Zafar Alam Sarwar
One of the prerequisites to discuss, and subject to critical appreciation, the role of armed forces, especially the Army, is to look deeply into the reason for achieving Pakistan. This is also essential to dispel a specific impression about military institutions being created by a so-called scholar through ‘research’ patronised and funded by a foreign power secretly hostile to economically and defence-wise strong Pakistan. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and his comrades, fought for the existence of Muslims in the sub-continent with dignity and honour. He wanted Pakistan only to revive the past glory and its brilliant chapter; and, thus, he struggled to create a new world where there would be no injustice and exploitation, no covetousness and fear of poverty, where there would be no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims, where there would be no segregation between high and low, and between lord and peasant. And the demand for Pakistan, as explained by him, was based on this political philosophy, and that is the true spirit of Islam, which had inspired other nation-builders like Vladimir Lenin and Mao Tse Tung.
Every Pakistani, whether he is a military officer or a civilian, should bear in mind that Islam— the most progressive religion of the world— is, and will remain, the foundation-stone of the State. Hence, one should not feel shy of recollecting some forgotten chapters of our history to counter the propaganda launched by the West, especially the US, under a well-calculated plan to weaken the bonds of brotherhood among the Muslim countries—and, more so, between the armed forces and masses of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which has established itself in the comity of nations as a nuclear power. Prophet (PBUH) was a poor orphan boy who rose to the position of an efficient administrator and skilful general. Researchers, scholars, thinkers and statesmen of the modern world have acknowledged that Muhammad (peace be upon him), who touched every department of human life, was saviour of oppressed humanity.
Prophet (PBUH), guided by God Almighty, established the first-ever welfare State in Arabia at a time when the whole world was groaning under pangs of oppression and injustice. The peoples of the East and the West came to know that he was a far-sighted reformer, a brave soldier, an impartial judge, a great statesman, an affectionate father and indeed a sincere friend in need. Justice and equality were his motto, generosity pervaded his conduct. Simplicity and sincerity, truthfulness and honesty were part and parcel of Prophet’s (PBUH) character. He was, in fact, a great socialist who changed the economic system when he found that the people were being exploited economically by a section of society, who practised usury. The distribution of wealth in the society dealt a death blow to the exploitative capitalism. He encouraged the common people to turn their attention to trade and agriculture. Such measures contributed to building a national economy.
The comrades of Prophet (PBUH) followed in the footsteps of their leader who had set an example of serving the mankind and defending the welfare State with all available means and capacity. People’s unity was a foremost source of strength. A galaxy of brilliant soldiers and generals emerged as defenders of the State who possessed extraordinary courage and capacity, foresight and military skill. It was under the command and leadership of those generals that Muslim soldiers who followed them were able to defeat and destroy the aggressor. They fought to the last for one idea—the idea of existence. That’s what inspired Quaid-i-Azam mohammad Ali Jinnah to save Muslims from doom in the sub-continent.
Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Ali can be cited as two examples of ideal character. Both are known for brilliant conquests and their benevolent administrations inaugurated a new era in the world history. The former consulted the latter in governmental matters. His army was divided into two classes: cavalry and infantry. He was very particular about the welfare of the soldiers. Hazrat Umar lived an ordinary man’s life although he was a ruler—no bodyguard for personal safety, nor a magnificent palace for residence, kind and sympathetic to the poor, carried sacks of corn on his own shoulders for distribution among the distressed citizens. But he was very strict in discipline and judgement; he did not exempt from the laws of justice even his own son if he committed any wrong.
Similarly, Hazrat Ali was a brave soldier with quality of a great general. A model of simplicity and self-denial, he led the life of a poor man—no servant or maid-servant, his wife Fatimah would grind corn with her own hands, and he earned his living by working as labourer whose dignity had already been enhanced by Prophet (PBUH) during his life. Hazrat Ali used to go to the mosque for the five daily prayers to listen to the complaints of both the Muslims and non-Muslims. When Hazrat Ali dug a well in front of his cottage he advised wife: Fatimah, this water well is not for us alone, all dwellers of this basti (community) shall benefit from this blessing of God Almighty. Such were the exemplary deeds of the soldiers and commanders who governed the Islamic welfare State. And the concept of faith, unity and discipline—and defence of the country—was derived from the achievements of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his comrades. That is, and should be for all purposes, the criterion of judging the performance of all the officers, including generals and major-generals, of the Pakistan Army. Majority of them will pass the test, one is hopeful.
There is no denying the fact that Islam is against discrimination and nepotism on the basis of cast, colour and creed, nor does it approve of ethnic approach to redress matters pertaining to the defence and administration of the State. The founder of Pakistan, in his addresses as Governor-General at Peshawar and Quetta, had stressed that we are all Pakistanis— not Pathans, Balochs, Sindhis, Punjabis and so on—and as Pakistanis we must feel, behave and act. We should be proud to be known as Pakistanis and nothing else. Does it not apply to Army men and women? It does. One has known many generals and found most of them following the progressive teachings of Islam. General Azam Khan, General Ghulam Hasan Khan and General Asaf Nawaz Janjua topped my list of such people’s friendly commanders who spoke softly and were kind to the poor. They never thought of building any empire for them.
General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani and likes of him in any cadre belong to that class of Army men who with humble background rose to high position but remain sons of the East — not Westernised as suggested by the scholar. There is no colonial smell, nor are recruits trained to adapt themselves to a common military culture which is not Pakistani. There should be no doubt about the fact that all soldiers prefer death for the cause of their country and people to dishonour. They are imbued with thoughts of a welfare State of Pakistan. Hence, to coin a term like “military’s ethnicity” is not more than a nonsense.
Source: Pakistan Observer, 20/4/2008