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THE communication gap be tween the British officers and native Indian troops was blamed by the British 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 liaison. After independence in 1947, he was called a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO). While the Bangladesh 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) bypassing his institutionalized command channel. Many consider this as violating the sanctity of the chain of command. Take a sampling of what the information the SM could be given (mostly negative) to the CO daily, viz (1) personnel Absent Without Leave (AWOL) (2) An officer driving without an Army driving license and/or without CO’s permission (3) personnel visiting out-of-bounds areas (4) pilfering of rations, petrol and stores (5) vehicles being misused on private errands, etc, and so on and so forth. Notwithstanding listing a host of problems, the SM will end with a resounding Baqi Sab Accha (Rest All is well), Sahib!
The SM can be devious, sample what the SM of my unit in Lahore in early 1966 told my CO, Lt Col (later Brig) Zair Hussain (father of Maj Gen (Retd) 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 driving the CO’s jeep at over 70 mph without his permission, for good measure without an Army driving licence.
The findings of the Judicial Commission (JC) about the conduct of elections was damning for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and at times contradictory, viz
(1) Employment of extra persons by ECP was unwarranted.
(2) Lack of planning led to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan outsourcing 20 million ballot papers at 11th hour in surreptitious manner to Pakistan Post Foundation Press. No evidence of misuse but sinister design was not ruled out
(3) printing of excess Ballot-Paper was not accounted for as per legal requirement.
(4) NADRA pre-scanning report finds number of required documents including Form XV’s not placed in the polling bags, their storage was prone to misplacement or interfered with in storage.
(5) the JC noted circumstantial evidence coming into play when all relevant facts stand considered for drawing any inference.
(6) The magnetic indelible ink was not properly checked due to lack of technology however it did not bear solid relevance to fingerprint verification.
(7) lack of training, overload of Returning Officers (RO’s) and Presiding officers (PO’s) and failure to comply with the electoral laws.
(8) lack of coordination between ECP, PEC and activities on the ground
(9) fair, free, honest and just election by ECP according to law was done, however JC could not define ‘fair’ saying its perception depended on many factors. JC could only take holistic view of the word but noted ECP having shortcomings during the electoral process
(10) JC conceded that PTI’s allegation on willful rigging by people at the helm of affairs did stand ground, and
(11) the JC then contradicted this finding that 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 article Charting the future on July 23, 2015 appearing a few hours before the JC Report, Fraud did take place but no clearcut smoking gun points to it on an organised basis.
However the chaotic conduct post-elections (being charitable can we call it benign neglect?) by the Election Commission (EC) seemed coincidently to mostly benefit PML (N), with considerable bias also in the verification of whatever election material was available. The Constitution preserves the sanctity of the ballot box, the vote being a sacred trust must be cast with freedom, thereafter counted and collated with great integrity. Badly flawed, at best the 2013 electoral process was a mismanaged farcical exercise. A democratic govt coming into existence on this basis is in violation of the Constitution, unquote.
Alongwith the information rendered the SM will normally give the CO advice the JC made no recommendations whatsoever despite the plethora of negativity about ECP’s performance in their findings. Their 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 gone for reforming electoral reforms in 45 days on offer as promised by the PML (N) before Aug 2014. Having opted for the JC, they should have got 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 will have us end up like Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Notwithstanding criticism by the vested and motivated, unless the JC does the right thing by ensuring electoral reforms and conduct thereof of a free and fair electoral process, there will be anarchy and the requirement of national security will than override democratic dispensation.
The military will be in dereliction of duty if they do not act, howsoever reluctantly, out of the much maligned doctrine of necessity, unquote. Falling back on the narrow provisions of the given TORs, the JC is theoretically right, unfortunately they have missed a unique opportunity to create history by failing to recommend 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-type Sab Accha Report from an august body like the JC.