Pakistan still has a few upright men left, and one of them is the hero of the 1965 air war - Air Marshal Nur Khan – a man widely respected not only for his integrity but also for his sharp intelligence and outstanding management abilities.
On Saturday he was interviewed by the Lahore daily The Nation. While he harshly criticizes the current so-called leaders of Punjab (and Islamabad) it must be noted that the Air Marshal is a Punjabi-speaker himself and therefore can hardly be accused of provincial bias.______________________________________________
Nur Khan for early end to army rule
Former Air Chief, Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan Friday demanded an immediate end to Musharraf rule while asking the Punjab’s political leadership to steer the country out of present political quagmire by withdrawing support to the military ruler.
In an interview here with The Nation, the former Air Chief and Ex-PIA boss castigated the leadership of PML-Q for supporting the military rule of President Musharraf as he talked about the political problems being faced by the country.
Khan said the President of ruling party, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Pervez Ellahi, the Chief Minister of Punjab, were equally responsible for the grave political crisis confronting the country, as they were all out to support a military ruler who has proven to be the weakest administrator Pakistan has ever seen.
He added that he had no love for the PML-Q leadership as it had indulged in practices contrary to the teachings of country’s founder, Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
He said Punjab and especially Lahore could steer the nation out of the present political quagmire, as the provincial capital was the intellectual and cultural hub of this country and whatever happened here mattered the most.
He cautioned if Punjab failed to lead the country in these difficult times it would be blamed for the disaster that would be the natural outcome of flawed policies being pursued by the incumbent rulers.
He said the sense of deprivation among the small provinces is getting stronger with each passing day and things have worsened due to the military operations in Balochistan and tribal belt of Waziristan.
He added that the people there have already started saying that the Punjab’s army was carrying out atrocities against them.
He said Punjab ought to belie this impression and do what was the need of hour. He added that unless and until Punjab played its due role in the national progress people would continue to talk about the false notions like the alleged plans for “Greater Punjab” etc.
He said the current ruling elite of Punjab had an old desire of forging ties of love with Indian Punjab and that’s the main reason behind the current exchange of visits across the border.
He said if the Chaudhry brothers could receive the Indians in Lahore how could they object to the visits by Pushtun leaders like Asfandyar Wali Khan to New Delhi.
He said the seven-year rule of President Musharraf has given nothing to the nation adding that the country would have been much better off had the General done whatever he had announced to do at the onset of his rule.
Former Air Chief said it seems that the present regime has learnt nothing from the mistakes made by the past military governments.
Moreover, he said it had an inactive political arm in the form of PML-Q adding that the Musharraf regime was only supported by Chaudhry brothers for their own interests whereas the common people have no more confidence in its governance.
He said the credibility of President Musharraf is the same as that of US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He added that all the three leaders have done little for their country in terms of progress and development.
He said today law and order situation is at its lowest ebb and right from Gilgit to Gwadar a deep sense of insecurity prevails among the people.
He asked the Punjab’s ruling elite to withdraw what he said their ‘unblinking support’ to Musharraf regime. He added that he was not against Pervez Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat or Pervez Ellahi, saying personally they would be good people but whatever he said was in the broad national interests.
He said what worried him the most was the fact that the political system might completely collapse and that would have catastrophic repercussions for the country.
He said any such development would have a negative impact on army as well adding that it was high time that the military withdrew itself from politics and went back to the barracks.
He said only by restoring genuine democratic order, Pakistan could be put back on the path of progress and development. The real democracy, he added would come to this country when it has independent judiciary and election commission followed by concrete measures to improve the law and order situation.
He said our goal must be to raise the living standards of the people adding if we overtook India in this regard we would be far better off as compared to Indian people.
However, he added that we needed a strong political resolve instead of indulging in useless arms race with India. He lamented that in a futile exercise, huge amount from national exchequer was being spent on the purchase of fighter planes and other military hardware.
He said the government should focus on improving economy rather than overspending on country’s defence. He cited the examples of South Korea and Singapore, the two strong nations which achieved distinct global standing only by dint of their economic prowess.
He said unfortunately, every military ruler, be it Ayub, Yahya, Ziaul Haq or Musharraf, made serious mistake of involving army in politics.
He said the lack of acumen on their part also confronted the nation with repeated crises such as Indo-Pak war of 1965, East Pakistan debacle and Kargil fiasco etc.
He went on to assert that it was the follies of the military rulers that led the country to the war more than once adding that the Indians were wrongly blamed for the wars of 65 and 71 etc.
He said the problem did not lie with the soldiers in Pakistan army who were always willing to lay down their lives for the motherland but it was the top military cadre that needed to put itself in order.
Ex-Air Chief recalled that late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto got a chance to rectify the irreparable loss of country’s dismemberment by blocking the future military coups as he was in a strong position but even he failed to publish Humood-ur-Rehman Commission report let alone the implementation upon its recommendations.
He said the same happened with Kargil as the Prime Minister and Army started blaming each other instead of setting up a judicial inquiry.
He was of the view that the East Pakistan debacle would not have occurred if General Yahya had delegated powers to Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman.
He added that Mujeeb and Bhutto would have sorted out the things and reached some agreement but unfortunately, the advice given by him in this regard to the then military rulers fell on deaf ears.He said one major flaw with our army chiefs was their tendency to hold on to power for unnecessarily long periods. He added that none of them had left the power corridors in a year or two by holding free, fair and impartial elections.
Nur Khan also came down heavily on the government for its failed foreign policy. He added that owing to these faulty policies Pakistan has got nothing despite giving several concessions to India and a U-turn on Kashmir.
He said India is still asking Pakistan to dismantle the so-called terror network whereas the United States is also demanding for more in war on terror. All this, he added, is being said despite a key role played by Pakistan in global war against terrorism.
He said full credit went to Pakistani nation that had shown resilience despite weak rulers and they had done a lot for the economic betterment of this country.
Talking about the PIA performance, he said the recent Fokker crash had raised many questions in this regard adding if it were the fault on the part of airlines’ administration the present PIA boss should resign from his office.
He said that PIA had a full-fledged maintenance body in the form of Civil Aviation Authority but still its performance is poor which is a matter of grave concern.
He asked for impartial inquiry into the Multan air crash as delay in the probe and punishment to the real culprits would bring bad name to the national flag carrier.
He said only by teamwork PIA could be taken to the heights again adding that the newly born carriers like Emirates had proven that well coordinated efforts and hard work could yield the desired results.
Khan observed that one major reason of the decline of state institutions was the fact that the heads of these bodies have got only one concern and that was how to please the President or the Prime Minister and they were least concerned about the improvement of their organizations.
He said the serious problems confronting the country could be overcome only by spreading education. He added an educated society would be strong enough to halt the military take over in future and avert marshal law.