Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani released a statement [press release] though the Pakistan Inter-Services Public Relations [official website] on Monday that any effort to undermine the military by creating a wedge between it and the Pakistani people would not be tolerated. The statement appears to be a response to the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] to launch legal proceedings [JURIST report] against a former army chief and intelligence director for their involvement in the country's 1990 election bribery scandal. Kayani's statement has generated concern [AP report] because of the country's history of military coups and the fact that the Pakistan military is the largest and most powerful establishment in the country. However, experts suggest that the statement is merely an attempt to push back on the judiciary as the military has slowly ceded power recently. Kayani stressed the future and the role of the constitution:
An intense discussion and debate is natural in this process. No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest. It should emerge only through a consensus, and all Pakistanis have a right to express their opinions. The constitution provides a clear mechanism for it. We all have a great responsibility to shoulder. We should learn from our past, try to build the present and keep our eyes set on a better future. We all agree that strengthening the institutions, ensuring the rule of law and working within the well defined bounds of the constitution is the right way forward. Weakening of the institutions and trying to assume more than one's due role will set us back. We owe it to the future of Pakistan, to lay correct foundations, today. We should not be carried away by short term considerations which may have greater negative consequences in the future.The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court did not back down from his position in a speech he gave in response to Kayani's comments and agreed that the country should proceed under the constitution, but reiterated that the constitution gives the judiciary supreme authority over other government institutions.
This decision to bring charges against the former military chief comes in the wake of years of hearings dating back to the 1996 petition filed by Khan, a former Air Marshal. The petition resurfaced in the Supreme Court in February [CNN report]. The 1990 election was a victory for the right-wing political party [BBC timeline], the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA). It resulted in the defeat of a number of different PPP officials, including the highly-revered former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Bhutto was assassinated [JURIST report] in a suicide attack in 2007 at a rally in Rawalpindi while campaigning for her party in the lead-up to the 2008 parliamentary elections.