PILDAT Monitor on Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan | May 2018


This monitor identifies key developments during the month on Civil Military Relations in Pakistan with selected high-profile international developments.

In this Issue:

  1. Nawaz Sharif Crossing the Proverbial Rubicon?
  2. Shahbaz Sharif Visits North Waziristan
  3. PTI Chairman blames Elements from the Army in rigging 2013 General Election
  4. Hazaras Call off Protest after intervention by COAS
  5. Continuing Role of COAS in Foreign Affairs
  6. Army Public Relations Activities
  7. Military Courts: COAS Confirms Death Sentences
  8. Spies not Supposed to Chronicle?
  9. Premier addresses Command & Staff College
  10. May sees many NSC meetings
  11. Premier-COAS Interactions
  12. Opposition in Turkey demands Lifting of Emergency ahead of Snap Polls

Nawaz Sharif Crossing the Proverbial Rubicon?

Militant Organisations are active… Should we allow them to cross border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?.. It is absolutely unacceptable; … Why can’t we complete the trial? You can’t run a country if you have 2 or 3 parallel governments. This has to stop.” By saying this, did Mr. Nawaz Sharif finally crossed the proverbial Rubicon?

Even though it was largely understood to be the key reason behind his maneuvered ouster from power, Mr. Sharif’s interview For Nawaz, it’s not over till it’s over is the first public acknowledgement by him of the real reason behind his falling out with the country’s establishment. As public statements go, Mr. Sharif is understood to have crossed a point of no return in providing what he terms as the key reason of establishment’s animosity towards him, at the heart of which is the crucial difference of opinion on policy of dealing with non-State actors. While the 20-point National Action Plan is understood to have put on firm track the State perspective of zero tolerance to all terrorism, Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s narrative points to some lingering doubts.

What Mr. Nawaz Sharif said in May 2018 is not new. In August 2015, Mr. Tariq Khosa, former DG FIA, in his article titled Mumbai attacks trial had written that: Pakistan has to deal with the Mumbai mayhem, planned and launched from its soil. This requires facing the truth and admitting mistakes. The entire state security apparatus must ensure that the perpetrators and masterminds of the ghastly terror attacks are brought to justice. The case has lingered on for far too long.

Mr. Sharif says the Constitution of Pakistan only recognises the elected Federal Government as the final arbiter on national security and other decision-making. Mr. Sharif is not wrong. PILDAT believes that while all stakeholders, including and especially the Armed Forces of Pakistan must be part of a meaningful consultation on national security policies – and the National Security Committee (NSC) provides the much-needed and right forum for this consultation – final policy decisions are the sole remit and responsibility of the elected Government.

This collision course, however, is not helping but only hurting the country including all stakeholders – politicians and military- alike. The cacophony of disjointed voices, the us versus them narrative, multiple power centres amped up on malicious bias and distrust of the other and with each in a distasteful and dangerous haste to undermine the other only show to the outside World a house divided – a country and its elected leadership and civil and military bureaucracy intellectually ill-suited to requirements of statecraft. While yet another elected Prime Minister departs with the message for the need to initiate a “national debate on future civil-military relations,”[1] citizens are left wondering whether we will see more of the same or have national courage to address this critical issue and bring about Constitutional equilibrium?

Shahbaz Sharif Visits North Waziristan

Mr. Shahbaz Sharif on Visit to Miramshah, May 30, 2018. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed also accompanied President PML-N. Photo Credit, Government of the Punjab on Twitter

Given the crucial need that Pakistan’s political leadership must take the lead in mending fences & establishing healthier civil-military relations in Pakistan, the visit by Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, President PML-N, to Miramshah should be taken as a positive and much required step in the right direction.

Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, who visited North Waziristan Agency on May 30, expressed solidarity with officers and soldiers of Pakistan Army. The party statement added that President PML-N went to the farthest post of Pakistan Army on the border where fencing has been done to prevent cross-border infiltration. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif was also quoted as saying that Punjab is the only province which had aided the huge fencing initiative of COAS by contributing Rs. 1 billion for its completion. He also said that “role of Pakistan Army will be written in golden letters as its personnel overcame the menace of terrorism in the motherland. The brave offices and jawans have written stories of success with their blood.”

PTI Chairman blames Elements from the Army in rigging 2013 General Election

After leading a dharna spanning over 5 months, agreeing to appoint a Judicial Inquiry Commission that termed General Election 2013 to have been “organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law” nearly 3 years ago, Chairman PTI Mr. Imran Khan has now claimed that several institutions, including elements from the Army, helped the PML-N win the 2013 General Election.

In a televised interview Mr. Khan alleged that “the army helped [Nawaz Sharif] in the 2013 elections. “…the judicial commission [inquiry report] … said that Returning Officers in Punjab were surrounded by the army, and inside that security [cordon] they were casting fake votes.” He added that … “I don’t know if Sharif was helped by the institution or by individuals, but what I do know is that in Punjab, Brig Muzaffar Ali Ranjha, who was later rewarded with an anti-corruption post, helped them [the PML-N]. Of that there is no doubt.” [2]

As Mr. Arif Nizami wrote in his column The revenge of the aliens,[3] it is indeed ridiculous that while Mr. Khan denies that the then COAS Kayani had anything to do with it, this allegation, if true, would be the first in Pakistan where the military elements have been blamed for rigging election without the express knowledge of the COAS.

No rebuttal of this allegation was provided by the ISPR till the compilation of this Monitor.

Hazaras Call off Protest after intervention by COAS

The increasing but unhealthy trend in the country seems to be that no protest, big or small, is called off until the Army Chief does not intervene in person.

Similar resolution was offered to the Shia Hazara community in Quetta whose leaders only agreed to call off their protest over recent targeted killings after having met the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Earlier, the leadership of the newly-installed Balochistan Government, as well as the Federal Minister for Interior, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, MNA, had made efforts to persuade the Hazara women to end their hunger strike. However, it was only after the COAS arrived in Quetta and held a meeting with representatives of the Hazara community that the protest was called off. [4]

Admirable as it is the resolve and passion of successive Army Chiefs to offer their precious time in resolving such issues, these added demands on the precious time of the service chief commanding our invaluable Army must strain at their official responsibilities that are their first, foremost and prime responsibility.

Continuing Role of COAS in Foreign Affairs

Chief of Army Staff in a meeting with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi: May 20, 2018. Photo Courtesy: ISPR

The COAS has continued to engage in diplomatic and foreign relations during the month of May. All of the meetings and interactions, as reported by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), did not include representatives of the elected Government and the Foreign Office of Pakistan. Following is an overview of activities:

  1. On May 03, H.E Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al Zaabi, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan called on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, at the GHQ. According to ISPR, the two discussed UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UPAP) alongside ‘issues of mutual interest’. An MoU was also signed for continuing UPAP projects for social development in remote areas of Pakistan.
  2. On May 3, General Hulusi Akar, Turkish Chief of General Staff (CGS) also called on the COAS. According to ISPR, the focus of the discussion was ‘areas of mutual interest, military to military relations, regional security and measures to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation.’ It must be noted that Turkish CGS also called upon Prime Minister Abbasi the same day, in the presence of Federal Minister of Defence. [5]
  3. On May 16, Gen Rajendra Chhetri, Chief of Army Staff of the Nepalese Army called on the COAS at the GHQ. In a separate meeting, the Nepalses Army Chief also called on Prime Minister Abbasi in the presence of the Defence Minister.
  4. On May 17, General Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC) called on the COAS at the GHQ.
  5. On May 20, COAS undertook a day-long visit to UAE where, according to ISPR, he met with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The ISPR did not specify the contents of their conversation or agenda of the visit.
  6. On May 27, a multi agency Afghan delegation, led by Mr Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Adviser of Afghanistan met the COAS. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Ms. Tehmina Janjua, was also part of the meeting. According to ISPR, the two sides met ‘for a high level bilateral meeting.’

Army Public Relations Activities

COAS meeting delegation of erstwhile FATA Jirga at ISPR; May 28, 2018. Photo Courtesy: ISPR

The ISPR reported that during the month of May, Pakistan Army and the COAS engaged in following public relations activities.

  1. On May 09, a group of students from different public schools met the COAS at the GHQ. The ISPR reported that the students belonged to various schools that are ‘managed by Zindagi Trust, an organization striving to make holistic, quality education accessible to average Pakistani child.’
  2. On May 28, ISPR reported that ‘Youth Jirga of erstwhile FATA’ met with the COAS at ISPR. The COAS reportedly ‘congratulated brave tribes especially the tribal youth on successful and historic merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to their popular sentiments.’

Military Courts: COAS Confirms Death Sentences

Photo Courtesy: Dawn.Com

With regards to the work of Military Courts, the ISPR reported that on May 05, Chief of Army Staff confirmed death sentences awarded to 11 hardcore terrorists. The press release went on to report that 3 convicts were also awarded imprisonment.

It must be noted that Military Courts were reinstated by Parliament of Pakistan for two more years until January 2019, after their earlier two year term of January 2015-2017 had completed. The first formation of Military Courts came about as an ‘extraordinary measure’ in the aftermath of the APS tragedy of December 16, 2014; packaged by the Government as a somewhat bitter pill that had to swallowed for a short while not only as a way to eradicate terrorism but as a stop-gap arrangement due to inefficiencies of the legal system. However, regrettably, the reinstatement came about as the elected Governments, both in Centre and in Provinces, failed to put in place necessary reforms to strengthen the legal system to adequately and effectively manage challenges of terrorism in 2 years. The reinstatement in January 2017 had come about without the Government sharing any performance analysis of the utility of the Military Courts in the fight against terrorism in the earlier two years.

While the ISPR, from time to time, shares data about death sentences and imprisonment of terrorists by Military Courts, the primary concern remains of the opaqueness and lack of clarity on the functioning of military courts such as disaggregated data on number of cases received from each province, number of cases tried, convictions and implementation, etc.

PILDAT believes, and has often asked the ISPR, though to no avail, that complete details of the performance of Military Courts must be made public by the Military. Citizens have a right to know as to how, after the two-year expiry (2015-2017) and completion of more than half of the 2017-2019 term of Military Courts, the extraordinary measure of Military Courts has helped Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.

Spies not Supposed to Chronicle?

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Asad Durrani, Former DG ISI, joined hands with his Indian counterpart, Mr. A. S. Dulat, former Chief of RAW, to author a book released in May 2018 titled as Spy Chronicles, which in its preface, talks of Pakistan-India Peace.

The book neither makes any startling revelations nor is the first post-retirement chronicle by a security personnel. However, on May 25, an ISPR press release informed Pakistanis that Lt. Gen.(Retd.) Asad Durrani was being called at the GHQ on May 28 to ‘explain his position on views attributed to him in book ‘Spy Chronicles.’’ On May 28, DG ISPR tweeted that “A formal Court of Inquiry headed by a serving Lt. Gen. has been ordered to probe the matter in detail. Competent authority approached to place his name on ECL.”

An overkill, perhaps? has largely been the reaction of many across the country. Columnist Babar Sattar tweeted “Silence is also an expression,’’ remember? This book would have been best downplayed, as would the Mumbai attacks related statement of NS. What is the brass thinking? Is it thinking at all??” Mr. Najam Sethi believes perhaps the “GHQ is unsettled by its timing … as Nawaz Sharif’s comments of Miltablishment meddling in politics have attracted charges of “treason” and “Indian agent” while General Durrani .. calmly goes a couple of steps further than Nawaz Sharif [leaving] GHQ … no option but to quell the demand by pulling the “errant” General under its wing and silencing its rising critics.

The DG ISPR, in his press conference,[6] however, reiterated the perspective of the Army saying that there is a difference between him [Durrani] writing the book and any other [former] officer writing the book, owing to his background. When it comes to Army discipline, the institution does not tolerate any violation of it, be it from a soldier or a general. DG ISPR said that the book is mostly based on conjecture on most issues that have occurred after his retirement. An Inquiry under a serving Lieutenant General has been initiated and its outcome will be publicly shared.

Premier addresses Command & Staff College

Prime Minister Abbasi upon arrival at Command & Staff College, Quetta, May 31, 2018.

Picture Courtesy. ISPR

On May 31, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, MNA, addressed student officers and faculty of the Command and Staff College, Quetta. The COAS accompanied the Premier, ISPR reported.

Dawn reported that on the busy last day of the tenure of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Premier, who also addressed the 13th National Assembly’s farewell session, a news conference highlighting his government’s achievements, presiding over separate meetings of the Economic Coordination Committee and the Federal Cabinet, also travelled to Quetta to address student officers and faculty of Command and Staff College, Quetta. In his address, the outgoing Prime Minister appreciated sacrifices rendered and contributions made by the Pakistan Army in restoring peace to the country.[7]

May sees many NSC meetings

The frequency of the meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC), that had already improved tremendously after Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2017, saw a further acceleration as the NSC met 4 times during May 2018 as the elected Government completed its tenure.

While 3 meetings can be considered to discuss ‘routine matters’ of national security, the meeting held on May 14, the ISPR informed through a press release a day earlier, was called through suggestion to Prime Minister to ‘discuss recent misleading media statement regarding Bombay incident.’[8]

The meeting held on May 14, with Prime Minister in Chair, included following members: Minister for Defence & Foreign Affairs, Minister for Finance, Revenue & Economic Affairs, Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Staff. DG ISI was also part of the meeting among other officials. The overview of meeting as released by the PMO on its website stated that the NSC reviewed statement in the context of Mumbai attacks, as it appeared in the Daily Dawn of May 12 2018, and ‘unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading.’ [9]

Earlier, meeting of the NSC held on May 2, was chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, MNA while the meeting was attended by NSC members including Federal Ministers for Interior and Finance, Revenue & Economic Affairs, Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Chiefs of Army, and Air Staffs. Director General ISI was also part of the meeting. The NSC condemned terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Deputy Chairman Planning Commission briefed the NSC on water policy approved by the Council of Common Interests on April 24, 2018, along with a water charter, which was signed by the Prime Minister and the four Chief Ministers. Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs briefed NSC on economic performance of Pakistan over past five years and the ‘growth strategy’ underlying the budget for FY 2018-2019. The Committee also reviewed the status of FATF compliance and appreciated the substantial progress made by Pakistan in this regard. In addition, Federal Secretary Interior gave a presentation on several initiatives towards a more facilitative visa regime being formulated by the Ministry, especially with respect to tourists, students and people traveling to Pakistan for medical care. The NSC directed the Ministry of Interior to finalise and introduce the new policy at the earliest in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The NSC also reviewed proposed administrative reforms package for Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and directed that while finalising the recommendations, it shall be ensured that the new arrangements are in complete harmony with the aspirations of the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. [10]

The May 19 meeting of the NSC expressed satisfaction on the principled stand taken by Pakistan on Kashmir and Palestine and its articulation at various world forums. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit-Baltistan briefed the NSC on AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan reform proposals. After detailed deliberations, a consensus was reached in the NSC on: devolution of greater administrative authority and financial powers to AJK and GB; retention of AJK and GB Councils as advisory bodies; and grant of five-year tax holiday to GB. The NSC also deliberated on the question of merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As Premier apprised NSC regarding his consultations with leaders of political parties in the Parliament, the NSC endorsed that FATA shall be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with the introduction of the administrative and judicial institutional structures and laws of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The NSC also endorsed provision of additional well-monitored development funds for FATA region during the next ten years, with the stipulation that these funds would not be re-appropriated to any other area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[11]

Last meeting of the NSC chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, MNA before the expiry of the term of the 14th National Assembly, was held on May 29, 2018. Members including Ministers of Interior, Defence & Foreign Affairs, Finance, Revenue & Economic Affairs and Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Staff joined the meeting in addition to Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Director General ISI. The NSC meeting condemned what it termed as ‘reign of terror unleashed by Indian occupation forces on innocent Kashmiris’ and ‘brutal repression of Palestinians by the Israeli state.’

As the Ministry of Interior briefed the NSC on basic features of the new visa policy, the NSC agreed to initiate ‘visa on arrival’ facility as a pilot project in the first instance while observing that the Interior Ministry must ensure putting in place all supportive systems, databases and verification networks.

The NSC emphasised the ‘need for a much more proactive diplomacy,’ towards peace and stability in view of global and regional developments and their implications for Pakistan. [12]

Premier-COAS Interactions

Other than the 4 meetings of the NSC held during the month of May 2018, the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff met during the address to Command and Staff College Quetta on May 31, 2018. Minister of Defence, Mr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, MNA, was reportedly not part of the NSC meeting of May 2, as well as at the interaction at the Command & Staff College, Quetta.

International Developments

Opposition in Turkey demands Lifting of Emergency ahead of Snap Polls

The State of Emergency imposed in Turkey since the failed coup in July 2016 has become an electoral issue as the Turkish opposition demands the state of emergency should be lifted immediately.

As Turkey prepares to undergo snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, brought forward by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from November 2019, concerns on continuing state of emergency abound.

International media has reported that apart from other factors, the accelerated timetable of Turkish elections also means that Turkey will be voting under the state of emergency imposed since the failed coup in July 2016 which attempted to oust President Erdogan. Opposition has been demanding that “There cannot be an election under emergency rule. The country needs to be brought out of the emergency rule regime,” demand opposition leaders. [13]


  1. Khaleeq Kiani, PM Abbasi seeks national debate on civil-military ties, role of judiciary, Dawn, May 29, 2018 https://www.dawn.com/news/1410630/pm-abbasi-seeks-national-debate-on-civil-military-ties-role-of-judiciary, (accessed June 5, 2018)
  2. Dawn.Com, Elements from army helped PML-N rig 2013 elections: Imran Khan, Dawn, May 3, 2018, https://www.dawn.com/news/1405397, (accessed June 5, 2018)
  3. Arif Nizami, The revenge of the aliens, Pakistan Today, May 06, 2018, https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/05/06/the-revenge-of-the-aliens/, (accessed June 5, 2018)
  4. Dawn.Com, Hazara leaders call off protest after meeting army chief, Dawn, May 2, 2018, https://www.dawn.com/news/1405129/hazara-leaders-call-off-protest-after-meeting-army-chief, (accessed June 5, 2018)
  5. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, [website], 2018, http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2289, (accessed on June 05, 2018)
  6. DG ISPR’s Press Conference 4 June 2018: [online video], 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3MkCFP0VcU, (accessed June 05, 2018).
  7. Amir Wasim, ‘Twists and turns aside, NA completes its five-year term’, Dawn, June 1, 2018, https://www.dawn.com/news/1411264/twists-and-turns-aside-na-completes-its-five-year-term, (accessed June 5, 2018)
  8. Inter Services Public Relations, [website], 2018, https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-archive.php?cat=army&dt=2018-05-13,(accessed June 05, 2018)
  9. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, [website], 2018, http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2298, (accessed on June 05, 2018)
  10. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, [website], 2018, http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2287, (accessed on June 05, 2018)
  11. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, [website], 2018, http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2305, (accessed on June 05, 2018)
  12. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, [website], 2018, http://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=2316, (accessed on June 05, 2018)
  13. BBC.Com, [website], 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43814077, (accessed June 05, 2018)