The General in his labyrinth


Raashid Wali Janjua

GENERAL Bajwa as the COAS is in the cat
bird seat at a time when the civil-military
relations in Pakistan have turned a corner after decades of fits and starts. The normal civil-military relations theories starting from the Man on the Horseback thesis of interventionist militaries by Samuel Finer, to the objective and subjective control notions of civilian democratic control of the militaries, abound in political nostrums to tame the military truculence. Despite these rough and ready prescriptions where professional autonomy is ceded to the militaries by the civilians in return for an apolitical conduct the rival notion of military’s co-option into civilian governance structures always comes handy as a civilian insurance against an interventionist military. Morris Janowitz’s value convergence theory of civil-military relations wherein the differences between the civil and military components of the state are deliberately erased to neuter the interventionist proclivities of the military does not work here due the need for a strong army to tackle perennial threats looming large on national security horizon. Neither does the classic Principal-Agent theory of Peter Feaver finds resonance in Pakistan due to the weak civilian institutions and the strong external threats. The theory that perhaps responds best to the peculiar security and political environment of Pakistan is Rebecca Schiff’s Concordance theory. According to that theory for best civil-military relations there should be complete concordance between the political elite, the military, and the people on four indicator ie social composition of the officers corps, political decision making process, method of recruitment and the style of the military.
Harry Summers and H.R McMaster both analyzed the Vietnam War and came to different conclusions regarding the roles and positioning of the military leadership vis-a-vis defence policy and its execution. While Summers supported a separation of the two functions H.R McMaster recommended greater civil and military integration between defence policy and its execution. Pakistan fits the bill like Israel as a quintessential national security state where unlike Indonesia, Argentina, and Brazil the external and internal security threats compel a constant state of high readiness. Pakistani republicanism and democracy pay compulsory obeisance to the security imperatives due to our peculiar security environment. It is a country with unique geography and unique threats where the geo-economics can coexist but not replace geopolitics. It’s a Sparta grafted on the Prussian model of a nation in arms with no luxury of lowering its guard. Despite the apparent security umbrella of the nuclear deterrence the stability-instability paradox inherent in the cloud cuckoo land of nuclear security makes the possibility of an accidental skirmish even in single service mode like Pulwama fraught with risks of accidental conflict. A high state of readiness and military spending is therefore a security compulsion hanging around the necks of our political managers as an albatross. The military therefore in Pakistan unlike Venezuela and Indonesia cannot take the backseat after abatement of internal security threats. General Bajwa as COAS is therefore the proverbial sword of the Gideon, out to deliver many from the tyranny of the few. The allegorical reference here could be to Kashmiris’ plight at the hands of the Indian occupying forces.
The allegory does not end with military oppression alone but the economic and political exploitation of hapless Pakistanis too. The concordance as per Rebecca Schiff’s theory between Pakistan Army, the political elite and the hapless citizen is fraught with discordance between the citizen and the rapacious political elite. It is within this externally threatened and internally fractured politico-economic milieu that the appointment of the COAS assumes the greatest salience. The need of the hour in his critical juncture for Pakistani “anocracy” (mixture of democracy and autocracy)is of a sheet anchor that can provide stability to the political sailboat of a fledgling democracy being buffeted by the winds of democratic turbulence. The change of a military helmsman at this crucial juncture would be a risky proposition considering the fragility of the slim majority political parvenus of PTI who are up against an obstreperous sea of political opposition infested by the sharks of status quo. If this Pakistani “anocracy” in its third democratic transition is going to succeed in democratic consolidation despite the daunting odds and implacable challenges, the political vulnerabilities of a reform driven PTI government would have to be covered by a COAS leading an institution with the strongest means to stabilize the internal and external security environment.
The continuity of the policies at this crucial stage of democratic consolidation and economic revival trumps routine succession planning. Even if for a moment one pauses to think of institutional versus individual continuity the fact clearly emerges that the institutional continuity of policies is a function of the continuity of the leadership. Perhaps an aberration in the normal scheme of the things but an extended tenure for the COAS at this stage indubitably is a national security imperative. In the history of nations the men and the moment meet to deliver a meaningful result. Pakistan is lucky to have a non-praetorian General who has steadfastly stood behind the elected government affording it a much needed internal stability while keeping the external threats of Indian adventurism at bay through an astute military diplomacy and an effective defence strategy. Our General in his labyrinth unlike Gabriel Garcia’s hero is the best exemplar of Concordance theory of civil-military relations.
— The writer, a Retired Brig, is a PhD scholar at NUST, Islamabad.


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