Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan | March 2017

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This monitor is meant to identify key developments during the month on Civil Military Relations in Pakistan and around the world. In this issue:
  1. ISPR Statement on NAP: A Change in Style?
  2. PTI Chairman Mr. Imran Khan’s Meeting with the COAS
  3. Gen. (Retd.) Raheel Sharif’s Joining of the "Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism"
  4. Revival of Military Courts
  5. Former Ambassador Haqqani’s Remarks, the Media Furor, and the Military breaking its silence over it
  6. Perks of Generals and Government Officials not revealed to the Parliament
  7. Prime Minister Sharif’s Revelations about Gen. (Retd.) Musharraf
  8. Premier-COAS interactions
  9. Lebanon: Military Courts back down
  10. Philippines: Joint Civil Relations Committee
  11. United States: President Trump Reorganized Structure of the National Security Council

 

ISPR Statement on NAP:A Change in Style?

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Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa chairing the 200th Corps Commander Conference in Rawalpindi

On March 9, 2017, the 200th Corps Commanders Conference took place that was presided by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, at the General Head Quarters in Rawalpindi. After the meeting, an ISPR statement quoted: “Forum concluded that through Operation RuF, implementation of NAP needs to be expedited jointly/by respective stakeholders for lasting peace and stability in the country.”

While some sections of the media portrayed this statement by the ISPR as an expression of the military voicing its concerns with the civilian Government,1 we at PILDAT believe that nothing in the statement implies civil military divergence. On the contrary, the statement espoused the principle of shared responsibility of the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), and this is the direction towards which both the civilian and the military Government may be turning.

Furthermore, this ISPR Press Release may be contrasted with the ISPR Press Release of November 10, 2015, which, on the topic of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and implementation of National Action Plan ‘underlined the need for matching/complimentary governance initiatives for long term gains of operation and enduring peace across the country.’2 The intent of apportioning responsibility in that Press Release is clearly visible and it is a welcome development that the military and the civilian Government have come this far from that relationship.

PILDAT believes that the following salient points need to be considered in this regard:

  1. While the message of shared responsibility is well received, it must be noted that public statements of such kind have little practical value. It would be better if both the civilian Government and the military leadership used relevant formal channels to communicate on national security issues. Hence, it is welcome news that a meeting of civil-military leadership took place on March 13, 2017 at the Prime Minister House presided by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As per the Press Release by the Prime Minister Office, at the meeting ‘it was decided to further energize efforts on implementation of National Action Plan and ensure better implementation of NAP by Federal/Provincial governments’.3 This reconciliatory tone by the civilian Government suggests that civil-military relations are on the right track. It may here, however, be emphasized that the forum of National Security Committee needs to be activated for civil-military consultation of this nature.
  2. While it is true that civil military relations in Pakistan have a certain history that leads to different sections of the media closely analyzing statements coming from either quarter to see if those signal any civil-military friction, however, care must be taken to not construe anodyne statements as something more than what they actually are.

PTI Chairman Mr. Imran Khan’s Meeting with the COAS

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PTI Chairman Mr. Imran Khan and COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa

The meeting of Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Mr. Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, on March 31, 2017 was announced through a tweet by the ISPR. It stated, ‘Chairman PTI Imran Khan called on COAS. Imran Khan felicitated COAS on his prom and appointment. Various issues came under discussion.’4

The peculiarity of the meeting between the Chief of Army Staff and the head of a political party was only matched by the opaqueness of what was discussed in it. When asked to comment on it, Mr. Khan’s vague remarks stating that Gen. Bajwa ‘stands by democracy’5 muddied matters even further.

The meeting attracted attention from different sections of the media and it is natural that people started asking questions and even engaged in speculations as to why this meeting was felt necessary. Unless some new information suggests otherwise, we feel that it is ordinarily not desirable for COAS to hold meetings with party chiefs. If it was something to do with the KP Government where Mr. Imran Khan’s party rules, the right approach should have been to deal with the Provincial Chief Minister instead. If these meetings become a new normal, it will be very difficult to avoid meeting other political leaders and each such meeting will generate unnecessary controversies.

Gen. (Retd.) Raheel Sharif’s Joining of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism

On March 25, 2017, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, MNA, Federal Minister for Defence, revealed that the Government’s consent on Gen. (Retd.) Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the 39-member Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) had been conveyed to the Saudi Government in writing.6 This categorical statement may be in contrast with his earlier two vacillating statements on the same matter.

On January 06, 2017 during an interview on Geo TV, Khawaja Asif said that Gen. (Retd.) Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the 39-member IMAFT had been finalized7 while in the Senate on January 10, 2017, he had said that the Government was unaware of any such development and neither had Gen. (Retd.) Sharif requested an NOC from the Government.8

This time, the news of Gen. (Retd.) Sharif’s appointment to the IMAFT came from a close associate of his, Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Ijaz Awan, who revealed that the Government had issued a no-objection certificate to Gen. (Retd.) Sharif.9

Revival of Military Courts

The revival of military courts for another two years for trying civilian suspects involved in terrorism has taken place through the passage of the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2017.

23rd Amendment to the Constitution

Date Introduced

Date Passed

National Assembly of Pakistan

March 10, 2017

March 21, 2017

Senate of Pakistan

March 21, 2017

March 28, 2017

 

Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2017

Date Introduced

Date Passed

National Assembly of Pakistan

March 10, 2017

March 21, 2017

Senate of Pakistan

March 21, 2017

March 22, 2017

The Government introduced the Twenty-eighth Amendment to the Constitution bill (passed as the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan) and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2017 bill in the National Assembly on March 10, 2017, which passed them on March 21, 2017. The same two bills were introduced in the Senate on March 21, 2017, with the Senate passing the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2017 on March 22, 2017 and the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan on March 28, 2017, and the bills becoming Acts of Parliament on March 30, 2017 with the assent of President Mamnoon Hussain.

In the National Assembly, the total time taken to debate the two bills was approximately 6 hours10 over a period of 2 days, while in the Senate it was approximately 4 hours 17 minutes over a period of 2 days.11

Interestingly, unlike in the past, the passage of the two amendments this time was not unanimous either in the Senate or the National Assembly. In the National Assembly, four MNAs voted against the bills,12 while in the Senate, PkMAP voted against the bills while the JUI-F abstained in both the houses.13

While the atmosphere of urgency surrounding the passage of the two bills was understandable, it is still unfortunate that proper deliberations on the bills did not take place on the floor of the two houses of the Parliament. Moreover, there is no visible evidence to suggest that relevant standing committees, particularly the Parliamentary Committees on Law and Justice, the Parliamentary Committees on Interior and the Parliamentary Committees on Defence in the two houses, discharged their duties of properly vetting the proposed legislations.

Haqqani’s Remarks, the Media Furor, and the Military breaking its silence over it

Former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani’s article titled ‘Yes, the Russian ambassador met Trump. So? That’s what we diplomats do’ published in the Washington Post on March 10, 2017 generated its fair share of controversy in Pakistan. Among other things, Mr. Haqqani had revealed in the article that with the permission of the civilian Government, he helped in the stationing of U.S. Special Operations and intelligence personnel in Pakistan, who later proved to be ‘invaluable when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team 6 without notifying Pakistan14 in order to capture the most wanted terrorist at that time, Osama bin Laden, who was behind the September 11 Attacks.

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Former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani accompanying then President Asif Zardari to a meeting in the Oval Office on December 14, 2011 with the then President Barrack Obama and Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton

Given that the article implied a disjunction between the civilian Government and the military leadership at the time along with what has been construed as allegations against the then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, the article merited a strong response from the Government, which came in the form of Federal Minister for Defence, Khawaja Asif’s comments on March 15, 2017 in the National Assembly. Mr. Asif characterized Mr. Haqqani’s claims in the article as ‘a matter of national security’ and ‘a breach of the highest level’15 while also proposing the setting up of a parliamentary commission to probe the claims. Even the Pakistan People’s Party expressed its support for the parliamentary commission along with the other political parties in the House.16

Despite such an unequivocal response from the country’s political leadership over Mr. Haqqani’s claim, the military also decided to weigh in on the matter. On March 29, 2017, ISPR tweeted: ‘views of Husain Haqqani published in mainstream US newspaper, especially his account on issue of visas, vindicat


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