Civil-military relations: the JIT aspect

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 26.07.17

In Pakistan, civil-military relations are a reflection of the power struggle impregnating the
body politic of Pakistan. Harmony in these relations might have benefitted Pakistan, but
dissonance in these relations have engendered more problems than all benefits of concord
counted together.

On April 24, DG ISPR issued a press release conveying that the 202nd Corps Commander’
s Conference led by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa was held in GHQ. The
Conference discussed, amongst other things, the Panama case decision by the Supreme
Court (announced on April 20) with a special reference to the formation of the Joint
Investigation Team (JIT) and “pledged that (the) institution through its members in JIT shall
play its due role in a legal and transparent manner fulfilling confidence reposed by the Apex
Court of Pakistan”. Certainly, institutions play their role through their members.

It was already known that the JIT would present its final report to the Supreme Court on July
10 and the report was presented. However, on the same day, Corps Commanders held
their next Conference. The coincidence of dates disguised certain messages (and these
were duly aired). Interestingly, on July 16, DG ISPR held a press conference and (in its
question and answer session) said that the army did not have any direct relation with the
JIT. The point is simple: if the army had no direct relation (or connection) with the JIT, the
press release of April 24 should have been amended (or retracted). The obverse side of
the argument is that if the press release of April 24 was valid, the statement issued by the
DG ISPR on July 16 was questionable. DG ISPR overlooked the fact that institutions play
their role through their members, as earlier claimed. Reducing the role to direct or indirect
is just a post-script of little value.

The hyperbole in the ISPR’s press release of April 24 can be understood in the background
of the inquiry report on the DAWN leaks. On April 29, by using the twitter handle, the ISPR
publicly rejected the inquiry report issued by the Prime Minister (PM) house. To keep the
disagreement official, the ISPR could have written a letter to the PM house to express its
reservations, but it did not opt for that. The question is this: what were the stakes of the
ISPR to stay publicly relevant by snubbing the PM house? Unfortunately, in the Constitution
of Pakistan, there is no provision for an institution that could function parallel to the
democratic institution (or the parliament). The ISPR is just a subordinate office to the
Ministry of Defence. Challenging the PM house publicly not only blemished the ISPR but it
also adumbrated the conclusions of the JIT report. Similarly, in withdrawing the same tweet
by the ISPR on May 10, many people prognosticated the kind of conclusion of the JIT report.

There are two major problems with the JIT report. First, it speculated conclusions. Second,
it jumped to conclusions. That is, the JIT report overlooked the gaps between a document
(as evidence) and the conclusion it was drawing, thereby discrediting any possibility for
alternative conclusions. Perhaps, the members of the JIT were not trained for excluding the
possibilities for alternative conclusions. Another reason for such a practice could be that
the JIT might be prepossessed with certain conclusions. That is, the JIT superimposed its
conclusions on the report to validate the decision of the Supreme Court which had selected
the JIT precisely. The JIT might have played its role in a “legal and transparent manner”,
but the JIT has failed to do any critical analysis of the documentary evidences it collected.

One major point, which will keep on haunting the JIT, may be that the JIT came up with no
evidence of corruption against the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan. This happened
despite the fact that the institution of the army was playing its due role through its members,
as claimed by April 24 press release. The JIT could have been called successful in its
performance, if it had unearthed the money trail of corruption done by Nawaz Sharif. Only
then could the oft-repeated conclusion “living (or assets) beyond means” made by the JIT
for the Sharif family have been corroborated.

The rhetoric of living beyond means opens another chapter of social understanding of
issues. In Pakistan, the salaried class faces the problem of fathoming the way the business
class works. One factor that keeps a member of the salaried class salaried is that they are
not ready to take financial risks, which otherwise are the hallmark of the business class.
The act of installing a steel factory in one country and then relocating it to some other Arab
country by the Sharif family can be understood in this context. It is the risk factor that keeps
on tormenting a businessman who tries to establish all links and endeavours to put in place
all mechanisms to ensure the financial viability of his venture. Opening bank accounts in
various countries, transferring money to evade harsh taxes, and buying property in
different countries are some of the measures to secure original wealth – not to say of the
profit. All members of the JIT were salaried having no experience of initiating a business
venture in a foreign land with the idea of making it successful. This is where the social
learning of the JIT members crept in to ruin the results of the report.

Interestingly, the JIT report implies that Pakistan has been facing the challenge of retaining
money into its economic sphere. The members of the JIT might be very credible by
reputation as claimed by DG ISPR in the question and answer session of the press
conference on July 16, the credibility of the Sharif family is also known. JIT’s failure to find
out any shred of evidence of corruption against Nawaz Sharif is a major proof of the
integrity of the Sharif family. The question is this: what has prompted this family to take its
money out of Pakistan and invest there? The broader question is this: why has the politico-
economic atmosphere in Pakistan so vitiated to keep industrialists doing ventures out of the
country? A simple answer could be found in the sense of insecurity pervading through the
country: in the remote past, a kind of insecurity was created by nationalisation of industries;
in the recent past, a kind of insecurity was engendered by vindictiveness practised by army
generals such as General Parvez Musharraf who imposed martial laws. The era of
nationalisation of industries is over for sure; however, the era of martial laws is still doing a
last ditch effort to make its survival possible.

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