Balanced civil-military relations
Civil-military relations can be defined in terms of a balance between the civilian and military organization and institutions. Ideally, in an open society, military enjoys the professional autonomy while submitting itself to the political authority. In some developing countries earlier known as Third World countries, where executive showed disregard for the military, they became vulnerable to military takeover. Conversely, in cases where the civilians were firmly in charge, but respected military culture like the US and for that matter even Russia, conflict was minimized. Senior military officers felt free to express their opinions and had the perception that their views were always taken seriously. According to Huntington, “The most important causes of the military intervention are not military but political and reflect not the social and organizational characteristics of the military establishment, but the political and institutional structure of the society.”
In low politically cultured societies, there is less participation of the public towards the political institution and government, so chances of coup are always more. In Pakistan, there have been three Martial Laws – the first one was due to palace intrigues by the bureaucracy in 1950s, and the other two were the result of the internecine conflicts between the political parties that formed alliances to get rid of the elected governments. Since General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani took over in November 2007, he remained committed to go by the book. He was given extension for another term in 2010. During his stint of 6 years as army chief, General Kayani performed his professional duties with devotion and commitment. He was first head of the army who had strictly directed all officers of the Pakistan Army and commanding officers to stay away from politics in line with the established rules, and should not call any politician in headquarters or in their offices.
Unfortunately, a few detractors have started a negative campaign against General Kayani with a view to showing Pakistan Army in bad light despite the fact General Kayani showed respect for rule of law. He indeed helped democracy to flourish; improved civil-military relations; showed restraint in the most tempting environment to interfere in government affairs; brought peace in Swat; checked militancy in other parts of the country and made the Army a professional outfit by disengaging from civilian responsibilities as was done during General Pervez Musharraf’s rule. While the entire nation is appreciative of General Kayani’s achievements, the critics seem to have developed some kind of acrimonious jealousy against him. Their media campaign against General Kayani is not only skewed but also aimed at tarnishing the image of Armed Forces to please few politicos who wish to undermine their own Armed Forces for political reasons.
General Kayani has set exemplary manifestation for Pakistani leadership to follow. He is a thinking General and remained committed to his professional obligations. He thus deserves appreciation and not scathing criticism. Detracters must not play politics when the General is honorably retiring from his long meritorious military service. They must realize that civilized nations bid farewell to their heroes with dignity and pride. General Kayani’s farsighted message for the leadership of Pakistan is clear and meaningful. He simply suggested to the entire politico-military leadership to improve civil-military relations in a balanced and mature manner, and concentrate on real issues to help provide relief to poor masses. It should be borne in mind Armed Forces are drawn from civilian pool of society; they are groomed in a different organizational culture, where orders are issued assertively and compliance ensured. Elusive propaganda against the military’s top leadership badly impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army and hence it must be avoided at all costs.
Since 2009, print and electronic media had been forecasting a change in the government setup, and many analysts and ‘wise’ panelists had written obituary many a time during this period. Some elements had tried to drag military by suggesting that the apex court should invoke article 190 of the Constitution to force the government to implement the court’s decisions. However, ineptness and failure of the civilian governments and three martial laws were responsible for the trust-deficit between the elected government and top military brass. True enough, in a democratic dispensation, military leadership has to obey the orders of the elected government, but it has to be borne in mind that throughout the world, governments act on the advice of military so far as matters relating to national security are concerned. In Pakistan the question is often raised whether the military leadership has the right to give its assessment of threats to internal and external security? But such questions are tossed around to create distrust between military and elected government.
There is no denying that all countries of the world have professional armies to protect their borders, and also to ensure law and order internally i.e. to establish the writ of the state and protect the lives and properties of the people. But how that objective is achieved? Max Weber in his treatise ‘What is politics’ stated: “A state is a human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory”. In the US, Britain and even in India – the largest democracy in the world – political leaderships take decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership. It is matter of record that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and agreement to that effect was about to be inked. However, the army prevailed upon the Indian prime minister and convinced him that by withdrawing from Siachen India would lose strategic advantage, and Indian forces would be vulnerable if India withdrew from Siachen.
But in Pakistan, some politicians, a few anchorpersons, analysts and panelists often badmouth the military on one pretext and the other. This way they want to prove that they are independent. Of course, there is distrust between the military and civilian leadership due to three Martial Laws in the past. There has been at least one incident whereby the then Chief of Army Staff Jahangir Karamat was asked to resign by the elected prime minister for having suggested formation of National Security Council. But things have changed over the years. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is alive to the ground realities and understands the need for the balanced civil-military relations. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that the credit also goes to General Kayani also for removing distrust between the military and elected government; and of course for restoring the image of the armed forces.