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.
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.’