Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan | July 2016


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Amidst a change of leadership in the Provincial Government of Sindh, the month of July 2016 was again marked by the continuing trust deficit that has come to beset an increasingly frayed relation between the Sindh Government and the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh). Every single time the matter of Pakistan Rangers’ (Sindh) extension in Sindh rears itself, it falls prey to some form of friction between the Federal Government, the Provincial Government and the paramilitary force.

The Rangers’ Special Policing Powers1 for the Karachi Division were last notified by the Federal Ministry of Interior on May 09, 2016 for 77 days, a period which ended on July 19, 2016.2 On the other hand, the Rangers’ deployment in Sindh was last notified by the Federal Ministry for Interior,3 on July 30, 2015 for a period of one year, which expired on June 31, 2016.

However, the Provincial Government of Sindh delayed requesting the Federal Government for an extension in the deployment and special policing powers of the Rangers yet again. Given that the final notification was issued by the Federal Ministry of Interior extending the special policing powers of the Rangers for a period of 90 days in Karachi, and with regards to their deployment in Sindh for one whole year on August 03, 2016, with effect from July 20, 2016, the Rangers were de-facto operating without a legal cover for approximately two weeks.

We believe that the dynamics of the Karachi Operation, and the recurrent friction that is observed can practically be reduced to two major considerations: The Provincial Government of Sindh apparently believes that the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) is effectively acting as an entity independent of the Provincial Government, often in violation of the constitutional and legal dictates, although it has been requisitioned in aid of civil power under Article 147 of the Constitution.4 The Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) on the other hand apparently believe that there persists a strong nexus between the political, criminal and terrorist activities, particularly in Karachi, and generally in Sindh, which has led to the precarious law and order situation. A cursory analysis makes obvious that there is some weight behind both these considerations, which mutually contribute to the crippling trust deficit. 

Although the Provincial Government seemed to be on board with the Operation launched in September 2013 by the PML-N led Federal Government, it chose to draw the proverbial line in the sand with the raid by the Rangers on the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and the Lines Area Development Project (LADP) in June 2015, iterating that the paramilitary force had started ‘to act beyond its authority and mandate’.5 Subsequently, the arrests of senior PPP leaders such as Dr. Asim Hussain further increased the atmosphere of distrust.

The controversy surrounding the arrest of Mr. Muhammad Ali (more popularly known as Asad Kharal), a senior PPP-worker from Larkana perfectly underscores the latent friction persisting between the two, almost erupting to open confrontation in this case.6 Amidst allegations of the suspect being the ‘front-man’ of the Provincial Home Minister, Mr. Suhail Anwar Sial, MPA, along with being a ‘ghost employee’ in the municipal administration of Larkana,7 the arrest clearly sent the PPP leadership in Sindh in a frenzy, with the then Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MPA, meeting the Corp V Commander, Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, on July 23, 2016 to resolve the issue. The latter apparently assured the Chief Minister that the Rangers will not take action against any Government official, department or conduct targeted operations in rural Sindh without the Chief Minister’s permission.8 This has been a recurrent demand of the PPP leadership in Sindh, also reflected in the resolution passed by the Provincial Assembly of Sindh on December 16, 2015.9

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The former Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MPA meeting with the Corp V Commander, Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar on July 23, 2016

However, the underlying issue seems to be that the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) have apparently extended their operations to other parts of Sindh too, whereas their special policing powers are only for Karachi.10 In fact, this also emanated as an official demand on part of the Director General of the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar, who stated that ‘peace is not possible without an action in other cities of Sindh… we are considering it as per the law’.11 However, the PPP leadership has desisted from accepting this demand, as reflected in the notification issued on August 03, 2016, maintaining that there is no need to extend the special policing powers to the rest of the province, since the Rangers are free to carry out raids, however, in accompaniment of the police.

Given that friction between the Rangers and the Provincial Government of Sindh persists, and has often spilled out into the media, is there any consultation and dispute resolution taking place at all in the Apex Committee of Sindh?

The Federal Government, instead of playing a mediatory role, is resorting to confrontational politics through the Ministry of Interior which seems to have further antagonized the Provincial Government of Sindh. The result is a never-ending media circus with all the stakeholders, including the Provincial Government, the Federal Government and the Rangers, communicating and advocating their viewpoint through the media, rather than through official channels, making the critical Karachi Operation even more hostage to turf wars than a consensus on its effectiveness.

Under the Banner

Under any established system, a public official’s term extension to a post would not even be conceived as a plausible option, let alone become a public issue. It should not even be an issue in Pakistan where, other than those Generals usurping power, only the former COAS Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, got a term extension by the PPP Government in July 2010, extending his term from 2007-2009. The matter, as bizarre as it appears as to why it had come up in the first place, should have even rested when the COAS was quoted as saying that he did not believe in extension and “will retire on the due date.” 12

Despite all, it was apparently a worth banner-splashing issue, at least in the views of the little known political party or group called Move On Pakistan as it put up banners across 13 major cities of Pakistan on July 10, 2016, stating ‘Janay ki batain hui purani…. Khuda kay liay, ab ajao!’ (Translation: The chatter regarding going is old now-For God’s sake, please come now!).

The party had catapulted into national fame, or notoriety, when it put up a series of banners across Islamabad stating that ‘Khuda kay liay…. Janay ki batain janay do!’ (Translation: For God’s sake-Don’t talk about going) following the COAS’ public announcement that speculations about an extension in his service are baseless.

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Banners put up by the political party called Move On Pakistan across 13 major cities of Pakistan on July 10, 2016, stating ‘Janay ki batain hui purani…. Khuda kay liay, ab ajao!’ (Translation: The chatter regarding going is old now-For God’s sake, please come now!).

The party has maintained that the goal of their campaign was to suggest to the Army Chief that ‘after imposing martial law a government of technocrats should be made in Pakistan and Gen. Raheel Sharif should himself supervise it’.13

The development, which set off a media storm across Pakistan, did not fail to catch the eye of the political parties as well. For example, Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP maintained that the PML-N Federal Government itself had orchestrated the move in order to possibly convey to the masses that there was some threat to Pakistan’s democracy, in light of planned protests by the opposition parties regarding Panama Leaks. The Federal Minister for Information, Senator Pervez Rashid, on the other hand maintained that any talk about an extension in tenure of the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif ‘amounted to undermining operation Zarb-e-Azb…. There is still time for the Army Chief to complete his tenure, and it is not appropriate to talk on this issue’.14 The DG ISPR, Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, also issued a tweet on July 12, 2016 stating that ‘Reference Posters with #COAS pic being displayed across various cities; Army or any affiliated organization have nothing to do with it’.15

Term extensions are essentially a bad trend. These do not just run contrary to an established system, but also convey to the outside world that the institution and its systems are unable to continue to perform effectively without certain individuals, thus demoralizing the very institution. Pakistan Army, as indeed other Military Institutes, is well-known and nationally and internationally admired and credited for well-functioning and effective system displaying continued excellence and internal discipline. Therefore, come November, the Prime Minister, as per the Constitution, should appoint a new Chief of Army Staff, and as expected of his office, should do so on strictly objective considerations.

Failed Turkish Coup and Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan

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A man in Istanbul lies down in front of a tank being commanded by the section of the Turkish Armed Forces, which had instituted the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Turkey. Many such acts of bravery have come to mark the Turkish people’s resistance to the coup attempt.

Much is known by now of the failed coup d’état attempt of July 15 in Turkey against the AKP-led Government. That the attempt was carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces, and not of the entire Military, led to, in part, and gratefully for that, its failure. But most heroic, exemplary and most auspicious for a democratic Turkey has been the power of the people in Turkey that stopped the onslaught of the coup by their struggle in the streets of Turkey against it which also resulted in the loss of over 300 precious lives.

The failed coup makers had cited an erosion of secularism, the elimination of democratic rule, a disregard for human rights, and Turkey’s loss of credibility in the international arena as reasons for the coup.16

President Erdogan and the Turkish Government have accused the coup leaders of being linked to the Gülen movement—a group now designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish Government. The AKP-led Government has also subsequently asked the United States to extradite Mr. Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, 75, to Turkey, although Mr. Gülen has denied all charges of being involved with the coup attempt.

The failed attempt had several consequences domestically. Other than the loss of life, more than 2,100 were injured. Many government buildings, including the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Palace, were damaged. Mass arrests followed, with at least 6,000 detained, including at least 2,839 soldiers and 2,745 judges. 15,000 education staff was also suspended and the licenses of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions were revoked as well after the Government alleged they were loyal to Mr. Gulen. Since July 22, 2016, Emergency has been imposed in Turkey with the approval of the Turkish Parliament, after which the Cabinet will have the power to issue decrees that have the force of law.17

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey has seen that as the resistance against the coup was unprecedented, so has been the massive purge undertaken by President Erdogan subsequently.

Even though everyone has denounced the coup attempt, many have blamed Mr. Erdogan for his increasingly autocratic style and policies. Heavy-handed dealing with opposition and protesters and curbs on Turkish traditional and social media are cited as key examples in this regard. The AKP-led Government has also recently introduced religion as a compulsory subject in educational institutions, changin