Take them IN to keep them OUT


Southasia - - FRONT PAGE - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

The de­bate about the mil­i­tary’s role in pol­i­tics and for­mu­lat­ing state poli­cies in Pak­istan is al­most as old as the coun­try it­self. Some re­cent events have added to its ur­gency. Though why it should at all hap­pen is some­thing pe­cu­liar to Pak­istan. In a democ­racy, such a ques­tion would be otiose. It would have no use­ful re­sult. The mil­i­tary takes or­ders from the elected gov­ern­ment. But else­where, the army is re­quired to de­fend a coun­try’s ge­o­graph­i­cal fron­tiers, whereas, in Pak­istan it is as­signed the more gi­gan­tic task of guard­ing the coun­try’s ide­o­log­i­cal fron­tiers, which are lim­it­less. This is what dis­tin­guishes the Pak­istan army from its in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts.

No won­der, then that in the United States the CIA is headed by a civil­ian, but in Pak­istan it would be heresy (if not out­right sedi­tion) to talk about civil­ian con­trol over the ISI. An at­tempt was made, some­time ago, to bring the ISI un­der the in­te­rior min­istry but there was such strong op­po­si­tion from the army that the gov­ern­ment had to fold its knees.

Even in Bangladesh, af­ter a few years of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man, dur­ing which Gen. Zi­aur Rah­man and Brig. Khalid Mushar­raf were killed and Gen. Hus­sein Mo­ham­mad Er­shad ruled over the coun­try as a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor, the army has stayed con­fined to its pro­fes­sional ac­tiv­i­ties. Only in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances when po­lit­i­cal con­flict be­tween ri­val par­ties threat­ened to de­rail democ­racy in Bangladesh that the army in­ter­vened on Jan­uary 11, 2007, to sup­port a dec­la­ra­tion of emer­gency by the pres­i­dent and the in­stal­la­tion of an apo­lit­i­cal care­taker gov­ern­ment to clean the house and hold elec­tion. This, how­ever, was a be­nign kind of in­ter­ven­tion. It sought to strengthen democ­racy, not to sub­vert it, be­cause, the army did not come into the lime­light or as­sume any po­lit­i­cal role. And as soon as nor­mal­ity was re­stored and elec­tions held, the army went qui­etly back to its bar­racks.

The history of re­la­tions be­tween the civil­ian gov­ern­ment and the army in Pak­istan re­call the old story of the Be­douin and his camel. The Be­douin al­lows his camel to put his head into the tent. The camel grad­u­ally en­ters the tent. Re­al­is­ing that if he re­sisted, the camel would push him out, the Be­douin rec­on­ciles to the pol­icy of shar­ing the tent with the camel so both can live in peace.

Egypt and Pak­istan typ­ify this story. The elected gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Morsi ap­pointed Gen. Al Sisi as de­fence min­is­ter and be­cause he would not com­pro­mise with his de­fence min­is­ter, he was not only over­thrown but has since been sen­tenced to death. The camel has driven out the Be­douin.

Pak­istan started this game very

early. In 1954, barely seven years af­ter in­de­pen­dence, Prime Min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Ali Bo­gra, ap­pointed the army chief, Gen. Ayub Khan, as the coun­try’s de­fence min­is­ter. What pro­pelled him to take the de­ci­sion is un­known be­cause there was no ap­par­ent need for such a step. Although, as a newly in­de­pen­dent coun­try, Pak­istan did not have any prece­dent to take guid­ance from, it could learn from the ex­am­ples of other coun­tries, in­clud­ing In­dia, where, Sar­dar Baldev Singh was the de­fence min­is­ter.

Nor was the camel shiv­er­ing in the cold. In Pak­istan’s case it was the sheer large-heart­ed­ness of the Be­douin that led him to in­vite the camel into his tent. Once in­side, he be­gan to cre­ate space for him­self by play­ing a more ac­tive role in pol­i­tics. While prime min­is­ters came and went one af­ter the other, from Suhrawardy, through Feroz Khan Noon, to Chun­dri­gar, Ayub Khan stayed put in his of­fice. Ul­ti­mately, when Pres­i­dent Iskan­der Mirza de­clared mar­tial law he was ap­pointed Chief Mar­tial Law Ad­min­is­tra­tor on Oc­to­ber 7, 1958.

Twenty days later, he qui­etly pushed Mirza over in a blood­less coup on Oc­to­ber 27. Mirza went into ex­ile and a life of poverty in Lon­don. Ayub Khan be­came pres­i­dent of Pak­istan. The Be­douin-camel para­ble was com­plete.

Ayub blazed the trail. Oth­ers fol­lowed and “im­proved upon” it. Yahya Khan led the coun­try to a dis­as­trous war with In­dia and a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat. Zi­aul Haq and Mushar­raf fur­ther re­in­forced the army’s in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics so in Septem­ber 1988, the ISI formed the Is­lami Jamhoori It­te­had (IJI), an al­liance of right-wing po­lit­i­cal par­ties to op­pose the Pak­istan Peo­ples’ Party (PPP) in the forth­com­ing elec­tions.

It is note­wor­thy, how­ever, that there was no public op­po­si­tion to re­peated army takeovers. In­stead, the dic­ta­tors re­ceived pop­u­lar sup­port and were even hailed as saviours. What worked to their ad­van­tage was that they pre­sented a sharp con­trast to the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. First, their hands were clean of the stench of cor­rup­tion that po­lit­i­cal lead­ers emit­ted. None of the mil­i­tary rulers of Pak­istan ac­quired any chateau in France or a manor in Eng­land or flats in Lon­don’s posh May­fair. Sec­ond, whereas po­lit­i­cal lead­ers dis­trib­ute jobs among their rel­a­tives and party work­ers, army chiefs are free from such pulls and pres­sures. This is why the peo­ple con­tinue to trust the army more than their elected lead­ers. Third, the army is the guardian of the peo­ple’s se­cu­rity and last, it can be trusted to de­liver.

At present, the army is en­gaged in fight­ing ter­ror­ists tooth and nail. Op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziris­tan to elim­i­nate ter­ror­ists and their sanc­tu­ar­ies is the army chief’s brain­child. He took the ini­tia­tive and de­cided to strike when the elected gov­ern­ment was found drag­ging its feet on the is­sue and wast­ing time on APCs while the TTP was be­com­ing bolder.

Com­pared with Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif who calls an All-Par­ties Con­fer­ence at the drop of a hat and then re­lapses into hi­ber­na­tion, the COAS, Gen. Ra­heel Sha­reef has been more dy­namic, es­pe­cially with re­gard to se­cu­rity is­sues and has es­tab­lished a niche for him­self in the coun­try’s af­fairs.

No won­der there­fore that ev­ery for­eign dig­ni­tary vis­it­ing Pak­istan calls upon the army chief at the GHQ, sep­a­rately, af­ter meet­ing the prime min­is­ter.

It is now an es­tab­lished fact that the “camel” has come to stay, Re­sis­tance and con­fronta­tion would be per­ilous for the civil­ian gov­ern­ment as ex­pe­ri­ence has shown. Nawaz Sharif tried it in 1999 and will never for­get the con­se­quence he suf­fered.

"Co­op­er­a­tion works bet­ter than con­flict. Prac­ti­cal prob­lem-solv­ing is bet­ter than ide­o­log­i­cal ex­trem­ism, “said Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, once. It is a sound ad­vice in the ex­ist­ing civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions in Pak­istan.

In­stead of dis­si­pat­ing energy over a tus­sle that re­quires the civil gov­ern­ment to keep look­ing per­pet­u­ally over the shoul­der, why not give the army a con­sti­tu­tional role? That would end the present per­cep­tion of a dual gov­ern­ment – one in the open, the other in the shad­ows but no less pow­er­ful. More im­por­tantly, it will en­able the mil­i­tary to con­trib­ute mean­ing­fully to bet­ter, cleaner and more ef­fi­cient, gov­er­nance. Such a mea­sure would “de­fang” it, elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of any fur­ther mil­i­tary rule.

Per­haps ac­tion may start with re­viv­ing the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) through an act of par­lia­ment. The NSC, com­pris­ing the prime min­is­ter, chiefs of the three ser­vices, the DG-ISI, be­sides the min­is­ters of de­fence and for­eign af­fairs and the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, should be quite com­pe­tent to de­liver on good gov­er­nance that could lead to peace and progress.

In­stead of a con­stant tus­sle, why not give the army a con­sti­tu­tional role?

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