Upsetting the civil-military balance


    The writer is of course right when he claims that “Threatened with being overpowered, the military fought and defended itself against a power-accumulating prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) in 1999”. The stories about Nawaz Sharif trying to become Ameer-ul-Momineen, with absolute powers are quite well-known. However, the answer to Nawaz Sharif’s intention of grabbing absolute power was not that the army should take on absolute power, which is what Gen. Pervez Musharraf did. In a democratic country which Pakistan is supposed to be, the top civilian leadership stands higher than the military chiefs anyway, with the army chief taking orders from the elected prime minister, and in no way trying to claim or attain parity. However, in Pakistan, leaving aside the initial years, the weak, corrupt and greedy leaders have been, through mis-governance and corruption, creating space for the ambitious Generals to sneak in. For example, a country of the size of Pakistan, which has a large trained military force and happens to be a nuclear power as well, can surely afford to, and must have a competent and seasoned foreign minister. However, Nawaz Sharif who is not exactly known for brilliance in any field – except of course amassing personal wealth - and definitely not in the field of foreign relations, is trying to manage the all important function with the help of a few overage part timers.

    Obviously, this has enabled the army chief to claim a share in foreign affairs even though it is not exactly his forte.

    Also, this was not the only occasion when the military took over government. Bringing Pakistan to this sorry state is the joint work of both the corrupt and inept politicians and power-hungry, imprudent Generals not endowed with impeccable integrity either. The biggest culprit has been Ayub Khan who not only stopped democracy from taking roots in Pakistan but through his mistreatment of Bengalese, and by not giving their due share, created circumstances for the separation of East Pakistan. And it was Ayub Khan’s nominee Gen. Yehya Khan who presided over the dismemberment of Pakistan by invading East Pakistan instead of pressuring Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to accept the overwhelming mandate of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. It was also Gen. Yehya Khan who brought the ultimate shame on Pakistan through surrender of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers before the Indians

    And the militancy, extremism and terrorism that Gen. Raheel Sharif is now fighting is the menace brought on to Pakistan by another Gen. Ziaul Haq who, in order to prolong and strengthen his rule, unnecessarily involved the country in the US revenge war (to avenge Vietnam humiliation) with the Soviet Union

    So far, Gen. Raheel Sharif has been riding the crest of a wave of popularity but the position was much the same with even military dictators who said and did nice things initially. To pass a final judgment, we have to wait for the end of his tenure.

    The writer claims that Gen. Raheel Sharif is determined to cleanse Pakistan of all the terrorism and corruption. However, so far he has only touched the fringes and the bulk of the job has not even been started yet. Like for example, armed forces cleared North Waziristan and other regions through heavy aerial bombardment and ground action but if the air force has to start bombing the region again, killing dozens of terrorists so soon after clearing it, it means the victory over terrorists was not as complete as was originally thought it was.

    As for Karachi, the operation has indeed brought relative peace to the city but so had the earlier operations. However, not much action has been taken against banned outfits and the madrassas associated with them, And it is the same elsewhere in Pakistan where banned outfits operate freely. And the ease with which Rashid Godil of MQM was attacked and Punjab Home Minister Col. Shuja Khanzada was martyred clearly show that hardened criminals still retain the capability to operate at will.

    As for MQM’s demands, all it wants is a monitoring team and that its workers are not killed extra-judicially or made to disappear without trace, and these are not unjust demands.

    Talking of corruption, D.G. Rangers quoted a figure of Rs.230 billion annual corruption in Karachi, which comes to less than a billion per day. However, a former NAB chief Admiral Faseeh Bukhari had come up with a daily corruption figure of Rs. 8 billion for the whole of Pakistan. And that means that while corruption of under one billion rupees a day in Karachi is being pursued vigorously, those carrying out the operation seem to be least bothered about the remaining over seven billion a day corruption in the rest of the country. And that means that so far, the military has taken on only a very small segment of the total work – both as regard to corruption and terrorism - and even that has not been satisfactorily completed yet.

    And while D.G. Rangers, Karachi corps commander and the army chief as well as the Nawaz Sharif government seem to be obsessed with Karachi, neither of them has taken any steps to ensure that a city of more than twenty-five million people has at least an empowered local government system to enable the stake holders of Karachi – the Urdu-speaking people, Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Punjabis, Balochs and others who have made Karachi their home - to get an opportunity to run their city instead of it being managed through remote control from interior Sindh, and lately from Dubai and even London. Since there is clear division of Sindh in rural and urban portions, and considering the population of the city, the real answer is to make Karachi a province but in the absence of that, at least Karachi should have an empowered local government.

    If the military operation is not really a prelude to an actual takeover of government by someone in the present high command, and the high command is really interested in putting the country on sound foundations, it has to set for itself a more modest and achievable goal. And the essential ingredients of such a plan would be:

      • Conduct of Karachi operation in an impartial manner and extending it also to banned outfits and madrassas connected with it. Obviously, the operation against banned outfits and connected madrassas should also be conducted all over Pakistan in addition to madrassa reforms.
    1. – See to it that national population census is conducted without further delay and constituencies throughout Pakistan reworked on that basis. This is of special significance to Karachi which had accelerated migration from interior Sindh as well as from other parts of the country since the last census held in 1998.

    2. – See to it that amendments to local government acts by Sindh and Punjab governments – which have stripped them of nearly all powers and financial resources – and make sure that these are brought to a level which will give rise to duly empowered local governments.

    3. – Get the government to make meaningful electoral reforms and make sure that articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution which detail the requirements for Assembly aspirants are translated in clear, unambiguous terms and developed in a questionnaire form for easy and unbiased application This matter is of utmost importance as it will effectively block the entry of those who habitually populate the assemblies taking advantage of various weaknesses and loopholes in the vetting system.. If it can be ensured that only competent people of integrity enter the next assemblies, they can be expected to run the government in the interest of the people and the country and to introduce further reforms in due course.

      • Supervise the 2018 election to ensure that these are conducted in a transparent manner.

    The above is a modest but vital agenda which can be implemented between now and the next elections and can be expected to put the country on a sound foundation. Such an agenda may even receive cooperation from Nawaz Sharif who is serving his last specially created term as the Prime Minister. Anything much more ambitious than that would be beyond the capacity of the armed forces to handle in the limited time available till the next elections. Moreover, such a course is bound to cause apprehensions of a military takeover and may force the politicians to take retaliatory measures like the statements by Khawaja Asif, Mushahidullah Khan and Shahbaz Sharif’s demand for a judicial commission to investigate dharna politics.