Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Asim Munir on Wednesday said a five-year constitutional term is not a blank check for a political government to mismanage the country’s affairs for five years.
Responding to a question on the inability of governments to complete a five-year term during an interactive question-and-answer session with students of various universities in Islamabad, he said being elected into power does not grant political parties the permission to “break” Pakistan. “Should people keep waiting for the end of the five-year term?” he asked.
Without directly naming the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, he added: “If a government was dislodged by the majority members of the National Assembly through constitutional means, then why did it become an issue?” The ousted party, he noted, willfully exited the system and preferred to take to the streets by resigning from Parliament.
The Army chief regretted the current constitutional arrangement did not allow for accountability of lawmakers before the end of their terms. “If the Constitution is amended and more than 50% of the voters of a constituency can vote to unseat a sitting member, then you will see these politicians performing,” he claimed.
Recalling he had interacted with political parties in previous posts, he said their only goal was to achieve power. Those in power, he continued, wish to retain it as long as possible, while those without want to secure it. “No political party comprises 100% saints or 100% thieves because they are a reflection of our society,” he said, adding this applies to all institutions of the country.
Urging the youth to carefully elect their future representatives without being influenced by the use of money or propaganda, he emphasized incompetent lawmakers should be avoided. He also advised the students to conduct independent before believing everything on social media. “Governance cannot be performed virtually. It has to be performed on the ground. So do not make your decisions based on a six-inch mobile screen,” he said.
Describing social media as “vicious” media, he maintained its primary aim was to sow chaos and divisions in society. Claiming 95% of content on social media was inaccurate, he said youth should not become despondent and should participate in nation-building through discipline, honest work, and a genuine quest for knowledge.
Gen. Munir also reminded youth about the reasons for Pakistan’s creation. “If we want to adopt Western civilization, then why did we get rid of Hindu civilization?” he said of Partition.
To another question, he said it was the politicians’ responsibility to hold dialogue and institutions could not moderate this. He also said freedom of expression was guaranteed in the Constitution—but with reasonable restrictions. To another question on Pakistan’s “brain drain,” he urged youth to strike a balance between materialism and progression. “But if you quit Pakistan, then quit forever and do not come back to grab opportunities,” he added.
To a question on the budget for the Army, he said it was the highest taxpayer in Pakistan, as half of the budget allocated to the armed forces was returned in the form of various taxes. “With the rest of half, we run our affairs, and you will not find any Army in the world running at such a low budget,” he said.
He said the military does not get any grant from the government for the Combined Military Hospitals (CMH) and the Defense Housing Authority (DHA), noting that some people would criticize both but still prefer to avail their services.
On Pakistan’s resources, he said the country has $10 trillion worth of reserves in the shape of mines, minerals, and rare earth metals compared to $128 billion in foreign debt. He claimed the Green Pakistan Initiative would avail these resources and end the country’s reliance on imports.
During his talk, the Army chief also made it clear the life of a single Pakistani was more important to him than the entirety of Afghanistan. “When it comes to the safety and security of every single Pakistani, the whole of Afghanistan can be damned,” he said, noting Pakistan had hosted five million Afghan nationals for 50 years, but would not avoid pursuing those who attacked “our children.”
Lamenting that the Baloch insurgency had support in Afghanistan, he regretted Pakistan’s friendship was never reciprocated. “Do not look towards Pakistan. We are ready to sacrifice anything and everything,” he said in a warning to the rulers of Afghanistan.
On Pak-Indo ties, he said the countries could not reconcile as India had “not reconciled with the concept of Pakistan.” On recent tensions between Pakistan and Iran, he said: “You cannot backstab us, and if you do, you will get a befitting reply.”