Pakistan came into being through the political struggle of Muslim League led by M.A Jinnah. Jinnah strongly believed in democracy with a certain colouring of Islamic teachings, however his concept of western liberal democracy was much debated among the political circles of left & right. He was such a politician who did not want any role of armed forces in the political process of the country and that was evident in his speech at Quetta Staff College where he declared that armed forces must refrain from indulging in politics. Unfortunately after Jinnah the political leadership of that time proved itself intellectually barren and quite incapable of leading the country on to the path of development and democracy. Democracy in the new born country became a laughing stock. Pakistan’s survival was at stake due to the political instability, poor economic condition and a constant threat on the eastern border.
The power then shifted to the Pakistan army which came forward to stabilize the country economically & militarily. The first martial Law led by Gen. Ayub Khan proved to be a golden era and there was a huge economic progress in the industrial sector as well as development of infrastructure all over the country. Gen Ayub stifled all political voices and there was unrest and suffocation in political circles of the country. In 1965 India waged a war against Pakistan. Gen Ayub stood firm and inspired the whole nation to resist Indian aggression and Pakistan survived. With all its contradiction in socio-political and cultural context Gen Ayub provided a solid ground for Pakistan’s economic and security development. Once again political forces compelled Ayub khan to detach from power.
Gen Yahya was in power and following the pattern of American National Security Council (NSC) he presented the idea of a National Security Council with a function to advise and assist the President and prime minister on national security and foreign policies. Since then the idea was much debated and became a controversial issue in the political circles who argued that establishing such institution was to provide legal cover for expanding the role and influence of the military establishment, which would subdue the popular democratic transitional process in the country. In 1969 President Gen Yahya khan established the NSC by the recommendations of Pakistan Army. A comprehensive report on this important matter was proposed and submitted by the Commander of the Eastern High command of East Pakistan, Admiral S.M Ahsan in 1968 to overcome the challenges involving the foreign policy matters. It was consultative body and Major Gen Ghulam Omar became secretary of NSC
However it was a paper organization. This idea was highly opposed in the public and political circles of Pakistan due to its notorious involvement in political and civil affairs. There was a little support from the right wing who thought that the concept of NSC would act as a bridge to stabilize the civil-military relations. In 1973 when military sent repeated recommendations for the necessity of NSC the proposal created an atmosphere of resentment and criticism in Parliament. Prime Minster Z.A Bhutto instead created DCC, (Defence Committee of the Cabinet) which had the mandate of responsibility of national defense rested with the Prime Minister.
Gen Zia even in his martial Law Kept the DCC active till he became President by a referendum in 1985. He inserted article 152-A to the constitution which led to establishment of a national security council. Again NSC created strong reaction in civil society. Gen Musharraf announced the establishment of six member national security council and then on 3rd October 1999 he formally established NSC under an order of the chief executive through a presidential act. In 2004 prime minster, Shaukar Aziz for the first time presented the NSC through an act of parliament. A civil bureaucrat, Tariq Aziz was appointed as a first national security advisor by the president and Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Pervaiz Musharaff. He remained in the office till the resignation of President Musharaff on 18th August 2008. Mohammad Ali Durrani was the second advisor of NSC and was deposed by the prime Minister in 2009 for the charges of his irresponsible statement in regard to the acceptance of terrorist Ajmal Qasab’s Pakistani Nationality.
After that incident NSC was no more operational and PPP government reactivated defense committee of the cabinet (DCC). During the tenure of PPP Government 2008 to 2013 the memo-gate scandal once again created tension between the army and the government. Then the decision of the interior minister to bring ISI under the control of his ministry also became a controversy. Once again heated debate in the military and the political circles raised the question whether under the existing war condition against terrorism and threat on the eastern and the western border the armed forces could avert and ignore the corruption, bad governance and irresponsible attitude of the civilian government. Constitution no doubt is a secretdocument however it is state that has to be protected first at any cost.
Despite signing the COD in May 2006 which called for the dissolution of NSC with his bitter experience of 1999, Nawaz Sharif when came into power after the general election 2013 was aware of the impending pressure from the armed forces in case he makes any blunder in his policy making on internal or external affairs. Sharif was reluctant to go against Taliban however critical condition of growing terrorism compelled the Pakistan Army to launch a grand operation in North Waziristan. Nawaz Sharif restored the NSC and appointed Sartaj Aziz as national security advisor.
On 9th September Sharif proposed the dialogue with the Pakistani Military would create a civil military partnership to harmonize and balance the power sharing phenomenon. The political parties and intellectuals on the other hand argued that military sphere should be formally inducted into the policy making structure. There are other groups who argue that owing to the particular security issues of the region and incompetency of the political forces to combat war on terror and foreign relations the NSC shall drive its authority from the constitution of Pakistan and representation of the armed forces may be in proper proportion.
Even in the mature democracies such as United States, France etc, armed forces are important pressure groups. They take significant shares in the policy making on security issues. The intent of US NSC was to ensure coordination andconcurrence among the armed forces and other instruments of national security policy such as CIA etc. It was created in 1947 by the national security act. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the council. The US NSC is chaired by the President of US and there are other important secretaries and officials as member are making the body.
Almost all the states have some kind of institutional mechanism for coordination and policy formulation on internal and external security affairs. India also has a six member body of NSC established in 1998 however the Army has no direct representation. Iran, Turkey and Israel have different kind of security mechanism. In Israel NSC was established in 1999. In Turkey the NSC was established in 1961 under military rule. In August 2003 there were some significant changes in the role of Turkish NSC. In august 2004 first time a civilian diplomat was an appointed secretary general of the NSC. Therefore the role of armed forces in the NSC cannot be wholly denied or minimized in Pakistan. However power sharing is variable depending on the capability of the political forces in the country.
— The author, based in Lahore, writes on political, economic issues.