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Vital role for army in governance: Musharraf

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD JULY 12. In a staunch defence of the controversial statue reform package unveiled by his Government the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has said that institutionalisation of the army in governance was a necessity given the past experience of the country with democracy.

In an hour-long address to the nation on the State-owned Pakistan Television and Radio Gen. Musharraf left no one in doubt that his regime is not deterred by the all-round criticism of the package and was determined to push it through before the October general elections. He did make it a point to say the package was debatable and his Government was open to suggestions from all quarters.

Asserting that he was not `power hungry', Gen. Musharraf maintained that "unity of command" was the belief of every soldier. The system of "power-sharing" would never work and the future Prime Minister would have all the powers of governance. "We are only talking of checks and balances. Is it enough to have an election and a Prime Minister? Should there be no system to ensure corruption-free and efficient governance?'' he asked.

The burden of his speech was that the Army had willy-nilly been drawn into matters of governance during the "so-called democratic regimes" and all that he was attempting was to make it constitutional. The National Security Council, with representation to the three service chiefs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would function as the watchdog on democracy and serve as the body for checks and balances on the three "power brokers" of the country. He identified the President, Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff as the power brokers.

Gen. Musharraf made known his displeasure at some of the harsh criticism by representatives of political parties and the press to some of the constitutional amendments and said there was no need for any one to get worked up on the package. ''After all we have made public the proposals for the purpose of a debate. Let there be a dispassionate debate but with dignity,'' he said.

The Pakistan President drew all the examples from the period 1988 to 1998, which saw the rise and fall of four civilian governments, in support of his argument on the need for institutionalisation of the role of army in governance. Gen. Musharraf said as Director General of Military Operations and later as Chief of Army Staff he was witness to several instances of politicians approaching the army for intervention.

``The army has never intervened on its own will. The political class dragged it. Tell me between 1988 to 1998 there were four civilian governments. Not one of them could complete its full term. Each time the Army Chief was asked either to intervene or become an arbitrator in the dispute between Prime Minister and President. Do you want the same type of democracy again'', he asked.

On the proposal to restore the powers of the President to dismiss the Prime Minister, Gen. Musharraf gave an impression that under the proposed system the President would have to obtain the consent of the National Security Council. Besides the three services chiefs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff the Council to be headed by the President would consist of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Ministers of four provinces.

Gen. Musharraf made a reference to the Pakistan Supreme Court verdict upholding his order on prescription of graduation as the minimum qualification to contest election and said that ''now that the apex court has endorsed it, we have to make it part of the constitution''.

On the controversial proposal to empower the President to nominate the Prime Minister Gen. Musharraf said that the person chosen by the President would have to secure the confidence of the National Assembly.

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