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Pakistan’s Civil-Military Relations A Rocky Road

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In a democratic state, civilian supremacy is a norm. However, friendly relations between civil-military leadership are essential for the state to work effectively. Pakistan has had a democratically elected administrations, military rule and hybrid regimes throughout its brief history.

A decade and a half of democratic governance have made one thing very clear: the state’s executive branch, which is responsible for supplying services, cannot effectively carry out its duties or achieve its goals on its own. It cannot simply handle the enormous difficulties and natural calamities that Pakistan has experienced. Perhaps the political elites in Pakistan are aware of this. They might be under the impression that they will have a “controlled democracy,” supported and directed by the security establishment. Ironically, the leaders have exploited the establishment as a scapegoat for their political ambitions. They are fine as long as they have the security establishment’s blessing, but the moment they lose favour, they turn their weapons on the organization. This is what fuels Pakistani politics’ actual conundrum.

Despite all odds, Pakistan has demonstrated the capability to overcome significant obstacles when both the civil and military sectors of the government work together effectively. The management of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fight against locust attacks, the eradication of terrorism, the implementation of CPEC, and overcoming international challenges posed by FATF grey-listing, as well as avoiding multibillion-dollar Reko Diq and Karkey penalties, would not have been possible without a symbiotic civil-military relationship. The institutions would have been overrun without the military’s assistance in the face of such difficulties and cooperation between the civilian and military branches of the government. When there was civil-military synergy, the country has grown and performed better. It’s one of the explanations for why the executive performed better when Pakistan was under military rule.

There are other instances in other nations when civic and military institutions must work together to overcome significant obstacles. Despite having a wealth of resources and knowledge at its disposal, the US civil bureaucracy needs assistance from the National Guard and other military organizations at times of major emergencies, such as hurricanes.

Pakistan’s civil-military impasse is troubling but it can be resolved by passing laws and establishing a system in which both armed forces function harmoniously. The Constitution could specify the requirements for these functions in a way that takes this reality into account. Legal arrangements that permit military assistance, when necessary, with suitable oversight systems, also have to be in place.

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