American expert urges military subservience

May 19, 2010

KARACHI: The concept of civil-military relations is very important in Pakistani politics and it is widely accepted that the military ought to be subservient to the civilian government.

Dr Daniel Nelson believes that the ‘ought’ needs to be changed to ‘is’. At a media roundtable at the Marriot on Wednesday, Nelson was optimistic about Pakistan turning a cornerstone in the process of strengthening civilian rule in the country. Nelson is the president and CEO of Global Concepts and Communications, an international consulting firm, and is also senior fellow at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-proliferation in Washington DC.

At the event sponsored by the US Consulate in Karachi, Nelson called for civilian-military synergy and listed a fivepoint mechanism that could help countries “graduate” to a higher level of centralised military institutions under civilian rule. His directions included: changes brought through legislation; change of culture, norms and values; structures and processes to be changed; transparency and openness; and the scrutiny of budgets. Nelson explained what needs to be done, but did not explain how.

He gave American examples to elucidate his points, but as he was not an expert on Pakistan he did not mention practical steps to gradually ensure the military does not dominate the Executive and Legislature in the country. Nonetheless, Nelson recognised Pakistan’s struggles and he expressed the belief that the country can achieve a civilianruled intelligence and military. “I can see a civilian head of the ISI in future,” he claimed, citing the example of Leon Panetta being appointed the CIA director. “It might not be successful in the first attempt, but you may succeed in the second.

It will initially create tensions in civil-military relations, but things will fall into place,” he said. When journalists and bloggers present reiterated Pakistan’s stance that the country, with its culture and problems, is unique and his steps might not be workable, he disagreed. Nelson gave examples of countries that had graduated to achieving this. “Turkey and Indonesia, both Muslim countries with very powerful militaries, have been successful in diminishing the role of the military in politics.

People in Indonesia realised that they cannot progress without making this change.” When journalists pointed out that it was evident that the United States “preferred” dealing with dictators like Pinochet, Suharto and Pakistan’s three military rulers, Nelson clarified that the US had to deal with them because the time and politics of the time required it. “We allied with Josef Stalin during the second World War because there was a greater evil, Hitler,” he said.

The US had no choice but to deal with them because they were in power but we did not ensure that they come to power, he explained. “We did not create Musharraf. It is a terribly false misunderstanding, rather naive, if people think we did.” He constantly emphasised the role of civil society in the “civilmilitary relations” bracket, pressing for the country’s intelligentsia to investigate the relations. He expressed hope that the broadcasting and print media will further the issue, pushing for concrete results in this regard.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th,  2010.


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