Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan | October, September and August 2016

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October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan
October 2016

PTI: It is time to sign the Charter of Democracy!

Given PTI’s announced lockdown of Islamabad on November 02, 2016, old fears of alleged covert support of military behind the PTI agitation resurfaced again.

Although PTI has a democratic right to protest, and it is a totally different debate whether it should protest inside the democratic forums it is elected to or disrupt citizens lives, it has been observed that the party and its Chairman show little, if any, restraint towards leaning on the military to oust what it has termed to be its key foe – the elected Federal Government of the PML-N. Mr. Imran Khan’s penchant for using cricket terms in politics such as the ‘Umpire’s Finger’ to wrap up the elected political system were on full display ahead of the November 2 planned lockdown of the country’s capital, just as those were extensively used before and during the 126-day long Dharna in 2014.

In what perhaps defines PTI’s leading strategy of the end justifying the means, it appears that the party has no qualms in exploiting the not-so-hidden differences in civil-military relations at this time. Consider for instance, the statement by PTI’s Senior Vice President, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, MNA that ‘the current distance between the military and civil government is not of ordinary nature’. According to a leaked video of his address to party workers on October 17, 2016 in Islamabad, Mr. Qureshi reportedly said the ongoing relations between the civil and military leadership were not different than those in 1999. In the context of Mr. Imran Khan’s earlier statement of endorsing a military coup against the civilian government led by prime minister Nawaz Sharif when he said “people would celebrate and distribute sweets if there was a military takeover in Pakistan,1  he seemed to be echoing the same when he said that if anything happened to the country’s democratic setup, the Prime Minister would be responsible for it.2

In the checkered history of fledgling democracy between 4 coup d’états in 7 decades of Pakistan’s history, espousing and advancing of such a policy for a political party that is a recipient of 16.92% of the popular votes in General Election 2013, along with the party forming the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is not just inappropriate for the party and its democratic ethos but extremely dangerous for the country. Two leading political parties of Pakistan, having learnt their respective lessons at the cost of huge disruption to democratic process during the decade of 1990s, signed a Charter of Democracy 3 essentially agreeing to respect electoral mandate of representative governments and not to undermine it through extra constitutional means. Isn’t it time that as a popular political party with a trailblazing record of galvanizing public support and changing its fortunes from 1 seat in the National Assembly in 2002-2008 to 33seats in the current National Assembly, PTI should have faith in its own popularity, mandate and policies, and sign the Charter of Democracy?

‘Military Forced and Sucked into the Political Environment in Pakistan’: Gen. (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf

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The former President and COAS, Gen. (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf in an interview on September 29, 2016 with Mr. Robert Siegel of the Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum stated that ‘the Army has always played a prominent role in the governance of Pakistan, mainly because of the mis-governance of the democratically elected governments… the Military is forced and sucked into the political environment, especially when miss-governance is going on and Pakistan is going down in various socio-economic indicators’.4

PILDAT believes that the former President has raised some probing questions regarding civil-military relations in Pakistan.

Dawn’s Exclusive Story and its Aftermath

While PILDAT expressed and shared its opinion on the need to remove Mr. Cyril Almeida’s name from the ECL, 5 there are many questions that are important to be raised with regards to the unusual hullabaloo and developments following Dawn’s exclusive news story of October 06, 2016 titled Exclusive: Act Against Militants or face International Isolation:

  • While violative of rules and contrary to the entire principle of in-camera meetings, leaks emanating from such meetings are not a novel phenomenon and have, in both the recent and distant past, emanated not only from security related in-camera sessions of the Parliament and All Parties Conferences, but also from one-on-one interactions between the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff. Indeed one cannot fail to recall the insider account of the Prime Minister and COAS’ one-on-one meeting on May 10, 2016, published in the very same newspaper, citing the COAS ‘weighing in’ on the elected Premier of this country to ‘resolve the Panama Papers issue at the earliest’ whereas the presser issued by the Prime Minister Office gave out no such details.6

    In fact, there is a penchant for such leaks to surface after national security huddles, highlighting differences of civil-military leadership, especially in the case when the Military leadership is seen to be sitting in judgment of the elected Government’s performance. In the sad reality of what constitutes the lop-sided civil-military relations in Pakistan, such leaks apparently constitute ‘business-as-usual’ and either the elected Government chooses to ignore them or thinks unwise to depict similar outrage.

  • Contents of the said news report yet again signify a broad problem that besets civil-military relations in Pakistan. As PILDAT had stated in its Report on State of Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan 7 there is often a disturbing divergence between civil-military leadership on how to conduct the affairs of the State with regards to our foreign policy (especially vis-à-vis India) and security policy. Although a divergence of opinion is not necessarily something undesirable, the mandate for final decisions on national security, as on other policies, resides with the elected Government though it is seen to be exercised by the Military, as Pakistan moves further away from a constitutional equation on civil-military relations. Military is a crucial and well-recognized part of national security of Pakistan and its views should be regularly sought and given the most serious consideration but it is not and should not be the final arbiter on national security decision-making.

  • Since the publishing of story and resulting developments, many journalists have publicly shared that they also had the contents of the same story as Mr. Almeida, thus providing a tacit support to the veracity of the story. While one may or may not agree with Mr. Almeida’s judgment to file the story, and the newspaper’s editorial decision to carry it as important for public consumption regardless of the national security considerations, the news story, in the judgment of some readers, may have carried slightly sensationalist and vivid hue, which may not have been desirable in reporting on such sensitive matters. However, the real issue of concern is that a participant at the meeting disclosed in such vivid detail what should have been kept behind closed doors. The development may take away from the atmosphere of trust and official secrecy that are crucial to such meetings and therefore, PILDAT supports an investigation into where the leak emanated from and holding those responsible accountable as a matter of paramount importance. However, the inquiry needs to be focused on where and how the leak has occurred.

  • The sacking of the Federal Minister for Information, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed for allegedly not being able to stop the newspaper from publishing the story was also particularly perplexing. Isn’t it the Honourable Minister’s job to ensure coverage of Government’s activities instead of working to promote a blackout?

Simply due to the cleavages it exposed in civil-military relations, we believe a timeline of development emanating from publication of Dawn’s exclusive news story of October 06, 2016 is important to be produced in PILDAT’s Monitor on Civil-Military Relations:

Table 1: Timeline of Developments on Dawn’s Story

No.

Date

Development

1.

October 06, 2016

Reported by Mr. Cyril Almeida, daily Dawn ran a story titled Exclusive: Act Against Militants or face International Isolation.8 It contained details of the deliberations that took place apparently in a meeting of the National Security Committee on Monday, October 03, 2016.

Two main actions emanating from the meeting, according to the report were that firstly, the DG ISI accompanied by the NSA would visit each of the four provinces with a ‘message for the Provincial Apex Committees’; secondly, apparently, the Prime Minister ordered that fresh attempts be made to resolve the Pathankot investigations.

The news report also contained a dramatic and vivid account of an altercation between the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Mr. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, MPA and the DG ISI, Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar over rounding up of non-state actors in the Punjab.

2.

October 06, 2016

First rejoinder issued by the Spokesman of the Prime Minister saying the story is ‘an amalgamation of fiction and half-truths which too are invariably reported out of context. It is imperative that those demanding the right to information at par with the international best practices also act in a manner, which is at par with international reporting norms and standards’.

3.

October 06, 2016

Another rejoinder issued by the Prime Minister Office the same day, while the previous one was deleted from the website, decrying the news story as ‘fabricated’.

Meanwhile, the office of the Chief Minister of


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