Background: On Monday National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser called a crucial meeting of the parliamentary leaders in the National Assembly and the Senate for a briefing by “military officials on the current issues of national security” Democratic institution calling for military officials to instruct lawmakers is a weird request, isn’t it? Sadly this behaviour is pretty common in our political discourse.
Overview: Pakistan as a country always has a constant identity crisis. We are not sure whether our state institutions are entirely militarized or democratic. According to historical record Pakistan has faced four martial laws in different periods of time and every single time there is a different reason for it. War, democratic incompetence and power accumulation. This form of political hegemony is not abrupt rather gradual. In case of Pakistan whenever military regimes come into power they promise to revert back immediately after restoring the nation’s political order. Spoiler alert, they don’t. Instead they thrive extensively. Advocates of military rule in Pakistan have argued that civilian leaders have not done their job in providing security, economic development, and arguably, even social cohesion. So the solution to civilian incompetence is not so civilian/democratic intervention?
A Timeline: We won’t be doing analysis on how much helpful or damaging military intervention was in Pakistan’s political discourse because there are literally thousands of thesis, journals and articles written regarding this debate.
But we will provide you a timeline of how the military regime has shaped their savior image in the conscious and subconscious of common man and some political parties.
First Military Rule: In 1958, Major General Iskander Mirza deposed Feroz Khan Noon over the argument of political incompetence and ill leadership. According to Iskander, Noon was a power hungry politician who would risk Pakistan’s sanctity. Funnily, Major Ayub Khan made the same argument about Iskander when he ousted him.
Second Military Rule: In 1965, Indo-Pak war did the favor for military forces to take the charge and they did quite swiftly. Both armies occupied some of the other country’s territory, resulting in a stalemate, but both sides claim victory. Everyone won in this fiasco except the people who lost their loved ones and land.
Third Military Rule: The most memorable period of Pakistan is the 70s. Pakistan after centuries of dictatorships saw hope in Z. A. Bhutto leadership. But good things don’t last long. The democracy romance ended brutally when General Zia Ul Haq came into power. Not to mention but Z.A. Bhutto did accumulate power when Mujeeb was winning in Dhaka. But instead addressing the democratic crisis with accountability we straight off hanged Z.A Bhutto.
Fourth Military Rule: The most liberal Military Rule in Pakistan’s era. On the surface General Musharraf provided a hope that his administration will hold elections immediately at an ideal but that ideal time never came. He ruled over 11 years.
Kayani/Raheel/Bajwa support: It’s been at least 10 since we as a country had our last dictatorship but we are not missing out on too much because our state institutions are heavily influenced by military forces.
Right now every major body public and private of Pakistan have military official as head (retired or on duty)
Chairman China Pakistan Economic Corridor chairman:
NDMA National Disaster Management Authority Pakistan head:
Pakistan Steel Mills CEO
Pakistan Telecom Association chairman
CEO Pakistan Airline chairman
National Institiute of Health executive director
Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission Pakistan chairman
Where we go from here: To expect military leadership to act democratic is a joke and not the funny one. Democracy is not a phenomenon installed into a system rather than a constant process which grows eventually with time. Solution for Incompetent democratic institutions is not a rigid military rule. The crisis of democracy can be resolved with more democracy.
We can’t pretend that everything is alright and as far as the economy is good, there’s no need to criticize the establishment intervention. But truth be told; controlled democracy is not democracy.