Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan | May 2017


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)    Closure of the Dawn ‘Leaks’ Affair

2)   Interior Minister’s Press Conference over Settlement with the Army

3)   Government’s Crackdown against Anti-Army Material on Social Media

4)   GHQ Holds Seminar on Role of Youth

5)    Annual Formation Commanders Conference

6)   Meeting of the National Security Committee

7)    Premier-COAS Interactions

8)   Ex-General and Army Officers go on Trial in Turkey

9)   Terrorist Attack on Military-owned Hospital in Bangkok on Coup Anniversary

10) Newly-elected President of South Korea Announces Investigation into the Gwangju Killings

11)  Military Appointments in Trump’s Team being seen as Improvement of Military’s Reputation Among the American Public

Closure of the Dawn ‘Leaks’ Affair

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:DG ISPR withdraw tweet.jpg
DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor addressing a press conference on May 10, 2017

The most prominent indication of civil-military friction in recent times, the April 29, 2017 Tweet of DG ISPR, was finally withdrawn on May 10, 2017 [1] and the Dawn ‘Leaks’ affair was finally closed, at least for now. The withdrawal took place through an ISPR Press Release in which it was clarified that the Tweet was ‘not aimed at any government office or person.’ [2] The press release also went on to reiterate its ‘firm commitment and continued resolve to uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and support the democratic process.’[3] The Interior Ministry issued a notification in the Inquiry Committee Report on the same day in which the noticeable new entry compared to the leaked letter of the Prime Minister Office of April 29, 2017 was the endorsement of the ‘action already taken by the Federal Government against Senator Pervaiz Rashid.’[4]

The final closure of Dawn ‘Leaks’ affair was preceded by three meetings of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which news reports claimed were related to the Dawn ‘Leaks’ affair and the April 29, 2017 DG ISPR Tweet. On May 04, 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Jawed Bajwa held a meeting according to news reports, five days after the ISPR Tweet. [5] Reportedly, the meeting was held in ‘a pleasant atmosphere’ with border and security situation coming under discussion in it. [6] Importantly, General Bajwa discussed the army’s reservations over the actions contained in the April 29, 2017 PMO letter and Prime Minister Sharif promised to take into consideration those reservations. [7] It is important to note that this meeting was not followed by a press release either by the Prime Minister Office or the ISPR.

On May 06, 2017, there was a meeting of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar in which, reportedly, the draft notification on the recommendations of the inquiry committee on Dawn ‘Leaks’ was discussed that was to be issued by the Interior Ministry. [8] News reports quoted another meeting of the Prime Minister with his close aides on May 09, 2017 in order to discuss the topic of Dawn ‘Leaks.’ [9] Reports emerged that in the meeting it was decided that the Prime Minister Office notification issued on the matter was sufficient and did not leave any subject unaddressed.[10]

PILDAT believes the withdrawal of the Tweet by the ISPR is a step in the right direction. PILDAT had earlier termed the DG ISPPR tweet as inappropriate in terms of the Constitution of Pakistan and had recommend that a meeting of the National Security Committee should be convened urgently to repair the damage to Civil Military Relations and to the image of the elected Government and its valiant Armed Forces.

PILDAT’s detailed analysis over the DG ISPR Tweet and the Dawn Leak’s affair contained in the April 2017 monitor is reproduced below:

1.     The use of the word ‘rejected’ and the manner in which the Tweet was phrased was inappropriate. Moreover, the Pakistan Army’s public rejection of the letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office will only go on to reinforce the image, already held in certain sections of the international community, that the Armed forces of Pakistan are free from civilian oversight. Hence, in the larger interest of the country and to further avoid harming the state of relations between the civilian institutions and the armed forces, the ISPR Tweet of April 29, 2017 should at least be withdrawn or a part of the Tweet should be revised in its wording.

2.    Most of the controversy has emanated because the agreed report has not been made pubic. Therefore, we urge the Government to make the complete report public barring those parts that may threaten national security or at least its recommendations be made public without further loss of time.

3.    Both sides should address the obstacles and impediments in the way of addressing similar issues. While such an institutional arrangement existed in the form of the National Security Committee (NSC), it has remained largely dysfunctional. Whatever the reasons for its dormancy may be, whether they include lack of trust or interest by the Government or the Military leadership, they need to be immediately addressed and the NSC should be activated as the principal forum for addressing security issues requiring civil-military consultation.

4.    In an honourable, democratic, sovereign country like Pakistan, the final authority rests with its elected representatives. All institutions of the State should, in practical terms, demonstrate the acceptance of this position in full conformity to the constitution of the country.

5.     Democracy does not only mean elections, but it means inclusive government in which views of all segments are taken into consideration and decision-making is collective and institutional. An increased tendency for more personalized and whimsical decision-making has been observed in the past few years. Even at one point, the Supreme Court had intervened and stated in its judgment that ‘ the Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet but he can neither supplant nor replace it. He cannot exercise its powers by itself. [11] Both the Federal and the Provincial Governments must ensure that institutionalized decision-making takes place through their cabinets while political parties should also use institutional forums for their policy decisions.

6.    Lastly, the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies should also exercise their role of effective oversight in making sure the elected Government are adhering to the principles of democracy and good governance.


Interior Minister’s Press Conference over ‘Settlement’ with the Army

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:Nisar press conference.jpg
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar addressing a press conference on May 11, 2017

On May 11, 2017, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar held a press conference in which he stated that the Dawn ‘Leaks’ matter has been ‘settled’ [12] and warned ‘against politics on the sensitive issue of civil military ties.’ [13] He acknowledged that there was a difference of opinion between the civil government and the military leadership ‘but that was not on the substance but was procedural in nature.’[14]Mr. Nisar also clarified that ‘the Prime Minister’s directives were an order for relevant ministries and a final notification was to be issued by the Interior Ministry.’[15]


Government’s Crackdown against Anti-Army Material on Social Media

In the wake of what appeared to be a concerted campaign of defamation against the Pakistan Army following the May 10, 2017 ISPR press release withdrawing the April 10 Tweet, PEMRA, on May 12, 2017, issued a warning for ‘all TV channels against airing unverified news or analysis themed around the Pakistan Army or its relationship with the civilian Government.’ [16]

This was followed by a press conference by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar two days later in which he stated that ‘ridiculing Pakistan Army or its officers in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable’ [17] and directed the Cybercrime wing of the FIA to take action against ‘those ridiculing Pakistan Army on social media.’ [18]

On May 22, 2017, news reports emerged that the FIA has identified suspects in what it viewed as an “organized” campaign on social media against the Pakistan Army.[19]Some of these suspects were taken by the FIA into custody for interrogation. [20]

On May 23, 2017, Interior Minister in a press conference after a meeting with a delegation of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), said that ‘the Government plans to draw red lines for the social media service providers for operating in Pakistan.’ [21]In connection with the FIA crackdown on anti-army posts, the Interior Minister said that ’27 identifications and eight individuals had been identified and six of them interrogated so far.’[22]

PILDAT believes that the following points need to be taken into consideration:

1.     If there is organized criticism, which is not based on facts and potentially defamatory, on any institution, then the country’s laws should come into effect in order to stop it. This is especially relevant to the Army and the Judiciary, as defaming and ridiculing these institutions is prohibited in the Constitution. [23]

2.    The rules governing cyber space should be similar to those governing print and electronic media.

3.    Those institutions that traditionally have expertise to deal with print and electronic media may not have the requisite expertise to deal with social media, which may result in excesses on their part when dealing with the latter. Keeping in mind the growth of social media and the issues arising as a result of it, efforts should be made expeditiously for enhancing the capacity of investigation agencies and prosecution services to effectively deal with cases involving abuse of social media.

4.    Defamation laws in Pakistan are weak and as a result, defamatory material gets published against private individuals. The difficulty inherent in getting effective relief from the defamation laws in the country can be understood in comparison to the speedy manner with which a court in the UK convicted ARY of 24 defamatory claims against Mr. Mir Shakil ur Rehman, the owner of Jang newsgroup and Geo television. [24] The court delivered its verdict over the same content that was broadcasted in Pakistan, however any action on the same issue is still awaited in Pakistan.


GHQ Holds Seminar on Role of Youth

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:Unknown.png

ISPR, together with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan organized a Seminar at the GHQ on ‘Role of Youth in Rejecting Extremism,’ on May 18, 2017. COAS General Qamar Bajwa, among others, addressed the Seminar [25] He said that ‘while Army fights terrorists, terrorism and extremism is fought by law enforcing agencies and society.’[26] General Bajwa also gave his definition of extremism as ‘a mindset where passion has given way to hate and intolerance of others’ [27] while going on to say that hostile agencies are trying to subvert the minds of Pakistani youth, and ‘being denied opportunities in the mainstream media, they are using faceless platforms on the internet and smart phones.’ [28]

PILDAT believes that while there may be a need for such seminars given the radicalization of certain segments of Pakistani society, it remains unclear as to how the ISPR or the Military’s General Headquarters are  suitable organisers and venue to hold such a seminar. The very challenges posed to the Pakistani State and Society at the hands of extremism and terrorism form part of the core responsibilities of the Armed Forces in addition to other professional duties. If the Armed Forces begin to spend their energy and resources on such activities, this would be at the expense of their core role of ensuring the security of Pakistan. There are no shortage of challenges that the Armed Forces are required to tackle and with CPEC security undertaken by the Army, just the recent kidnapping of two Chinese nationals from Quetta should be the cause of concern. 

Pakistan’s history is replete with references where the Armed Forces have taken on such responsibilities that lie outside their core area of work. This state of affairs may be because of lack of initiative by the civil administration. If that is the case, then not only is this an embarrassing situation for the civil administration but it also discourages it from doing its work by giving the impression that the Army is taking care of it. Why could the Ministry of Education and Training not organize this seminar? The GHQ is not a suitable place for conducting such seminars, as they should be happening in universities and public places.


Annual Formation Commanders Conference

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:Annual Formation Conference.jpg
75th Annual Formation Commanders conference held on May 23, 2017

The 75th Annual Formation Commanders conference was held in the GHQ on May 23, 2017. It was presided by COAS General Qamar Bajwa and attended by all General Officers of the army. According to the press release issued by the ISPR, the forum deliberated on the ‘impending FATA reforms and reiterated requirement of reform process in line with aspirations of people of FATA.’ [29]The forum also ‘reiterated its resolve to continue meaningful contributions towards stability and progress of Balochistan with the support of its people.’ [30]Karachi operation and Punjab operation were also mentioned in the press release as it said the two operations and operations elsewhere ‘will be continued till sustainable stability is achieved.’[31]

It is perplexing as to why the military felt the need to mention FATA reforms and Balochistan reconciliation when policy making and implementation is the domain of elected civil Government. The Formation Commanders Conference must have a full agenda of subjects to be discussed within the professional domain of the institution of Military itself. The growing tendency to publicly offer commentary on policy issues by the Army continues to give the impression as if a parallel cabinet exists in addition to the civilian elected Government which must announce its views on policies. While certain policies may come under discussion as these relate to defence and security and counter-terrorism measures, it makes little sense to offer public commentary on those policies.

Any discussion on policies that affect defence and security must be discussed  at the proper institutional channels such as the NSC.


Meeting of the National Security Committee

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:NSC meeting.jpg
PM Sharif chairing meeting of the NSC on May 31, 2017

On May 31, 2017, after a gap of 10 months, finally a meeting of the National Security Committee was convened. According to the press release issued by the Prime Minister Office, the NSC ‘deliberated upon internal and external security situation of the country’ and ‘expressed satisfaction over the sustained gains achieved from anti-terrorism operations, particularly Operation Radd-ul-Fassad.’ [32] The NSC also discussed the ‘security of CPEC projects’ according to the PMO press release. Besides the regular attendees of the NSC, this meeting was also attended by Minister for Planning and Development Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and Director General FWO Lt. Gen. Muhammad Afzal. [33]

While the convening of the NSC meeting must be welcomed despite inordinate delay, it is important to emphasize that NSC should meet regularly in view of the defence and security challenges facing the country. Since 2013 when NSC was first established, the body has met on average every 6 months while a similar body, the National Security Council of the UK, for example, meets on weekly basis.


Table 1: Overview of Meetings of National Security Committee

Date of Formation of NSC

First Meeting of the NSC

Period after which current NSC Meeting took place

Total Meetings of the NSC since its formation

Average periodicity of NSC meetings

August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013

10 months


Approximately 1 every 6 months


Premier-COAS Interactions

In the month of May, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff met a total of three times

1.     The first meeting took place on May 04, 2017 to reportedly discuss the Dawn ‘Leaks’ affair. This meeting was largely reported by the media but not announced through a press release either by the Prime Minister Office or the ISPR.

2.    The second meeting took place on May 31, 2017 before the National Security Committee meeting. According to the press release issued by the Prime Minister Office, this was a call-on meeting by General Bajwa.[34]

3.    The third meeting also took place on May 31, 2017 in the form of the National Security Committee meeting. Other participants in the meeting were Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Finance Mr. Ishaq Dar, Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Minister for Planning & Development Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Mr. Sartaj Aziz, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. (R) Nasser Khan Janjua, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Director General ISI Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar and Director General FWO Lt. General Muhammad Afzal. [35]

International Developments Affecting Civil Military Relations Around the World

Ex-General and Army Officers go on Trial in Turkey

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Downloads:5923910a373a3.jpg
A soldier accused of involvement in the coup being brought to the court inside the Sincan prison on May 22, 2017

There are 26 former Generals among the 220 suspects who went on trial in Turkey on May 22, 2017 for their alleged role in the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.[36]Notable among those on trial is the former Turkish Air force Chief, Akin Ozturk. He has denied any link with the coup attempt. [37]

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since July 21, 2016. The emergency was imposed a few days after the coup attempt by a section within the Turkish military.[38] The purpose behind the emergency was ‘to be able to remove swiftly all the elements of the terrorist organization involved in the coup attempt.’ [39]


Terrorist Attack on Military-owned Hospital in Bangkok on Coup Anniversary

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:Thailand blast military hospital.jpg
Soldiers outside the military owned hospital in Bangkok on May 22, 2017

On May 22, 2017, a bomb blast on a military owned hospital in Bangkok, Thailand on the occasion of the third anniversary of the military coup in Thailand wounded 24 persons. [40]However, it is not clear who was behind the attack. [41]


Newly-elected President of South Korea Announces Investigation into the Gwangju Killings

On the 37th anniversary of the democratic movement in the southern city of Gwangju, the newly elected President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, announced that ‘the government will exert efforts in finding out the truth about that day, including who ordered the first shot (at civilians) and hold (the person in charge) to account.’ [42]

The May 18 anniversary commemorates the Democratic Uprising in 1980 in which protests were held by civilians against the rule of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan. Gen. Chun (still alive) was a military dictator whose infamous actions involved ‘shutting down universities and banning political speeches.’[43]

Gen. Chun’s crackdown during the protest by Gwangju citizens in which hundreds were killed and wounded is considered to be ‘the most violent crackdown in the nation’s modern history.’ [44]


Military Appointments in Trump’s Team being seen as Improvement of Military’s Reputation Among the American Public

Macintosh HD:Users:muhammad.hassan:Desktop:mcmaster.jpg
US President Donald Trump (right) and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. McMaster (left) at Mar-a-Lago on February 20, 2017

Following the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn on February 13, 2017 for giving ‘incomplete information’ to Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials on the matter of his telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislayk in December 2016, [45] President of the United States, Donald Trump on February 20, 2017 appointed an active duty General, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new National Security Adviser.

In certain quarters of the media, the presence of a serving army officer in a key position in the administration is being perceived as ‘the culmination of years of steady improvement for the military’s reputation among the American public – in tandem with its slow creep into the political fold.’ [46] These appointments in addition to Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster include two recently retired army officers, James Mattis and John Kelly, as Secretary of Defense and Director of the Department of Homeland Security. [47]



[1] The ISPR Press Release, May 10, 2017, can be accessed at:

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] A copy of the notification can be viewed in the news report, Interior Ministry notification echoes ISPR stance, Dawn Leaks matter ‘settled,’ May 10, 2017, which can be accessed at:

[5] Shairf, Bajwa hold meeting, Dawn, May 06, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] Sharif meets Nisar after conclave with COAS, Dawn, May 07, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[9] Another PM House huddle on probe row, Dawn, May 10, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[10] ibid.

[11] PM must obtain cabinet approval for fiscal moves: SC, Dawn, updated on August 19, 2017 and accessed on May 09, 2017 at:

[12] Dawn Leaks: Army’s misgivings taken care of, says Nisar, The Express Tribune, May 11, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[13] Don’t play politics over civil-military ties, warns Nisar, Dawn, May 12, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

[16] Pemra warns TV channels not to air content jeopardizing military’s image, Dawn, updated May 12, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[17] Interior minister orders action against those maligning Pakistan Army on social media, Dawn, updated May 15, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[18] ibid.

[19] FIA launches crackdown on ‘anti-army campaigners,’ Dawn, May 22, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[20] ibid.

[21] ‘Red lines’ for social media planned, Dawn, May 24, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[22] ibid.

[23] For details, please see article 63(g) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which can be accessed at:

[24] ‘Pakistan media on alert after TV channel’s libel defeat in British court,’ The Guardian, December 16, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[25] Full text of General Bajwa’s speech can be accessed at:

[26] ibid.

[27] ibid.

[28] ibid.

[30] ibid.

[31] ibid.

[32] The PMO press release can be accessed at:

[33] ibid.

[34] The PMO press release can be accessed at:

[35] ibid.

[36] 26 ex-generals, 195 others go on trial in Turkey, Dawn, updated May 23, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[37] ibid.

[38] ‘Turkey to extend state of emergency by three months,’ AlJazeera, April 18, 2017, accessed on June 07, 2017 at:

[39] ibid.

[40] Bangkok hospital bombing wounds 24 on Anniversary of Thai Coup, The New York Times, May 22, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[41] ibid.

[42] Moon vows to uphold spirit of Gwangju uprising, The Korea Herald, May 18, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[43] ibid.

[44] ibid.

[45] Michael Flynn resigns as National Security Adviser, The New York Times, February 13, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017 at:

[46] Is there trouble brewing for civil military relations in the U.S.?, World Politics Review, May 23, 2017, accessed on June 05, 2017, at:

[47] ibid.