Civil Military relations by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

The treason trail of General Musharraf and reaction of army to terrorist attacks in North Waziristan has once against raised the question of civil military relations. In a stable country there is never a question about who is in charge of the military apparatus. It is also true that political institutions use military as an escape goat for their bad decisions. I don’t know of any nation that has emerged as a viable prosperous society without good relations between civilian authority and military commands.

A State is a political entity rather than just a geographic area on map. A political entity emerges when people residing in that area agree to a constitution that defines rights and responsibilities of the citizen. Those that are proposing that Pakistan and her constitution are two separate things are misguiding the nation. If constitution is just a piece of paper than we are better off getting rid of it and allow everyone to manage their affairs according to their own whims and wishes. On the other hand if constitution has weaknesses then it should be corrected through amendments but it has to be respected as long as it is in force. An important function of the State is to be the sole arbiter of forces of violence without sharing it with any entity inside or outside her jurisdiction. Police and military are the two trustees appointed by the State to exercise violence for the promotion of good and elimination of evil.

Police is given mandate to ensure that criminals should not endanger the lives and property of citizens. Military as a larger entity with sophisticated weapons and resources protects the borders against foreign aggression; helps State deal with natural calamities and contain mass riots that could result in the breakdown of law and order. Terrorism inside a country is usually tackled by a special unit of law enforcement called Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams. SWAT teams are not in control of local administrations but a federal agency as they have much bigger and lethal firepower than police.  None of these instruments of violence can act independently but rather derive the legitimacy of their actions from the political authority.

Constitution defines the limits of State authorities to use these forces of violence. A government that does not have a clear mandate from the people loses its moral authority to control military power effectively. It is one of the main reasons that elections should be free and fair so that the government that comes to power has no issue of legitimacy. Political opponents of the ruling party use pretext of a rigged elections to call upon the military to act extra-constitutionally to prevent the State from falling into chaos. These political leaders become violators of balance of power between civilians and military. Military commanders that heed to these calls for action depart from their professional responsibility of soldiering to become politicians. In the process they lose respect as a soldier and fail as a politician as they have to strike deals with vested interests to survive.

One of the key functions of the military general staff is to advise executive in matters of security; submit analytical reports to the government on security risks to the state; and execute the orders given to it. It is unfortunate that we have failed to create institutions that provide military a platform to discharge its duty to the State. We have tried National Security Advisor, Cabinet Committee on Defense and many other formulations but none has been able to emerge as a viable option. In the absence of a platform the military has no other option but to use political influence to discharge its professional duty of securing the state.

A professional military officer can not be charged for abuse of power if he is acting on the orders of elected State authority. Route of court martial is used to punish officers that have violated the military code to discharge his duty. From this perspective when General Musharraf, as a serving officer, acted against an elected political government in October 1999 then he violated the military code of a professional soldier. This action of handful of Generals can not be attributed to the fault of the whole institution. To punish these perpetrators of the coup the more appropriate route will be that military itself initiate a court martial proceedings against its former Chief and his key accomplices that participated directly in the events of October 12th, 1999. At the same time the civilian government should initiate civil prosecution against those politicians that helped imposition of martial law. Since these are large number of people, one option could be to disqualify these politicians from participating in politics. Politicians and Generals that worked with Martial Law administrator after it was legalized by the Supreme Court can not be blamed for misconduct. Instead, to set precedence, judges that legitimized the martial law in pursuit of personal gains should be condemned to prevent such acts from happening again. In the similar perspective emergency imposed on November 3, 2007 were actions taken by a civilian President and case should be preceded in civil courts to prosecute him.

For a military to function effectively, a soldier is expected to obey the orders of his superior without fail. In doing so he expects that his officer is acting legally and in the best interest of the State. He assumes that these orders are approved by the political authority. When politicians promote an idea that a soldier that had died in the line of duty can not be granted the status of a martyr then they are sowing the seeds of mutiny. These politicians are undermining the authority of military officers without which that institution can not function properly. Risking the viability of a key state institution is tantamount to endangering the State itself and can not be ignored. This can not be allowed and all those politicians should be reprimanded for creating dissent in the country.

A state can not allow any group to take up arms and challenge her writ in any part of her jurisdiction. Terrorism inside a State has political roots but that does not mean that military option can be taken off the table and pacifist approach should be adopted to deal with these armed groups. At the same time it is the responsibility of the State to ensure that no injustice is done to any segment of the society as well as punish those that have committed oppression of an ethnic or sectarian group. A State has to ensure that national resources are equitably distributed to all citizens without preference to anyone segment. A state has to allow all shades of political views to be expressed without labeling them as anti-state or anti-social as long as they remain peaceful and do not endanger the lives of other citizens. A state that fails to achieve this objective eventually loses its credibility and may cease to exist.

Finally a military officer is a product of our military academies and staff colleges. The values inculcated in these officers have to be reexamined by analyzing the curriculum. It is about time that PM should appoint an academic review committee in the Chairmanship of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee consisting of civil and military educators.

An important part of nation building is creating balance of power within various functions. It can not be achieved easily as it requires taking tough decisions. Politicians, Generals, Judges and bureaucrats should keep this in mind that people expect them to think of larger national interest rather than preferring institutional interest.

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