“… the military has been falling short of the expectations of the people ‘to correct the course’ ”
- Gen. (R) Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of Staff, Pakistan Army
General (R) Mirza Aslam Beg shares his learned views on the changing perception surrounding the Pakistan Armed Forces: Negative image of Pakistan Armed Forces in light of recent events:
It is not the image which has been impacted but the military has been falling short of the expectations of the people ‘to correct the course’, regarding the defiance of the court orders; retarding the process of accountability and rampant corruption by the sitting government. People, now have the feeling that the armed forces may themselves have become accomplice to the crime. Factors contributing to corrosion in public perception:
The main factor is the same as mentioned above. Under the circumstances, it is the armed forces who must intervene under Article 190 of the Constitution. Hesitation to do so is a matter of concern, as it is fraught with a dangerous drift. How to improve Armed Forces’ image:
The armed forces must come forward to “correct the course”, which means:
• Provide protection to the apex court to implement court orders and establish rule of law.
• Provide protection to the apex court to carry out above board accountability, without interference by the government.
• In order to check corruption and malpractices, early elections are the only answer, to be held under a National Government (Bangladesh model). This is the collective responsibility of the political parties, the people and the armed forces. Media’s positive role in safeguarding the national interest:
They have played a very positive role by highlighting the expectations of the people from the armed forces at these very trying moments. Some may have transgressed the limit. In doing so, in their very moment of anxiety, they share with the broad masses. Media has created a level of awareness, which was totally missing in 1971, when Dhaka fell, to the utter dismay of the nation. ISPR’s role in promoting image of Armed Forces in correct perspective:
ISPR mainly carries out crisis man-
agement tasks. It needs to follow a long-term policy of ‘engagement with the media,’ and the people, based on openness, information sharing and discrete contact both at higher and gross roots level. Media’s influence on thinking of general public:
It has been able to maintain a high level of public awareness, with regard to all the major issues. It has not acted against national interests. A few exceptions may be there but, by and large, it has acted responsibly, creating a degree of awareness amongst the people, which I consider an asset and the driving force for change. Future role of media in safeguarding the national interest:
Media also has a role to correct things where they go wrong. For example, they have the shared responsibility to join the efforts and find peace with our tribals, with whom we are engaged in a running battle for the last six years. This would help Pakistan to also provide a safe exit to the occupation forces from Afghanistan – the “mother of all evil.” ◆
Interviewed by SouthAsia