A senator’s hallucination
While addressing “youth parliament” on the subject of ‘civil-military relations’, Chairman parliamentary committee on national security Senator Raza Rabbani said that the three retired generals suspected of involvement in the National Logistics Cell (NLC) scam should be tried in civil courts. He advocated supremacy of parliament over all other institutions, including military bureaucracy, whereas the judiciary considers only the Constitution as supreme.
The senator went on to say: “There should be consultation between the government and military bureaucracy, but decisions should be taken by the government… For the first time in the history of Pakistan, parliament was allowed to have an in camera debate about the defence policy. The directors general of Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Operations briefed parliamentarians for seven hours”. If Senator Raza Rabbani sees positive change in the attitude of the military, he should appreciate it. As regards the court martial of three retired generals, the ISPR spokesperson had clarified that it was done in accordance with Pakistan Army Act Section 92 read in conjunction with Section 40.”
At this point in time when the country is facing economic challenge and threats to its internal and external security, pillars and organs of the state should not create fissures. There is a widespread perception that since the transition from the dictatorship to democracy, the Executive, some members of the Parliament and Judiciary have the hallucinations of being all powerful, which is sometimes obvious from the statements and ongoing debate as to who is supreme. The present government which was installed after 2008 elections had issued a notification placing the ISI under the interior ministry, which was later withdrawn on resistance from the military leadership.
It was a flawed decision, as the MI and the ISI are an integral part of the armed forces, and any effort to dissociate them from the military’s chain of command is tantamount to weaken the armed forces. The fact of the matter however is that Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is under the prime minister, which means that armed forces are under the civilian control.
Earlier, there seemed to be some uneasiness between the PPP-led government and military leadership, but today they are on the same page on matters related to national security. True enough, in a democratic dispensation, military leadership has to obey the orders of the elected government, but it has to be borne in mind that throughout the world, governments act on the advice of military so far as matters relating to national security are concerned.
In Pakistan the question is often raised whether the military leadership has the right to give its assessment of threats to internal and external security? There is no denying that all countries of the world have professional armies to protect their borders, and also to ensure law and order internally, as it is the responsibility of the government to establish the writ of the state and protect the lives and properties of the people. In the US, Britain and even in India, what they call the largest democracy in the world, political leadership takes decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership.
It is matter of record that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and an agreement to that effect was about to be inked when the army prevailed upon the prime minister and convinced him that India would lose strategic advantage, and Indian forces would be vulnerable if India withdrew from Siachen. In 2006, the then India’s Chief of Army Staff, General JJ Singh had stated: “We have conveyed our concerns and views to the government and we expect that the composite dialogue between the two countries will take care of all these concerns”.
The other day, Indian army chief General Bikram Singh said that he was opposed to the idea of any settlement on Siachen just like all his predecessors before him did. In his maiden interaction with the press, General Singh clearly stated the ground rules on a border agreement don’t include any troop withdrawal from the Siachen heights.
Samuel P Huntington in his book titled ‘The soldier and the state: the theory and politics of civil-military’ wrote: “A state can achieve little by diplomacy unless it has the strength and the will to back up its demands with force”. Renowned Admiral Nelson had once said: “A fleet of British ships of war is the best negotiator in Europe”.
It has become a norm that military man has to calculate or estimate the extent of the threat to the state. Of course, the politicians, rather statesmen set the goal on the basis of information provided by the military leadership, and allocate necessary resources to be used in attaining that goal. In all democracies, kingships or dictatorships military appears to be the only institution capable of enforcing and preserving political stability and order. Of course, political leadership should take measures to solve the problems of the people, ensure socio-economic justice, and last but not the least the elected leaders should not give overriding consideration to their personal interests over the national interest.
In his article published in the recent Newsweek issue eulogizing the services of Ryan Crocker, America’s top diplomat in Iraq and Afghanistan and former Ambassador in Pakistan, the author Leslie H. Gelb stated: “Crocker’s ruminations echo those of the most experienced soldiers and diplomats. These professionals are seasoned, in countries around the world, in what works and what doesn’t in national-security policy. Their political superiors can’t match their firsthand involvement in matters of war and peace. No, these professionals shouldn’t be the decision makers, but they should be at the table when decisions are being made – and generally they are not”. Political leaders on both sides of the divide - ruling as well opposition - should shun hallucination of being all powerful, and instead should focus on providing relief to the masses that are groaning under run-away inflation. To improve their image they should take steps to put an end to corrupt practices, which will help strength Pakistan’s economy and resultantly defence.