Maturity in civil-military ties

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Malik M Ashraf

THE Dawn Leaks issue had created quite a stir in the already volatile political environment.
The opponents of the government and its detractors took it as a god gifted opportunity to have a swipe at the government and to derive political gains from a situation which seemed to have pitted the civilian government and the military leadership against each other. A section of the media also found it convenient to add to the confusion by hinting the possibility of a new crisis with debilitating impact on the democratic process. Some even went to the extent of making the most preposterous proposition that the Prime Minister had become a security risk and expressed the desire for his removal from the office.
The amicable solution found by the civil and military leadership to end Dawn Leaks issue has surely added to the frustration of those who wished and strived to foment a crisis in the country. The way the issue has been handled during the post-ISPR tweet rejecting the notification of the Prime Minister Secretariat exhibits maturity and shrewdness on both sides. The press release issued by the ISPR after meetings between COAS and the Prime Minister reiterated Army’s commitment and continued resolve to uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic and support for the democratic process. The DG ISPR talking to the media admitted the fact that the Prime Minister was the final authority and his orders must be implemented.
This development is indeed a victory for Pakistan. It has established civilian supremacy and constitutional rule. It is a rare happening as in situations like this in the past it were the civilian leaders who had to blink first to resolve the burgeoning crisis. Unfortunately the military in Pakistan has assumed a position of over-lording the civilian leaders and extending disdainful patronage towards them which is not only in breach of their oath and the advice of the Quaid but also a serious violation of the constitution of Pakistan. The frequent martial laws have also contributed to the development of this thinking among the higher echelons of the Army. The Khakis were known to have indulged in arm-twisting of the civilians rulers behind the scenes as also mentioned in the Charter of Democracy but the tradition to embarrass the civilian leadership publicly started with the reaction of the Corps commanders on the Kerry Luger Bill and the phenomenon became more and more pronounced under the command of General Raheel Sharif.
The tweet by ISPR rejecting the notification also reflected the same mind-set. The government justifiably rued the public rebuke by a subordinate institution. Probably before deciding to issue the tweet the situation was not properly evaluated as to the repercussion of such a move. The indiscretion committed by ISPR, of course with the blessings of the high command, was widely criticized by the media, intelligentsia and even some political circles. The pressure that was built did have its impact and made the Khakis to rethink their position and it also encouraged the civilian government to show some spine in re-asserting its ascendency. The ultimate result was that both sides arrived at the conclusion that it was imperative to resolve the issue by creating space for both sides to recalibrate their positions. As is said that all is well that ends well. The expected and wished crisis has been averted.
The most important aspect of this culminating episode is that the Army command has publicly accepted the Prime Minister as the final authority and reiterated its commitment to uphold the constitution of the country and to support democracy. That is how it should be. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah addressing army officer at staff college Quetta on 14th June 1948 said “ I should like you to study the Constitution, which is in force in Pakistan, at present and understand its true constitutional and legal implications when you say that you will be faithful to the Constitution of the Dominion. I want you to remember and if you have time enough you should study the Government of India Act, as adapted for use in Pakistan, which is our present Constitution, that the executive authority flows from the Head of the Government of Pakistan, who is the governor-general and, therefore, any command or orders that may come to you cannot come without the sanction of the Executive Head. This is the legal position.”
However notwithstanding the fact that the issue has been resolved between the government and the military leadership, some political parties do not seem in the mood to let the issue die down and are planning to raise it in the parliament to know the details of the alleged deal. That clearly is being done for ephemeral and transient political gains rather than serving the national interests. These parties need to revisit their position and try to make some positive contribution towards tackling the challenges confronting the country. Politicking can wait for better times. It is not going to benefit them and the effort is nothing more than spinning a stirrer in the water.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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