Islamabad, Pakistan: The recent press conference of some members of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society (PESS) at the National Press Club (NPC) Islamabad and the language they have used against journalists and civil and military leadership have raised several questions about what is the term of reference of this society and why does it very active in Pakistani politics since last one decade and stands as second fiddle of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insafe (PTI) in every sphere of political activities.
The PESS is in news for a long for its covert position of supporting PTI and strongly criticizing the current military leadership.
Even abusive comments come from PESS against military leadership but no action has ever taken place against any of the members of the leadership of PESS though it is just and Non-government organization (NGO) like any of thousands of NGOs registered in Pakistan.
Bracing medals on their shirts, you can find several veterans chanting slogans in favor of former prime minister Imran Khan and their youth can be seen as first-line soldiers for protecting the PTI cause even by killing policemen in Lahore.
According to available information, the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society (PESS) is a non-Government, non-Political organization at the National level working to improve the welfare of ex-servicemen and their families of all the three Services, including Civil Armed Forces and Civilians paid from Defense estimates. However, this organization can be anything today but not non-political. The Society was established at Rawalpindi in 1991 by Maj Gen (Retd) Muhammad Aslam. It is presently registered as an NGO in the office of the Registrar, Joint Stock Companies Rawalpindi on a Pakistan basis and is exempt from all taxes by FBR.
Right now, Lt Gen (R) Amjad Shuaib is holding the office of the President, Maj Gen (R) Javed Aslam Tahir is Senior Vice President, Lt Col (R) Nasim Raja is Secretary-General, and Maj (R) Adil Raja who had slipped to London is the Spokesperson. It may be mentioned that Lt Gen (R) Amjad Shuaib has been very active on television screens and the ISPR officially approved his name as defence expert who could appear in national media. He got popularity among the masses after he tendered his heart-wrenching apology to former federal minister Murad Saeed through a video message after he commented about him in a TV show with Gharida Farooque. No other participants apologized for their comments taking the position that their comments came from the book of an ex-wife of former prime (Imran Khan) Minister Rehman Khan.
According to a notification issued on April 16, 2019, by the ISPR, Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider, Let Gen Amjad Shoaib, Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool, Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi, Lt Gen Asif Yaseen Malik, Lt Gen Raza Ahmed, Lt Gen Ashraf Saleem, Maj Gen Ejaz Awan, Maj Gen Ghulam Mustafa, Brig Saad Rasool, Brig Farooq Hameed, Brig Ghazanfar Ali, Brig Aslam Ghumman, Brig Nadir Mir, Brig Asadullah, Brig Asif Haroon, Brig Harris Nawaz, Brig Said Nazir, Brig Simson Simson Sharof, Admiral Ahmed Tasnim, AM Shahid Latif, AM Ikram Bhatti, AM Masood Akhtar, AM Riaz-u-Din, AVM Shahzad Ch and Air Cdre Sajjad Haider have been allowed to appear on media as defence analysts. Now having a deep look into this list, one can find several names who are now openly abusing the leadership of the military and accusing the Pakistan Army as a part of a so-called conspiracy against former Prime Minister Imran Khan. According to available information, this list has yet not been withdrawn by the ISPR.
When the society was established, it announced its objective to work for the welfare of ex-servicemen & their families, particularly in the fields of health, education, employment, pension, and rehabilitation. However, its website did not show any project in the above-mentioned fields and no financial report or audit report is also available on the website. No former event or Memorandum and Articles of Association is also not available on its website.
Society believes that three million veterans who constitute ex-servicemen have taken the oath to defend the country — and the oath does not become redundant with the shedding of the uniform — are present in every nook and corner of the country and belong to every cultural segment of the nation. They can effectively act as the Second Line Force in times of external aggression and national emergencies. They can also work for better understanding and coordination between the Armed Forces and the Civil Population of the country.
Available information confirms that it is completely a private NGO that has nothing to do with the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army or with the Pakistan Army except that its members are former staff of the armed forces of Pakistan. Since its operations are tax-free from FBR therefore society should have shared its audit reports on its website as a practice of NGOs but no such information is available to know its philanthropist projects, financial health, sources of funding, etc. Only a generalized statement is available on its website that it provides support to families of ex-servicemen in the fields of health, education, employment, pension, and rehabilitation.
Available information raises one pertinent question if it is just an NGO like thousands registered in Pakistan, how comes it is so vocal against the leadership of armed forces, particularly against Chief of Pakistan Army Gen Qamar Bajwa, and why no action has ever been taken against members of this organization who are ruthlessly criticizing civil and military leaderships of the country? Are there two laws?— one for civilians and one for servicemen including ex-servicemen if matters come targeting armed forces?
Another important question is should anybody in the country allow to use such allegations, slurs, and name-calling against Pakistan Army that is coming from PESS?
One can ask should there be two standards of rules of law in the country—one for ex-servicemen and another for civilians?
Such name-calling and allegations raised by ex-servicemen would definitely encourage civilians also who can have several personal vendettas against the armed forces and this situation would expand the already fragile fault-line between civil and military relationships.