Civil-Military Relationship in Pakistan

civil-military relationship in Pakistan

Written By: Muhammad Nouman Khan

The history of civil-military relations in Pakistan is facing many problems and is full of lessons. There is always a hitch and disparity exists between Civilians and the military in Pakistan. 

We have to keep in mind the geographical location of Pakistan, most importantly living in the Islamic world, and its relation with America because without keeping all these factors in mind, we cannot have an in-depth analysis.  There is another important factor is independent and uncontrollable electronic media and an extremely rigid social media where there is always a new conspiracy theory every day.

 Geographical Location of Pakistan 

If we first talk about the geographic location of Pakistan, we have to keep in mind that Pakistan is surrounded by India, Afghanistan, Iran, China, and Russia. India never accepted the independence of Pakistan by heart. India was busy from the very first day of the creation of Pakistan to destabilizing and weakening its roots. 

On the other side, there was Russia, the superpower of that time, a Communist country, and a close friend of India. And Pakistan has the most prolonged order shared with Afghanistan, a country that is in turmoil for years.

 A strong Army was needed for the hour

 So, with such a geographical location, one thing was clear a country having a weak army cannot exist in this region. Pakistan fought its first war with India in 1948, and it was clear from that time that the main focus of the Pakistani state must be on its defense and had to work hard for its existence. There is always a debate about military bureaucracy in Pakistan but people forget to keep the Indian defense budget in mind while talking about it.

 The dependency of the civilians on the Army

 There are many reasons for the dependence on the civilian on Army some are mentioned below:

1.   Domestic Terrorism 

The main threat for this whole region is Terrorism, Pakistan has lost more than a thousand innocent people in this war against Terrorism we are in a state of war, and infighting and the dependency on the military is naturally increased. Many militant groups are operating in Pakistan, and civilian organizations like the police cannot deal with them.

2.   The only organized organization 

The military is very organized, the only organization in our country that has the potential to deliver, and is performing well in every situation, especially situations like war, earthquakes, floods, and pandemics like Corona. In contrast, civilian organization does not have resources, and proper training or they are not equipped to deal with such situations. If we mainly talk about the condition due to Corona, many civilian organizations like the police also have played their part very well. Still, mostly, the role of the military is significant.

3.   Failure of Social Contract 

Pakistan is a weak state and has failed to provide fundamental rights to its people. When countries are not able to ensure fundamental rights, people of that state do not follow the law of the land, and civilian organizations become helpless; that’s the case with Pakistan. We have a history of unstable constitutions and inconsistency in electoral cycles that has weakened private establishment against the military establishment of Pakistan.


The narrative of Allah, the Army, and America 

There is a widespread perception among most Pakistanis that in Pakistan, there are three powers: Allah, the military, and America. And some people publicly say that our relationship with America and leaders of Pakistan’s relationship with America also plays a vital role as America being a superpower has influence over Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is an example of many people who believe that America was not a big fan of Mr. Bhutto, and that was probably one of many reasons for the difference between the Bhutto Government and the Establishment of Pakistan. Along with that, another popular narrative is that America has good relationships with our military, and they want one-person rule in Pakistan.

 The role of power Media:

Nowadays, the role of social media is another critical pillar of the state, social media, and electronic media spread news either fake or not but play an essential role, and the trust between civil and military decreases, and the communication gap increase because of them. Like in the third term of the Nawaz Government, a story of Dawn popularly known as Dawn leaks completely changed the civil-military relations, and the government had to sacrifice its minister of information.

 Trust Deficit 

As we have discussed, many factors that play a role in civil-military relationships, but one thing is evident that they are not perfect, and they were never perfect in the past too. There are many reasons, but one of the important ones is the lack of trust between them. Both civilians, as well as military leadership, do not trust each other. Not all but there are people in the military who think that civilian is corrupt and they are a risk to national security there is not wise to allow them to take the initial decision, especially in the case of foreign policy whereas not all but many politicians who want to control Army like they control police.

 Importance of Civilian Competency:

 We have to admit that the relations are defined by the competency of the two. The military is very organized and performed well in the past, but every civilian government was charged with corruption cases and disability of handling the country. And another charge on civilian leadership is that they don’t want civilian supremacy, which is without a doubt the most central element of every democratic system, they want power and control over all matters of their families, not the parliament. Like the former military leadership of General Raheel Sharif or even in the time of General Kayani, the establishment was ready for the transfer of powers from GHQ to parliament. Still, the civilian leadership was not interested in this transfer of power; they were more interested in the transfer of power to their families, which is not possible because Pakistan is not the Banana Republic, and Pakistan is a nuclear power.

Understanding Democracy

 As Democracy is not a system, it’s a culture, and we as a nation in general and over leadership, in particular, have failed in creating that culture. Turkey is a perfect example; Democracy was weak. There was no civilian supremacy, the Army was powerful, and Turkey was also under Martial-Law like us. Still, their civilian governments performed well, they won the hearts of the Turkish people and now their civilian leaders are in the face of Turkey. So, for better civil-military relations our civilian government has to increase its competency, perform well, and make policies for the betterment of common men. There is no other way in a country having such a geographical location.

Hoping for the Best. 

The civil-military relations are better than before and improving as well. The present civilian leadership also has the same point of view that our military had over the years. The current government and establishment have the same opinion about India, and their method of dealing with India is the same. Whether it was the matter of extension of the Army Chief or the situation after the Pulwama attack; the civilian and military leadership was on the same page.

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