But something did agitate Gen Kayani, which is possibly an impression within his own service that he may be allowing civilians, who are considered corrupt by his men, more space in challenging the army’s authority and raising questions regarding the accountability of several generals. The Pakistan Army is in the habit of not only defending the serving generals, but also the retired ones and all those who are part of the military fraternity.
There is a concern that the Asghar Khan case was part of the entire set of cases in which some questions were being posed to the military. It was, hence, necessary for Gen Kayani to appear tough at a time when his own credibility may be on the line within his own institution. His name is popularly linked with the Indo-Pakistan peace process at a time when the mindset of his boys regarding the concept of an enemy remains the same as before. Then, there are several other issues on which there is unease within his service.
It is also a fact that many political actors may be using the argument regarding the military-judiciary clash to their own advantage in strengthening their position versus their political opponents. If anything at all, the Asghar Khan case has sown the seeds of discontent among the politicians. For instance, Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif is worried that the government may use the opportunity to open up a case against him right before the next election, or otherwise harm his reputation as he was one of the key politicians accused of taking a bribe from the spy agency.
There are others who believe that the court gave such a judgment in which it left critical issues such as affixing responsibility on the politicians by the serving government to save itself from the trouble of holding Sharif responsible, a man with the reputation of having been very close to the lawyer’s movement when Gen Pervez Musharraf was in power.
AT THIS juncture, there is little possibility of the government or the court implementing the decision to get the extortion money in the Asghar Khan case from Beg and Durrani. The two old boys may have gone underground as a result and not giving too many public statements, but they are definitely in no mood to be forced to pay up. In their minds, creating a political party in 1990 and rigging elections against Benazir Bhutto was an institutional act in the interest of an organisation, which felt that she was harmful for national security as defined by the army General Headquarters. These two generals would expect the current army chief to protect them in the same manner as he seems to have done in other corruption cases, by taking the inquiry from the hands of civilians and pretending to conduct it within the army’s judicial system. In this regard, Gen Kayani’s roar was just a move to reassure his old and young boys that nothing had changed as far as the military’s power was concerned. The fact is, nothing could be closer to the truth as the defence services in Pakistan remain above board and above all suspicion.
Siddiqa is an Islamabad-based columnist and the author of Military Inc