Posts Tagged military

New battle against old demons

9 March 2014

Raza Rumi

After 30 years of self-defeating policies, the new National Internal Security Policy may be the right way to make a fresh start

 

New battle against old demons

National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz

 

Pakistanis should be grateful for small mercies. The federal cabinet finally approved the draft of the internal security policy that was pending for review since December 2013. This is some improvement from the earlier performance of civilian authorities and complete outsourcing of security question to the military. The approval does not suggest that the military has backed off and the civilians are fully in charge. In fact, reports suggest that the military leadership has proactively argued for a cleanup in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and had advised the Prime Minister for not delaying the final putsch any further.

The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) has a detailed conceptual part that highlights the extent of damage that Pakistan has suffered during the last 12 years. While reporting on the victims of terror, the NISP notes that from 2001 to November 2013, 48,994 people were killed in the country including 5,272 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies. The attacks on security apparatus accelerated during 2011-2013 as 17,642 casualties including 2,114 security personnel took place during this time period. The NISP notes that with more than 600,000 strong personnel in 33 civilian and military security organizations provide adequate capacity to the Pakistani state to fight terrorism. The impact of terrorism has been calculated as losses worth $78 billion to Pakistan’s economy. Surprisingly, the draft also refers to the foreign policy priorities with respect to Afghanistan, Kashmir and India and limited civilian input in policy process. Governance failures also find a mention in the draft.

The democratic process in Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist narratives

Perhaps the most important feature of the NISP refers to the emphasis on the narratives – political and martial – which have increased the domestic support for terrorist outfits and mislead many a citizen in believing that terror tactics are justifiable at a certain level. This area has been largely unaddressed by Pakistan’s political parties and permanent state organs. While the PPP-led coalition tried to make some amends, it was often cowed down into acquiescence by militancy all around. In fact, the elections of 2013 took place under the threat of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that decided which political groups had more space to campaign and contest. Certainly, the democratic process in Pakistan has also been a victim of terrorist narratives. (more…)

Looking back at General Kayani’s Tenure

2 December 2013

Raza Rumi

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani retired after leading Pakistan’s most powerful institution for six years. As a close confidante and successor of former president General Musharraf, General Kayani ensured policy continuity and facilitated the return of the army into the barracks. Histenures were eventful yet, turbulent and thus, he leaves behind a chequered legacy. Before his extension in 2010, Kayani led successful operations in Swat and the tribal areas against extremists, and save a few instances, did support the democratic transition. In 2008, he ordered all serving military officials in civil departments to relinquish charge. Despite these commendable measures, the military firmly set and managed foreign and security policies, and faced little or no challenge from the civilian rulers. In fact, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister(s) gave up the management of the security policy, which had serious ramifications for Pakistan’s governance and economy.

During 2008-2013, a weak democracy beset by civil-military schisms defined Pakistan’s governance. The military strongly resisted attempts by the civilian government to reform the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI. A campaign was orchestrated, which moulded public opinion against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill in 2009. The KLB bill was projected as an assault on Pakistan’s ‘national interest’). An unprecedented reaction through an ISPR press release (bypassing the ministry of defence) was given to the civilian authorities when the military aired its reservations about the KLB bill. The latter marked a significant shift in Pakistan-US relations: for the first time, an attempt was made by the Obama Administration to engage with the civilian government. Earlier, US relations with Pakistan were mediated through military cooperation, which bred domestic perceptions that the US always backed military dictators in the country. The establishment identified the orchestrator of the KLB bill as Husain Haqqani, our then ambassador in Washington. (more…)

At the Abyss

13 November 2013

By Raza Rumi

tft-39-p-8-a-600x349The recent drone strike in Pakistan’s northwest has eliminated an enemy of the state and his close associates. Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in North Waziristan has shaken the loose alliance of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In any other country, the security policy managers would have capitalized such an opportunity. Not in Pakistan. In fact the reaction from the political parties, which had recently vowed to hold talks with TTP to secure peace, are alarming to say the least. Despite the great urge of politicians to hold talks, there were murmurs that the military may not be too excited about this development even though the COAS Gen Kayani gave his public assent saying that the army was following the political consensus. A PTI leader recently posted on social media that there was only a 40% chance of success for a military operation. However, the party stalwarts on social media later refuted this claim.

Independent security experts and political commentators have been highlighting that the simplistic, populist solution of ‘talks-will-lead-to-peace’ was designed to fail. Whom would the government negotiate with? What would be the conditions? Would the TTP end its terror attacks against Pakistani state and its citizens? All of these questions were unanswered. Yet, Hakimullah’s death has invited a barrage of reactions from politicians and right wing media that the latest drone strikes were a ‘murder of peace’. (more…)

Elections 2013: A Peaceful Transfer of Power

8 March 2013

My piece for South Asia magazine (published in Jan 2013 issue)

General elections in Pakistan are scheduled to take place later this year; however, the ongoing political instability signals otherwise.

The forthcoming general elections in Pakistan are significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is a unique moment in Pakistan when a democratic government under a civilian President is completing its term and preparing for a transition through elections. Secondly, due to the constitutional changes made by the current parliament under the 18th and 20th Amendments, the process remains firmly in civilian hands. This has caused an unprecedented moment in our history where the elections are not being supervised or managed by the military establishment, which has called the shots over a larger course of the country’s history.

The last time a civilian regime managed the election was in 1977 but the results were controversial and were annulled, leading to Gen. Zia ul Haq’s led coup d’ etat.

Throughout the 1990s, most political parties were used as puppets by the security establishment against each other. Four elections were held between 1988 and 1999. Each time, a President, who acted at the behest of the military and intelligence agencies, ‘engineered’ the electoral results by appointing a handpicked and compliant caretaker government.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN) were the two major parties playing this game with the Army. The Musharraf coup and subsequent political developments reversed this trend as these two parties entered into a compact in 2007 and agreed not to approach the military to resolve or fix political disputes. Whilst Musharraf and Gen. Kayani oversaw the elections of 2008, the results surprised everyone, illustrating a clear victory for anti-Musharraf forces. Both parties have liaised with the military between 2008-2013 but have jealously guarded their parliamentary space as well as the continuation of the democratic system. Governance challenges and failures notwithstanding, the record of political parties has been encouraging on this front.

In the spirit of constitutionally mandated agreements, the government and opposition have appointed a respectable former judge as the Chief Election Commissioner. Similarly, other formalities have been taken care of and the rest will be handled in the days to come. The appointment of a caretaker administration is another major step that needs to be taken to ensure that an impartial regime takes over the task of administering elections. In Pakistan, given its bitter history, the legitimacy of an election and the confidence in the caretakers is of major importance.  (more…)

Paradigm Shift? Reassessing Pakistan’s Security

6 January 2013
Published in The News on Sunday
The Pakistan army has reportedly revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than external enemies

Media reports suggest that the Pakistan army has revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than the external enemies which had informed its strategy as well as operations. This is a welcome development. The details of the new doctrine are unclear but there have been three indications in the recent past. First, the tacit support to the civilian government’s thaw with India and undertaking the unimaginable: trade with India. Second, the chief of the army staff, Gen Kayani, while speaking at an official ceremony on August 14, cited the threat of extremism and reiterated the moderate ethos of Islam. Thirdly, the continued battle against militants in the northwest of the country continues without any major policy reversal.

There are two issues with the internal shifts, if any, in the way military is proceeding with its strategic rethink. First of all, due to its structure and institutional culture it is not an open and engaging entity. Decisions are centralised and are taken by a coterie of top commanders. Secondly it is also learning to readjust its power and influence within the context of a changing Pakistan.

Secondly, after five years of civilian rule and emergence of new power centres (judiciary and media), its exclusive monopoly of power had been eroded. For instance, launching a coup though not impossible is a far more complicated endeavour. In this fluid political environment, the Army has yet to find a comfortable equilibrium with the political forces and the parliament. It might have been more useful had the army tried to engage with the national security committee of the parliament thereby giving its rethink more depth, public input and long term legitimacy.

Let’s not forget that the ideological propaganda of al Qaeda and its affiliates has penetrated various sections of the Pakistani society. Whilst the Pakistani population does not want a Taliban type regime that bans women’s education, a vast majority of the population considers the US as an enemy of Islam and the Muslim. More often than not the West — as a vague construct — is also employed in this xenophobic and violent ideology of resistance. This narrative has gained ground in the country whether we like or not.

Sadly the elements of the state, especially the military, have added to this paranoia by firstly allowing the torchbearers of this ideology to live safely in the country for over a decade and secondly to operate from within the country. In this lax environment, the al Qaeda and its junior partner, the Taliban, have made some local alliances (more…)

Consensus is vital for democracy

29 January 2012

 Any morality-led reinterpretation of the supreme law will open doors for future misuse

The federal government seems to have escaped many a crisis in recent months. There is a pattern to this madness. The systemic fault lines of Pakistan’s political system manifest themselves time and again. Whether it is the long-standing civil-military distrust or the fissures within the political elites, this is not a new story. In recent years, the new power centre i.e., higher judiciary has entered the equation thereby creating a new dynamic in terms of power imbalances between various actors. This development has its roots in the events of 2007-2009 when the so-called lawyers movement mobilised urban middle classes and led to what some analysts have termed as the ‘law model’.

Faisal Siddiqui, an active member of the lawyers movement has cited this historic quote in his piece (January 1, 2012,The Dawn) by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja: “The past three years in the history of Pakistan have been momentous and can be accorded the same historical significance as the events of 1947… and those of 1971 … It is in this backdrop that these petitions have been heard and decided.”

Furthermore, Siddiqui writes how the courts and growing ‘judico-politico’ power articulated the ‘law model’ — negotiating democratic transition through courts and the law — in direct opposition to the ‘force model’ conceived by Musharraf and his associates in the junta. The tensions resulted in the emergence of a ‘consent’ model typified by the NRO and how it allowed for a negotiated democratic transition.

Indeed, this is a new development in Pakistan. The understanding of this law model is rather limited and perhaps rudimentary given that this model is still evolving. Nevertheless, a few conceptual problems can be detected. First of all, it is a well-established principle that democratic development requires an elite consensus of sorts.

The very process of democratisation, as has been noted in various democratic countries entails negotiation, bargain and compromise. Therefore, the consent model is what has driven many countries towards democracy. Several Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia have implemented this model and proceeded with strengthening of civilian institutions.

Needless to say, the political elites and civil society play a major role in effecting this consensus. By signing the charter of democracy, most political parties in Pakistan did agree on a common framework. However, in actual terms the realisation of CoD has been stunted. Even though much of it has been implemented in terms of constitutional reform, the interplay between the parliament, judiciary and the military has been problematic to say the least. (more…)

A Shifting Political Landscape

6 September 2011

By Raza Rumi:

If there is any single constant in Pakistani politics it is perennial instability. More so when fledgling democracies struggle to change the governance discourse and attempt to consolidate their hold over power which has traditionally been concentrated in the unelected ‘arms’ of the executive. The current civilian governments at the centre and the provinces are no exception
to this historical trend.

Nevertheless contemporary political dynamics in the country display both continuity and discontinuity from historical trends. This is what makes Pakistan’s evolution during the 21st century a most fascinating process of societal change and resistance by the post-colonial state which is basically fighting a serious battle for its survival; and perhaps has entered the decisive
phase of this conflict. (more…)

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