Help­ing Gov­er­nance

Pak­istan needs an NSC so that all im­por­tant na­tional poli­cies are made through con­sul­ta­tion be­tween civil and mil­i­tary forces.

Southasia - - MALÉ - By Ayaz Ahmed

Pak­istan's feu­dal and dy­nas­tic po­lit­i­cal cul­ture has stymied demo­cratic norms and in­sti­tu­tions from strik­ing roots in the coun­try. All suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have dis­played out­right re­luc­tance in terms of al­low­ing and em­pow­er­ing the in­sti­tu­tion of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC). Such an in­dif­fer­ent be­hav­iour on the part of the civil­ian lead­er­ship has cre­ated threat­en­ing is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy. Politi­cians have been un­nec­es­sar­ily ap­pre­hen­sive that an ef­fec­tive NSC will lead to the mil­i­tary fre­quently med­dling in civil­ian af­fairs. This has pre­sum­ably goaded the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship into play­ing a sort of po­lit­i­cal role through back­door in­flu­ence and non-armed forces since the abol­ish­ment of the NSC in 2009.

For the coun­try's greater na­tional se­cu­rity, it is of paramount im­por­tance that the NSC be re­vived and have the needed power so that both the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship is able to jointly iden­tify se­ri­ous na­tional is­sues and re­solve them with mu­tual con­sul­ta­tion. What is im­por­tant to note is that the civil­ian lead­er­ship should not be fear­ful of the dom­i­nance of the mil­i­tary in de­lib­er­a­tions and de­ci­sions of the NSC; the cur­rent mil­i­tary lead­er­ship has time and again re­it­er­ated its firm re­solve in terms of en­hanc­ing and fos­ter­ing the on­go­ing demo­cratic process of the coun­try. But, the civil­ian lead­er­ship needs to be demo­cratic, se­ri­ous and prag­matic in its ap­proach to the coun­try's na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy.

The Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of In­ter-Ser­vices Pub­lic Re­la­tions (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, has re­peat­edly em­pha­sized that the army will con­tinue to

con­sti­tu­tion­ally sup­port the demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions of the coun­try. This means that the army is no longer in­ter­ested in top­pling the civil­ian govern­ment. Rather it is in­clined to work with the civil­ian setup to strengthen the bud­ding demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions of the coun­try. This means the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship should cap­i­tal­ize on the ex­per­tise of the army, the most ef­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tion in the coun­try, in or­der to ef­fec­tively re­solve in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal is­sues of the coun­try.

His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, de­spite its con­tro­ver­sial role of over­throw­ing civil­ian gov­ern­ments in the past, the army had also en­deav­oured to pro­vide some kind of demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions to the coun­try. Though Gen­eral Ayub Khan im­posed mar­tial law in 1958, yet he in­tro­duced the sys­tem of Ba­sic Democ­ra­cies to po­lit­i­cally em­power the peo­ple at the grass­roots level. Even though es­tab­lished by a mil­i­tary ruler, these lo­cal bod­ies in­cul­cated a sort of demo­cratic sense and spirit in the peo­ple.

More­over, the first demo­cratic elec­tions were held dur­ing the ten­ure of Gen­eral Yahya Khan in 1970. Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf es­tab­lished some­what ef­fec­tive lo­cal bod­ies in 2002 and signed the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Or­di­nance (NRO) in 2007 to al­low politi­cians to take up demo­cratic ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try. Though the mil­i­tary can be scathingly crit­i­cized for its con­tro­ver­sial role in de­rail­ing the civil­ian gov­ern­ments in 1958, 1977 and 1999, it also strove to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to the civil­ian lead­ers to es­tab­lish a demo­cratic sys­tem in the coun­try.

As far as the on­go­ing demo­cratic process is con­cerned, it is pointed out that the army threw its full weight be­hind the Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI) against al­leged rig­ging in the 2013 elec­tions. These demon­stra­tions have made it abun­dantly clear that those who re­sort to rig­ging in elec­tions will not es­cape the ac­count­abil­ity drag­net in the fu­ture.

Since the army is one of the most ef­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try, its con­sti­tu­tional role in the for­ma­tion and ex­e­cu­tion of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy is very im­por­tant. In this con­text, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has proved to be an im­por­tant plat­form where both the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship set to­gether, ex­change views and take de­ci­sions with mu­tual con­sul­ta­tion.

The NSC has lately helped the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship de­velop con­sen­sus and take de­ci­sions on some key is­sues. Af­ter ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions with the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship un­der the plat­form of the NSC, the PML-N-led fed­eral govern­ment took the mea­sure of merg­ing the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas (FATA) with Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa. When US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lam­basted Pak­istan for of­fer­ing safe havens to ‘agents of chaos' in his South Asia pol­icy last year, the NSC re­sponded be­fit­tingly to Trump's state­ment and termed it un­founded. The care­taker govern­ment held pro­duc­tive de­lib­er­a­tions some time back with the chiefs of the armed forces about the need for co­op­er­a­tion with the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force (FATF) on coun­ter­ing ter­ror fi­nanc­ing and money laun­der­ing.

Since the coun­try is faced with mul­ti­fac­eted is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy, the govern­ment should re­form and em­power the NSC. It is sad to note that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) was abol­ished by the PPP govern­ment in 2009. The PML-N govern­ment also dis­played a re­luc­tance to re­vive the NSC. The demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tions of the PPP and the PML-N er­ro­neously thought that the NSC would help the army in­crease its role in civil­ian mat­ters.

The next govern­ment should come for­ward and re-es­tab­lish the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for the greater na­tional in­ter­est of the coun­try. Se­condly, the civil­ian lead­er­ship should in­crease its ex­per­tise in mat­ters of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy. Elected lead­ers should also demon­strate their se­ri­ous­ness with re­spect to im­ple­ment­ing ma­jor de­ci­sions of the NSC. This would greatly in­crease the say of the civil­ian lead­er­ship in de­lib­er­a­tions of the NSC, thus dis­pelling the im­pres­sion that the NSC al­lows the mil­i­tary to play a po­lit­i­cal role.

The NSC should be pro­vided with a team that is com­pe­tent and ex­pe­ri­enced in na­tional se­cu­rity and world pol­i­tics. Such peo­ple would help the NSC pre­pare crit­i­cal re­search on ma­jor is­sues un­der dis­cus­sion. Co­op­er­a­tion and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the NSC and other rel­e­vant in­sti­tu­tions should also be en­hanced.

The govern­ment should shun its slug­gish­ness and promptly ex­e­cute the pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions of the NSC. Any lethargy from the civil­ian govern­ment will not only ren­der the NSC in­ef­fec­tive, it will also drag the army into po­lit­i­cal mat­ters be­cause it can­not se­cu­rity and in­tegrity of the coun­try to be com­pro­mised

As the army has de­cided to help the civil­ian govern­ment fos­ter demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try, the de­ci­sion should be wel­comed by the politi­cians and they should pro­vide rea­son­able space to the army lead­er­ship to have its say in the for­ma­tion of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy. The re­vival of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil would be the best way for­ward.

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