Waiting for the Command Decision


By: General Mirza Aslam Beg

Former Chief of Army Staff

On 17th August 1988, I didn’t consult any of my Corps Commanders or Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) and called-upon the Naval and Air Chiefs, discussed the matter briefly, and within three hours of General Ziaul Haq’s death, restored the Constitution and handed over power to Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, It was an unprecedented decision in favour of democracy and rule of law. Similarly General Kiani, took the ‘command decision’ of keeping the army out of the election process of 18th February 2008, defeated Musharraf’s sinister design of repeat of 2002 elections and put democracy on the right course. 

      In May 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan gave me a ‘non-paper’, listing serious lapses on part of the Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. I made the mistake of discussing this matter with the Corps Commanders and the PSOs. The ‘consensus decision’ was conveyed to the President, that “remaining within the constitutional limits, the President may take action as deemed necessary.” Benazir Bhutto’s government was soon dismissed and a care-taker government was formed to hold elections in 90 days, thus setting the bad precedence of ‘Presidential Coup’, during the period 1990-1998. In the retrospective, I regret having consulted the senior military commanders on such a vital issue. My ‘command decision’ would have been very different. 

      Similarly, General Kiani’s recent decision to consult the Corps Commanders and the PSOs, on the present critical national issues, and the declaration of 10th June 2011, carries all the weaknesses of a ‘consensus decision’ as it has failed to address the main issues, which matter to the people of Pakistan and the country, as highlighted in my recent article, titled “Our Wuthering Sovereignty” published on 15th May 2011. I said: “The Pakistani nation has had such high expectations from the democratic government to deliver a sovereign parliament, an independent judiciary and an above board accountability, which are the pillars of national sovereignty, but unfortunately these institutions have been so methodically suppressed to render them ineffective. In fact, our national sovereignty has been debased and humiliated by one and all who mattered in Pakistan.”

      The GHQ Declaration of 10th June, 2011, has passed-on the entire responsibility of correcting the course, to the government, which itself is responsible for creating this calamity. This declaration won’t help establish the civilian supremacy over the military. Rather it shirks responsibility, to support the state institutions to perform. In fact, it is a repeat of General Jehangir Karamat’s action of 1997, who failed to respond to the call of the Supreme Court, that led to the assault on the Supreme Court and the political turmoil, thus paving the way for Musharraf’s take over. And if past declarations of this kind are any guide, this declaration also falls short of achieving the main objective, that is, establishing the supremacy of the civil authority over the military. Let us re-count a few episodes, preceding Gen Zia’s coup of 1977:

    • In 1976, Prime Minister Bhutto was visiting Multan. The then Corps Commander Lt Gen Ziaul Haq called-on him and pledged loyalty to Mr. Bhutto, on the Holy Book. Mr. Bhutto was so impressed that he appointed General Zia, as his COAS.
    • In 1977, Mr. Bhutto was visiting Murree. Commander 12 Division Maj Gen Akhtar Abdur Rahman lined-up his officers and their wives, on the reception-line and in an exclusive meeting he also pledged loyalty to Mr. Bhutto on the Holy Book, establishing the nexus with General Zia.
    • In 1977, when the political agitation against Mr. Bhutto’s government had reached a dangerous level, the top military commanders, such as the Chairman JCSC and the three service Chiefs, pledged to the nation, their loyalty and unflinching support for the government, but, within days, Gen Zia struck and dismissed the government.


      General Kiani has time to correct the course. Civilian supremacy over the military can be established only by a sovereign parliament and an independent judiciary as we witness today in Turkey – the example to follow. General Kiani should support the Parliament’s resolution demanding cessation of drone attacks, which the American flouted and the parliament was helpless, while the Pakistani armed forces have full capability to deter and defeat such violations of our sovereignty. The will to use this capability is ‘a function of command decision, of the person in authority’ as demonstrated in 1990, by the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. She sent the foreign minister to Delhi, with a strong message, and ordered a squadron of F-16s fully armed, ready to strike targets deep in the South of India. This bold command decision, deterred the enemy. Then, we had the F-16s and now we have the submarines, missiles and guns, which can engage targets upto a range of 30 KMs to 3000 KMs. Whereas we enjoy distinct superiority on ground, i.e., the men and missiles and the conventional weapons support. Our men belong to one of the best fighting machine of the world, supported by the hard core tribal fighters of our border regions. Based on Men and Missile, we can effectively deter and defeat aggression directed against Pakistan from Afghan territory. Let there be no ambiguity about it. 

      The Armed Forces must support the ‘Supreme Court of Pakistan, to ensure that the judgments passed by the apex court are implemented, which is the constitutional responsibility of the armed forces and there is no going back on it. The armed forces must also help re-establish, above board accountability, to punish the corrupt and the unscrupulous. The political parties also have the shared responsibility to help the military, establish the supremacy of the civilian rule and also have to remain mindful of the bloatings and blusterings of the opposition leaders, against the military, which is counter-productive. They better draw on the political wisdom of Mr. Erbogan of Turkey, who has achieved harmony between the seculars/liberals and the Islamists, has established the supremacy of the civilian rule over the military and has taken the country to unprecedented economic heights.


      If the military high command remains content with the 10th June declaration, that would mean waiting for the collapse of the system and military take-over. It is the time now to act, remaining within the framework of the Constitution, and support the present government, to build a sovereign parliament, an independent judiciary and the institution to deliver above board accountability. This would be the greatest gift, the armed forces could offer to the nation – an unprecedented move, “to willingly accept the supremacy of the civilian rule.” 

      This is our rendezvous with history. And to make history, one has to rise above the level of the ordinary.

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  • Major N. Khalid  On June 18, 2011 at 11:29 am

    A excellent review of present situation by the Hero of “Restoring Democracy” from “Militarycracy”.

    Maj (R) Muhammad Naeemuddin.Khalid

    • S. Cadri  On June 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

      Dear Sir,

      “Militarycracy” the word you have given is better than “Feudocracy” the word I have given for ages.

      Democracy is of the people by the people and for the people.
      Feudocracy is of the Feudals, by the Feudals and for the Feudals. Our prevailing system.

      The feudals and the rich use democracy as a ladder just to fool people and climb. Once there at the top the first thing they do is kick off the ladder. So much for democracy and its protagonists.

      During Musharraf’s time there was so much talk of democracy. You had endless bashing sessions 24×7 for years but what happened in the end?

      When elections take place the Parliament is filled by feudals yet again. Where is democracy? The first appointment you see was of Ms Fahmida Mirza a vaderan. Tell me does a common Pakistani feel happy about it? No. He or she is just helpless.

      I love democracy that is representative of the people. If it was, then you and I would be sitting in the Parliament and the Assemblies in provinces not some vaderas, choudhries and sardars who have their money stashed in foreign banks and have nothing to do with the country and its people.

      Sorry if I have sounded tough. But things are bad and tough talk needs to be done in the hope some tough action takes place. Inshallah.

      I suggest rural land ceiling as a start so that tomorrow the common man sits in the parliament not some landlords.

      Best regards.

  • TMH  On June 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

    The greatest gift Gen. Baig wants to give the civilian crowd propped up by United States,
    as their surrogate, will be suicidal. The love for the democracy have made the General
    oblivious of the character of men sitting in Islamabad. These are the people who for
    last more than three years have been squandering precious time and wealth for doing
    nothing. He wants to do all such efforts and give them country for next 5 years, are you
    out of your mind, sir. As for the independent Judiciary, the performance of which is dismal,
    does not give the impression of independence, rather of helplessness.
    As for Turkey’s example, can he give these bunch of people the same rating as of
    Turkish politicians? Turkish are very very patriotic and proud people. They never
    think of doing the things, what our people do. They have to learn patriotism
    from Turkey.
    As for his claim of restoring power to the civilian government, he was scared of
    the pro Zia public sympathy.

  • Brig Farooq H. Khan  On June 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    yes i am a witness to the smooth transfer of power and restoration of democracy by Gen Aslam Beg. I WAS SERVING IN GHQ then. He could have grabbed power after Gen Zia’s air crash that also wiped out many senior Generals of GHQ who were travelling in the same ill fated C-130 aircraft with Gen Zia. The armed forces were awarded the Democracy medal by Benazir Bhutto after she became the Prime Minister.

    The Army and PAF should NOT HESITATE TO SHOOT DOWN INTRUDING AIRCRAFT /DRONES in FATA. . Let us stop NATO SUPPLIES in accordance with the spirit of the 14TH MAY resolution that expresses the aspirations of the people. Let us regain our sovereignty and tell the Americans to stop drone operations if still taking place from within Pakistan. The federal govt should give the necessary orders as required by this parliamentary resolution.

    The people of Pakistan would wholeheartedly SUPPORT THE ARMED FORCES if our national self respect and sovereignty is protected. If the PAFwere to lose a few aircraft while trying to challenge US aircraft, then so be it. LET US BE READY TO SACRIFICE A FEW MORE LIVES FOR THE SAKE OF OUR FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE. let us support the Supreme Court to get its decisions implemented. let the corrupt face ruthless accountability. let diplomacy/ dialogue with US/TALIBAN work in parallel. Let us say thanks to US financial aid of 1.1 billion dollars, 75% of which is under sanctions.

    Brig retd farooq Hameed Khan

    • S. Cadri  On June 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      Dear all,

      Why do we think problems would be solved without structural reforms? The won’t. What the structural reforms are we will talk later inshallah. But first the dialog with Taliban you have suggested.

      Sir I have my reservations against it and very strong. You talk to such elements once they have laid down their weapons, surrendered to our forces, tried and punished or exonerated by our judiciary.

      How can you talk to people who are fighting the State of Pakistan whatever the excuse may be. No. You cannot Sir. Tell me which country will have the slightest soft corner for such rebels. No excuse is acceptable.

      The US is talking to Taliban in Afghanistan is something different. Taliban in Afghanistan are fighting a foreign occupying force not their own elected government.

      In Pakistan the situation is different. We cannot have even a 1% soft corner or tolerance for people fighting the armed forces of a Muslim Country that is blowing up schools, colleges and all that is in the way.

      Most often the innocent women and children die. In one second hundreds become orphans and scores become widows. Are you going to talk to these killers? No Sir you cannot. If US goes away this won’t happen is bunkum. Non-sense. Why in the first place it is happening?

      Are they killing Americans? No. They are killing their own people. For me they are a bunch of thugs that must be apprehended, tried and punished for treason. Please don’t even think the government of Pakistan will talk to TTP.

      It is not in the interest of Pakistan. If it does, it will send the wrong signal of weakness all round both to friends and foes. Friends will be sad and foes emboldened. Then expect more of Mehrans.

      This is like Imran Khan asking for a dialogue with the gun toting terrorists. He has unfortunately become their political spokesman along with JI and co.

      Being on the subject of Mehran let me remind you Sir isn’t high time that all cantonments from inside Karachi are moved 50 miles away somewhere in North West of Karachi. 150 years back when Karachi was a small fishing village it was fine. Not now.

      It was the duty of the National and Provincial Assemblies to take up the issue considering that Karachi is now a mega polis and it is high time all cantonments are moved out of town.

      And these Cantonments should be made high quality parks like Disney World etc. so that instead of people going to Dubai they come to Karachi. Imagine the tourism dollar that we would get.

      Our military assets would be safe too.

      Cheers and all the best.

  • khan saheb  On June 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Brigadier Sb

    You have sent out a very inspiring message indeed, which has had a powerful impact on me sitting here in Boston, thousands of miles away. Inspiring, despite being a proud US Citizen.

    There is an old African (probably Zulu) proverb…..Where there is no shame, there is no honor.

    PK should stop looking for where it fell, and figure out where it slipped. Most importantly. find some remedial drug to cure hatred.

    There is one sentence of yours which I have highlighted below. I am rather surprised that you seem unaware of the wider landscape. Its not just the predator drones, but from what I have read in the reliable columns, even the Abbotabad operations took place within PK. I am impressed by the way US carried out its plan and disappointed that the PK armed forces watched from the sidelines. Please check out the link below….


    Pakistan’s leadership has to get back the honor which it has given away.


  • Mansoor Mubeen  On June 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    my assumption is pak forces were fully aware of the abbottabad attack, were instructed to remain in their barracks, by higher ups.

    another theory is new F-16s and older ones (now modified) need daily security activation codes in order to be able to fly. the codes were not issued on that date.

    whatever, incident has put the nation in very sombre position. \\


    • Brig Farooq H. Khan  On June 19, 2011 at 7:02 am

      it is important that the 4th may parliament resolution is implemented in letter and spirit. it was admitted in military briefing to the parliament after Abbottabad, that Shamsi airbase was not under PAF’s control, since the UAE Govt had further leased it out to the Americans for military/drone operations. Why is the truth about the current status of Shamsi not being revealed by the civilian govt? What are the compulsions that prevent the civil/military leadership from asking the Americans to stop drone ops from Shamsi? has the 1.5 billion US dollars annual Kerry Lugar aid( that has yet to arrive) kept us hostage ?

      i agree that cantonments should be relocated outside the cities. but shifting Faisal and Mehran airbases with their vast runways and hangar facilities would be too expensive for a country in our economic condition.
      Brig Retd Farooq Hameed Khan

  • Varris  On June 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    As far as I can see the Army has already willingly accepted the
    supermacy of civilian rule.Otherwise the present cabal would have been
    thrown into the dustbin by now.

    This government is neither willing nor capable of strengthening the
    institutions as Gen. Aslam is suggusting. Rather they are out to
    destroy each one. Seeing their conduct for the past three years I
    think it is naive of Gen.Aslam to believe that any good can come by
    letting this mockery of democracy continue.
    He allowed Ghulam Ishaq to take over the Presidency and to act within
    constitutional limits. What followed. ? I dont need to go into

    • Farooq  On June 19, 2011 at 2:51 am

      Sir Varris

      This is the marriage of convenience and a club of MPG ( Mutual Praise
      Group) who are busy in scratching each other backs. We all know that
      there is no such thing as free lunch in this world and the people
      getting and granting extensions know this very well.

      This is a mad race of promoting and guarding self interests at the
      cost of National Honor, Integrity and Sovereignty and every body at
      the top is “”NANGA” in this hamam, including the ones claiming to be
      wearing Khaki Uniform.


  • khan saheb  On June 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Evil knows where evil sleeps…..


  • Salman Abbasy  On June 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Good argument. But what keeps our ciivil and military leaders from fixing and declaring Pakistan’s priorities? The lure of dollars!

  • Major N. Khalid  On June 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    When common man will enter Parliament ? A dream which will never come true.


    • S. Cadri  On June 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Dear Sir,

      Why not. If you think so it will be but if you do not think so it will never be. Without a thought not even a homeland for Muslims that is Pakistan was created. Had more people had thought like you did Pakistan would not have been created. You have to think first. If you think you can, you can! If not you cannot.

      Never be afraid to think what is right for all. Is this feudalism good for all? If you think so then it is different what can I say. Even Egyptians have done away with feudalism. Wonder if it can happen just across the border which was one country once why can’t it be done here?

      Are they more committed, more honest to their people or more visionary? Perhaps for those who think it can’t be done here. Or do you think Hinduism offers more equality and fair play than Islam? For me no. Islam offers social justice. Islam abhors hoarding including of land. Hinduism doesn’t. Yet they borrowed from Islam and did it.

      I think we are no less. I think it will be done here when people’s government comes. It will when we all think and strive for it. If not don’t talk of democracy. In that case if true democracy is not there then what is wrong with “militiricacy” as you put it. At least it is better than Feudalism.

      Time to give up slavish mentality and think independently like a free independent man. Freedom will come only then. Was Allama Iqbal a feudal? No. Was Quad e Azam a feudal? No. They were free men and above all independent thinkers. They could think outside the box.

      Would they have tolerated feudalism in these modern times with their inefficiencies and brutality intact with their private jails, sheltering of criminal elements in their deep lands inaccessible to police, and total domination over other humans who are in fact equal citizens? No. So Sir why do you think so?

      First think right then you will do right. Let the movement begin with you Sir. Start a movement of abolition of huge land holdings by introducing Rural Land Ceiling. It should have been done soon after independence to truely make people independent. Release them from the bondage of feudalism.

      How else will you reduce the gap between the haves and have nots Sir?

      Only the white man left for people to suffer under the brown man. At least then the brown man was afraid of the white man’s laws and did not bother the poor man. It must be undone.

      Even Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, cannot buy such large tracts of land. How come they have it? They were given for their treachery against their own people for the White Man to rule Sir. Think about it. It is never too late.

      All the best and cheers.

  • Mansoor Mubeen  On June 19, 2011 at 2:42 am

    in every election, MQM make sure that out of 25 mnas and 40 or so mpas elected on its ticket are very very common man. but what to do, when these have their rains in the hand of peer of London, ( as cowasjee says ).


  • ID  On June 19, 2011 at 2:53 am

    And the writer, gen Aslam Beg, is himself begs belief. Pity the nation that is without leadership of the wise and the truthful. Incompetence flourishes like cancer cells.

  • Abd-al-Hameed  On June 19, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Assalamu Alaikum!
    Gen. Beg’s article indicates that he is still as naive as he was in 1990, when he wanted the Government to support Saddam Husain during American invasion of Iraq.
    a) His behavior after Zia’s crash does not support his claim that he “restored the Constitution and handed over power to Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan.” He should have turned back his plane and gone straight to the crash site to do whatever was necessary. He was not CMLA, not even army chief. Instead, he flew straight to Islamabad to take over as CMLA but faced a fait accompali when he reached there. Ghulam Ishaq had already taken over as President.
    b) By taking army out of the election process in 2008, Gen. Kiani paved the way for rigging for the success of PML-N and PPP over PML-Q, as wanted by the U.S. According to Ch. Parvaiz Elahi, John Kerry and Joe Biden told him that the U.S. would not accept the election results if PML-Q won. So, despite 7.5 million votes against 6.5 million of PML-N, it got only half the seats. Many PML-Q stalwarts lost by only a few thousands votes, including even Ch. Shujaat, who lost in his own constituency.
    c) Gen. Beg “protesteth too much” (to quote Shakespeare) in his democratic pretensions. A few months before his retirement, he was reported to have planned to take over government. Waseem Sajjad, who was on a visit, was told by Americans about Beg’s plans. He rushed back home and talked to President Ishaq. As a result, Beg’s successor was announced two months before his retirement date, something unusual. Sh. Rashid once happened to see a Klashnikov inside the door of his car. When Rashid asked about the reason, Beg replied, “One may need it.” Why should the army chief ever need a gun in his own car?
    d) It is incorrect to say that Bhutto appointed Zia only because of his pledge of loyalty on oath. According to Lt Gen. Hameed Gul, nobody is appointed army chief without America’s approval.
    e) It is quite naive to ask the army “to support the present government, to build a sovereign parliament,…” both of which created the present chaos. Army has been supporting the present setup all along in all its disastrous decisions, leading to worsening conditions. It never indicated any support to the Supreme Court to demand implementation of its judgments on NRO, Swiss accounts of Zardari and many other matters because the U.S. did not want it to destabilize the present setup.
    f) There is just one statement by Gen. Beg that makes sense: ” If the military high command remains content with the 10th June declaration, that would mean waiting for the collapse of the system and military take-over.” It may not be too long before it happens.

    Allah Hafiz!
    Muhammad Abd al-Hameed
    Author, “Ghurbat kaise mit sakti hai” (Classic, Lahore)

    • S. Cadri  On June 20, 2011 at 1:52 am

      Thanks. But that is the precise point. Cost is not the issue for moving cantonments. The issue is recognition of the need to do so. When we get aid let’s put it into this which is most important not into paying for salaries and perks which should be paid as a matter of routine.

      As a matter of fact Foreign Aid must go into projects of far reaching consequences, like this and import of sensitive goods and things for defense of R&D, for regeneration of economy and not for importing Tomato Ketchup, Chips and Chocolates.

  • Zubair  On June 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

    One does not need a “wise” man to govern—–what we need liks an honest and sincere PAKISTANI with all stakes inside the country. The ease with which one can stash stolen money outside Pakistan and the ability to fly away is destroying countries like ours.

  • Faisal Imam  On June 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I am impressed with the last sentence.We have not only to maintain ourselves but work much harder than other Nations in order to catch up.
    ‘A sovereign Parliament;an independant judiciary as in Turkey’.Credit for that went to an able leader,Gen Ismet Inonu.He headed the Justice Party and when he lost the election to People’s Party,he opted to go and sit on the opposition benches.That act said a lot.He held a free and fair election,and gracefully accepted the decision of the people of Turkey.He gave the people the rightful place in the decision making of Government.This established the modern democratic Turkey,and took it out of the slumber of the Ottoman Empire.
    In the selection process ,it is essential to create a focal group of experts and experienced individuals in every institution .They should be the ones to decide the authenticity of the person under selection.The final selection should be made by a truly elected leadership and a transparent process should be introduced so that if any problems exist the people should be aware of them.
    we are grateful about the Generals views.I have one thing to add.we need to strengthen our human resource and only then we can stand shoulder to shoulder in the comity of Nations.We,the Pakistanis have to transform ourselves into a productive ,characterful people,who can face any onslaught in any field at any time.
    Those who take bribes are selling the soul of our Nation.

  • Inam Khan  On June 20, 2011 at 1:51 am

    I am sorry General Aslam Beg’s article is too suggestive….Inam Khan

  • khan saheb  On June 20, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Mr Cadri

    No point in reinventing the wheel, when there are already several options available to fix the same damaged wheel.

    Here is a country struggling for survival, buried in debt, gasping for breath and you speak about the begging bowl and foreign aid yet again – hardly the way towards self-reliance, which you have touched upon in earlier messages.

    These cantonments and bases can be refurbished and reinforced in less than 10% of the costs involved, if PK would opt for your recommendation.



  • S. Cadri  On June 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Dear Mr. Siraj,

    You got me a little wrong Sir. I am one who would never want aid but if we get, put it to good use. But since it is there any way I only said instead of squandering it in frivolous things at least put it where it matters. Even there I said if at all, it must be used for projects of far reaching consequences.

    Yet money or no money if the government thinks it is high time to move cantonments it will. I hope it does immediately. Lets all pray. Amen.



  • khan saheb  On June 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm


    HOPE may be the strongest word in the English language, perhaps even stronger than love and hate, but I hope you are not holding your breath on it…. I mean moving the cantonments.


  • S. Cadri  On June 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Siraj Sahab all great things have happened with an idea. No wonder what we are talking may just come about. Why not? Be honest, sincere and selfless, which we are and am sure the success will come our way. Inshallah. We will both rejoice when that happens. Amen.

    • khan saheb  On June 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      If even one major cantonment is relocated in our lifetime, then rest assured I will be there to salute you.

      Perhaps, I tend to draw a more clear line between being optimistic and being realistic.

      That said, my difference in opinion with you remains more fundamental. The move/relocation will not take place because it is not economically viable….too few pluses with just too many minuses.

      Anyway, lets agree to disagree.


      • S. Cadri  On June 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm

        Thank you Sir the best part is we both agree that the re-location of Cantonments should take place. How and when it happens is another story we have no control on either. Cheers Sirs.

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