Nisar A. Memon
December 19, 2017 will be remembered as a historic day in strengthening of democracy in Pakistan. Its a day when Jinnah’s Pakistan won. It was a win for all. The military leadership came to Parliament to brief and answer the Senate on the general security situation, the recent foreign visits of COAS to Afghanistan and Iran, as well as remove apprehensions of any unconstitutional interference in governance of the country being run under democratic dispensation.
This visit was made possible by the foresight of the Chairman Senate who in consultation with the Leaders of House and Opposition invited the COAS to Senate and acceptance of COAS to personally visit and brief the Senate on the agenda and respond to the queries of Senators. This was also the Senate fulfilling their constitutional responsibility of oversight of executive branch of the government, both civil and military. It was brave and correct position of all concerned that won the day and set yet another positive precedence in relations between state institutions.
We need to be mindful of current vicious environment created in media and social network of distrust between institutions of the state by vested interest lobbies working in cohort with enemies of Pakistan. The appearance in Senate of the army leadership augers well and should put to rest the apprehensions of any unconstitutional attack on the countries fragile democracy.
Our media and professional commentators call it a move forward in civil-military relationship but they were off the mark and missed the point that it was a move forward in recognition of supremacy of parliament by the military executive branch, just like the civil executive has been accepting the parliamentary oversight.
Viewed in the historic context of Senate of Pakistan, one recalls that during 2003-2009 Senate many a firsts were initiated when Ministry of Defence was asked to present “Pakistan’s Defense Policy’ which due to firmness of the then Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production was present in-camera. In addition the defence budget lines were present for the first time and so was the briefing on our Nuclear by the SPD within the JCSC. When the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production was undertaking the first ever foreign visit it was the Chairman JCSC who personally along with his team briefed that Committee on our relations with China and some of the open issues, which Committee helped resolve.
It was investment of the past when egos were set aside and senators visited the Armed Forces Headquarters to get the briefings and responses to their queries. That investment paid off and like the chief ministers came to Parliament House to forge a consensus with Parliamentary Committee on Water Resources during that time, so did the military whenever the time came.
We also recall the joint sessions of two Houses of Parliament during past on National Security and the briefing by ISI DG while COAS sitting in the galleries. Such interaction though in-camera have been instrumental in forming national response to challenges.
Some may argue that it was the need of the hour, when our country is threatened by foreign conspiracies from east and northwest, from internal sabotage, from aggressive and unreasonable policy of USA’s new administration towards Pakistan that made this meeting possible. This is no time to advance such arguments but to recognize the historic initiative and response happened due to maturity and courage of leadership setting example for other state institutions to strengthen the country.
Senate has taken a step forward in the right direction and military leadership has unequivocally demonstrated that it derives its power from the Constitution and Parliament under the democratic dispensation.
It’s a disappointment for enemies of state both within and outside to witness the unity of command of the institutions under parliamentary form of government and to hear loud and clear the commitment of Pakistan’s military to Constitution and law. It should now discourage those forces who time and again seek unconstitutional interventions.
It’s a bright day for the youth of Pakistan who should be assured of continuity of democratic order and assurance of united front for the security of country and safeguard of people by its defenders.
It is time to pay homage to martyrs of Pakistan both civilians and military who laid their lives for safeguarding the democracy and frontiers in its 70 years of history. Its time to rejoice the strengthening of the country with united resolve of military executive branch of government and the parliament.
—Writer in former Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Pakistan