Pakistan’s constitutional democracy and the Pakistan Army

April 6, 2010

zulfikar“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.” – Field Marshall Sir Philip Chetwode at the inauguration of the Indian Military Academy in 1932

For the first time in the history of Pakistan a civilian government is pushing a comprehensive constitutional reform package through parliament to undo provisions introduced by dictators to tighten their grip on power.  President Asif Ali Zardari urged parliament this week to approve constitutional amendments which will turn him into a titular head of state – and, crucially, remove his right to sack prime ministers which had been used by previous military dictators.

The move is potentially good news for Pakistan, restoring a system of parliamentary democracy that was overturned by the late military ruler President Zia ul-Haq. The amendments also include a change of name for the North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, meant to recognise the aspirations of the Pashtun people who live there to have their ethnic identities acknowledged in the same way as those in Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan.

 Juan Cole at Informed Comment describes the constitutional reform package as “an enormous advance toward democratization in the country”.

“During the past 3 years, the Pakistani public has demonstrated repeatedly and on a large scale in favor of the rule of law and the reinstatement of the Supreme Court justices dismissed by dictator Gen. (Pervez) Musharraf,” he writes. ”Mind you, they are making a case for civil law and the civil supreme court, not for sharia or Islamic law. They voted in the center-left Pakistan People’s Party in February 2008, and the return to parliamentary rule ultimately, in August 2008, allowed the political parties to unite to toss out of office Gen. Musharraf, who had had himself declared a civilian ‘president’ and was in danger of being impeached for alleged corruption.”

“That is, the Pakistani public has conducted a ‘color revolution’ of its own, in the teeth of opposition or skittishness in Washington, and managed to overturn a military dictatorship that had been backed to the hilt by Bush-Cheney, restoring parliamentary governance,” he says.

The problem, however, is that this great surge in democracy has been accompanied by the growing role of the Pakistan Army, whose chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, was feted in Washington last month as the real wielder of power in Pakistan.

While no one is talking of a military coup, nor does anyone seriously believe that the civilian government has any real control over foreign and security policy, which has long been set by the army.  And this does not just affect Pakistan’s external relations. It has an impact on how it deals with militant groups based in Pakistan who some argue are radicalising the youth and turning society more conservative.  It may even have an impact on how the different provinces of Pakistan relate to each other, given that the India-centric views of the army are traditionally associated with the Punjab, its traditional recruiting ground.

“The people of Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP fail to understand why the hate-and-get-India campaign should be central to our Afghan policy,” writes Raza Rumi on his website.  “Whatever happened to the declarations made by President Zardari in 2008 about a radical departure on our India policy? We have to be realistic and cognizant of the fact that there is no alternative for a country like Pakistan except to pursue peaceful coexistence with its neighbours and solve problems through means other than strategic machinations.”

B. Raman, formerly from Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), provides a detailed history of military interventions in Pakistan and concludes:

“All lovers of democracy should welcome the Constitutional Amendment despite its imperfections. It would definitely strengthen the chances of the revival of democracy in Pakistan provided the political parties and the Army play the game according to the new rules. Even if one assumes that the political leaders have learnt their lessons and will now play the game according to the amended Constitution, will the Army do so? The Army thinks that it knows better than the political class what is good for the country. For the last 60 years or so, the Army has convinced itself that it has a legitimate political role to play – direct or indirect – and is determined to play it should circumstances warrant it -Constitution or no Constitution.

“Look at Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the COAS (Chief of Army Staff). When he took over as the COAS, he said the Army’s place was in the barracks and withdrew all army officers exercising non-military functions. He has again come out of the barracks and has been playing an increasingly active and assertive role in decision-making – whether it be in respect of national security or foreign policy or relations with India. So long as the Army’s mindset that it is not only the defender of national security from external and internal threats, but also the guardian of the interests of the people persists, democracy in Pakistan will continue to be on the sufferance of the Army. The US cannot escape its share of the responsibility for the persistence of this mindset and for the repeated failures of democratic experiments in Pakistan. Kayani would not have acquired the kind of image that he has acquired without the blessings of the U.S.”

The Pakistan Army is very much the inheritor of the notion of a noble cause first inculcated by the British (for their own reasons) in their Indian recruits, and particularly among the officer class in the 20th century British empire. “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time,” in the words at the inauguration of the Indian Military Academy in 1932 which went on to train officers who would form the backbone of both the Indian and Pakistani armies after independence in 1947.

At its best, this notion created two armies whose officers led from the front and were ready to die to defend the two countries carved out of British India in 1947. At its worst, it created two armies which would go on to fight three full-scale wars and many smaller battles so that — in an expression I have heard often — “not one inch of land” would be ceded to the other side. And as far as the Pakistan Army was concerned, it left it convinced that it was the most reliable and sometimes only guardian of the best interests of the country.

In the case of  the Indian Army, the role of the military was contained within a fairly stable parliamentary democracy. In Pakistan, the military stepped in — or was dragged in – to  maintain stability.

And then you get this. Do watch, courtesy of All Things Pakistan this video of General Zia defending the death sentence on the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

(File photo of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto)

  

 

 

Comments

Strengthening the democratic foundations is fundamental to the return of peace in the region. All the hostilities and conflicts in the region trace their source back to the Pak military which has hijack the whole region. It did not start out like that at the beginning. However, as time went on, the Pak military has become a nation on its own and uses all surrounding nations, and groups to its advantage. The US and other countries should welcome this internal move inside Pakistan and show their appreciation by giving them more help to strengthen their democracy. A democratic Pakistan will definitely not indulge in evil activities and would be a preferred institution for other countries to deal with. Let us hope that a democratic Pakistan emerges from this point and leads Pakistan to prosperity and peace. Congratulations to Pakistanis!

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

In order, for Pakistan to emerge from the shadows of it’s current radical & extremist culture and for the region to become stable & peaceful again, it’s imperative that Pakistan’s democracy becomes functional & it’s military establishment is brought under civilian control & relegated to the background. So long as the military establishment of Pakistan is allowed to dictate it’s national security & foreign policy, it’s civilian leaders will remain under constant pressure to maintain a belligerent stance against India & breed terrorism or else they will face the wrath of the mighty army. The current culture prevalent in Pakistan whereby ‘if you’re friendly towards India, you’re a traitor’ has to be done away with. It’s good to hear some Pashtun, Sindhi & Baluchi voices opposing the Punjabi ‘anti-India’ philosophy. The constitutional reform would be an important step towards making democracy in Pakistan functional but there’s a long road ahead because those wily men in uniform won’t & shouldn’t be expected to relinquish power so easily.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive
 

Pakistan Army is honest and competent atleast more than the politicians in Pakistan. And above all it pays the ultimate price with blood. Pakistan Army cannot be sidelined from the national center, the flourishing democracy is a good thing. Politicians must learn professionalism and discipline, organization from the Army.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive
 

good things are happening, after the dark period of 2007-09. finally.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive
 

“Pakistan Army is honest and competent atleast more than the politicians in Pakistan. And above all it pays the ultimate price with blood. Pakistan Army cannot be sidelined from the national center, the flourishing democracy is a good thing”
Posted by Umairpk

It’s quite amusing, you think that way in spite of knowing what military men like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq & Musharraf did to your country. I think it’s quite safe to say that they did a lot more damage to Pakistan than any of the corrupt civilian leaders. Yours is exactly the kind of thinking & attitude which has never really given Pakistan’s democracy a chance to evolve & become functional. If you want democracy to ‘flourish’, the Pakistani army & the military establishment will have to take a back seat & brought under civilian control, there are no two ways about it. Yes, I understand that democracy in developing countries like Pakistan & India is highly flawed due to various socio-economic factors, leading to corrupt & inept politicians getting elected but patience is needed for it’s natural evolution. It took a long time for even a country like the US to become the democracy that it is today, as it went through it’s own share of corrupt politicians through the decades & centuries.

Pakistanis need to decide whether they want to become a genuine democracy or just a bogus name-sake one, which is controlled by the military establishment. You simply can’t have it both ways. Hopefully, they will chose to become a real democracy & that will go a long way towards making their country stable & getting it on a path of peace & prosperity.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive
 

It is none of my business to prescribe what is best for Pakistanis. But from an Indian standpoint, I prefer a strong democracy in Pakistan with its military under civilian control. Pakistanis might feel otherwise. I am looking at the broader picture. Corruption is prevalent across everything. There is no such thing as incorruptible military and in every country the military protects its nation with the life of its soldiers. They are more orderly and structured. But military cannot run governments. It is an institution and needs to be a department run by a government of elected civilians. Pakistan’s military has led its nation towards disaster. The current state of affairs that Pakistan faced is entirely due to its mindless military ventures.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

With the people of Pakistan getting empowered together with a vibrant media, Pakistan will become a difficult country for outsiders specially like US to interfere and control. For years to come, Pakistan Army will provide critical support needed by the civilian government. A united and democratically consolidated Pakistan is much more capable of dealing with the challenges it faces. In recent months and years the Army and civilian government have worked together to confront diffiicult crises at the same time. In my opinion democracy under the watchful eyes of the Army is best solution for Pakistan. For the civilians to take a clear stand on India, foreign policy and other strategic matters, those civilian leaders need to sharpen their skills first.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive
 

“In my opinion democracy under the watchful eyes of the Army is best solution for Pakistan.”

That is like leaving the rabbit in the care of the hawk. It will hunt it down when it is hungry. Pak military has to be de-fanged.

“For the civilians to take a clear stand on India, foreign policy and other strategic matters, those civilian leaders need to sharpen their skills first”

Just by running a civilian government for a decade of more, things will change. Reliance on military will reduce. Then the perspective will change. People will realize that there is no real enemy and it is all made up by the Pak military to strengthen its grip on power. Pak military wants not only to control all of Pakistan, it also wants to be the regional boss above every country including Afghanistan, Iran, India and Central Asia. There is too much macho and hype built over the years. That is what has led to today’s pathetic condition. A sustained civilian government with good judicial system will change all that. Diplomacy will take precedence over militancy and proxy wars. It is a good start for Pakistan with the recent constitutional amendment. Your military has literally wiped out all leaders. Time has to be given for new leaders to emerge through the system. Gilani looks very promising. Hope he stays on power for long and takes your country on the right path.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

@ “In my opinion democracy under the watchful eyes of the Army is best solution for Pakistan”

That is quite a contradictory statement. Democracy can’t be under the ‘watchful eyes’ of anyone except the people who cast their ballots & that itself is the definition of Democracy. The Pakistani army is fooling no one by projecting a ‘democratic Pakistan’ in front of the international community in order to extract that extra $$$ from them at the ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ summit. Either become a real democracy for good or the military regime, that you actually are. Just get done with this duplicity of being a democracy controlled by the military establishment.

“For the civilians to take a clear stand on India, foreign policy and other strategic matters, those civilian leaders need to sharpen their skills first”

What exactly does that mean? What kind of skills do the civilians need to sharpen? their ‘belligerence’ skills? Yes, the Pakistani Generals sure have had a lot of skills over the years. Through their skillful acts, they’ve fought 4 unnecessary wars, commanded a lions share of the revenues, radicalized the country, defamed it internationally with their support for terrorism & brought it one the brink of bankruptcy & failure. That sure requires a lot of skills.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive
 

Class of people examplified by Umair have no idea what the place of Army in a true democracy is. No wonder you see gems

“In recent months and years the Army and civilian government have worked together to confront diffiicult crises at the same time.”
It is Master-slave relation not partnership, as he says

in the contradictory statement:
“In my opinion democracy under the watchful eyes of the Army is best solution for Pakistan.”

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

It is very easy to play armchair warrior sitting on your desktop, but try to place yourself in the battle field and then give your expert analysis.

I have spent my whole life in this country, and at ANY point in time would support the army over the democracy. As much as I love my country, I will have to admit that power corrupts us all and that is why democracy has always failed in our state. The army always has to normalize the situation.

This has been seen over and over in all democratic governments, because the access to those seats is for those who already have a certain position of power in society, and they use those seats to exploit that power.

As far as the civil servants go, their contribution to the corruption in this country is no less than those of the politicians. In fact, they go hand in hand.

The army comes up to be the most pristine outfit in the country. Educated and dedicated to the interests of the country, in the end it has always been them who came up to steer the country, whether sustainable or not.

Also, consider two points when raising fingers at the park army. One, the aggressive stance is not one sided. A very south-asian proverb, it takes two hands to clap. The same is the case with the Indo-Pak Army stance. Second, the average Pakistani is not as hateful of the Indians as the Indians are of the former. There is research to prove this, and if you want i can provide these details. During the Musharraf regime, no matter how bad for us, Indo-Pak relations improved and consider this, he was an Army man.

Posted by wildbandit | Report as abusive
 

wildbandit:

@It is very easy to play armchair warrior sitting on your desktop, ……”
–Posted by wildbandit
—-Agreed

@I will have to admit that power corrupts us all and that is why democracy has always failed in our state. The army always has to normalize the situation.”
–Perhaps your “power corrupts” does no not apply to PA considering they are and have been the most powerful in your country.

@Second, the average Pakistani is not as hateful of the Indians as the Indians are of the former. There is research to prove this, and if you want i can provide these details.”
—Yes please provide details. Rather, if you have why not post it right away.

Oh, please keep this self-promotory attitude who hates more cos u r not in a position to make such statements. Nor am I. It is plainly ridiculous. At worst, your fellow countrymen on this blog (not all) admire terrorists who kill Indians and at best they keep mum when asked to condemn terrorism of all kind. Now this is factual statement.

@During the Musharraf regime, no matter how bad for us, Indo-Pak relations improved and consider this, he was an Army man.”
–Did you not say it takes 2 to clap.

@I have spent my whole life in this country, and at ANY point in time would support the army over the democracy”
—Oh yes, I know that and that is the troubling part. You guys have yet to acquire an ability to think that you can pat ur army on the back even when politicians truly rule. I, as an Indian, do that. But u guys take it to a point where u want to see a general in the throne!!!

@The army comes up to be the most pristine outfit in the country. Educated and dedicated to the interests of the country, in the end it has always been them who came up to steer the country, whether sustainable or not.”

–Get out of ur bow-arrow/horses/hunting attitude. Times have changed. We are living in an era where battles are of different nature. yiur army has not made them and u r country proud by indulging in wars they did. Also, Pak Army has not been helping the overall interests of Pakistan unless you feel that just because you are surviving is a reason enough to admire them.

Have u ever heard that Army Generals cannot even decide the best time to fight much less running a country.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

In Russia and other former Communist countries, there are still many supporters of Communist regime. They claim that under Communist regime they were guaranteed of a salary whether they worked or not and there was “order.” In every country there are admirers for different systems. In India itself I have come across people who like to have dictators for the same reasons as wildbandit has mentioned. Indira Gandhi almost became a tyrant and she had her own admirers and followers. If Pakistanis feel more comfortable with military rulers, it is their choice. I don’t think others should have any issues with that. However, from Indian stand point, Pak military has been the most belligerent and hostile organization. So the Indian reaction is from that stand point. It is not Pakistan, but its military that runs independent with its own agenda. All the wars with India have been instigated by the Pak military. Its civilian rulers huffed and puffed, but never went beyond that. It is Pak military that wants to hold on to all the anti-Indian militant organizations. So when Pakistanis prefer a military rule for different reasons, Indians see it in a different light. Most Pakistanis who post here support their military. Hence this endless cycle of arguments.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

@ “The army comes up to be the most pristine outfit in the country. Educated and dedicated to the interests of the country, in the end it has always been them who came up to steer the country, whether sustainable or not”

Steer the country towards what? Radicalization? Bankruptcy? Failure?

@ “I will have to admit that power corrupts us all and that is why democracy has always failed in our state. The army always has to normalize the situation”

Democracy has always failed in your state because people like you, are constantly brain-washed by the PA propaganda machinery & made to believe that the PA is a saintly, non-corrupt & perfect institution & is your sole protector & savior. Even though facts & history clearly point that the PA is a corrupt, belligerent & absolutely imperfect institution, which has an insatiable lust for power & is primarily responsible for your country’s current disastrous condition.

@ “Second, the average Pakistani is not as hateful of the Indians as the Indians are of the former. There is research to prove this, and if you want i can provide these details”

ROFL. I would love to see that research so please provide the links & details. And it better be from a credible & substantiated neutral source & not from a Pakistani propaganda site like the ‘rupee news’ etc.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive
 

Despite all the criticism here, we see democracy at work. Sure enough there was a consensus so we see that the complaints here against PML N are just biased and unjustified. Now we call appreciate how much a less than perfect democracy works better for a nation than a dictatorship. Eight years of Musharraf couldn’t accomplish what two years of democratic wrangling has already done in Pakistan’s favour! I hope we all continue with this path of democracy to see Pakistan reach its full potential. Did you just hear about the consensus reached on judges, presidential powers, the naming of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa- all without violence or have you been hiding? How about the the NFC award which took decades to achieve? How about the added support that we are getting from the world community to fight the criminals and terrorists who threaten us and the world? How about new drone technology or rumours that we may get a deal for civilian nuclear reactors? Most importantly, the terrorists are on the run. All in hardly two years! Yes there is a lot of debate, back and forth and frustration with democracy but the fruits are better!

Posted by ranjashi | Report as abusive
 

Over the past week Pakistan has read many different news items. From the passing of the 18th amendment to the bomb blast at the US Consulate, much is happening. Some may say the stories are for the betterment of our country while others may disagree. In my mind the successful visit of the Foreign Minister and his entourage to the United States gave Pakistan some much needed positive press. However, the current witch-hunt carried out by the Chief Justice and the ugly battle over the reopening of Zardari’s corruption cases has embarrassed many of those who fought for the independence of the judiciary. Now do not get me wrong, as much as I enjoyed protesting on the streets of Lahore for the reinstatement of the nation’s top judge, I can’t fathom Mr. Iftikhar’s current agenda of picking and choosing his enemies. When will we be able to see actual results from the “democratically” elected officials and the “independent” judiciary we as a nation have struggled to achieve for 62 years? When will stop pointing fingers and vilifying those whom we disagree with? Or have we gotten used to being stuck in this whirlpool of revengeful politics. Honestly, we Pakistanis have gotten sick and tired of the lies and broken promises.

http://ahraza.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/s ick-and-tired/

Posted by AHR | Report as abusive
 

hi!,I love your writing so a lot! share we keep in touch more approximately your post on AOL? I need a specialist in this space to solve my problem. Maybe that is you! Having a look ahead to look you.

 

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