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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Protecting the People and the Constitution

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

The ‘Message to the USA Joint Force’ signed by the Chairman US Joint Chief of staff, America's most senior general Mark Milley and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is comprised of the heads of each military branch, issued a statement on Tuesday 12th January 2021 condemning the violent invasion of the US Capitol and reminding service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism. This will go down in US’ 250 years history as a big landmark event where Armed forces reasserted their loyalty and commitment to the State, people and the national constitution and reinforced democracy at home. The finer point lies in the military itself maintaining civil control and supremacy even at a moment when on 6th January 2021 Capitol Hill and White House were subjected to insurrection on provocation by outgoing president Trump and the country looked on the brink of widespread civil war. Nonetheless, the storming of the Capitol led to the conclusion by some progressive critics of American foreign policy that the country’s chickens were finally coming home to roost. In reviewers’ opinion, this was the blowback from America’s many military interventions, forever wars, regime changes and coup attempts; and to save its own democracy, America should dramatically scale back its foreign-policy ambitions. Pakistan has also witnessed such situations more than once in its comparatively short history of 72 years, which resulted in military takeovers instead. Although such military interventions were always with stated good intentions, yet sooner than later even under overall military rule tag, the same civil political and bureaucratic elite came back into power either directly or indirectly. Ironically, the political crop of every military regime always turned their guns towards their creators as soon as they got out of ruling mode due their corruption. A brief comparison of the two countries’ experience in this regard may be instructive.

American culture of military professionalism reflects the framework that the political scientist Samuel Huntington articulated in his 1957 book, ‘The Soldier and the State’ in which he presented a concept of objective control of the military, which requires that the military and political leadership adhere to a strict separation of spheres. The military cultivates expertise in the management of violence; civilians grapple with the political dimensions of the use of force and each side strictly respects the other’s domain. It consequently undercuts the military’s role in ensuring the United States wins its wars and absolves military leaders of responsibility when the country fails to do so. That culture also leads the military to resent when civilian leaders intervene in battlefield decisions, hindering civilians’ ability to scrutinize military activity and ensure it serves civilians’ goals. While it serves the long held American democratic system; yet, on the other hand skeptics may interpret the prevailing culture of military professionalism as undermining U.S. national security. There are some tribulations that emerge from the ban on political thinking in strategic assessment. Since strategy combines political and military considerations, therefore strategists can’t avoid getting into the political jumble i.e. resource constraints, domestic and intra-governmental politics, the politics of allies and adversaries. But still military leaders are taught and expected to back away when discussions swerve toward such considerations. In order to address the latter issue, the US’ national security architecture includes at its core a civilian-led and civilian-staffed office of the secretary of defense. The civilian policymakers in the Pentagon, who administer oversight on a daily basis, help ensure the integration of ends and means. They are the tools through which the president and secretary of defense translate political goals into military means. Civilians might not always be successful, but if their enterprise is viewed with contempt, they are being set up to fail. Military leaders tend to view their job as delivering options and executing the choice that civilians select. Commanders judge success based on whether they achieved the military objective of the mission or campaign outlined in that selection. Whether that success translates into enduring strategic or political success falls outside their domain of responsibility. The war—to win or lose—is the civilians’ responsibility.

While in letter and spirit, one may see a lot of similarities in the above sketched out US’ civil-military functional system; however, things unfolded differently whenever confronted with a chaotic political turmoil in Pakistan, barring perhaps the ongoing one. That raises many questions and begs thorough review of each by the incumbent government with a cherished near majority in both houses of the parliament now and with full support of at least the military part of the establishment. Is Pakistan’s constitution as farsighted, visionary and sacrosanct for its institutions and people as American regard their short and crisp constitution or does Pakistan need to undertake comprehensive review of its 1973 constitution? Is Pakistan’s sham democratic political system put in place by former colonial masters for keeping their ever serving slaves as rulers suitable for the people and the state? Shouldn’t pre-requisites for politicians and parliamentarians be stricter and better than for civil and military services or at least equivalent? Isn’t it time to shed away the colonial legacy of civil services of Pakistan and judicial system to make them apolitical, efficient and accountable by undertaking a complete overhaul by a finely blended teams of highly qualified and experienced Pakistani and foreign experts(Turkey, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada are few recommended models)? Since the Election Commission of Pakistan is allegedly no more apolitical, fair and free, isn’t it time to revamp and replace it with a better outfit by studying some ideal models? Isn’t it time to review NAB’s performance and instead make the required number of accountability courts all over the country as a part of the national judicial system rather than a resented parallel system? Shouldn't there be strictest possible standards for becoming a judge rather than keeping doors open for entry of fully politicised lawyers? How to fast track putting in place a uniform education system that breeds high Islamic morals, patriotism, and adherence to the law and global societal norms? How to rid the country of corruption and internal and external loans in a short stipulated time and not in decades for a better economy? Why have meaningful land reforms not been undertaken so far and why has our agriculture not developed on modern lines? Why has water scarcity not been addressed in the required manner? Why Armed Forces and in particular Army has always been used as crutches and stop gap measure by the incompetent governments to do the jobs of totally politicised and dysfunctional government institutions? Why did the Armed Forces feel compelled in the past to take over instead of exercising the option as just demonstrated by the American Armed Forces?

It is hoped that finding solutions to these few prioritised major national challenges will bring normalcy and politico-economic stability in Pakistan that in turn will allow the civil and military institutions to smoothly function in their respective spheres. “Without education, we are weaker economically. Without economic power, we are weaker in terms of national security. No great military power has ever remained so without great economic power”~

16 March 2021

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