Thursday, May 07, 2015 – PAKISTAN’S democratic history has seen many highs and as many if not more lows. The current democratic patch which began on a high note following the 2008 general elections was caught up even before the elected government completed its first year in a whirlwind of lacklustre governance and widespread corruption stories. Things have not improved a bit since. In fact they have only deteriorated. The ruling party that governed the country until 2013 appears to have lost its democratic credentials and political validity. It appears to be on its death-bed waiting for the final call. And the party which is in the driving seat currently has turned the democratic process on its head and is ruling the country like a family fiefdom distributing all the important decision making positions among family members, ethnic Kashmiris and close Lahori friends. And the party that captured the second largest number of votes in May 2013 elections, third largest number of seats in the National Assembly and one whole provincial government wasted its own and the time of the nation in trying to prove that the last polls were systematically rigged by the ruling PMLN instead of using the parliamentary forum to suggest electoral reforms so that the next elections are held in a relatively freer and fairer environment.
This pathetic performance of the mainstream political parties has encouraged elements that have a vested interest in non-democratic dispensations and, also those that sincerely believe that our society is not yet mature enough to practice democracy to start demanding an upfront take over. And of course many within the agencies of the state losing patience with the antics of the politicians also seem to once again start toying with the idea of taking over. However, saner elements within these agencies while feeling as impatient with what they consider to be the failure of the politicians to govern properly in a democratic dispensation instead of taking over upfront seem to have started thinking of providing leadership from behind the scene.
But this is what is more dangerous than an upfront take over because instead of learning from their mistakes the politicians start passing the buck to the state institutions ultimately creating conditions conducive for the upfront takeover and the agency which more often than not finds itself in this ‘unavoidable’ situation commits the blunder of walking into the ‘unknown’ having no training for the job of governing a country.
A recent study prepared by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan) on the subject has thrown some light on the emerging situation and suggested some measures for avoiding the blunders committed by the state agencies in 1958, 1968, 1977, 1999.
Some of the points raised in the study are too glaring to ignore.
1. Contrary to the perception that the legality of the Military Courts was a done and dusted affair the Supreme Court ordered a stay on the first batch of executions on April 16, 2015, ordered by the Military Courts. PILDAT believes that certain aspects of the petition filed against the military courts are worthy of consideration. These primarily deal with apprehensions regarding a lack of transparency and doubts about the Military Courts’ ability to safeguard provision of basic rights, such as following the due process of law in the course of its proceedings. PILDAT has already raised these concerns, heightened especially by the promulgation of Pakistan Army (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, in its Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan for February 2015.13 The granting of the right of one appeal to any terrorist convicted by the Military Courts, in front the Supreme Court of Pakistan might allay these concerns. -MILITARY RELATIONS IN PAKISTAN
2. Next, in order to provide security to Chinese workers, whose influx is expected following the recent Sino-Pak investment agreements one full Division is being raised for the purpose which would include: 1. A10, 000 strong force comprising of i. 9battalions of the Pakistan Army ii. 6 wings of Civil Armed Forces 2. Will be led by a Major General of the Pakistan Army. PILDAT lauds and credits the coordinated efforts by the civil-military leadership to this end. However, it may be examined by the Federal Ministry for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs whether creation of such a special unit requires a new legislation.
3. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr. Jawad Zareef’s visit to the GHQ to meet with the COAS on April 09, 2015 affirmed the latter’s growing international role, a regular feature for Pakistan’s civil-military relations, particularly since November 2014. In what has become a pattern of sorts for visiting foreign dignitaries, Mr. Jawad Zareef held separate meetings with both the Prime Minister and the COAS during his visit. PILDAT, while apprehensively noting this developing trend, recommends that apart from the presence of the Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, or the Federal Minister for Defence during a foreign civilian dignitary’s interaction with the COAS, the practice of coordinated, rather than separate meetings should be established.
4. Another significant issue noted by Pildat concerns Balochistan which made headlines once again in the month of April 2015 both in the context of the insurgency in Balochistan and the alleged role of the security agencies in muzzling what is being termed as curbing of the freedom of speech on Balochistan. Consider for instance the case of cancellation of Seminar on Missing Persons organized at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The organisers of the seminar, theHumanities and Social Sciences Department of LUMS, have whispered, though not fully confirmed, that the seminar titled Unsilencing Balochistan to be held at the LUMS on April 9, was cancelled, ostensibly at the behest of officials of an Armed Forces’ intelligence agency.
5. Although the civil-military leadership, including the Prime Minister and the COAS, interacted six times during the month of April 2015, which included five meetings on the Yemen crisis, no meeting of the National Security Committee was convened again during the month. This is a blatant disregard of the forum, originally created to institutionalize ‘key national security related decisions … through collective thinking to protect and promote the short, medium and long term strategic interests of the country in a rapidly changing regional and global security environment’. Holding high-level civil-military huddles without utilizing the NSC means that collective consultations, in presence of the full membership of the Committee, cannot take place. This also means that there is no formalization of decisions as positions are developed in an informal, ad-hoc manner