Civil-military relations in historical perspective
By Asif Haroon Raja
In his ten year rule, Field Marshal Ayub Khan achieved phenomenal all round results mainly because he had kept the politicians out till 1964 under EBDO. He debarred the politicians from politics for ten years on account of their dismal performance after the murder of Liaqat Ali Khan in October 1951. Their incompetence and their indifference to the rule of law and constitution making as well as their craze for corruption had strengthened bureaucracy-military oligarchy and had shifted the pendulum of power to the seat of governor general. C-in-C Gen Ayub Khan was given additional portfolio of Defence Minister by Ghulam Muhammad (GM) to fortify bureaucratic rule.
The judiciary committed the original sin of weakening growth of democracy by overturning the decision of the Sindh High Court and validating the dissolution of Constituent Assembly headed by Khawaja Nazimuddin by GM in 1954. PML lost its sway after it suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Jugto Front in East Pakistan in 1954. While no general elections could be held, it took nine years to formulate the 1956 constitution. Palace intrigues masterminded by GM and Iskandar Mirza resulted in changeover of six PMs in seven years.
The reasons why Ayub Khan opted for controlled democracy (Basic Democrats) were the ineptness of politicians and huge illiteracy rate. In his and Iskandar Mirza’s view, the majority didn’t even know the meaning of democracy and their basic rights and hence needed to be educated and trained for democracy at least for next ten years. EBDO was annulled in 1964 on account of lobbying by Ayub Khan’s blue-eyed Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) whom he used to call ‘son’ and Bhutto addressed Ayub as ‘daddy’.
Driven by his own political ambitions, ZAB lobbied for recommencement of politics. Revival of political parties by the same lot of corrupt and disgruntled politicians was a mistake which proved costly for Ayub Khan as well as for Pakistan. They ganged up to oust Ayub Khan by propping up aging Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah to compete in next presidential election in April 1965, which she lost.
Failing to oust him, ambitious ZAB in league with Maj Gen Akhtar Ali Khan prevailed upon Ayub Khan and reluctant Gen Musa to launch Operation Gibraltar in August 1965. He had assured his mentor that India will not wage an open war against Pakistan and the fomented insurgency will remain confined to occupied Kashmir only. This clever move aimed at discrediting Ayub, who by then had earned world fame, was similar to the one made by Gen Musharraf in summer of 1999 to get rid of Nawaz Sharif (NS). ZAB exploited the Tashkent Declaration which he himself had drafted and after parting ways with Ayub, he established PPP in 1967.
ZAB-Sheikh Mujib coordinated agitations in the two wings against Ayub’s policies and celebration of Decade of Development forced Ayub to resign and hand over power to C-in-C Gen Yahya Khan, who had agreed to impose martial law only if Ayub abdicated power. But for the negative role of the politicians who were instrumental in freeing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman involved in Agartala conspiracy case in 1968, and the rigidity of ZAB after the 1970 general elections, Yahya had to preside over the division of Pakistan into two halves in December 1971.
After Yahya’s 2 ½ years misrule, and ZAB rule during which he adorned the hats of president, civilian martial law administrator and later the PM, he gifted 1973 constitution to the nation but became autocratic and not only created FSF but also authorised ISI to meddle in politics. After him, Gen Ziaul Haq ruled the country for 11 years and Gen Musharraf for nine years. All told, out of 70 years of Pakistan’s history, the military reigned supreme for 34 years. For unexplained reasons, it couldn’t doctor the chronic diseases which afflicted Pakistan. In their urge to gain legitimacy, each military ruler shared power with the same set of tainted politicians to put up a façade of sham democracy. While Gen Zia experimented Islamization and party-less system, Gen Musharraf experimented enlightened moderation and devolution of power at grassroots levels to establish true democracy.
Each military takeover started its journey efficiently but began to wobble soon after it accommodated disgraced politicians. The mix of military and politicians made the pudding unpalatable and led to the disgraceful ouster of military rulers without achieving tangible lasting results. Frequent military takeovers and unnatural marriage of convenience bred civil-military tensions that were duly accentuated by hostile foreign powers.
Governed by security paradigm owing to unabated hostility of India, the military establishment drew red lines and made sure that the parameters of foreign and defence policies take due cognizance of these lines. Another consideration was that the ruling party should be pro-establishment and should have a clear understanding of threat perception. As such, when not in power, while monitoring the borders and internal security threats, the establishment has also kept a watch on the civil government to see whether it is abiding by the security constraints.
Sheikh Mujib was put on trial by Ayub Khan on charges of linkage with India and conspiracy to create Bangladesh, but was bailed out by politicians. He should have been tried by a military court. ZAB was not spared by Gen Zia because after his deposition, he had pledged to teach the generals a lesson. PPP was hounded by Gen Zia because of its anti-Army posture. To counter the threat posed by MRD movement in interior Sindh, MQM was created in 1984. Security concerns impelled the establishment to create IJI in 1988 to prevent PPP from winning two-thirds majority. Benazir Bhutto (BB) was viewed as a security risk. PPP was twice ousted from power prematurely in 1990 and in 1996 on account of corruption, weak governance and alleged connection with anti-Pakistan foreign powers to roll back nuclear program. NS led regime was sacked in 1993 and in 1999 by President Ghulam Ishaq since he had developed the habit of locking horns with him and with Army chiefs. This trend has continued till this date.
PPP was brought to power in 2008 at the behest of USA an UK. Memogate scandal in 2011 spoilt civil-military relations. Superior performance of PML-N under Shahbaz Sharif (SS) enabled PML-N to return to power in 2013 but it was never at ease with the establishment. Some quarters suspect that the establishment is backing PTI, PPP and the judiciary to prevent PML-N from gaining power in 2018 elections.
In other words, democracy has been kept controlled, as was done by Ayub Khan. Gen Zia came out with Article 58 2(B) to balance up power between the executive head and president but in reality it was a sword of Damocles hung over the head of the former. He used it to axe the government of Junejo in May 1988 since he had started showing eyes to the military. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan used it twice and President Laghari once. This draconian Article was annulled after the passage of 18th amendment in 2014. Civilian president couldn’t have achieved his objective without the blessing of Army.
The military with the support of judiciary and other organs like NAB, Rangers, ANF, ISI and MI, has kept successive civil governments under its invisible leash. Politicians in the opposition are an added source of anxiety to the ruling government because of their tendency to entice or provoke the army chiefs to seize power. Opposition parties are also exploited by invisible hands to exert pressure on the sitting government. What is indisputable is that out of all the State institutions, the military is by far the best and has delivered.
After the death of Gen Zia, the military had to contend with PPP and PML-N throughout the 1990s. Gen Musharraf’s witch hunting couldn’t demolish the populous leaders of two mainstream parties. It was owing to his selective accountability through NAB which impelled BB and Nawaz Sharif (NS) in exile to sign Charter of Democracy (CoD) in May 2006. Both agreed to let each other rule for full 5-year term, and to clip the powers of the establishment as well as of judiciary. BB dishonored it by secretly meeting with Musharraf at Dubai in January and July 2007 to share power.
In deference to the framework of CoD, the then PM Yusaf Raza Gilani made an effort to civilianize ISI by placing it under Ministry of interior in August 2008, but Gen Ashfaq Kayani foiled it. Memogate scandal which surfaced in October 2011 was designed to undercut the military and ISI and to tilt the balance of power completely in favor of civil supremacy. This move was again nipped in the bud by Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha. Secretary Defence Lt Gen retired Naeem Khan Lodhi had to lose his seat in the civil-military tussle.
Notion of two-party system (PPP and PML-N taking turns from 1988 onward) was broken by PTI in 2013 elections, but it further polarized politics and reinvigorated the political antagonism of 1990s. Some say that PTI under Imran Khan (IK) was backed by the establishment to not only challenge the monopoly of the two mainstream parties, but to also come forward as a third political force as an alternative to dynastic and feudalistic political models. This was necessitated in the wake of black rule of PPP under Zardari.
Egged on by certain powers, IK led PTI in collusion with Tahirul Qadri led PAT and Sheikh Rashid launched their first abortive assault to gain power in July 2014. The next attempt to forcibly lock down Islamabad and grab power was made in October 2015, but it also backfired. Panamagate scandal in April 2016 gave a chance to the detractors of the ruling regime to take the judicial route in June that year. There on the judiciary took up the battle and achieved first success on July 28, 2017.
The five-member bench of the Supreme Court under Justice Asif Saeed Khosa invoked corruption charges to remove NS from office and disqualified him from politics for life.
The second battle was initiated by the apex court in the form of filing of three references of corruption against NS, his three children, son-in-law and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Accountability court duly monitored by Supreme Court judge was mandated to wind up the cases by March 13, 2018. The references were based on nine-volume JIT report supposedly containing loads of incriminating material to convict and punish the accused. The opponents of NS hailed the verdict and joyously declared that the chapter of NS was closed and sooner than later the PML-N would fall like house of cards.
This phase also saw the counter offensive launched by NS. Both sides propagated their respective narratives for the consumption of the public. PTI, later on joined by the PPP became the mouthpiece of judiciary and drummed up tales of alleged corruption of NS and held him responsible for the malaise in the society.
Assisted by his daughter Maryam Nawaz, NS played the ‘victim card’. His narrative appealed to the senses of his voters in Punjab and his fans and has generated a sympathy wave. He laments that all decisions of the Supreme Court are NS-specific and that he was unjustly wronged under a pre-disposed conspiracy. He rants that the court as well as JIT were prejudiced, vindictive toward him and his family and soft toward the petitioners. He points out the glaring loopholes in the judicial verdict which was based on Iqama and not on Panama. He has successfully sold his narrative that the judiciary backed by the establishment had hatched a conspiracy to unseat him, dismantle PML-N and pave the way for IK led PTI.
His counter offensive which he began with his GT road move from Islamabad to Lahore in early August 2017, followed by successive public meetings, statements and tweets has put the super active judiciary on the back foot. His narrative has helped PML-N in scoring successive victories in all the by-elections including the stronghold of PTI at Lodhran. Increasing size of public gatherings and their vociferous support encouraged NS, Maryum and few other PML-N leaders to attack the judiciary more offensively. Two have been served contempt of court notices.
NS tirade against the judiciary is well received by his followers particularly when he presents the long list of his accomplishments and the poor performance of his political opponents. They feel that rather than finding corruption in Panama case or in his 4 ½ years tenure, digging out past history of NS and his family dating back to 1960s was ill intentioned. And when nothing came out in the big hunt, disqualifying him for life on Iqama was unfair. Not mentioning salary from his son in his 2013 income tax return which he never received was a slip and not a motivated crime to prescribe such a heavy punishment.
After losing two seats of power, NS became rebellious and contemplated on implementing the clauses of CoD so as to remove the perpetual threat posed by the military-judiciary combine to the civil rule. He intended to do so in case the PML-N returns to power with two-thirds majority in both the Houses, or possibly after winning Senate elections. His dangerous intent caused anxiety to the judiciary, opposition parties and the establishment and made them ponder how to avert it. NS was already seen as a security risk because of his unusual softness for India and business connection with Jindal.
The establishment’s manipulative role behind the curtains, judicial activeness and assertiveness, PTI’s politics of agitation and abuses, and PPP’s machinations has made the overall political environment tension ridden. When efforts by opposition parties to scuttle Senate elections failed, intrigues and horse trading scaled new heights to manipulate Senate elections results. The first brick of scheming was laid by Zardari in Baluchistan in January 2018 where he succeeded in replacing PML-N’s CM Sanaullah Zehri with PML-Q legislator Abdul Qudus Bizenjo, The political coup deprived PML-N of six sure Senate seats.
PML-N was once again attacked by the judiciary in the last week of February 2018. A panel headed by chief justice Nisar Saqib disqualified NS from heading the PML-N. It also invalidated his selection of candidates to run on the party’s ticket in Senate elections scheduled for March 3. Ironically, Nisar has not prevented absconder Gen Musharraf from heading a political party as he has done in case of NS. Perforce, NS nominees took part in election as independents. They stuck to the mother party once they got elected and PML-N bagged 33 seats, 19 short of the figure to be able to elect chairman and deputy of Senate of its choice.
Zardari broke all records of horse trading to win the loyalties of legislators from other parties and managed to win 10 seats from Sindh and 2 in KP, taking the total to 20 seats. PTI secured 12 seats including one surprise seat from Punjab. On the election day of chairman/deputy, PPP-PTI alliance claimed 51 seats, and the PML-N 52 seats.
While the opposition fielded Sadiq Sanjrani, PML-N nominated -Raja Zafarul Haq for the seat of chairman. In the final counting, Sanjrani won the contest bagging 57 votes and Zafarul Haq 46 seats. Win was made possible by purchasing loyalties of 14 independents from Baluchistan-FATA and of defectors. It is clear that magic of Zardari’s wealth worked once again and about six PML-N voters sold their votes. The hall echoed with slogans of ‘Jeeay Bhutto’ and ‘Ek Zardari Sub Pe Bhari-’. For the deputy chairman contest between the PML-N led coalition nominated candidate Usman Kakar and opposition fielded Saleem Mandiwala, the latter won securing 54 votes as against 44 votes polled for Kakar. Speculations are that the secret hands not only brought PPP-PTI together but also helped in horse trading to deny PML-N the pivotal seat.
Outcome of the senate elections is a big setback for the PML-N since it has thwarted its plan to clip the wings of judiciary. Indecisiveness of NS in selecting the nominee till the 11th hour proved costly for the party. By virtue of its majority in both houses, PML-N can still pass a bill by calling a joint session. Fouled elections have lowered the esteem and moral position of IK and his PTI, and also exposed the faces of vote buyers and sellers. Everyone is wondering as to why the super active apex court meddling into others domain remained inactive and allowed biggest horse trading to take place right under its nose.
After the intense battle of Senate which has further vitiated the atmosphere, the next battle will be fought for the interim caretaker government and PM for 3 months. Having witnessed the hype and furor created in Senate elections and election of chairman, it can be assumed that similar rumpus will flare up again next month. Having helped PPP in winning both seats in Senate elections, PTI must have already brokered a deal with PPP for a sizeable share in interim setup. It will vie for choice PM and CM Punjab.
Taking into account the heightened hostility among the major political parties, resurgent Far Right, and the hard reality that in a fair and free electoral contest, PML-N victory is a foregone conclusion, possibility of the caretakers getting converted into a much talked of technocrat government for a period of one year or so to carry out essential electoral, bureaucratic and judicial reforms, restore the health of economy, and to step up accountability to cleanse the Aegean stables cannot be ruled out.
In the cleanup drive, the three references against NS will be taken to their logical end if not done earlier, while cases against Punjab bureaucracy and Shahbaz will be speedily disposed of. Some PPP and PTI leaders and bureaucrats from other provinces will also be hauled up to allay the impression that accountability is selective.
The next election may pave the way for a PPP-PTI-MQM (P)-ANP-JI ruling coalition. PPP and PTI may work out a compromise formula of power sharing by letting IK and Bilawal to sit in PM’s chair for 2 ½ years each, while Zardari may once again sit in the chair of president.
We must not lose sight of another option which PM Abbasi has up his sleeve. The constitution authorizes him to extend his rule by one year under exceptional circumstances. If he opts for this option, it will trigger nationwide protests and strikes and will impede development works, CPEC and further weaken the economy. It will however disrupt the ‘technocrats’ plan and cause a split in opposition ranks. In case Abbasi in collusion with the President Mamnoon declare emergency, it may bring the situation close to civil war.
To me, all this political engineering does not sound well and may not fetch expected results. There is little to celebrate the victory of a man from Baluchistan since the victory is symbolic and will not help in removing the age-old socio-politico-economic grievances of the Baloch. A segment has been thoroughly brainwashed by outside powers, and to wash away this poison from their minds and hearts, a methodical psycho-economic treatment is required. A PM from Baluchistan (Zafarullah Jamali), or federal education minister Zubaida Jalal hailing from Kharan district brought no improvement.
Gen Musharraf’s development agenda was resisted by the Sardars who have all along been anti-development. Baloch insurgency flared up in 2004 to prevent mega projects including Gwadar port. In my view, it was apt handling of NS who empowered Baloch and Pashtun nationalists and that of dedicated work of Army which brought a healthy change and broke the back of separatist movement. Senate chairman can do little for the development of his province. However, I wish him all the best and also wish that sanity prevails and we move forward for a smooth political transition free of intrigue and deception.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence, security and political analyst, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Editor-in-Chief Better Morrow magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org