The never-ending verbal and written moaning and groaning by the ‘experts’ on the military-civilian imbalance in ruling and governing is going to get no one anywhere — facts are facts and for the greater majority of the country’s existence they have so been. All this insistence of ‘being on the same page’ is rubbish and for the foreseeable future will so remain.
From 1947 to 1951 and the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan — the great betrayer of his mentor’s intentions for the country he founded — the civilian politicians, for whatever they were worth, were in control — with of course the not so mighty then military lurking with intent in the background. When our friend Mickey Shafi — ah, lucky chap, now enjoying all that Cuba has to offer so different from the homeland — was right when he employed his phrase “bloody civilians”. Ask any surviving cantonment brat from the old days — that was generally the military’s view. Though they did have respect for many of the few remnants of the ICS converted to the CSP for as long as that existed as it originally was.
Slowly, slowly the military gained ascendency under its first native commander-in-chief and the final triumph came in 1956 when General Ayub Khan was called into the civilian cabinet as defence minister. Pakistan’s unwise and incompetent civilian politicians together with a crumbling civilian apparatus paved the way for the 1958 military rule. In it came, and since then efforts to achieve political stability have been pathetic in the extreme. Ayub’s successor, General Yahya Khan and then Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) after they had both managed to do away with Jinnah’s Pakistan, then in turn set about politicising and undermining the civil services — successfully.
The 1949 Objectives Resolution (which must have had Jinnah spinning in his grave) had readied the path for the brethren of the Book to gain an upper hand when it came to what both military and civil dispensations could get away with in terms of democracy and any religious tolerance of any kind. Even ZAB, who had the military in control until 1976 when he appointed Ziaul Haq as his army chief ultimately surrendered to our champions of darkness hoping to save himself from the military. It didn’t pay off, he ended up at the end of a rope, without much sympathy from what we know now as the ‘establishment’.
The last two decades of the last century had the military in the driving seat or, with the election of inept and highly controllable civilian governments as the back seat driver, in control. General Wahid Kakar, that totally uncontroversial army chief, was so fed up at one stage that just by raising his stick he sent home one president and one prime minister. A truly reckless and crass second-time prime minister (now with us and a third dismal chance) handed over the country on a gilded salver to the military and this century began with the generals once again trying unsuccessfully, as their predecessors had done, to build a viable state, economically and politically — they all leaned on weak and discredited politicians (apart from Mohammad Khan Junejo) in the guise of democracy and survival.
The prolonged failure of the civilian governments, the procedurally flawed elections, abused and subverted, will ensure military dominance, as will the fact that until this country produces a political class that the disciplined military can respect — even the common citizenry has no respect for their politicians — the imbalance will continue. Even Ashfaq Kayani in his weakened extended role was the ‘man to talk to’ as far as international relations were concerned.
Whether General Raheel Sharif goes or stays will make not a whit of difference — his successor will wield the whip. But go he must, for his and his military’s sake. Those who plead for him to stay are wrong.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2016.