Pervez Mushar­raf Speaks

In this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, Gen­eral (R) Pervez Mushar­raf, for­mer Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan and Chief of the Army Staff, talks to SouthAsia Mag­a­zine.

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Jin­nah en­vi­sioned Pak­istan as a purely civil­ian state. How and when did the army come in and why did suc­ceed­ing gov­ern­ments lean on crutches of the army?

The Quaid e Azam en­vi­sioned Pak­istan as s state that would fol­low purely demo­cratic lines where the armed forces would play their due role as laid out for them in a democ­racy. At that point the armed forces had no role in the run­ning of Pak­istan. It was later, in the post-Quaid and post-Li­aquat era that the role of the armed forces be­gan to ex­pand in gov­er­nance. Per­haps it was the in­ept­ness of the sub­se­quent civil­ian gov­ern­ments that en­cour­aged Gen. Iskan­der Mirza and Gen. Ayub Khan to step in with im­po­si­tion of Mar­tial Law and that is when the armed forces be­came di­rectly in­volved in Pak­istan’s gov­er­nance. Some say that Pak­istan could never be run with­out as­sis­tance from the army? But other gov­ern­ments in South Asia have not in­ducted the army to this ex­tent.

I agree with the view that the army should have al­ways played a sub­servient role in the af­fairs of the state but as the civil­ian gov­ern­ments could not demon­strate their abil­ity to run the coun­try on sound lines, the army had to step in to pro­vide re­lief to the peo­ple by way of peace and progress. Pak­istan has an ac­tive tribal and feu­dal cul­ture which acts against democ­racy. Such a sit­u­a­tion was not faced in other coun­tries of South Asia as the demo­cratic struc­tures in these coun­tries were sound from the very be­gin­ning and had an en­vi­ron­ment to flour­ish. A civil­ian gov­ern­ment can­not be solely trusted with af­fairs of the state. Your com­ments, please.

A civil­ian gov­ern­ment can very much be trusted with the af­fairs of the state pro­vided it dis­plays its ca­pa­bil­ity to do so. Un­for­tu­nately, Pak­istan’s his­toric ex­pe­ri­ence has not seen any civil­ian gov­ern­ment gen­uinely per­form, there­fore the lack of trust.

What steps should be taken to keep the Army from tak­ing over power in Pak­istan?

The army can be dis­cour­aged from tak­ing over power in Pak­istan if the civil­ian gov­ern­ments en­sure the wel­fare of the peo­ple and de­vel­op­ment of the state and there are ad­e­quate con­sti­tu­tional checks and bal­ances against mis­gov­er­nance. The army can then be left to do its job of pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity against ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal threats. Is it true that politi­cians run to the Army in times of cri­sis?

Not all the time but some­times. The over­ly­ing belief has been that the army can tackle many is­sues bet­ter than civil­ians can. I think this trend was more preva­lent in the 90s. His­tor­i­cally, large num­bers of peo­ple have al­ways looked to the army to re­solve many a cri­sis in the coun­try in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal crises. Does Pak­istan need a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil?

Yes, very much so. We had the DCC in ear­lier times but an or­ga­ni­za­tion like the NSC would be more ap­pro­pri­ate as it would have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from all key

quar­ters. The orig­i­nal idea of an NSC was firstly to ex­er­cise a check on gov­er­nance, se­condly, to pre­vent im­pul­sive use of Ar­ti­cle 58(2)B by the pres­i­dent and thirdly, to pre­vent a mil­i­tary takeover. Should the NSC be built into the Con­sti­tu­tion as a per­ma­nent fix­ture?

There is a need to make a per­ma­nent place for a body like the NSC in the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion. This would le­git­imize the NSC and it would be looked upon as the proper body to con­sult in times of cri­sis. Such an NSC should be a con­sul­ta­tive body and should not be above the Par­lia­ment. How would you rate the Turk­ish ex­pe­ri­ence in this con­nec­tion?

The Turk­ish model of the Army hav­ing a place in the coun­try’s gov­er­nance was quite in­struc­tive. In this way, the army there did not have to as­sert it­self by tak­ing con­trol of the coun­try’s reins of power. Grad­u­ally, as democ­racy again be­gan to find its feet in the Turk­ish gov­er­nance setup, the army’s role was rel­e­gated. In Pak­istan too, once demo­cratic gov­ern­ments start to serve the peo­ple and state, the role of the army in gov­er­nance will grad­u­ally start to re­duce. What should be the com­po­si­tion of the NSC?

The NSC could have any suit­able com­bi­na­tion on the po­lit­i­cal side which could be eval­u­ated through a think tank like the NRB, which we had cre­ated. How­ever, what is es­sen­tial on the mil­i­tary side is that it should have the CJSC, the three ser­vice chiefs and chief of the ISI as mem­bers. Should the NSC come only into op­er­a­tion at times of acute na­tional cri­sis?

There would be no harm if the NSC re­mains op­er­a­tive at all times and meets on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to dis­cuss na­tional is­sues. But it would cer­tainly play a very use­ful role at times of cri­sis. How do you view the role of the armed forces in the proper run­ning of af­fairs of the state?

Other than the NSC, the armed forces should play their role strictly as what is pro­vided in the Con­sti­tu­tion. They can be called to help the civil­ian gov­ern­ment un­der Sec­tion 245 and act ac­cord­ingly. Is it okay to en­trust var­i­ous as­pects of gov­er­nance to the army – from mon­i­tor­ing polling dur­ing elec­tions to flush­ing out ter­ror­ists?

I don’t think the army should be called in to per­form these func­tions; the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion should have con­fi­dence of the peo­ple and the strength to tackle such is­sues on its own. In the present en­vi­ron­ment, suc­ces­sive civil­ian gov­ern­ments have failed to hold fair elec­tions and to counter ter­ror­ism. The army’s role in these func­tions then be­comes un­avoid­able. How­ever, with grad­ual ma­tur­ing of civil­ian gov­ern­ments and their de­mon­strat­ing the abil­ity to per­form these func­tions ef­fec­tively, the army’s role can be rel­e­gated. Is there some kind of hes­i­tance on part of the army to take over the reins of gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan?

There should al­ways be a hes­i­ta­tion on part of any pro­fes­sional army to dab­ble in gov­er­nance. Con­di­tions in the past were cre­ated where the army was con­fronted with the dilemma of de­cid­ing be­tween the state and the con­sti­tu­tion. If you pre­serve the con­sti­tu­tion, the state is run down. If you save the state, the Con­sti­tu­tion is vi­o­lated. Once the demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions be­come more ef­fec­tive in ef­fi­cient gov­er­nance and avoid cre­at­ing ad­verse po­lit­i­cal, ad­min­is­tra­tive and eco­nomic con­di­tion, the army will find no need for in­ter­fer­ence and this would be an ideal way of gov­er­nance. The army hes­i­tates to take over ad­min­is­tra­tive power be­cause this shifts its fo­cus from de­fend­ing the coun­try’s borders – and we can hardly af­ford this in the present times. Does the army run af­fairs of the state more ef­fi­ciently be­cause it is not cor­rupt – and not ac­count­able to a po­lit­i­cal con­stituency?

That is true. Cor­rup­tion does not per­me­ate the army be­cause it has a very trans­par­ent ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem from top to bot­tom and has lay­ers of checks and bal­ances. Would the NSC ad­e­quately stop the army from tak­ing over con­trol of the state?

Yes it would, as the mil­i­tary would be a part of an in­sti­tu­tional fo­rum where it can voice its con­cerns and in­flu­ence events to­wards good gov­er­nance. That is why I say, ‘Take them in to keep them out.’

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