Meeting of Politicians with ArmyChief – Interpretation by Supreme Court


Multiparty conference (MPC) organized by Peoples Party was held in Islamabad on 20 Sep which was attended by 11 major political parties in the opposition including PML (N), JUI-F, JUI, ANP, and prominent nationalist parties. The joint declaration issued has 26 points including the demand of resignation of PM and formation of national alliance in the name of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).  The meeting declared that the “incumbent selected government has been granted artificial stability by the establishment that has imposed it on the people through rigged elections. The forum demands transparent elections in the country and calls for electoral reforms. The declaration also demanded that election reforms without any role for armed forces or agencies, be enacted. Expressing reservations on the rising interference of establishment in political matters and declared it a threat for the country and national institutes. The declaration demanded that the establishment immediately cease stop all manners of interference in politics. The PML-N founder, Nawaz Sharif while addressing the MPC alleged that the root cause of Pakistan’s problems was the presence of a “state above the state” and declared that opposition struggle was not against the PM but against those who had imposed such an incapable person upon nation through a manipulated electoral process.  It was given wide coverage by the domestic and international media especially India.  After the MPC, minister for railways issued statement that parliamentary leaders including, the Opposition Leader, Chairman PPP, Ameer of JUI, senior rep of JUF and other parliamentary leaders,have met the Army chief and DG ISI in a meeting called by the later four days before the MPC. According to Dawn of 26 Sep the railway minister declared that the opposition leaders informed about the excesses made by NAB and requested for his involvement. The army chief clearly told that the army was not in any manner linked to the political processes and had no involvement in matters concerning election reforms and accountability.  The general categorically conveyed that no one would be allowed to create chaos in the country. Whereas the opposition parties claimed that we attended the meeting to discuss Gilgit Balistan (GB) issue and concessions were not requested. The minister of railways when asked in the talk show on 25 Sep, are you the spokesperson of the army, his reply was,“I feel honored to be”. As reported in Dawn of 24 Sep, DG ISPR informed that Mr. Zubair ex-governor of Sindh, a   senior leader of PMLN met COAS on 7 Sep and earlier in August to request for relief for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, which was declined by the chief saying that case is in the courts. However, Mr. Zubair reply was that he never made such request. In the same time frame, as per SAMAA TVshow Awaz, Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haidari of JUI disclosed that Army Chief had invited the JUI-F leadership to a meeting ahead of the Azaadi March last year. The COAS urged them not to hold the march or interfere in whatever they were doing against Nawaz Sharif. In addition, a lotof videos/posts are in circulation for and against the role of army in the present political scenario. The address of Maulana Fazal ur Rahman is pertinent. It is evident that a lot of controversies have emerged about interaction of Army chief with the politicians.

It is relevant to mention that Charter of Democracy was signed between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in May 2006 in London which has 36 articles. Most of these have been incorporated in the constitution by 18 th amendment. Summary of the articles 22,which is relevant to current political situation but not yet included in constitution is, we shall not join a military regime or any military sponsored government. No party shall solicit the support of military to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government. Keeping these in mind parliamentary leaders of the opposition parties may have declined to meet the army chief. Moreover, according to article 245 of constitution functions of the armed forces are,“shall under the directions of the Federal Government defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so”. The oath taken by armed forces personnel from soldier to general is, I, (rank & name), do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and under the law. {May Allah Almighty help and guide me (Ameen)}.The Quaid has very strongly emphasized the armed forces to follow the oath taken. Relevant portion of his address to Command and Staff college Quetta of 14 June 1948 are, “I have no doubt in my mind, from what I have seen and from what I have gathered, that the spirit of the Army is splendid the morale is very high and all are working as a true Pakistani. One thing more, I am persuaded to say this because during my talks with one or two very high-ranking officers I discovered that they did not know the implications of the oath taken by the troops of Pakistan. Of course, an oath is only a matter of form; what are more important are the true spirit and the heart. But it is an important form, and I would like to take the opportunity of refreshing your memory by reading the prescribed oath to you. “I solemnly affirm, in the presence of Almighty God, that I owe allegiance to the Constitution and Dominion of Pakistan (mark the words Constitution and the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan) and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully serve in the Dominion of Pakistan Forces and go within the terms of my enrolment wherever I may be ordered by air, land or sea and that I will observe and obey all commands of any officer set over me.As I have said just now, the spirit is what really matters. I should like you to study the Constitution, which is in force in Pakistan, at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications when you say that you will be faithful to the Constitution of the Dominion.

Keeping in view TV talk shows, various videos / posts in circulation on social media, the interaction of the army chief with politicians has become controversial. It is tarnishing the image of the army which is a prestigious institution of the country. It is also leading to political instability.   In accordance with the article 245 of the constitution the political leaders should have declined the meeting with the army chief. At the same time as per same article and the oath taken by the armed forces personnel, it is considered that the army chief may not have called and met the leaders of the opposition parties.  But political leaders and the official spoke person of the army are giving impression that it is a normal activity. The government point of view is also similar. Therefore, it is likely that this type of activities may continue. It is pertinent to mention that as per article 5 (2) of the constitution,” obedience to the constitution and law is the (inviolable) obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.”It is therefore suggested that the Supreme Court may take Suo Moto notice under article 184 (3) of the constitution and interpret the article 245 of constitution and the spirit of the oath taken by armed forces personnel. So that controversies do not surface in future and the institutions of the state and the politicians strictly follow the constitution and the oath taken.  

Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
the author is Cdre (retd) former Senior Research Fellow, at NIMA And SVI Islamabad


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