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Can Civilians Win The War In Pakistan?

By Zulfiqar Shah

30 August, 2012

A war is on between the executive and judiciary in Pakistan. The exhibition of muscle within the inner core of the state, which earlier toed Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani out of office, has now knocked at the office of new Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

It is usually termed a proxy conflict between the hawks and doves within the security establishment in Pakistan that, no doubt, has once again pushed country to the verge of a virtual coup d'etat. The followers of the conspiracy theory are seeing Khakis as

faultiness at the epicenter of judicial activism. In fact, the standoff between the two pillars of the republic is a sign and omen of undergoing a transformation simultaneously with a severe state crisis causing frictions outer layers of the governance.

Pakistan has a history of conflicts between civilians and the security establishment. The slain leader Benazir Bhutto and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif both complained various times in past about such a struggle within the highly powerful security establishment of the country and especially their complaints of election rigging several times were verified by the international monitoring missions.

Although the conflict between civil and military actors in Pakistan is as old as the country itself is, the resent phase of the conflict is only two decades old. On April 20, 1994 the then Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar raised an issue in the parliament of illegal disbursement of $6.5 million in 1990 to the fundamentalist and hawkish elements by Yunus Habib, the then head of the state owned Mehran Bank. Habib was detained for the scam on March 24, 1994. In 1997, Asghar Khan, former chief of the Pakistan Air Force, filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the legality of the drawn money and its distribution.

The case is reopened now and is under trial in the apex court. All concerned characters of the case have been recorded in which Yunus Habib along with others has become approver of the mischief. Now, the people of Pakistan are eager to have a 'bold' decision by the honorable court in this regard, however many believes it is unlikely to come out.

According to analysts of Pakistan's security profile, it was in 1950 when the first Prime Minister of the country Liaqat Ali Khan instructed the formation of the first ever security dogwatch immediately after the Pakistan-India war in October 1948 over Kashmir. The intrusion of security regime in the civilian domain of Pakistan began in 1955 when Major General (retired) Iskander Mirza became Governor General of the country, which was followed by Army Chief General Ayub Khan's take over on October 27, 1958. It was under Ayub Khan when country's security institutions started manipulating elections during the presidential election of 1964, in which Fatima Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League and sister of Jinnah, lost against the General.

Pakistan after 1965 war faced serious security crisis; according to security historians, therefore country's security network was expanded to the district level under General Yahya Khan. Political analysts believe that Yahya Khan got rid of Ayub Khan by launching a popular campaign against him through that network.

After 1970 elections, the dishonoring of the electoral sovereignty of Bengali people resulted into the dismemberment of the country 1971. Similar coins are being tossed again to net the emerging influence of civil actors in the statecraft so as the legacy of the conservative security establishment could be carried forward.

The world has given full stop to military dictatorships. Pakistan and all previously military ruled countries are facing the issues of militarization, reckless shadowing of targeted individuals, and interference in civil and political governance. Pakistan needs to induce civil authority and command over the security establishment through major reforms of state ideology, security doctrine and development paradigm. This will definitely tailor the non-civil actor's autonomy and will open a wider corridor for democratic sustenance.

Apart from its much touted misgivings, the current civil government's contribution for strengthening democratic rule has no precedence in the political history of Pakistan however practical disbanding of political cells within the security outfits is a distant goal, which ultimately determine the nature of civilian-military relationships in Pakistan.

The problem lies in the chemistry of state building in Pakistan. Its ethno-social composition is highly exclusive, limited to fewer powerful ethnic groups. Until comprehensive reforms are not undertaken in the federal structure of the country providing equal level of playing field to the ethnic Sindhi, Baloch and Seraiki people in the all forms of statecraft, the vision of a moderate, progressive and autonomy giving Pakistan will be an illusion.

Besides, this is the high time for civil forces in Pakistan to foil any attempt derailing growing civilian edge over the conservative cronies.

Zulfiqar Shah is an analyst, researcher, and activist. He is an Executive Director at The Institute for Social Movements, Pakistan.