Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this ongoing political turmoil is that it has brought the armed forces back on the political forefront. They stand now where they do not belong, and they’re saying things which do not suit their constitutional position. The Corps Commanders Conference on Sunday was convened to discuss the ongoing political crisis. While the generals deliberated behind closed doors, the rest of the country waited anxiously. Let’s stop here for a moment and ask ourselves: why were we afraid that they might come out and announce everyone’s going home, including the Prime Minister? Is it because of history alone or does it have something to do with how the military is currently behaving? Hours later, the meeting was over and a perplexing press statement was released.

Other than “reaffirming support to democracy”, it expressed serious concerns over the “violent turn” the ongoing crisis had taken, “resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives”, and decided that “further use of force will only aggravate the problem.” It went on to reiterate that the “situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means”. What we have here is military commanders issuing public advisories to the elected government, which should be simply unacceptable. Of course, the military can apprise the Prime Minister of its political analysis of the situation, but that too can happen behind closed doors, the same way they held their meeting and reached a conclusion. Also, the issue at hand is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation being demanded by a mob which has already attacked state buildings. What kind of a solution is being suggested here, which neither wastes time nor involves use of force? Why is anything being suggested at all? Moreover, who exactly is being asked here to refrain from using force? Is it the Police, which is answerable to the Interior Minister, who is answerable to the elected Prime Minister? Where in the constitution does it state that the military will direct the government on how it should perform its job? While protestors cross one red line after the other, what option does the government have but to use force to prevent them from taking the law into their hand? Will the military act on the same advice when dealing with protestors outside GHQ, who wish to storm in ‘peacefully’? Are we making a mistake in interpreting the press release? It is possible, but an error in this regard can be forgiven seeing that the press statement leaves plenty of room for interpretation, maybe not unintentionally.

Towards the end, the statement reads that the Army will play “its part in ensuring security of the state and will never fall short of meeting national aspirations.” Yes, the nation hopes so; because the PTV building came under attack by protestors on Monday, and there are people still sleeping outside the Parliament in violation of the law. Yes, the nation hopes that its beloved Army will continue to follow the constitution, and yes, it hopes against hope, that the Army will never again fall short of meeting national aspirations.