‘If politi­cians deliver, the army has no chance of top­pling an elected govern­ment.’

Lt-Gen. (R) Moin­ud­din Haider, for­mer Gover­nor of Sindh and In­te­rior Min­is­ter, speaks to Jave­ria Shakil in this exclusive in­ter­view.

Southasia - - COVER STORY -

Pak­istan has been ranked among those coun­tries where a mil­i­tary takeover is highly likely in 2014. Given the coun­try’s his­tory of be­ing ruled by the mil­i­tary for half of its ex­is­tence, is there re­ally a pos­si­bil­ity of yet an­other mil­i­tary takeover?

I don’t think so. The rea­son is that there is a strong elected govern­ment in the coun­try. Why does the mil­i­tary over­throw a civil­ian govern­ment in Pak­istan? It is not al­ways be­cause of the am­bi­tion of a gen­eral or the think­ing of the army. It hap­pens when pol­i­tics fail and there’s a vac­uum. If the politi­cians deliver, the army has no chance of top­pling an elected govern­ment. But when there is cor­rup­tion and people see that their lead­ers are fool­ing them in the name of democ­racy, then they be­come dis­en­chanted. It is un­der such cir­cum­stances that the army steps in.

If we take a look at past mil­i­tary rules, we’ll learn some fun­da­men­tal facts.The mil­i­tary had its first taste of power when a serv­ing chief, Gen

Ayub Khan was made de­fense min­is­ter. He at­tended cab­i­net meet­ings in this ca­pac­ity and saw first­hand how our politi­cians be­haved. He was also given two ex­ten­sions in ser­vice and, in 1958, when the coun­try was pass­ing through a tu­mul­tuous time, Ayub Khan was in the eighth year of ser­vice. When a man is made to feel so pow­er­ful, he is in­clined to take mat­ters into his own hands, es­pe­cially if he starts to be­lieve that he can save his coun­try. When Ayub Khan over­threw the civil­ian govern­ment, people hailed it. Ayub’s de­cline be­gan when he started hob­nob­bing with politi­cians.

Zi­aul Haq’s mar­tial law could be avoided. There is no doubt that people were un­happy with the way Bhutto ruled the coun­try. His ar­bi­trary style made him un­pop­u­lar among many quar­ters and the last nail in the cof­fin was the mas­sive rig­ging in elec­tions which had the re­li­gious par­ties in an up­roar. Even then they had set­tled the mat­ter among them­selves and an agree­ment was about to be signed but Bhutto de­cided to de­lay it for rea­sons best known to him. By do­ing so he gave a chance to Zi­aul Haq to de­rail democ­racy. Zia’s rule was good for the econ­omy but the ji­hadi cul­ture that we see to­day is also a re­sult of his poli­cies. He gave too much lat­i­tude to re­li­gious par­ties.

As for the next mar­tial law, that was also avoid­able. The Kargil episode was in­deed a mis­ad­ven­ture but the way Mian Nawaz Sharif dealt with the sit­u­a­tion was not an ideal way to solve such sen­si­tive is­sues. He could have sim­ply asked Mushar­raf to re­sign; he had the author­ity to do so. That would have been the proper way of deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion. But what he did in­stead was not liked by the army.

When Mushar­raf took up the reins of of­fice, he per­formed well de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties the coun­try faced on the eco­nomic front. His first three years were largely ap­pre­ci­ated by the gen­eral pub­lic. He put to­gether a re­form agenda, put in place the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem, em­pow­ered women and had a wa­ter vi­sion for 2015. Mushar­raf, too, started fail­ing when he started bring­ing politi­cians on board which led to poor gov­er­nance and in­creased cor­rup­tion.

In the cur­rent govern­ment’s case, it is true that it is not per­form­ing as people would like it to. In spite of this, there is less cor­rup­tion to­day as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous govern­ment. The PML-N govern­ment has also taken steps to im­prove the law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try and has come up with a na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy – al­beit be­lat­edly. The econ­omy is on the path to re­cov­ery and there is talk of mas­sive in­vest­ments from China. So people are hope­ful that the govern­ment is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion al­though very slowly. Hence, there is no pos­si­bil­ity of a mil­i­tary takeover.

Do you think that in the last few years of the Mushar­raf govern­ment, there was a case for the army to move in again and take over civil­ian power?

In its last two years, the govern­ment of Pervez Mushar­raf had

‘When Mushar­raf took up the reins of of­fice, he per­formed well de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties the coun­try faced on the eco­nomic front. His first three years were largely ap­pre­ci­ated by the gen­eral pub­lic.’

come un­der se­vere crit­i­cism. People were not happy; there was un­rest in Balochis­tan, the re­li­gious el­e­ments were fu­ri­ous at the han­dling of the Lal Masjid case, and the gen­eral pub­lic was an­gry at the ram­pant cor­rup­tion, poor law and or­der sit­u­a­tion and ris­ing in­fla­tion. While dis­en­chant­ment with his rule was grow­ing, Mushar­raf was try­ing to pro­long his stay in power by all means. Even the army was un­happy as it be­came a tar­get of ter­ror­ists be­cause of Mushar­raf’s pol­icy of sid­ing with the U.S. in the war on ter­ror. So the army al­lowed a civil­ian setup to take power through the NRO and went back to bar­racks.

Democ­racy, how­ever, did not deliver. Even then the army did not de­rail the demo­cratic process be­cause it did not want to be ac­cused of stunt­ing the growth of civil­ian in­sti­tu­tions. So it re­frained from in­ter­fer­ing in civil­ian mat­ters al­though many people crit­i­cized it for not ar­rest­ing the de­cay.

What fac­tors would re­ally force the mil­i­tary to over­throw an elected govern­ment in the con­text of Pak­istan?

When people are dis­ap­pointed with the po­lit­i­cal setup and when the govern­ment fails to give them re­lief, they look for a sav­ior who can al­le­vi­ate their suf­fer­ings. In such a sit­u­a­tion, if there is a force that is highly or­ga­nized, dis­ci­plined, fol­lows rules and can carry the bur­den of gov­er­nance, it comes for­ward to fill that vac­uum.

While it is gen­er­ally be­lieved that mil­i­tary rule weak­ens po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, we have seen just the op­po­site in Pak­istan where mil­i­tary rulers de­volved pow­ers to the grass­roots level. How do you ex­plain this?

There is no doubt that when the army takes over, it weak­ens po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions. Dur­ing the army’s rule, demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions such as the Na­tional As­sem­bly or the Se­nate are ei­ther not func­tion­ing or, if they are, they work un­der the thumb of the mil­i­tary ruler. There may be elec­tions but some­times they are en­gi­neered. Even if a federal par­lia­men­tary sys­tem is in­stalled, it is the mil­i­tary pres­i­dent who calls all the shots.

In all demo­cratic so­ci­eties, there are three tiers of gov­er­nance. There is a federal or na­tional govern­ment, then there is a state or provin­cial govern­ment and the third and the most im­por­tant tier is the lo­cal govern­ment. All pol­i­tics is lo­cal and the ma­jor­ity of prob­lems of the com­mon man lie at the lo­cal level. What does a com­mon man liv­ing in a city or a vil­lage want? He wants clean wa­ter, un­in­ter­rupted elec­tric­ity sup­ply, good ed­u­ca­tion and health­care. These ser­vices are

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