THE information that is coming from the recent corps commander meeting in Rawalpindi is another sign that the military-civilian relationship is under strain. While the press release on the one hand was appreciating the success of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas as well as the progress of the Karachi operation there were critical remarks as well on the civil government’s governance issues that are disturbing the life of common man. Those critical remarks concern the civilian initiatives that are needed to back-up military gains and secure them.
The critical remarks resulted in a newspaper commentary saying that such critique voiced in the open would put unnecessary strain on the civilian government and further influence negatively the relationship between the two, very conveniently ignoring the fact that the civilian government does not need any other segment to create strains; it is quite self-sufficient in creating its own problems. The Royal Mughal style and the plundering of state coffers by our rulers is enough for their self-destruction. The critique though acknowledged that the government side is lacking in implementing their part of the commitment especially regarding the National Action Plan and the Fata reforms, yet such critical remarks should have been made in private instead. There can be no doubt that the military-civilian relationship in Pakistan is a delicate balance that needs to be kept intact. It is the result of decades of learning process during which the military had tried to make up for a weak, corrupt and faltering civilian government by taking it over and form a military government.
At the end of such a process the Pakistan army seems to have learnt the lesson that this is the wrong way because governance is not a military task and it is undermining and corrupting the institution of army itself. Why and how this can be termed right for a fragile country that we have become due to wrong policies of weak leaders and a ‘democratic system’ that doesn’t suits our people needs to be understood. Pakistan has to follow a different course.
But given the precarious security situation of Pakistan that has deteriorated over the years to such a point that without the support of the army a civilian government cannot rule the country any more without military support given the desolate condition of the police and other law and order keeping institutions the solution for this quagmire has been found in a coalition between the military and the civilian government in a power sharing arrangement.
This is surely an unusual in international respect solution but so far it has worked out well for Pakistan and it has saved the country by stemming the tide of war and militancy that is trying to sweep Pakistan from neighbouring Afghanistan and that has its own roots in the country. Despite the possibility that in the long run and under changing international power equation such a fragile arrangement might also prove difficult for the country even if the aspirants of hegemony in the region might feel it as a best alternative.
Given this new and unusual arrangement between the two powers it is no wonder that there are tensions and that there is a need for adjustment. The PML (N) government with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has been displaying his and his party’s limitations in two previous terms of government is weak government that has accepted the uneasy alliance with the army under political pressure especially during the last year’s sit-in of Imran Khan that could have toppled the government without the support from the military. Nawaz Sharif went into the alliance as a means of securing his rule. But that doesn’t mean that he is now miraculously functioning well and fulfilling all the tasks that he had been unable to fulfil during his previous terms and that are needed to bring stability to Pakistan. And even if he personally wanted to do that the infrastructure to achieve this is run down so much by now that even with the best of efforts a lot of reform and change is needed to make it working.
There is no doubt that before the COAS decided to voice his critique of the government performance publicly he has done the same umpteen times in private which obviously didn’t work. The open critique is also a kind of danger signal that says the weak or non-performance of the civilian government could endanger or even undo the success of the military operation. The improvement of the national security situation in Pakistan is not a military task alone. National security depends on multiple other factors such as economic development, jobs, and good governance. If the IDPs from FATA are not re-settled, the FATA reforms are not carried out, no development is providing jobs and a hope for the future for the Fata people militancy cannot be stemmed.
The same is true for the chaotic situation killings in Karachi and Sindh. The ongoing mega corruption in land lease and Sindh Sports festival in the recent past as well as reports of billions of dollars flown out and proved in interrogations with Dr. Asim Hussain and model girl Ayan Ali speaks in volumes about the much irritating expression on governments failure in good governance. And the process of implementing the civilian part of the equation has to follow up expeditiously and the military part tightly. If not there is a chance of reversal of the military gains and that is what the military and the COAS want to prevent without any success so far from a feudalistic culture of democracy that has failed miserably to deliver for the betterment of man in the street.
Reports are that only in last 8 years some 12 billion dollars have been flown out of the country, which needs to be not only plugged but returned and deposited back in state exchequer. The critique voiced in the corps commander meeting should be taken for what it is: an attempt to secure the military gains by improved civilian governance. God bless Pakistan and humanity.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.