Re-Inventing the COAS: By Dr. Haider Mehdi

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Conflict resolution experts believe that when you have a problem, go for the simplest solution. This logistical approach to problem solving applies not only to selective areas of conflict management, but across the board in all spheres of human endeavors. This includes politics and its organizational management as well as the field of human conduct, both at the individual level and at the institutional level in the context of national behavioral patterns.
Being a columnist who has written extensively on various national issues, a student/scholar of national and global affairs, a critic of Musharraf’s military-political partnership with the US, and a member of the patriotic proactive and dynamic civil society that has recently emerged out of the chaotic management of national politics by Musharraf’s establishment, I consider it my national and intellectual obligation to advise the new COAS to re-invent himself and the armed forces’ role in the national interest of Pakistan.
As a nation, Pakistan faces alarming crises and grave dangers to its national existence as a civilized democratic society. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s military has become a powerful political party, reaching its pinnacle during Musharraf’s eight years of dictatorship. Unless remedial steps are taken to absolutely roll back and completely block future military interventions in the political process of the country, the prospects of this nation’s survival remain despairingly bleak. After all, history is witness to the present and past of this nation, mostly political sufferings and constitutional breaches at the hands of successive military dictators and coups staged by a number of COAS.
What should be done? The remedy lies in the five words of wisdom: “Go for the simplest solution.” The incumbent COAS has to re-invent his role as a professional military leader and a progressive forward-looking soldier to give new direction to the armed forces’ place in the future democratic structure of this nation.
In a voluntary memorandum of understanding addressed publicly through the media to the nation, civil society, lawyers, all four branches of the government, the current COAS will have to declare the following as the army’s national strategic doctrine:

1. From now on, every COAS will have a fixed term of office for 3 years. No extension of this term shall be made.

2. From now on, in accordance to the oath taken under armed forces rules, the COAS and all other military personnel will be barred from taking part in the political governance of the country.

3. From now on, the senior-most officer of the armed forces will qualify for the position of the COAS. However, this appointment will be subject to a parliamentary committee confirmation hearing in which the designated officer must take a fresh oath to uphold the elected democratic administration of the state. The parliamentary committee may or may not confirm such an appointment of an officer. Nevertheless, the executive branch (president or prime minister) will not have the power to nominate any candidates other than the senior-most officer of the armed forces.

4. From now on, Pakistan’s armed forces will not take part in any military operation in which citizens of Pakistan or the civilian population is targeted.

5. From now on, Pakistan’s armed forces will prepare themselves as a purely defensive army of the country as opposed to an offensive army. The defense of the country will be strengthened by political means and on the deterrence doctrine of its nuclear capability, making a future war unimaginable.

6. From now on, the COAS, along with all command control officers of the armed forces, will be barred from having direct or indirect contact with the military or civilian personnel of a foreign country. In future, a newly constituted Armed Forces Regulatory Parliamentary Committee will have to sanction or request such contact after prior approval in which 2/3 of the committee members agree that such contact is essential and is in the national interest of Pakistan.

7. From now on, the overseas training of the officers of the armed forces will be diversified from its traditional centers, focusing such training in neighboring countries such as China and Russia. Future defense agreements will be mostly within the regional block (such as Iran) and with other Islamic countries. The armed forces of Pakistan will fully and completely support the civilian administration’s decisions on defense pacts and military and diplomatic initiatives. Strengthening of military relations with China and Russia will be emphasized.

8. From now on, the ISI, the intelligence arm of the army, will be barred from conducting intelligence and political activities within the country. It will be strictly a military intelligence outfit working within the confines of its operational parameters. It will be barred from arresting, interrogating, or handing over a Pakistani citizen to any foreign country. The ISI will be barred from co-operating with the military, police or a secret agency of a foreign country.

9. From now on, retired army generals and all other armed forces officers will not be eligible for ambassadorial and top corporate sector appointments. Such an appointment could only be made by a Parliamentary Foreign Relations Advisory Committee after the executive branch recommendations are supported by the facts that such an appointment is in the national interest of the country.

10. From now on, the defense budget will be appreciably reduced, and the fringe-benefits of the armed forces officers reviewed and made compatible with other civilian branches of the government. Steps will be taken to discourage and diminish the consolidation of the armed forces into a powerful business and entrepreneurial entity -- which it has now become under Musharraf’s endowment.

These are some of the preliminary conceptual and operational steps that can save Pakistan from sliding further into the abyss of a military dictatorship under the guise of a pseudo-democratic setup as is now being envisaged by the present regime.
There was a time when the people of Pakistan hero-worshipped and loved their armed forces. Not anymore. And there are plenty of good reasons for this transformation of the public’s sentiment towards the military in their hearts and minds.
People realize that gallantry is something that can only be witnessed on a battlefield against a formidable enemy. People also understand that a war by its army’s generals and commanders against its own citizens is neither gallant nor heroic.
People know they are not the enemy…!
Go for the simplest solution. Re-invent the army â€" or face a bleak national future!

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