The messages and signals in Kayani’s words

Shaheen Sehbai
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
From Print Edition

DUBAI: Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has spoken out and said all that he could, in the words that he could use, given his position and constraints but the message is clear: we are giving democracy another chance but if you fail to deliver, there are no guarantees.

 This blunt interpretation of his key words in the Martyrs Day speech on Tuesday night may not be liked by many but it is obvious.

The general has spoken to politicians and the people alike and told them that if democracy is not used for the interest of the public over personal interests, nothing would change. And he included dictatorship in his construction of words.

Read his lips: “Our salvation resides in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation. This would come to pass once the construct of public representation in Pakistan is oriented towards affording primacy and precedence to larger public interest over personal interests.

“Otherwise, may it be democracy or dictatorship, governance would continue to remain a means of self aggrandizement and that of plundering national wealth and resources.”

His message can be summarised into these lines:

– Transform the government into a true platform of public representation.

– Public representation should mean giving top priority to larger public interest over personal interests (meaning stop the loot and plunder that has been going on in the name of democracy).

– Otherwise (that’s the warning) there could be democracy or dictatorship (back again).

– And government would again be a tool plundering national wealth and resources (like it happened in the past).

But the speech also contains signs and signals that should not be ignored.

Kayani said: – “It is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship.” In simple words, he is saying that the present circus around General Musharraf should end, let the people participate and decide. The message: If they don’t or fail, the hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship may continue.

– “If we succeed in rising above all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases to vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence, there would be no reason to fear dictatorship or to grudge the inadequacies of our present democratic system.” Message: If we don’t pass this hard test of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence, there would be reasons to fear dictatorship.

These hidden messages were camouflaged adequately for the record with these words of assurance: “I assure you, that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution. I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country.”

There were yet more notes of caution. “The conduct of general elections is not an end per se, but is surely an important means towards delivering us from our present sufferings. To bring an end to our tribulations, it is also imperative to foster a profound understanding of our national ethos and aspirations.” The message: Don’t put all your eggs in the elections basket, there may be a lot more to come. Also keep your aspirations under control.

His words: “The general elections will provide us the foundation. To build on this foundation, we would have to find answers to many questions; war against terrorism being one of these questions,” mean even after the elections many issues will linger on and terrorism is the most important.

On this issue, the general was more forthcoming and clearly asked everybody to stop playing around and come on the same page with political ownership and support the Pakistan Army as Jawans do not understand mixed signals.

His words: “Questions about the ownership of such wars have never been raised. We cannot afford to confuse our soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings…. we must not hurt the sentiments of these saviours of the nation through our words and deeds.”

He was almost blunt in asking the politicians to take a clear and firm stand against the terrorists: “We as a nation need to forge consensus towards evolving a clear policy through mutual consultations. Considering this war against terrorism as the war of the armed forces alone can lead to chaos and disarray that we cannot afford.”

This clearly has the message that political parties and leaders should sit together and stop the dirty games, at least on this issue. Message: We (the army) cannot fight this alone; otherwise there is no guarantee of success. Chaos and disarray are the words he used as the price of failure.


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