VIEW: Call to duty —Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, April 24, 2011

The call to conscience is deafened by the call to seek the easy way out. While most people struggle to choose between the call to duty and call to conscience, the leaders of our top parties have flagrantly shut their ears to any call at all 

A soldier’s only reason for existence should be living and dying for the protection of his country. That was the message the Chief Justice (CJ) gave to the officers of the Command and Staff College Quetta while they were visiting the Supreme Court. To back this claim he pointed out that the 1973 constitution clearly speaks against the army playing any role in politics. This reminder or warning can be interpreted in many ways. The history of military intervention in the politics of Pakistan points to the fact that the present conditions of the country are ripe for a recall of armed support to run the government. After an armed forces control of nine years we have a democratic government that again has made marmalade of the economic and political issues of the country. With such lawlessness and indiscipline, army rule automatically seems the lesser evil to the people of the country and, thus, the army, seeing this hardening of stance against democratic destruction, steps in to once again attempt an autocratic reconstruction. The CJ, sensing this temptation for the army at this point to come rushing in to save Pakistan from becoming a ‘failed state’, reminded them of the rule of law, which does not allow this forced takeover. This reminder has been given to the army time and again but is forcefully brushed aside by them as soon as the armed forces start sniffing not only military but also political power.

This statement was in complete contrast to his earlier statement to government officials in which he told them that if official duties required them to do things that were not to the benefit of the public, they had the right to surpass their call to duty. That raises the debate and confusion on what is the right thing to do; should we restrict ourselves to what our professional requirements are, which are determined by the job description we are given when we join any institution or organisation or do we do what is the right thing? The job description that guides our call to duty starts with whom you are reporting to and thus superimposes the decision of the superior over your own decision. If we take the job description as the major guideline of professional working then our call to duty is in the hands of the men to whom we report. Thus the power of the men who control us determines which laws we have to follow or not follow. Therein lies the problem. If men by whom we are led are themselves misled, the chances are that you may be a very efficient officer but an ineffective professional. Thus what the real essence of true leadership at any level is how effective is your call to conscience and how diligently and bravely are you able to follow it. It takes exceptional men and women to listen to their inner voice and sacrifice their position and endanger their future by taking a stand on the basis of a principle rather than on the saying of a principal man above you.

The call to conscience is deafened by the call to seek the easy way out. While most people struggle to choose between the call to duty and call to conscience, the leaders of our top parties have flagrantly shut their ears to any call at all. Their performance on their job and their conduct on contentious issues is amazingly mindless and heartless. They owe their repeated comebacks more to luck than merit but somehow this call they shut off as a wrong number and merrily assume that the public’s foolishness and their own rigging astuteness will win them yet another election.

The drone attacks are an example of the double-faced strategy of the government that falls short of the call to duty and the call to conscience. Being a protector of state sovereignty is the prime duty of the leading government. However, the drone attacks have become a norm in the last few years with increasing civilian casualties dominating the blind drones targets. Based on public pressure, the government has been protesting against them in a dutiful manner but the Americans have not taken heed. It is only when the army and ISI have joined these protests in a more forceful manner that the Americans have become more open about their stance and have warned the ISI for supporting the Haqqani group in the Afghanistan insurgency. The Americans have very categorically stated that the Pakistani government is just giving these statements to pacify the public while giving permission to go ahead with the attacks. The tone of the statements in both countries is now open, aggressive and retaliatory. The Americans are in no mood to compromise as they have their own interests in mind. Logically, Pakistan should also be in sticking to its stand and looking after its own interests. However, they have been playing the double game so frequently that they have lost the confidence of not only their so-called “allies in the war on terror” but their own public as well. While the government is indifferent to public reaction, the army — for the first time — is a bit perturbed by their falling popularity in the masses. Historically, the democracy disaster leads to a desire in the public for army rule and the army capitalises on this growing demand. However, this time, public disillusionment with the armed forces is unprecedented not only due to the overboard style of Musharraf but the continuous failure of the army to protect the public from either home grown terrorism or American encroachment of our territorial sovereignty. This realisation has something to do with General Kayani’s latest statement of withdrawal from operations in Balochistan. The operations in Balochistan have led to a huge feeling of deprivation and marginalisation in the province where an association with the country is considered more of a liability than a benefit. This separatism movement is a result of years of the divisive and discriminatory policies of each successive government.

What we are reaping today in the form of an absolute disarray of domestic and foreign stability and solidarity is due to the seeds of division and corruption sown years ago by the major string pullers of the country. Their insatiable desire to subjugate all national interests to personal interests have brought them to a level where they are almost caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. However, reformation and revival do not have a retirement date or an expiry period. What they need is to listen to their call to conscience and genuinely start atoning for their misdeeds of the past. It seems a tall order but anything short of that is bound to falter.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

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