before Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior issued coronavirus notifications
announcing deployment of the country’s military in aid of civilian authorities
in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and
Gilgit-Baltistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared clueless.
Khan made a
speech on 22 March, in which he did not even mention these extraordinary
measures to fight Covid-19. This may be because, as sources suggest, the
notifications were issued by the Army’s man, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah,
rather than the prime minister himself.
unable to rise to the occasion that critics believe indicate his political and
intellectual limitation. He even walked out of an e-meeting with opposition
leaders. Moreover, his Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar
Bukhari is accused of mishandling the quarantine situation at the Pakistan-Iran
border. And his adviser for health, Dr Zafar Mirza is under investigation going
on against him by the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) for smuggling face
in his speeches, Imran Khan appeared confused and not in charge of the
situation. From poorly explaining the risks associated with the spread of the
deadly coronavirus to badly calculating the pros and cons of a lockdown, the
Pakistan Prime Minister has looked clueless. Much to his discomfort, his
detractors, like Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah, who along with his and
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bilawal Bhutto, have earned accolades for a
mature handling of the crisis.
Covid-19 is a challenge that seems to have exposed leaderships in many parts of
the world without the military moving in. It took UK Prime Minister Boris
Johnson weeks before announcing a partial lockdown in his country. US President
Donald Trump, it appears, is ready to sacrifice people’s lives by announcing
that he wants to end the lockdown by Easter open up the US in the coming weeks.
Dependence on Military
Pakistan, calling the military might not have been Imran Khan’s decision. He
even rubbished the idea of a complete lockdown. His flawed argument was later
repeated by his Special Assistant for Information Firdous Ashiq Awan.
Pakistanis first heard about a lockdown for the first time from through the
press conference of the new DG ISPR Major General Babur Iftikhar. Although no
law is broken, this is the first time that Article 245 of the 1973
Constitution, pertaining to military’s role to assist civilians, is invoked all
over Pakistan. It is almost a reminder of and a variation on the 1958 martial
law. Then the military came, on asking of a civil-bureaucrat-turned-politician
and stayed for longer.
constitutional provision, the high courts of the provinces lose power, which is
why the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government resisted its invocation in
Sindh during the late 1980s and in the early 1990s, when then Army chief Mirza
Aslam Beg insisted its invocation in Sindh deployed Pakistan Rangers — the
country’s paramilitary force — “to impose law and order” and in “aid of civil
authority”. The Sindh government led by Syed Abdullah Ali Shah only learnt
about it through media found via media by deploying the para-military force,
Pakistani journalist Murtaza Solangi says the last time Article 245 was invoked
in Pakistan was in 2014 in Islamabad during Imran Khan’s anti-government
protest. But back then, the high courts had continued to function as the law
was not applicable in rest of the country.
blanket to get involved in governance, even more than before, will only enhance
control of the state by the armed forces without fear of repercussions for the
Army due to a full-fledged martial law.
the fact that the coronavirus threat is here to stay for some time at least,
one is not sure as to when will the military withdraw. In the words of Israeli
historian Yuval Noah Harari, “Temporary measures have a nasty habit of
Model Of Civil-Military Relations
decision of such soft-hard intervention is understandable and logical as per the
new model of Pakistan’s civil-military relations, in which the army hopes to
guard its interest and maintain control while not losing its political
legitimacy or coming totally at the forefront.
coming to power in 2018 was the beginning of this hybrid civil-military
government in which the army chief has greater influence such as intervening in
economic matters or other issues that otherwise fall within the purview of the
civilians. This was presented as civil-military being on the same page.
constant rumours of Khan to be gotten rid of that the Pakistani military will
get rid of Imran Khan, there seems little evidence for that to suggest it would
happen. Khan’s biggest protection is that while other political parties can
still survive if their top leaders are replaced by someone else in the
government, this cannot happen with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The overall edifice of this party would collapse if Imran Khan is thrown out,
unless the army finds some ingenious method to keep PTI alive.
Pakistan’s new civil-military formula, governments must complete terms even if
they are weak and unstable. Bringing back older parties like the Pakistan
Muslim League (Nawaz) with an alternative and military-preferred leadership of
the likes of Shehbaz Sharif through an internal political coup is also being
noticed the return of Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother to Pakistan on the last
flight from London before the country shut all international flights. Some observers
believe that the coronavirus situation may have given the army an opportunity
to dump their Imran Khan baggage because he seems to have proven costly for the
military’s legitimacy. Burdened by Khan’s highly inappropriate management of
the state, it’s the army that has come under criticism for ‘selecting’ him.
before PM and Pakistan Army
Khan is unable to address governance issues, he seems well aware of the threat
to his power. In an attempt to consolidate his position, Khan has appointed two
Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) members, his coalition partners, as federal
heads a precarious coalition at the Centre and in Punjab. But he forgets that
the army is far more adept at playing such games.
could consider either of the two available options. First, allow Imran Khan to
continue his tenure while controlling things much more proactively. Second, to
try and help with an internal change and bring about a national government that
may include all other political stakeholders to survive through the crisis and
more. The Army’s preference would be a more intelligent method, like in Sindh,
where the civilian government seems more in charge of things related to the
handling of the pandemic while taking Rawalpindi on board for its decision for
lockdown. In any case, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) wants to cooperate
with the Army and get a nod for its young leadership for the future.
the severity of Covid-19, the military is keen to repair damage to its
credibility, especially in the face of a problem like Imran Khan that it
created. The DG ISPR’s press conference, which was done professionally and was
more composed than those of his predecessor Asif Ghafoor, was an exercise in
restoring military’s overall legitimacy.
announcement regarding all military personnel to contribute a day’s worth of
pay for coronavirus emergency will soften hearts. It would definitely make
people overlook the fact that troops deployed during emergencies get a special
allowance, the amount for which is higher than the contribution itself.
Furthermore, the power will allow the military greater intervention in the
distribution of resources that had become a problem for it under the 18th
amendment to the 1973 Constitution, which resulted in greater financial
autonomy to the provinces.
of its choices on the political side, the army is yet again poised to have the
last laugh at the expense of the civilian stakeholders.
civilian law enforcement agencies and doctors were already fighting with the
pandemic despite dearth of resources. The traffic on highways has reduced
substantially and a system, though working with fits and starts, was already
forcing people into isolation.
If there is
anything that Pakistan needs right now, it is the immediate diversion of
non-development expenditure to meet medical and other needs arising out of the
pandemic. This unfortunately may not happen with the army fully in-charge of
governance and national crisis management. Selecting weak and divided
leadership has historically proven as the best formula for return to power.
Siddiqa is research associate at SOAS, London and is the author of Military
Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy.
Headline: Coronavirus crisis makes it clear who is calling the shots in
Pakistan—Military, of course
Source: The Print