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Thursday, May 23, 2024

PM Abbasi asks for a national dialogue on civil-military relations

News Analysis |

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has successfully completed its tenure of five years despite all political and economic challenges the party had to face. This is the second government in the history of Pakistan which has completed its tenure without any disruption or direct military intervention. Earlier, it was the Pakistan People’s Party’ government that managed to complete its stay in the office from 2008 to 2013.

It is because of this political analysts in Pakistan believe that Pakistan is finally on a right track and democratic forces will get strengthened in the coming years.

In this regard, the Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Finance Minister Dr Miftah Ismail spoke at a news conference on Tuesday and presented a departing overview of the PML-N government’s five-year performance.

PM Abbasi’s talk was divided into two parts. Firstly, he talked about the political instability in Pakistan which “did not allow the PML-N to deliver properly”. “Political instability had a devastating impact on the country and the performance of the government,” he stated while counting the 2014 sit-in, the Panama Papers case verdict and the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgement removing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the few events that gradually hampered the progress. “Otherwise the situation would have been much better and financial losses would have been limited,” said PM Abbasi.

Read more : PM Abbasi attacks judiciary and seeks parliament supremacy

In the second part of his talk, the PM demanded a national dialogue on civil-military relations in Pakistan. “If the country is to make progress. If there remains a question of civil-military imbalance in the country, no government in Pakistan will ever be able to perform properly,” observed PM Abbasi. He was referring to Nawaz Sharif’s anti-establishment narrative.

The latter has repeatedly alleged the military establishment for being behind his oust from the office and a compromised state of economy in the country.

“Who should be held responsible if a judicial decision has an impact of thousands of billions of rupees, and who should be held answerable if the NAB cripples the government departments and no government functionary is ready to take decisions?” asked PM Abbasi while suggesting a national debate on the subject.

The PM was not happy over what the NAB had done in Punjab where a powerful bureaucrat was arrested and brought before the court of law. He was also displeased over the disqualification of his ‘leader’ Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Panama Papers case. These events compelled the PM to speak out and demand a debate over the role of the NAB, Judiciary and military in Pakistan.

Read more : PM Abbasi wants to reform NAB laws

Civil-military relations in Pakistan:

PM Abbasi rightly pointed out a need to initiate a national debate on several challenges Pakistan is facing these days. But it is important to note that civil-military relations in Pakistan is a very important, much-debated and a hot topic, both for TV talk shows and scholarly discourse, in the country. Several books and research articles are available which describe, analyze and evaluate the origins and dynamics of civil-military relations in Pakistan.

Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, a defense analyst and the author of Military, State and Society in Pakistan, has argued that the incompetent, self-centered and divided political elites have always created a vacuum for the extra-democratic forces in the country. Dr. Askari, for example, clearly holds Nawaz Sharif responsible for the 1999 martial law and political instability in the country.

It was Nawaz’s political insecurity and desire to attain total power, argues Dr. Askari, which compelled army generals to topple his government.

There are also some studies which suggest that it was the Military Establishment of Pakistan which did not allow civilian leadership to grow up or stay in power. Such scholars blame the Military and security agencies of Pakistan for their ‘political’ role in making Pakistan an authoritarian regime instead of a genuine representative democracy.

PM Abbasi’s exclusive focus on initiating a public debate on the role of the military, NAB and judiciary is interesting and important to understand.

PM Abbas and the PML-N want a submissive military, a dysfunctional NAB and a ‘friendly judiciary,’ whenever they come in power.

This is the unsaid intention and desire of Nawaz Sharif, who is campaigning against all these institutions across the country.

Moreover, PM Abbasi needs to be told that the Constitution has specified the role and functions of the military, NAB and judiciary in Pakistan. The Constitution has also outlined the powers and responsibilities of a civilian government – Military is supposed to not intervene into political processes, NAB is expected to work independently and the judiciary has been entitled to supervise and interpret the constitution.

Read more : Nawaz Sharif’s Anti-Judiciary campaign: Will it ensure his relevance for PML-N?

There is no ambiguity in the Constitution but the problem arises when the military along with the help of some politicians interferes in politics (like it did in 1990 with the help of Nawaz Sharif, against the government of Benazir Bhutto).

Moreover, the problem is intensified if the NAB works independently and arrests some ‘favorite’ bureaucrats and the judiciary asks for the provision of basic rights to every citizen.

In Pakistan, every institution needs to work within its constitutionally defined framework and performs the functions it is asked for. There needs to be accountability across the board, respect for the courts and their decisions, and a policy of no-intervention into whatever the NAB has to do. This will make things easier for every institution in Pakistan.