Military’s adroit governance in Pakistan

Image source: Modern Diplomacy


Institutions have been a primary dimension of domestic as well as international affairs. Institutions are a set of rules and norms that prescribe individuals interactions within the state as well as outside. Institutions play a significant role in domestic governance and administration by facilitating beneficial activities between different state actors, promoting cooperation, providing a flow of information and communication, and enhancing the government’s ability to monitor compliance. Certain major domestic institutions are organs of the government namely the Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature; economic institutions such as Reserve bank, State bank; Security/ Surveillance institutions such as police and armed forces and many more. 

In a democracy, the major governing institutions are the three organs of the government namely the executive, legislature, and judiciary who are responsible for the wellbeing of the people and the state by setting and implementing rules and regulations. Unlike in countries where there has been a military or authoritarian rule, the major institutions are the head or the military forces that have supremacy over other state and non-state actors. There have been many countries that were ruled by dictatorship or military regimes in the 21st century as well, for instance, Myanmar, Egypt, Pakistan, etc. In these countries, the army is the predominant institution and had supremacy in all spheres of the state from political aspect to economic aspect. Academic research from long-term military-ruled countries shows that it can be between eight to ten years before the military begins to accept civilian supremacy in state matters. 

Image source: The Print

Army as a dominant institution

Let us take the instance of our neighbor, Pakistan to know military coups in the past and how even today army is a dominant institution majorly in civilian matters. Pakistan, right after few years of independence spent several years under the rule of military personnel. The military coup in Pakistan began in1958 when the first Pakistani President Major General Iskander Mirza dismissed the constituent assembly and dissolved the government of then Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon and appointed army General Ayub Khan as the chief martial law administrator, after thirteen days of martial law General Ayub Khan exiled Iskander Mirza and assumed the post of President. In 1969, Ayub Khan announced his retirement and named General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan as his successor and again Pakistan came under martial law. After, 1971 war with the creation of Bangladesh, Yahya Khan resigned from his presidency in December 1971. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took the baton and restored the parliamentary government. In 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto scheduled the second national election, and the Pakistan Peoples Party of Bhutto emerged victoriously but the victory was unavailing as riots and protests surfaced all over the country. In 1977, General Mohammad Zia-Ul-Haq took the reins of the government by dissolving the current government and placing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto under house arrest. The political environment in Pakistan under the presidency of Zia-Ul-Haq in 1978 was strictly on the lines of Islamisation. Nevertheless, martial law was lifted in 1985 and bounced back in 1999 when General Parvez Musharraf arrested the then PM Nawaz Sharif and later exiled him. The last coup d’etat in Pakistan was condemned worldwide but most of the Pakistani citizens supported it. On 18th August of 2008 withdrew his presidency under impeachment pressure and Asif Ali Zardari took the responsibility for marking the end of military rule and the beginning of parliamentary democracy.

Although, officially Pakistan’s military rule lasted for almost three decades until 2009 the influence of the military did not abbreviate. In 2010, the 18th Amendment of Article 6 restored the country’s federal parliamentary structure through decentralization and modified military coup law as high treason punishable by death. The role of the military must be regulated in the domain of security and intelligence services, however since, 2018 with Imran Khan’s victory, the role of the military has been escalating. Opposition parties claim that military generals helped Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf rise to power through manipulating vote counts and fomenting defection in opposition parties. Moreover, Imran Khan is the puppet of the army who is returning the favor by bestowing supremacy in civilian affairs. The military once again is rising to power but clandestinely in democracy under Imran Khan’s government surpassing other important institutions of the state.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan/ Image: The Dawn

Unequal distribution of power

Since 2018, the supremacy of the military has been escalating leading to unequal distribution of power.  In the present day government, the army is the real power where retired military generals and officers hold significant ministerial positions in the civilian institutions and public sector organizations such as finance, security, economy, etc. In Public Sector Organisation, a total of 16 projects are under Army Welfare Trust, 15 under the Fauji Foundation, and many housing and land allocation under the Defense Housing Authority. The current Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa dominates most of the country’s domestic and foreign policy aspects, for instance, he manages foreign relations with major powers like China and Saudi Arabia; he is the key decision-maker with dealing with neighboring countries like India and Afghanistan and heads the business as well as domestic policy briefings. Furthermore, General Asim Saleem is the chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); Marshal Arshad Malik is the Executive of Pakistan run International Airlines and General Amer Nadeem is the chairman of Pakistan Space agency, implying how army generals are overtaking posts in the administrative and executive domain. In Governance, Polity, Foreign Policy, and Economy, the major roles are designated to army generals making Imran Khan the civilian face of the military rule. The military has justified their augmented roles by condemning the civilian bureaucrats and politicians as corrupt and perfidy and how the military needs to restore the veracious democracy. Besides, those who go against the military pays a heavy price as the military is notorious for curbing dissents, opposition parties, civil societies, media, judiciary, and many more. In the last few years, there have been increasing cases of enforced disappearances of Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi, Professors, Human rights activities, etc. those who attempt to defy the military. 

The increasing role of Inter-Service Public Relation Pakistan (ISPR) subdued the domain of media and journalism where ISPR command the reviews of shows and columns before publishing them and supervises the talk shows from hosting to casting. There have been numerous manifestations of curbing the role of media and communications companies leading to distorted and confined information. The increasing role of the military in the civilian institutions under PM Imran Khan’s rule is outperforming other institutions and civilian bureaucrats.

Image source: Getty

New Dawn in Pakistan

While the military is obtaining supremacy in various civilian domains widespread protest from the opposition parties has been transpiring. Despite, after almost a decade of civilian government, the military is still the most dominant institution and the primary decision-maker in core civilian matters working from behind to avoid the taint of dictatorship. If the predominant role of the military endures the political environment of Pakistan will turn into turmoil with the repetition of history where the army takes the baton of the country’s leadership. In order to keep away from martial law, the country needs to decentralize the power-sharing among the civilian bureaucrats and politicians, confine the role of army and military personnel to the domain of national security and intelligence service, and last but not least there is a compelling necessity to bolster the responsibility of the judiciary to uphold the rule of law above everyone. 



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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Katyayani Raghuvanshi

Katyayani Raghuvanshi is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti

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