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CIVIL MILITARY IMBALANCE IN

PAKISTAN
Democracy means rule of the common people and supremacy of the civilian over the military
institution. This is the prevalent political concept and practice in the modern civilized world. The
early political history of Islam speaks volumes of this fact. But what we see in Pakistan is reverse
of this fact. Our entire political history presents a clear picture of the ascendency of the military
over the civilian institutions.We have seen four direct military take-overs and rules spanning over
long periods of time amidst civilian interludes. Even if military has not directly been in power, it
has remained a dominant factor behind the scenes and has, on some occasions, played the role of
an arbitrator in defusing tensions among the politicians and civilian institutions as was the case
in 1993 when confrontation between the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif reached point of no return and the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen Abdul Waheed
convinced both of them to step down and announce mid-term general elections. Even now it is a
very important factor in our political system whose role cannot be ignored or wished away. Most
of the students and analysts of South Asia and Pakistan while analyzing this phenomenon tend to
hold the Pakistan Army and its over-ambitious generals responsible for this. But this is not
correct assessment. Even a superficial study reveals that, instead of the military, our politicians
and civilian institutions are responsible for this sorry state of affairs.Civilian control and
supremacy over the military cannot be established in a vacuum. It requires the civilian leadership
to demonstrate a great sense of responsibility towards and have a strong support of the masses on
the one hand and follow the rules of the game and forge unity in their own ranks on the other so
as to forestall an onslaught on democracy and civilian rule. Unfortunately, our civilian
institutions were weak from the very first day after the creation of Pakistan.Our most brilliant
and trusted leaders, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan, who played the
most important role in the creation of this country and who could have put it on the right track
had they lived long, passed away soon after its creation Civil-military imbalance and its policy
implications Pakistan has suffered the negative political and policy-making consequences of
military coups since the late fifties. Repeated military interventions have not only created a civil
military divide but also twisted the entire concept of national security. Even before 1958, the
military had arrogated to itself the role of the state's defence, both physical and ideological. It
remains wedded to that concept to wit even as its power has declined over the past few years.
The problem with the military's unilateral and linear view of what is good for Pakistan is that it
runs against the diversity of people that came together under a single flag in 1947. This divide
has played a negative role in many areas and done immense harm to the very idea of Pakistan as
a nation-state. Pakistan is situated in a tough neighbor hood and cannot afford the reflection of
the civil-military fault-line in the formulation of its security policy. Pakistan faces multiple
external and internal challenges and threats, the despondency that informs the Pakistani state and

society and makes it more difficult for the state to formulate a response, is largely underpinned
by this divide. It is ironic, however, that despite this divide being the biggest security threat to
Pakistan, not much quality work has been done in this area which could develop theoretical bases
for the problem; and,make some projections on the basis of the theoretical understanding of it.
Pakistan inherited very strong apolitical institutions such as the mighty and well-disciplined
army and a haughty bureaucracy which developed a strange contempt for the political leadership
of the newly created state. Moreover, the two institutions fomented deep nexus and often created
problems for the smooth transition to democracy thereafter, the power imbalance between the
very strong Bureaucratic institutions and the very weak representative and democratic
institutions has been one of the greatest causes of political instability in Pakistan since its
independence. The concentration of power in the executive branch, usually controlled directly or
indirectly by the civil and military bureaucracies, has considerably weakened the legislature as
well as the judiciary.These institutional imbalances often resulted in various regime changes such
as bureaucratic oligarchy, military dictatorship and elected political authoritarianism. The major
change that has taken place over time is that the power and influence of the civilian bureaucracy
has increasingly been replaced by the military In the history of Pakistan.
A time when politicians were busy in an unending scramble for power and political institutions
such as political parties and assemblies were losing their connections with the masses and
resultantly getting themselves weakened, the military as an institution was strengthening itself in
strong professional traditions which it had inherited from the British period. Alive to the grave
threats to security and integrity of the nascent state and unlike the politicians, who were
oblivious to their responsibilities, it paid full attention to getting professional competence and
safeguarding state frontiers. Our generals carried out negotiations with the Defense Department
of the United States for the purpose of getting modern weapons, a function which in an
established democracy would have been performed by civilian ministers. The military did not
compromise on its professional strength and responsibilities. The result was that it emerged as
the most powerful and competent institution in the country. The civilian institutions due to their
inherent weaknesses could not establish their supremacy and control over the military according
to established norms and practices. Nor was the military prepared to let it be controlled by
politicians whose energies and times were being spent in getting power either by hook or by
crook without any regard for rules of the political game. There were some circles in the military
who considered weak political institutions as a threat for state security. So they interfered in the
political process and took control of the state directly in their hands whenever politicians made a
mess of the political process. Had our civilian political institutions been strong and developed
with their roots strongly embedded in the masses, the military would neither have harbored any
political ambitions nor would have it succeeded in materializing them. So the politicians are to
be blamed for having failed in fulfilling their responsibilities and duties and letting the military
provided with opportunities to overthrow the political process Whenever the military overthrew
civilian government and established its own rule, it found among the politicians some elements
that cooperated with the new dispensation. In all of the cases most of the politicians welcomed

the military rule, especially those who had been out of power at the time of the takeover. The
military rulers co-opted such elements in order to prolong their rule. This attitude of the
politicians has in no way been conducive for healthy democratic traditions.
This trend of dominance of the military over the civilian institutions is not peculiar to Pakistan
only. Most of the Third World countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America have witnessed such
phenomena. It is not correct to ascribe these phenomena to ambitiousness and orientations of the
military leaders. If political institutions get weakened even in such advanced countries as the US
and countries of Western Europe such as U.K and France, as they are in Pakistan and some other
Third World countries, the result will be dominance of the military over civilian institutions and
in some instances imposition of martial law in these countries. The impression that whenever the
military sees any chance, it overthrows the civilian set-up is not totally correct especially in the
Pakistans context. Many instances can be cited to show that many chances occurred when
circumstances were ripe for military intervention and there were rumors to this effect too and
people were mentally prepared but the military chose not to take over.Now the situation has
greatly changed. The Pakistani military has on many occasions demonstrated its desire of
democracy flourishing in Pakistan and refused to interfere in the political process. The military is
interested more in its professional responsibilities and duties than in politics. The politicians have
also on their part demonstrated some sense of maturity. The assemblies elected in 2008
completed their term and the leg pulling and mutual bickering which had characterized the
Pakistani politics in 1950s and 1990s were not seen this time. It is a good omen for the future of
democracy in Pakistan.