Well done, Mr Antony
By Kamran Shafi
Tuesday, 02 Feb, 2010
Three lieutenant generals of the Indian army are to be tried by court martial for their part in an alleged land scam. The orders to try them were passed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony when he saw that the army chief was trying to whitewash the alleged crime of one of the accused, just two days before Lt Gen Avadesh Prasad went into retirement.
Prasad was military secretary at the army HQ and was therefore close to the army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor. It is to be noted that whilst the inquiry officer, Lt Gen P.K. Singh (who is also India’s next COAS), had recommended that Prasad face a court martial for his part in the scam, Kapoor had disagreed with him. In stepped their boss, the defence minister.
By golly, can we even begin to imagine that Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar would have the nerve to do likewise? Or that our Rommels and Guderians would submit to the will of the elected leadership made up of ‘bloody civilians’? Not in a month of Sundays. Indeed, if our government had taken any such step, the ‘media Taliban’ (how I love this term!) would have gone into overdrive screaming blue murder against the elected government, shouting: ‘security risks’, ‘traitors’, ‘Indian-Israeli-American agents’ and so on.
The Prasad case has not damaged the Indian army; to the contrary, it has shown the world that India is a practising democracy in which the mighty too are subject to the law. It has shown that whilst there may be a few rotten eggs in the army, its high command still has people like Gen P.K. Singh who will stand up for principles. It has shown that India has people like A.K. Antony who are not afraid of doing the right thing. What we have to ask ourselves is this: is it possible that our government and its generals will draw some lessons from what is happening in India? Will they see and appreciate the openness with which this case has been handled, and the resultant good press that the process has received not only in India but across the world? Or will they continue to remain in their hull-down positions, a law unto themselves?
That seems to be the case. Why else is it that we hear nothing about the many earth-shaking incidents that have happened in our country? Such as the surrender of over 250 men along with their commanding officer to less than a dozen militants in Waziristan something like three years ago?
Yes, the Commando was ruling the roost then, in more ways than one. Were those responsible for the disgraceful episode proceeded against? What were the findings of the inquiry if any was held? Was anyone punished? Did the inquiry find that the appropriate standard operating procedures for operating in hostile territory were being followed when the catastrophe struck? Was the unit properly trained in ‘advance to contact’ in hilly terrain?
Did it use the ‘one leg on the ground’ method of movement, sending up pickets to look for hostiles lurking about before the main body advanced into a defile? So many questions, but we heard not a peep about the matter. It was as if nothing had happened, and all was hunky dory. It was shamelessness compounded manifold.
What, please, is this thing about our brass hats? Why do they consider everyone else inferior to themselves, despite the fact that they do not have much to show for all the billions that the country spends on keeping them in splendour that would make the nabobs envious? Why are they as arrogant as they are? These are questions that we must have answers to if the country is to progress to a better tomorrow. If the brass hats continue to feel that they can walk over anyone, any institution including the superior courts of the country, we are done for.
Witness the open defiance of the Peshawar High Court by the ‘agencies’ of the army in refusing to answer questions relating to the disappeared. This does not bode well for anyone: the government or the opposition or the judiciary. For if it is the government which is being defied today, it will be the opposition which will be defied tomorrow, when it comes into government.
Let me one more time request the country’s two largest political parties, the PPP and the PML-N to stop their point-scoring against each other and to face their common adversary, the enemy of popular democracy. Asif Zardari is hardly the biggest problem facing the country today; he is but one individual. Our problem is an arrogant, sinister and secretive security establishment that looms darkly over the country’s future.
Which reminds me, for the nth time, where is the cruel and sadistic Muslim Khan, the chief spokesman of the cruel and sadistic Mullah Fazlullah, the butcher of Swat? And the actual butcher whose name slips my mind but who was said by the ISPR to have been the person who used to slaughter people with a blunt knife on video? Why have they not been put on trial so many months after their capture? What is going on? Why this ambivalence when dealing with these confirmed yahoos?
Or are we right to assume that Muslim Khan & co are being kept wrapped in cotton wool for other missions at some future date?
Might one, at the end, ask why the PPP is playing footsie with Sheikh Rashid ‘Tulli’ in the Rawalpindi by-election? Is it meant to be a poke in the PML-N’s eye? Has the PPP forgotten the vile rudeness employed by Master ‘Tulli’ whenever referring to the Bhuttos, particularly to Benazir? Has it been forgotten that he has openly said he is the security establishment’s man?