Reality of Civil-Military Ties

THE International Day of Democracy is less than a decade old. The UN General Assembly voted in 2007 to celebrate it every Sept 15, but it has already caused some controversy in Pakistan.

At an event to commemorate the day, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani and several other PPP senators challenged the government’s claim that the civil-military relationship is working smoothly and is in line with constitutional requirements.

Take a look :Safeguards against military rule eroding: Rabbani

Senator Farhatullah Babar went so far as to point out that under the previous PPP government, similar claims of a stable, functional and constitutional civil-military relationship were made, but the reality was otherwise.

Clearly, the government’s claims about who is directing, for example, the operation in Karachi, the relationship with the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, and ties with a right-wing Indian government are scarcely credible.

It is fairly obvious that the military has encroached deep into civilian terrain, and perhaps more so than at any point since political circumstances forced retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to step down as president in 2008.

Yet, are the alarm bells that the PPP is ringing of late about anything more than the pressure the party has found itself under?

It ill behoves the PPP to try and raise the spectre of military intervention at the national level simply because its alleged corrupt practices in Sindh are being clamped down on by the military.

Perhaps the PPP should focus on improving its own governance and accountability record in Sindh.

Surely, there could not be more robust ways of improving the quality and durability of democracy in the country than having a political leadership that is focused on governance and is seen as clean by the electorate.

Where Mr Rabbani and senators of other parties who spoke on Tuesday were closer to the truth was in their urging that the system of democracy in the country needs to be brought more in line with the needs and aspirations of the public that it represents.

Simply put, a system that delivers basic services to the public and does so transparently, a system that is not built on cronyism, nepotism and access is the only real buffer against direct military interventions. As

Mr Rabbani mentioned, the strengthening of Article 6, which deals with treason against the Constitution, has not guaranteed anything — it is only when the people themselves believe democracy is the final and only answer that the door to military intervention will be shut forever.

Where the government and parliament are failing is in their ability to build democratic continuity and strengthen institutions.

Civil service reforms, changes in judicial and policing processes, strengthening the independence and autonomy of economic institutions to deliver job-led growth — none of these seems to be part of the agenda of this government and parliament. The custodians of democracy have a great deal left to do.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2015

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