LAHORE - Was it hostility towards the country or in the interest of the country to drag Army in politics? Did the move of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to involve Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in a political issue afford an opportunity to the people to speak about the armed forces? Did the people start seeking explanations from the army and raising objections to this important institution due to certain moves of PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT Chairman Tahirul Qadri? Is the politics of sit-ins going to end? What will be the outcome of the sit-ins? There should be no debate on ‘script’. Should the government strike a deal with Imran Khan or should Qadri be part of the deal? The current situation will be an important turning point in Pakistani politics.

These were the important points and questions which were discussed by the participants of Waqt TV programme “Insight” hosted by Salim Bokhari on Saturday night. Analyst Sajjad Mir, columnist Orya Maqbool Jan, senior journalist Salman Ghani and intellectual/columnist Prof Ajmal Niazi were the participants of the progamme. Sajjad Mir, answering questions from Salim Bokhari, said the matter of concern was not whether the army was involved in politics or not, but the reason for the real concern was the news published in the international media that there are differences in the army. A similar situation arose at the time of appointment of the new chief of the army staff when certain quarters were lobbying and some retired army officials were giving internal reports to the media.

He said immediately after the creation of Pakistan, we, giving priority to the military needs, tilted towards the Unites States and ignored Soviet Union. He further said, “We took our economic decisions on this basis as well and still we establish diplomatic relations with other countries, keeping the army’s viewpoint in mind.” He said the army takes over in case of failures of politicians, adding everyone should know what price the country has to pay for the failure of the army. He recalled when Vajpayee came to Pakistan the army did not salute him. At the time of Kargil, the entire nation was standing by its armed forces. When Pervez Musharraf visited India, he presented out-of-the-box solution on the Kashmir problem, he said, adding only military rulers could do so. He was of the view that Imran Khan has come closer to the people due to his sit-in. “Our state structure is facing destruction,” he feared.

Orya said only a person who had never seen towards armed forces for support could reform the system. “If we accept armed forces role in politics we can solve all our political issues,” he said.

He said due to turmoil in Fata and Balochistan army had reservations over relations with India. There were seven attacks on Musharraf which meant his policies were not in agreement with that of army’s thought. He said the time for a deal with Imran had passed. He was of the view that people supporting Imran and Qadri were like fragrance and they were supporting them with sincerity. If they returned without achieving their goals, disappointment would prevail.

Senior journalist Salman Ghani said presently army was an organized political force. He said army was not separate from national affairs. Salman said Zardari left some affairs to be dealt by army and completed his five-year tenure. He said nation gave mandate to Nawaz Sharif and rightly hoped that he would end loadshedding and provide people with bread on affordable rates. Salman said it was easy in Pakistan to target a politician but the real issue was to make a dictator accountable before the court of law.

He said it seemed that army had learnt a lesson from the past but unfortunately politicians could not do so. Salman said army had to clarify its position more than once that it did not support any party and all that was due to the signals given by the people staging sit-ins and posing that army was behind them. He said protest was a democratic right of every one but to demand resignation from the prime minister was not right. He said it should be a pressure tactic only. He maintained that government was under pressure so they should end sit-in after getting assurance from the regime that rest of their demands will be met.

“It is in the benefit of all politicians that they should settle issues on their own,” he added. He was of the view that an international conspiracy was going on against Pakistan.  Talking in the programme, Ajmal Niazi said, “Whenever army stepped in, it means politicians bitterly failed in discharging their obligations.”

He added that the last long march ended when Gen Kayani intervened to do so and the rulers were trying to treat the army like police. He said he was against Imran because after assuming power he would disappoint masses. Ajmal said through these sit-ins some international forces were trying to defame the army. However, he was of the view that if masses staging sit-ins got disappointed there would be a revolution because they were devoted and sincere in their cause.