursue a semi-nationalist security policy.

Gilani projects a false sense of confidence in the viability of Pakistan’s current political-military setup. This is Pakistan. The Kayani extension provides a short-term ceasefire between the PPP and the army, but it will also likely produce re-alignments among its fractious power brokers. And another head-on clash between any two of them is not far from reality.

General Kayani was originally due to retire on November 28, but will now remain in office until 2013. The extension is only the second such incident in Pakistan’s history when a civilian regime has increased the services of the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). The first such extension was given by former president Iskandar Mirza to General Ayub Khan.The three army chiefs-Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf had extended their own terms while holding the office of the President. The army’s image was badly tarnished by those dictators and now this[General Kyani’s] extension really does not help. It is very common practice that institutions should not depend on individuals and a senior supposed to train a successor for the post.

This move also shows the lack of confidence in an institution – the army – that was so far considered or projected as the only institution left in pakistan. Depending on personalities rather than institution shows weakness, panic and the decline of the army as institution. It also shows that the civilian government — or even a single civilian — is too feeble to decide on the policies that directly concern us. We’re hermetically relying upon “one” person that he could change the course of war. it’s not democratic perception. It also reinforces that the civilian[elected]parliament have failed to establish their constitutional supremacy over the military and the military remains a very powerful institution. The Pakistan Army, we are told ad nauseam, is one of the best fighting forces in the world, commanded by some of the finest strategists in the universe. Is there no one who can replace Kayani then, when his tenure is over and he goes home like many generals before him, even some graceful Pakistani generals?”, people are suggesting that General Kayani should have retired honorably and shown to the world that it is the institution and not the individual that matters. Appointing Kiyanni for next three years also reflects that there was no up to the mark general to replace him as Chief of Army Staff who could take the pressure and work for the country and it’s[own]war on terror.

All political parties have studiously avoided taking a public position, they don’t even have the courage or[they]shy to express their views on the matter of General Kiyani’s extension. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is still in a “mysterious” state of [indecision] over whether it should support or oppose a government move to extend the tenure of army chief. And the most “intriguing” part is that the largest opposition group is also unsure about how much more time it needs to frame an official response to one of the crucial political decisions. Three days after Gen Kayani was given an extension in service, a spokesperson for the party appeared before the media but parried all questions about the party’s official reaction.

Now[media]anchors, columnists and analysts are describing the good, the bad, and the ugly ramifications-General Kayani’s extension has on the war on terror, democracy and military as institute. We have to keep in mind that General Kiyani’s future had been the subject of intense speculation for months. They should have been against this extension from the very first day, if they are? But on ground, we hardly find any debate on this important issue, a issue which is directly related to our democracy-not a single anchor had ever raised and highlighted this topic. Lamentably, NRO, Kerry Luggar Bill, Presidential Uk-France visit, fake degrees and Judges remarks really dwarfed coverage of important political questions.

Pakistan needed to build consensus that its institutions rather than rely on individuals – as it had done with powerful army rulers in the past. Owing to our media sadly, not very much democracy appreciative and it is also failed to develop consensus on important democratic or national issues – and due to irresponsible reporting and journalism, we have become apolitical nation and people have been losing faith and confidence in the democratic system and normative governance. This is the most disturbing factor that as a nation we are failed to develop consensus on important democratic questions and media as consensus builder &[leading]opinion maker is very much responsible for that. Once the consensus is build and precedent is set that no army chief will ever get extension, you will see that political scenario would be different. But it seems political forces and powerful media in Pakistan are not mature and daring enough to come to this consensus.



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