General Kayani, the army chief, has given the country’s politicians a lesson in tactics. While politicians often opt for knee-jerk responses to serious matters or follow their staffers’ improvisations, the general has chosen to play by the book.
He was prompt in answering the Supreme Court’s notice and thus distanced himself, in this case at least, from the politicians who are getting flak for avoiding compliance with the judiciary’s directives. He sent his statement to the Defense Ministry, as per rules. If the ministry did not follow the procedure laid down in the Rules of Business inscribed in a moth-eaten file of 1973, he cannot be blamed. That makes the PM angry at a time when he needs to be cooler than cucumber.
This display of tactics is the result of more than six decades of training in the art of autonomous management of an organization that – unlike Pakistani politicians – never stops widening its knowledge base and regularly puts its theoretical formulations to practical test. It is also the result of governments’ age-old policies of allowing the military great freedom of operation and autonomy not only in its own sphere but also beyond it.
Among the many matters civil society organizations dabble in, without unfortunately pursuing their efforts with due diligence, the question of imbalance in civil and military relations figures prominently. While it may be possible to blame the generals for assuming responsibilities that lie outside their professional mandate, the politicians have to accept a greater blame for the straits they have landed themselves in. They have yet to realize that the imbalance they complain of cannot be corrected by tinkering with this office or that and that the process is going to be long and arduous.
Two things are necessary. First, it needs to be understood that nobody can trifle with the military and its task of defending the country against external aggression. The people must be proud of their sons who give their lives to secure their freedom from external threats. But no good military gets involved with politics, even with civil administration (Ayub Khan too called it the route to corruption) because that will undermine the interests of the state and the military both.
Anyone who goads the military into intervening in politics is not its friend.
Secondly, the way to the establishment of the people’s sovereignty lies in breaking the colonial model to which the state is shackled. The state of Pakistan needs to be re-structured in accordance with modern democratic models. Only then will its organs, and institutions subservient to them, will be able to find their legitimate places.
Until these two conditions are met the politicians will continue to be outmaneuvered by men in khaki.