A New Di­rec­tion

The new norm in Pak­istan seems to be mov­ing to­wards a setup that ac­cepts the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the mil­i­tary in rul­ing the coun­try along­side the civil­ians.

Southasia - - MALÉ - By Dr. M. Zeb Khan

In the pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances in which Pak­istan got its in­de­pen­dence and the sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ments that took place, the Pak­istan Army as an in­sti­tu­tion never lent it­self ex­clu­sively to se­cur­ing the ge­o­graph­i­cal bor­ders of Pak­istan and turn­ing a blind eye to what was go­ing on in the coun­try. As a mat­ter of fact and ac­cord­ing to his­tory, it as­sumed a po­lit­i­cal role as and when it deemed fit. This is why the mil­i­tary-civil re­la­tion­ship has al­ways been in flux punc­tu­ated by a pe­riod of brief equi­lib­rium or syn­the­sis.

The role the Army which it en­joys to­day has evolved out of cir­cum­stances rather than any prior plan­ning. Let us un­der­stand the past in light of the pre­sent kalei­do­scope. There is ter­ror­ism — both home­grown and in­fil­trated — which has been test­ing our nerves and val­ues for quite some time. The re­sponse of the civil­ian govern­ment to this threat has al­ways been slow and shabby, re­flect­ing the in­tel­lec­tual and emo­tional poverty of the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. For them, the prob­lem of ter­ror­ism has been mo­men­tary, frag­mented and su­per­fi­cial that could be ad­dressed in a piece­meal and ad hoc man­ner. It was not un­til the APS tragedy oc­curred and the smoke of bombs and bul­lets cleared the smoke of politi­cians’ mind about the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem and the ur­gency of sys­tem­atic re­sponse and it was too late for them to deny space to the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary.

Be­sides ter­ror­ism, the his­tor­i­cal bel­liger­ent re­la­tion­ship with In­dia has made Pak­istan a se­cu­rity state. Rather than chart­ing a path of its own choos­ing, Pak­istan has al­ways re­acted to the In­dian moves in pol­icy mak­ing

on de­fence and for­eign re­la­tions. In such an In­dia-spe­cific par­a­digm, it is the se­cu­rity and not the so­cio-eco­nomic wel­fare of the peo­ple that de­ter­mines the na­ture of the civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tion­ship in Pak­istan. The civil­ian lead­er­ship thinks it ex­pe­di­ent to fol­low the mil­i­tary logic of “main­tain­ing min­i­mum nu­clear de­ter­rence”, “Kash­mir comes first” and “In­dia is eter­nal en­emy”. This kind of think­ing has be­come so em­bed­ded now that it is al­most im­pos­si­ble and un­pa­tri­otic to think oth­er­wise. Both coun­tries have fought wars and have ac­tively sup­ported sep­a­ratist move­ments in ad­di­tion to iso­lat­ing and ma­lign­ing each other in­ter­na­tion­ally. The self­ful­fill­ing proph­esy is what char­ac­ter­izes the per­pet­ual ri­valry be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan. This state of af­fairs has pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions in Pak­istan. Any­one sug­gest­ing a path dif­fer­ent from the one charted by his­tory is viewed with skep­ti­cism.

The ex­pand­ing role of the Pak­istan Army in civil­ian af­fairs, how­ever, has much to do with fail­ure of gov­er­nance. Good gov­er­nance, which gives le­git­i­macy and moral strength to the rulers, is con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence in Pak­istan. There are dif­fer­ent Pak­istans for dif­fer­ent seg­ments of so­ci­ety. Cit­i­zens, who are ei­ther poor or have low so­cial cap­i­tal — or no link­ages with the pow­er­ful — have no say and no way to break into the struc­tured paths in Pak­istan. The land­lords and cap­i­tal­ists have oc­cu­pied all struc­tures of power, in­clud­ing the leg­is­la­ture, ju­di­ciary and the bu­reau­cracy. The rule of law, trans­parency, ac­count­abil­ity, and other el­e­ments of good gov­er­nance have lost its mean­ing in pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tions. Democ­racy in Pak­istan pro­vides a ve­neer for shar­ing the spoils avail­able to the rulers and their cronies. One side-ef­fect of this seem­ingly in­ter­minable loot and plun­der and ab­di­ca­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity by the civil­ians has been the re­cur­rence of mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions now and then us­ing in­no­va­tive pre­texts.

How­ever, for the good or bad, all stake­hold­ers have now ac­cepted the new norm. Mil­i­tary takeovers in the past have proved cat­a­strophic for the coun­try’s in­tegrity and long-term de­vel­op­ment in ad­di­tion to dam­ag­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of the army. The new think­ing, which is more prag­matic and so­cially/po­lit­i­cally ac­cept­able, is for the army to act as a watch­dog and not as a blood­hound. The po­lit­i­cal par­ties seem to have re­luc­tantly rec­on­ciled with the ground re­al­ity of liv­ing with the army’s new role of com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion, main­tain­ing law and or­der and fight­ing ter­ror­ism be­sides de­ter­min­ing the con­tours of for­eign pol­icy. This, how­ever, does not mean that the new syn­the­sis on power dis­tri­bu­tion is per­ma­nent. New de­vel­op­ments are bound to dis­turb the equa­tion and one won­ders when this will stop in or­der for a sys­tem of checks and bal­ances to be put in place so that it pre­empts all in­sti­tu­tions from in­trud­ing in one an­other’s con­sti­tu­tional do­main.

The prime vic­tim of per­sis­tent mis­trust be­tween in­sti­tu­tions in Pak­istan is the Kash­mir cause. Kash­mir is trapped in a kind of vi­cious cy­cle — re­pres­sion, di­a­logue, dis­rup­tion and again re­pres­sion. No one knows when and how it will be bro­ken. In­dia claims Kash­mir is its in­te­gral part and a plebiscite is a by­gone story while Pak­istan con­sid­ers Kash­mir its jugu­lar vein and the par­ti­tion as an in­com­plete ex­er­cise with­out Kash­mir. In­dia’s claim is based on the Ac­ces­sion Doc­u­ment while Pak­istan counts on the let­ter and spirit of the Par­ti­tion Plan.

The stale­mate on Kash­mir, as de­scribed by the for­mer Pak­istani and spy chiefs in their book “The Spy Chron­i­cles” is partly due to the ab­sence of fresh think­ing and bold lead­er­ship in both In­dia and Pak­istan. In­dia’s ap­par­ent ob­sti­nacy on Kash­mir can be ex­plained by its fear of the rip­ple ef­fect in other hot spots. In Pak­istan, ex­cept for Mushar­raf who of­fered an out-of-the-box so­lu­tion, any step for­ward has to be val­i­dated from dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers. The con­flict­ing na­ture of in­ter­ests makes it gen­er­ally point­less to do any­thing worth­while be­yond rhetoric. Any en­gage­ment with In­dia in the con­text of Kash­mir can only prove pro­duc­tive and mean­ing­ful if the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship in Pak­istan looks in the same di­rec­tion.

One prag­matic so­lu­tion to the civil-mil­i­tary co­nun­drum and a kind of safety valve is to re­vi­tal­ize the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. It is nei­ther a new con­cept nor a unique model in Pak­istan. Ini­tially con­ceived in 1969, the NSC was sup­posed to ad­vise the Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter on na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign poli­cies but since then it has be­come con­tro­ver­sial in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles. Some skep­tics be­lieve that it has not done any­thing more than giv­ing le­gal cover to the ex­pand­ing role of the mil­li­tary in pub­lic af­fairs. How­ever, given the struc­ture of the NSC, it is un­likely for the mil­i­tary to dic­tate the civil­ian govern­ment in mat­ters of na­tional in­ter­est. If put to work in true spirit and with sin­cere in­ten­tions, the NSC can prove to be an ef­fec­tive mech­a­nism for har­mo­niz­ing civilmil­i­tary re­la­tions be­sides pro­vid­ing a use­ful plat­form for in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to the com­plex in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal chal­lenges that Pak­istan faces.

One prag­matic so­lu­tion to the civilmil­i­tary co­nun­drum and a kind of safety valve is to re­vi­tal­ize the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

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