The Myth of Civil Military tensions

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Qammar Cheema |

Pakistan’s second democratic transition has brought political stability and increased trust of people on national institutions. People have started participating in the political system and voter turnout was 56 % in July 2018 elections which shows democracy is the preferred system of governance and people want change through the constitutional way. While there is the change in Pakistan but it is still being seen with jaundiced eyes by our Eastern neighbour India which calls itself secular democracy– but India is procedural democracy as basic democratic values are yet to be part of the national political discourse of India.

India was not accepting that democratic transitions and strengthening of institutions could be part of normal state discourse of Pakistan. Because of India south Asian region is facing strategic instability and now it wants to discredit democratic transition in Pakistan. Past experiences of India’s meddling in other South Asian countries cannot be put side when those countries had to face propped insurgents who destabilized governments.

Dissenting views are the beauty of secular countries but this is yet to be the trademark of Indian society which says its edifice is on secular constitution and values.

While India is having general elections next year and being the largest democracy it must accept the mandate of other democratic countries. Pakistan is as a sovereign state as India is and in Pakistan institutions operate and work as per their established mandate. So India is giving this impression that there is power asymmetry between elected and unelected institutions in Pakistan.

Although Prime Minister Khan made it loud and clear to the domestic and international audience on 6th September this year on Defense and Martyr’s day that myth of civil-military divide must end now. After such statement from country’s chief executive Indian deep state got little space to discredit democracy and Pakistan’s democratic setup. Pakistani society supports its law enforcement agencies for waging and winning the war against terrorism but our national security institutions work under given mandate.

Read more: The civil-military argument – Saad Rasool

If US military was leading US national security goals in Afghanistan for last 16 years that does not mean its military was in charge of US Congress and it ran US. Same is with Pakistan; if Pakistan’s armed forces have brought peace and stability in the country by leading war on terror and eliminating terrorist elements supported by hostile neighbours, that does not mean that armed forces are working beyond their mandate.

One thing which is alarming for Pakistan and may damage Indian social and political landscape in coming years is emerging nexus of Indian army and ruling party BJP. Recent statements of Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat that Indian government had taken right decisions after cancelling foreign minister level talks at sidelines of UN shows this nexus is getting deep.

India was not accepting that democratic transitions and strengthening of institutions could be part of normal state discourse of Pakistan.

Army has nothing to do with political decisions as they have to obey rules but hardly local and international media have understood this view of Indian army chief. It seems from this statement that the Indian army has been influencing the Indian government more than their mandate. Right-wing Hindu nationalist party and Indian army have been working to radicalize Indian public against Pakistan.

Read more: Civil-military relations in historical perspective

They use externalization of a threat as sources of domestic unity for India. Meanwhile, Congress will be at a disadvantageous position in next elections because of this BJP and Indian army’s nexus. Whereas human rights bodies including UN has castigated Indian government for compromising human rights, Indian army violates LOC ceasefire agreement and wants to give the impression that LOC clashes are linked with the indigenous struggle of Kashmir.

This is a historical time in Pakistan when all stakeholders from elected and unelected offices are working hand in glove to improve things. Pakistan is part of the transnational Belt and Road Initiative of China where Pakistan will be linked from the Asia Pacific to Europe through land and sea communications. People in Pakistan have given chance to third political force, Pakistan Tehreek –e-Insaf of Imran Khan.

Army has nothing to do with political decisions as they have to obey rules but hardly local and international media have understood this view of Indian army chief.

Status quo has broken and Imran Khan did try to reach India for talks that India refused to because of right-wing Indian media’s pressure and next year general elections. Around the world, no secular state has such a hostile environment where the elected government cannot talk with other elected governments because if they talk and negotiate they will lose next elections but India has to face such an environment.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal-Rangers spat: Does it depict a civil-military tussle?

But yet international community ignores this non-serious attitude of largest democracy which has forced its neighbours for strategic competition and India itself is largest arms importer in the world. Dissenting views are the beauty of secular countries but this is yet to be the trademark of Indian society which says its edifice is on secular constitution and values.

Absences of the positive role of great powers in regional affairs of south Asian states where disputed and unresolved issues like Kashmir are still pending has made millions of people vulnerable. Pakistan wants the world to hold India accountable for its military expenditures, in interfering in other countries domestic affairs and in ending sate sponsor atrocities in Indian occupied Kashmir.

The writer, Qamar Cheema, is a strategic analyst. He teaches International Politics in NUML Islamabad and is working on Ph.D. He tweets at @Qamarcheema. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.


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