Tuesday, 10/12/2019 | 11:50 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

The 'sab accha' report (Daily Times (Pakistan))

The British believed that the communication gap between the British officers and native Indian troops was responsible for the mutiny in the army of the British East India Company leading to the 1857 War of Independence. To propagate British imperial rule after 1857, an Indian Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCO) rank was instituted to facilitate effective liaisons. After independence in 1947, this position was renamed Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO). While the Bangladeshi army has done away with this unnecessary barrier between the officer and the soldier, JCOs still exist in the Indian, Pakistan and Nepalese Armies.

The senior-most JCO in an army unit is the Subedar Major (SM). This unique institution bypasses the chain of command within the unit to give daily reports to the Commanding Officer (CO). Many consider this a violation of the sanctity of the chain of command. Here are some examples of what information (mostly negative) the SM could be giving to the CO daily: personnel absent without leave (AWOL); an officer driving without an army driving license and/or without the CO’s permission; personnel visiting out-of-bounds areas; pilfering of rations, petrol and stores; vehicles being misused for private errands etc. After listing a host of problems, the SM will end with a resounding baqi sab accha sahib (all the rest is well sir)!

The SM can be devious. For instance, sample what the SM of my unit in Lahore in early 1966 told my CO, Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier) Zair Hussain and father of Major General retired Shakeel Hussain, our High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. To quote almost verbatim, Chand Sahib has saved the reputation of the unit yesterday. This mad woman was driving in rash fashion over 70 mph over the railway bridge near the Fortress Stadium. She suddenly stopped her car, if it were not for the driving skills of Chand Sahib driving your jeep behind her managing to control his vehicle there would have been a bad accident. What he really told the CO was that Ikram Sehgal was chasing a woman while driving the CO’s jeep at over 70 mph, without his permission and, for good measure, without an army driving licence!

The findings of the Judicial Commission (JC) about the 2013 general elections was damning for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and at times contradictory in the following cases: Employment of extra persons by the ECP was unwarranted. A lack of planning led to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan surreptitiously outsourcing 20 million ballot papers at the 11th hour to the Pakistan Post Foundation Press. There was no evidence of misuse but sinister designs were not ruled out. The printing of excess ballot papers was not accounted for as per the legal requirement. The National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADRA’s) pre-scanning report finds that a number of required documents, including Form XV, were not placed in the polling bags, their storage was prone to misplacement or interfered with in storage. The JC noted circumstantial evidence coming into play, when all relevant facts had been considered. The magnetic indelible ink was not properly checked due to a lack of technology, yet it did not bear solid relevance to fingerprint verification. There was a lack of training and overloading of the Returning Officers (ROs) and Presiding Officers (POs) and a failure to comply with the electoral laws. There was a lack of coordination between the ECP, PEC and activities on the ground. Fair, free, honest and just elections, in accordance with the law were held by the ECP, yet the JC could not define ‘fair’, saying that its perception depended on many factors. The JC could only take a holistic view of the word but noted that the ECP had shortcomings during the electoral process. The JC conceded that the PTI’s allegation of wilful rigging by people at the helm of affairs did stand ground, but then contradicted this finding by saying that, The elections in large part were fair in accordance with law but in certain MQM constituencies in Karachi the conduct of election was not entirely fair.

To quote my July 23 article, Charting the future, which appeared a few hours before the JC report came out, Fraud did take place but no clear-cut smoking gun points to organised rigging. However, the chaotic conduct after elections by the Election Commission (EC) seemed to mostly benefit the PML-N, with considerable bias in the verification of whatever election material was available. The Constitution preserves the sanctity of the ballot box; the vote is a sacred trust that must be cast with freedom and counted with great integrity thereafter. At best, the flawed 2013 electoral process was a mismanaged, farcical exercise. A democratic government coming into existence on this basis is in violation of the Constitution.

Along with information, the SM will normally give the CO advice that the JC made no recommendations whatsoever, despite the plethora of negativity about the ECP’s performance in their findings. The commission’s sab accha conclusion has set a new precedence and benchmark: cheating and fraud can be condoned by anyone claiming inefficiency and bad performance thereof. The PTI strategy was a disaster. They should have taken the PML-N’s offer of introducing electoral reforms in 45 days before Aug 2014. Having opted for the JC, they should have gotten their Terms of Reference (TORs) right.

To quote my article of July 23, 2015 further, Without the electoral process being rectified, our present democratic dispensation cannot support our social and economic development. The JC must give a pragmatic roadmap for restoring democracy along constitutional lines; failure to do so will lead to us ending up like Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. There is criticism from the vested and motivated that, unless the JC does the right thing by ensuring electoral reforms and conduct for a free and fair electoral process, there will be anarchy and the requirement of national security will then override democracy. The military will be in dereliction of duty if it does not act, however reluctantly, out of the much-maligned doctrine of necessity. Falling back on the narrow provisions of the given TORs, the JC is theoretically right, unfortunately they have missed a unique opportunity to make history by failing to recommend the rectification of a patently flawed process. The most important thing for Pakistan’s future being a fair and equitable electoral process, the JC has unfortunately relied on the wording rather than the spirit of the law. Given the numerous deficiencies in our electoral process, it was very disappointing to get this unit Subedar Major-style sab accha report from an august body like the JC.