Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan |December 2017

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This monitor is meant to identify key developments during the month on Civil Military Relations in Pakistan with selected high-profile international developments included occasionally.

In this Issue:

  1. Defence Minister only a facilitator, not boss of Pakistan Defence Organization, says Pakistan’s Minister of Defence
  2. COAS attends meeting of the Senate Committee of the Whole
  3. Khawaja Saad Rafique’s Statement and Response by DG ISPR
  4. Members of the Standing Committees on Defence visit LoC
  5. National Security Advisor meets former Premier?
  6. PM Abbasi visits deep sea with Pakistan Navy
  7. 206th Corps Commanders’ Conference
  8. Continuing Role of COAS in Foreign Affairs
  9. Pakistan Army’s Public Relations Activities
  10. 23rd Meeting of National Command Authority
  11. National Security Committee Meeting
  12. PM, COAS meet Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman to discuss FATA reforms
  13. Land allotted to Army to move GHQ to Islamabad
  14. Army Chief Visits his Hometown: Announces construction of a Stadium
  15. PM-COAS Interactions
  16. Philippine Navy Chief sacked in surprise move

Defence Minister only a facilitator, not boss of Pakistani defence organization, says Pakistan’s Minister of Defence

On December 30, Federal Minister of Defence, Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, MNA, made highly significant pronouncements on civil-military relations and the role of Minister of Defence.

Talking to Mr. Saleem Safi in his talk show Jirga, Mr. Khan said that there is indeed ‘tanao‘ or tension in civil military relations in Pakistan. He also said that Defence Minister is not the boss or in-charge of Defence Organization, as is the diktat of the Constitution; that Defence Minister is merely a facilitator at best and most of the time even marginalised at that, while Prime Minister directly deals with leadership of the Armed Forces. Some of the key excerpts paraphrased below from his interview are:

  1. We [PML-N] have learnt that individually good relations between Services Chiefs and PM do not solve issues in civil-military relations. There have to be good inter-institutional relations
  2. We have to “search for truth in facts;” that while the Constitution is an ideal and inspiration but facts, on the ground, are different
  3. National Security Committee (NSC) is perhaps the best forum for dialogue on civil-military relations and now we [PML-N Government] are using it more regularly
  4. PML-N party leader Nawaz Sharif felt that merely winning the next election would be meaningless unless “awam ka haq-i-hakmiat” or the people’s right to rule was not established and accepted. PML-N will go to the next General Election with the manifesto of supremacy of people
  5. When asked what is the minor difference of opinion on foreign relations between the civilian Government and the Armed Forces, he said that they are absolutely on the same page as far as relations with the US are concerned but on Afghanistan there are minor issues. He rather profoundly said that ” ham bar bar yeh clarity chahtey hain Afwaj-e-Pakistan sey keh jo kuch bhi Afghanistan mein ho raha hai, us ka koi ta’aluq Pakistan sey nahin hona chahiyey .”

It is difficult to recall a more candid interview by a Pakistani Defence minister on the subject of civil-military relations. This is a sensitive and serious matter, seldom discussed in the open by a sitting Defence Minister in the past, leading the country to an almost definitive but discomforting conclusion that civil-military relations may be moving towards an era of ‘open warfare’. No country can allow such tensions between State institutions or between popular political parties and the security establishment, especially given the prevailing tense relations with a superpower and some neighbouring countries.

COAS attends meeting of the Senate Committee of the Whole

On December 19, in an in-camera session of the Senate Committee of the Whole, DG MO Major General Sair Shamshad Mirza, briefed the Senate upon the invitation extended by the Chairman Senate, while the COAS answered queries of the Senators.[1] According to the Senate of Pakistan, the in-camera meeting was held ” to prepare policy guidelines in the light of the emerging regional realities ” as well as ” to deliberate upon the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan specially with respect to the recent foreign visits of the Chief of Army Staff and other recent developments in this regard .” The briefing was attended by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) along with the DG MO, DG MI, DG ISI and DG ISPR. [2]

While the briefing was in-camera, news media reported details through various quotes from the DG ISPR as well as a number of Senators who were part of the briefing. The meeting, we are told, lasted for over three hours, in which first the COAS “gave an overview which was followed by a detailed presentation by Major General Sair Shamshad Mirza, DG MO.” After the presentation, the COAS “personally answered the questions asked by the Members which touched upon all areas of national interest and security,” as per the Senate website.

In recent history, Gen. Bajwa is the second COAS to have come to Parliament for a briefing following such a briefing by the erstwhile COAS Kayani and then-DG ISI Lt. Gen. Pasha who briefed joint session of the Parliament in May 2011 after the killing of Osama bin Ladin in the Abbottabad operation. In terms of personally answering the questions of the parliamentarians or any of its committee, Gen. Bajwa’s may be regarded as the first of its kind.

That the COAS briefed a house of the Parliament is both a good development and also brings home the stark reality of the miles Pakistan’s democratic oversight of defence have to travel to follow the norm in other developed democracies. The fanfare with which the COAS was received was almost similar to a head of a State opening the Parliament in Pakistan or in other democracies. Such appearances are common and usual occurrence in democracies such as UK [3]and next-door India[4] where heads and representatives of respective defence forces regularly appear before their relevant Parliamentary committees to both brief them and answer their questions. The Parliament and Pakistan’s democratic order need to efficiently and speedily evolve in a manner that such briefings should be a normal and regular occurrence by the relevant Parliamentary Committees and not at the level of Joint Session or one house of Parliament.

In an awkward though familiar pattern, as experienced after previous in-camera sessions of the Parliament, instantly, after the meeting, various quotes and information from the session flashed on the media, thus proving the age-old wariness of the security leadership towards politicians that they can not be trusted with sensitive national security information. This breach formed the basis of the Dawn Leaks story and its investigation. Parliament and Parliamentary committees must win and maintain trust of security establishments, in order to carry out an effective and efficient oversight of defence and security sector, an advice that comes from established democracies including the British Parliament. Similar advice was given to a Pakistani delegation, that included Honourable Senator and now Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani, as well as Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence, by Rt. Hon. Sir Malcom Rifkind, chair of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee, during a PILDAT facilitated Study Visit to UK. Mr. Rifkind said that winning and maintaining trust is extremely important irrespective of what the law says adding that since its formation, there has never been any ‘leak’ from the ISC with regard to information provided by the intelligence services to the Committee. While it is important for Security establishment to know that it has to answer questions asked by the Parliament and its Committees, “a relationship based on mutual trust” also has to be cultivated. [5] It is, therefore, commendable that Senator Rabbani has taken the leaks from the in-camera session seriously and has referred the matter to the House Business Advisory Committee for probe. [6]

Khawaja Saad Rafique’s Statement and Response by DG ISPR

Khwaja Saad Rafique’s statement on December 24 generated a great deal of heat and controversy. His words seemed to imply that subordinate institutions under the Army Chief create occasional mischief although the stated policy of the Army Chief was pro-democracy and in harmony with the civilian government’s policies. The DG ISPR did not waste much time in declaring the Federal Minister’s statement ‘irresponsible’ at a news conference.

Khawaja Saad Rafique, in a ceremony marking his father’s death anniversary, said that Gen Bajwa’s appearance before Senators on December 19 was a confidence-boosting move as he upheld the democratic norms and continuity of democratic system in the country. In his remarks, Mr. Rafique added that democratic ethos of the COAS must be commended and appreciated by everyone – including by those upon whom his command is mandatory, adding that institutions under the COAS must desist from mischief making against democratic governments. ( Iss ki tayeed unhain bhi karni chahiye jin par un ka hukm lazim hai; unhain bhi uss hukm ke ata’at karni chahiye …. Iss ki support unhain bhi karni chahiye jo choti choti sharartain kertay hain ). [8]

“We take this statement with concern,” said the DG ISPR. He also said that the Minister’s statement “does not appear to be un-intended; it is irresponsible and unwarranted, because it is targeting chain of command and subordination system of Pakistan Army.” He also said that Federal Minister’s statement “violated the Constitution,” and added that ” agar aisi line chairain ge tau bohot se irtiash paida hon ge.” (If such a line is taken, there will be reverberations/repercussions.)

Members of the Standing Committees on Defence visit LoC

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Members of the Senate and National Assembly Standing Committees on Defence on a visit to the Line of Control in Azad Kashmir, on December 05, 2017

The ISPR reported that that on December 05, a delegation of members of Standing Committees on Defence from both houses of the Parliament visited at Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Kashmir. The delegation was briefed about the situation alongside the LoC, Indian violations of the Cease Fire, loss of civilian life, and damage to property. [9]

National Security Advisor meets former Premier?

First time after the disqualification of former Premier Mr. Nawaz Sharif, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister, Lt. Gen Nasser Khan Janjua, reportedly met with Mr. Sharif, at his Jati Umra residence in Raiwind, Lahore on December 28. Reportedly, the meeting continued for 5 hours, where Mr. Sharif stressed on the need to maintain friendly ties with neighbouring countries.[10]

PML-N Information Secretary, and Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, while answering a question about Mr. Nawaz’s strained relations with the military establishment, and his involvement in government affairs despite his disqualification, said that, “the security adviser does not need anybody’s permission to brief the PML-N chief on security issues as he is a civilian member of the cabinet.” He also added that Mr Sharif is chief of the ruling PML-N and could meet any member of his party’s government.” [11]

Later some media reports contradicted that such a meeting ever took place. Both the former PM and NSA’s office neither confirmed nor denied the meeting.

If the meeting took place, it was not clear what NSA might have discussed for five hours with the former PM who does not hold a public office any more.

PM Abbasi visits deep sea with Pakistan Navy

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PM Abbasi receiving the Dolphin insignia of the Pakistan Navy

On a three-day visit to Karachi, from December 22-24, during an operational review of the Pakistan Navy, Prime Minister Abbasi boarded a submarine in open sea, which made him the first Prime Minister of Pakistan having done so. He was awarded the Dolphin insignia of the Pakistan Navy. He also witnessed replenishment exercise by the Navy, rocket depth charge firing by ship & aircraft and helicopter-borne board, search & seizure. The premier expressed satisfaction with the operational preparedness of the Pakistan Navy.[12]


References

[1] For details, please see COAS briefs senators on national security Dawn, December 19, 2017:
https://www.dawn.com/news/1377559

[2] Senate of Pakistan Press Release, Official Website, December 19, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=2631

[5] For details, please see PILDAT Report of Study Visit by Pakistani Parliamentarians & Intellectuals on Democratic Oversight on Defence and National Security in the UK: July 03-05, 2012; London, UK:
https://www.pildat.org/Publications/publication/CMR/PakistaniParliamentariansAndIntellectualsOn
DemocraticOversightonDefenceandNationalSecurityintheUK_July03-05_%202012.pdf

[6] In-camera briefing: Senators face action for breaching House rules, THE NEWS, December 21, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/258602-in-camera-briefing-senators-face-action-for-breaching-house-rules

[7] DG ISPR’s Press Conference can be viewed at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp4sZUJElTk

[8] For details, please see the speech of Khawaja Sadd Rafique at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXNlhHuYPBc

[9] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 05, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4423&cat=army

[10] Security, terrorism discussed at NSA-Sharif Jati Umra meeting, DAWN, December 29, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=29_12_2017_001_005

[11] Security, terrorism discussed at NSA-Sharif Jati Umra meeting, DAWN, December 29, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=29_12_2017_001_005

[12] Abbasi becomes first Pakistan PM to board submarine in open sea, EXPRESS TRIBUNE, December 24, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://tribune.com.pk/story/1591963/1-abbasi-becomes-first-pakistan-pm-board-submarine-open-sea/

[13] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 05, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4423&cat=army

[14] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 06, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4427&cat=army

[15] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 11, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4437&cat=army

[16] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 12, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4440&cat=army

[17] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 12, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4440&cat=army

[18] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 07, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4430&cat=army

[19] Army chief calls for widening scope of madressah education, DAWN, December 8, 2017, as accessed on December 04, 2017 at
https://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=08_12_2017_001_001

[20] Army will support and pursue mainstreaming of Fata, vows Gen Bajwa, DAWN, December 13, 2017, as accessed on December 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1376388

[21] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 13, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4444&cat=army

[22] PILDAT Monitor on Civil-Military Relations November, PILDAT Website, December 14, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.pildat.org/eventsdel.asp?detid=957

[23] ISPR Press Release, Official Website, December 25, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
https://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=4463&cat=army

[24] For details, please see The National Command Authority Act, 2010

[25] Pakistan to retain full spectrum deterrence policy, DAWN, December 22, 2017, as accessed on December 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1378106/pakistan-to-retain-full-spectrum-deterrence-policy

[26] Prime Minister Office Press Release, Official Website, December 18, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2123

[27] Prime Minister Office Press Release, Official Website, December 18, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2123

[28] PM, army chief discuss Fata issue with Fazl, DAWN, December 20, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1377680/pm-army-chief-discuss-fata-issue-with-fazl

[29] PM, army chief discuss Fata issue with Fazl, DAWN, December 20, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1377680/pm-army-chief-discuss-fata-issue-with-fazl

[30] Army to be allotted over 1,000 acres for new GHQ, other offices, DAWN, December 27, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1379072/army-to-be-allotted-over-1000-acres-for-new-ghq-other-offices

[31] The DHA City juggernaut rolls on in the name of development, DAWN, December 19, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1376579

[32] COAS visits hometown, announces stadium, DAWN, December 25, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.dawn.com/news/1378659/coas-visits-hometown-announces-stadium

[33] Prime Minister Office Press Release, Official Website, December 18, 2017, as accessed on January 02, 2017 at
http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2123

[34] Philippine navy chief sacked in surprise move, THE NEWS, December 20, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/258219-philippine-navy-chief-sacked-in-surprise-move

[35] Philippine military removes navy chief, but won’t say why, REUTERS, December 19, 2017, as accessed on January 04, 2017 at
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-defence/philippine-military-removes-navy-chief-but-wont-say-why-idUSKBN1ED1EM


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