The hybrids


Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

This blighted place has been run like a personal fiefdom by delusional military rulers who think they are politicians par excellence and civilians fanatically militaristic – hybrids that serve neither this nor that purpose. In fact, the hybrid incarnate is the military man who thinks he is a politician and a statesman. These hybrids wear two hats, have two skins and are a bane for the people. All assuming authority here instantly metamorphose into dictators because they know that the only way to more pelf and power is to ride roughshod over all decency, values and principles. 

They have always desperately sought to satisfy their cartels and constituencies. The problem has progressively increased in scope and magnitude because these lobbies have now assumed disproportionate influence. They have to satisfy the oversized egos and insatiable greed with lucrative and prestigious jobs. 

The Generals resort to appointments of their favourites from the armed forces in the civil sector, the politicians too appoint their incompetent but favourite powerful supporters, the results are similar but we will deal with the inductions from the armed forces only. These appointments to the choicest posts in the civilian sector have exacerbated and aggravated the crisis of ineptitude, wilful waste and corruption and eroded governance. Ironically, these appointments are always touted as a prerequisite for increasing efficiency and curbing corruption. 

These appointees are hybrids who have the arrogance of the military men and the sloth and cunning of corrupt bureaucrats. They run these places like fiefdoms, emulating their appointer, and are answerable to no one. Their method of administration exacerbates the problems due to their rigid attitudes and legendary disconnect from reality. 

A news report said, “In 2003, as many as 104 serving and retired Lieutenant-Generals, Major-Generals or equivalent ranks from other services are among the 1,027 military officers inducted on civilian posts in different ministries, divisions and Pakistani missions abroad after the October 12, 1999 military takeover. 

Of these 1,027 military officers inducted on civilian posts, 27 military officers have been given the prized grade of 22 while 62 officers have been adjusted in grade 21. A whopping figure of 150 officers occupies civilian positions in grade 20. There are 276 officers between grade 20 and 22 alone. In the Foreign Affairs, 13 Lieutenants and Major-Generals were appointed as ambassadors in different countries, while one Brigadier and a Major also got ambassadorial positions.”

The military bureaucracy not content with what they had, in February 2004 sought permission from the defence ministry to directly appoint army officers in the Military Lands and Cantonments (MLC) against vacant posts bypassing the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) recruitment rules. The move was resented by the FPSC. 

The efficiency and transparency achieved by these hybrids is glaringly apparent in these reports. “The Pakistan Post suffered a loss of Rs 14,309.9 million under its former director-general, a retired brigadier, Agha Masud-ul-Hassan, according to the Audit Report 2000-01. The report says that despite loss to the national entity on such a large scale, the brigadier is reported to have refused audit whenever teams of the auditor-general approached the postal department for audit. He had on his own declared the Post Office an autonomous body and refused to obey any government rules and principles.”

The retired brigadier’s appointment itself had been against rules and regulations. The scale of losses is an indicator of his capability, transparency and good governance. All must be remembering the reign of Lieutenant-General (retd) Zulfiqar Ali Khan as WAPDA Chairman because of the authority he wielded and precious little that he achieved. 

The worst part of all these sagas are that these corrupt, incompetent and autocratic hybrids are not answerable to any authority and after having messed up organisations, institutions and consequently the lives of many, they unremorsefully and unashamedly live in some luxurious enclave shielded from the morass of poverty that this country has become, or in some faraway land with enough to last 10 lifetimes over. 

This policy has always blighted this land, but this regime has outdone all. Perhaps it outdid itself when it decided to burden the already crumbling railways with three Generals and in process definitively and comprehensively broke the railway system’s back.

A report says, “The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was informed that the national exchequer continued to suffer a loss of Rs 30 million per month on account of defective imported locomotives lying idle in the railway sheds for repair. The committee was also told that the faulty engines worth $ 98 million had been imported during the tenure of the then railways minister, Lieutenant-General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi.

The three generals ignoring all accepted procedures bought 69 locomotives from China for $ 98 million in 2002. These were unsuitable for the outdated tracks here and without even trying to know that the locomotives could not operate in Pakistani conditions. They also bought carriages.”

Headed by ruling party MNA, Colonel (retd) Ghulam Rasool, a sub-committee of the PAC exonerated three top retired military officials – Lieutenant-General (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, the then federal minister for railways, Lieutenant-General (retd) Saeed-uz-Zafar, the then chairman Pakistan Railways and Lieutenant-General (retd) Hamid Butt, the then general manager administration of PR – in a scandal that had made headlines in the national press recently.

It said, “The PAC here on Friday cleared the three retired generals including Federal Education Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi in the $ 98million Chinese locomotives scam, saying the official had struck the deal in ‘good faith’.”

It added that, “The Chinese built carriages were displayed as the pride of the Pakistan Railways upon arrival at the Karachi port, but it turned out that they were of larger width than our existing platforms and the PR had to ‘trim’ the concrete-built platforms at several railway stations to facilitate the passage of the said carriages as the train embarked on its test-run journey from Karachi to Rawalpindi.”

It is worth mentioning that General Qazi had received the approval of the entire scheme in the December 29, 1999 at the meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) presided over by President General Pervez Musharraf. Apportioning criminal liability would have had affected top guns, thus they were conveniently exonerated. 

In 2006 the Balochistan Governor appointed Agha Ahmed Gul, a retired brigadier and former chief executive of the QESC, as Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the Balochistan University. He arbitrarily raised fees and enforced regulations fit for running top security prisons. The students and staff have consistently protested against his methods of administration. 

The executive committee of the Academic Staff Association there challenged the appointment and rejected new regulations including one that required all faculty members to sign attendance register twice a day.

Athar Osama, a US-based public policy analyst, criticising such appointments said, “The example given is that of a military man holding a Master’s degree in strategic and war studies that every general – irrespective of his aptitude – picks up en route to becoming a general. This argument is questionable on several counts.

First, a Master’s degree does not qualify an individual to lead an institution of higher learning and research. Second, it does not solve the issue of inspirational leadership that is part and parcel of a VC’s job. Making this argument is like saying that a professor holding a degree in strategic and defence studies is good enough to become a corps commander or even the chief of staff in the Pakistan Army. Do we expect junior officers to respect such an appointment?”

He also said, “Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, the HEC chairman, noted that Pakistan does not have even a single university among the top 1,000 universities in the world. Putting military men in charge of Pakistani universities and research institutions would ensure that this remains true for eternity.”

This VC is not the sole military appointee there, the others are VC Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar; Lieutenant-General (retd) M. Akram Khan and Brigadier (retd) Sirajuddin, Lasbela University of Agriculture, Lasbela.

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi says, “The practice of appointing retired army officers as VCs began in the late 1970s. A retired brigadier served as VC of the Balochistan University from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Another retired brigadier worked as pro vice-chancellor of this university during 1998-2001.

Now a retired brigadier takes over this university on October 7, 2006. In addition to this, the Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar, and the University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences, Uthal, Lasbela, are headed by retired brigadiers.” 

He adds, “Some lieutenant-generals/VCs talk of their master’s degree in defence and strategic studies from the Quaid-i-Azam University. There is a little catch in it. This degree is awarded to them after they complete one year National Defence (ND) course at the National Defence College, Islamabad, because the Quaid-i-Azam University has given MA equivalence to the ND course.

If these officers register directly with the Quaid-i-Azam University, they will have to spend two years to obtain a similar degree. No doubt, senior military officers are a privileged class in Pakistan.” 

Tailpiece: The NRO is the culmination of a shameful quid pro quo between two rank opportunists: the present dispensation and the ‘Daughter of the West’. This, however, is a halfway measure. There should be a Grand National Reconciliation, the jails should be emptied, the police disbanded and dissolved along with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to begin with a clean slate. 

Because indemnifying and exonerating only the local Sicilian Mafia, the Bosses, the Godfathers and Godmothers of the local Medellin and Cali cartels and penalising only the small-time murderers, rapists, psychopaths, sociopaths, pimps, prostitutes and drug-pushers does not bring about the desired results of mayhem, anarchy and bedlam that is the goal of the present dispensation in connivance with the US. 

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

This article was first published in The Post on 09 October 2007

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