Civil supremacy embodies no divine sanction
IN Pakistan, talk about lack of civil supremacy in democracy, is neither a mere fiction nor a fad.
It is somewhat a reality but not necessarily ill motivated as vociferously preached by vested interests to cover own tracks, riddled with their grievous follies and flaws.
The intelligentsia also tends to oversimplify it while generally ascribing propensity of powers that be to wield power to it.
Two men in our chequered political history amply defy this line of arguments. One was caretaker PM, Moeen Qureshi in 1993. Other is Imran Khan regardless of what is being purposely propagated about him.
Moeen Qureshi was an alien in Pakistani politics but was able to demonstrate effective control during his short stint in power. The civil/military establishment extended him full cooperation and compliance.
Top brass of both were present gleefully at the airport to see him off when he was leaving abroad after relinquishing his office.
He remained a most sought man at GHQ whenever he visited Pakistan by no less other than COAS himself to benefit from his insight about Pakistan.
He visited Pakistan in ordinary capacity but always received a dream welcome. Basically, it was due to his legacy which he earned during his office by virtue of his patriotism, sense of purpose, competency and integrity.
Once he was asked how he was able to have so much authority and respect as a PM. He simply replied “by my oath”. Here, lies the key which unlocks doors of authority, respect and prestige.
At his first visit to the GHQ/ISI, Imran Khan was accorded a rousing reception. He was saluted avidly by all to whom he came in sight.
The exhaustive briefings were given and everyone involved was eager/concerned not to miss out anything which was necessary for him to know as a PM.
It was not bounty which was conferred upon him rather, it was in exchange of trust which he acquired in the eyes of the public.
Still the same wavelength continues to exit and is commonly known “one page”. Both instances show that lack of civil supremacy is not chronic.
It could dissipate/disappear provided underlying reasons behind it are found addressed. Fundamentally these are psychological which ultimately, constitute a mindset institutionally if persisted for long.
By nature, an individual submits to a superior authority if he considers it credible, competent and clean.
Contrarily, he may accept it but not ungrudgingly thus, a dip is bound to occur and its extent and depth would depend on how the situation obtains.
It is the stark reality and could not be wished away by having heavier shoulders or winning elections in fledgling democracies where it may not be a true index of what type of political leadership has stepped in.
Admittedly, they secure legal authority but moral authority, they need to earn from where civil supremacy springs. Its universal principle is; seek authority and respect through achievement/fulfilment.
In Pakistan, the issue of civil supremacy gets even more pronounced when Nawaz Sharif is in power. Let us examine him on the above yardstick. He chickens out readily in adversity.
He talks obnoxiously against institutions even state on first touch of the heat to escape consequences of his own misdeeds.
Earlier he fled to Jeddah under humiliating terms and conditions and came back under the infamous COD signed under the aegis of the US. In realpolitik, there are no free lunches. His contacts with Indians are no secret to gel his personal acquaintances/business interests.
Being a PM, he became guilty of Dawn leaks. Now being a fugitive of law, he is in the UK unlawfully which by implication, makes him a hostage and a hostage cannot be credible in his dealings.
A body language manifests largely about a man what he has inside and on the outside, he gives an impression of an empty man.
He cannot speak beyond the script and thinking/writing requires much greater grey matter and skill.
Notwithstanding, knee jerk functioning of our judicial system, even his supporters call him corrupt.
It becomes too taxing when a man of such a substance demands authority unchecked as of a divine sanction than proving himself worthy of it. Rest of the political leadership also smells rotten similarly.
Consequently, there exists a sense of skepticism and ill-will when they come into power whereas, a sanguine view is necessary to set the ball rolling in the right direction. It is the opening setback which civil supremacy gets at the onset.
Our Army is a national Army and has given blood aplenty beyond call of duty to safeguard the country.
As an institution, it owes to martyrs a safe and prosperous Pakistan because they gave their lives for this very purpose.
For a variety of mixed reasons, the Army had ruled the country for long and did well relatively as also perceived widely by public.
The Army is a well-established institution and its input on national issues is of high value.
Amid weak and decomposed civil leadership/institutions, inevitably, the Army had to take over a role of centre of gravity of the country and proved equal to task splendidly in face of insurmountable odds.
Inevitably and irresistibly, as a result of the combined effect of all above, a sense of ascendancy had to creep in for not reason of vanity but psychologically.
Though it is unenviable but an inescapable reality and needs to be approached in the right perspective. The right approach is a sustained good performance by credible civil leadership.
It would foster a trust that the country is in safe hands and eventually, the human psyche would come into play to respect a good superior authority. Besides, this may also be understood that a mindset takes time to fade away.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.