The onus of burden lies on politicians, not the Army | By Sufian Qazi


The onus of burden lies on politicians, not the Army

IN the last few weeks, there has been a plethora of military-bashing on social media. In political gatherings, leaders have vaguely pointed fingers at the military leadership for alleged role in the “No Confidence Motion” against the former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The negative sentiments against the army are being propelled by the grieving political actors, multiplied in magnitude by the foreign hostile intelligence agencies, to create a wedge between Pakistan defence forces and the people of Pakistan.

The ongoing trend is not only detrimental for socio-political fabric of Pakistani society but also demoralizing for the men in uniform who are always ready to sacrifice their lives for the nation.

The defence forces of Pakistan ought not to be made controversial as they guarantee political independence, territorial integrity, and ipso facto the existence of the state itself.

Pakistan resides in a complex and hostile geostrategic environment. On the eastern side, India, under the influence of an extremist Hindutva ideology, has amplified its efforts to undermine Pakistan’s security through kinetic and non-kinetic means.

While, on the western side, the evolving precarious situation in Afghanistan due to economic meltdown and governance challenges and the Taliban’s failure to halt use of Afghan territory against Pakistan have raised red-flags in Islamabad.

However, the general sense of security comes from the Pakistan Army which has the will, resolve and capacity to thwart external threats to Pakistan.

But no army can effectively combat without the backing of its people; therefore, it has been an utmost desire of anti-Pakistan elements to instill negativity in Pakistani public against its defence forces.

Thus, the political leaders must be careful in their political rhetoric as unfriendly remarks may garner them short-term political advantages but in essence they would directly dent Pakistan’s security.

In non-traditional domain, the defence forces remain critical as the first line of defence for Pakistan.

Be it the war on terror, extremism, sectarianism, earthquakes, floods, coronavirus pandemic, or hybrid warfare, Pakistan Army has always led responses from forefront to protect the people of Pakistan.

An example of profound professionalism and organizational discipline, the Army is an asset for Pakistan to deal with all sorts of internal and external challenges.

Any attempt to sow divisions within rank and file of the defence forces will be damaging for the institutional capacity and Pakistan’s overall national power.

Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947, the political leaders have failed electorates due to their self-serving and parochial interests.

Dr Hasan Rizvi notes in his 2013 book “The Military & politics in Pakistan 1947-1997” that there has been continuous infighting and unrest between the political leadership and government that were formed under the parliamentary system.

Political leaders, on one side, advocate for civilian supremacy but at the same time they expect the Army to help quell their political opponents.

It can be argued that the continuous shift of power and political restlessness as well as heavy reliance on the military to address internal and external situations led to decline in civilian supremacy.

Similarly, today current political leaders are unwilling to sit together to resolve political crisis.

They have taken such extreme positions that they do not want to move even an inch to reach a political consensus.

For example, the call for early election is solely a political decision; however, the Army and Judiciary are being unnecessarily dragged into this political crisis.

When politician use the Army as an arbitrator to resolve political feuds, it would ultimately contribute to reduced relevancy of political actors and weakened democracy.

Politicians’ failure to achieve political consensus over basics such as economy, governance, accountability, local government and electoral reforms depict lack of nationalistic approach and tunnel thinking when dealing with Pakistan’s gigantic problems.

The onus of burden for current political crisis lies on politicians not the Army.

Previous government failed to deliver governance, especially in Punjab, intra-party rifts between factions of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, overwhelming whims and emotions in crucial foreign policy decision-making, unilateral lawmaking on electoral reforms, and cornering of political opponents against the wall, squeezing their breathing space, all led to downfall of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a feeble parliamentary democracy like Pakistan, political consensus is necessary for smooth functioning of a government.

Rigidity and egoism generates political crisis which eventually turns into an avalanche of reactive politics, uncontrollable by the political leadership.

It creates a political vacuum and ultimately other state institutions step in to reverse the downfall of whole political system.

In sum, the anti-army political rhetoric and propaganda campaigns on social media are unfortunate and utterly unjustified.

Politicians need to first put their house in order before blaming other institutions, Army or Judiciary, for their failures.

It is only possible when political parties would introduce democracy within their parties, generate consensus on national issues, depoliticize civil bureaucracy, deliver governance, display prudence in statecraft and give up formulating cosmetic policies to win the next election.

Only then true civilian supremacy can be achieved. Criticizing the Army for failures would not help Pakistan; instead, it will only weaken the state and its security.

It is high time that politicians must look inward and redress their flaws. Otherwise, history of political turmoil as we are in today, will keep repeating itself.

—The writer holds an MPhil degree in Strategic Studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad.