Monday, November 30, 2020

Op-ed: In Pakistani democracy, self-interests trump ideological motivations

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It has been said over and over that the establishment, or in simple terms the army, has always been ruling the country in one-way or the other. If history is the guide, we can see that multiple times the military establishment has intervened in the political affairs of the state. In some way, they try to justify it as a doctrine of necessity. However, military rule has never been warmly welcomed in Pakistan.

Arguably, a layman or any sensible person will definitely ask for a reason(s) behind the frequent military interventions or interference in the political ambit of the state. Do they practice so because they are power-thirsty? Or because they do not want democracy to flourish in Pakistan?

Only those who are elected by the people have the ultimate authority and responsibility to decide the fate of a nation. This principle of civilian control and authority over the military is fundamental to democracy

Over-obsession with national security

To answer the questions like this, one must have to first look deep into the history of Pakistan since 1947. Having said that, there are multiple reasons behind un-flourished democracy in Pakistan at the cost of non-democratic institutions(s). The foremost reason that is worth mentioning is over-obsession with national security.

Read more: Op-ed: Weakening the military will weaken Pakistan to its core

At the time of its independence, Pakistan was seen by the establishment and by the civil and military bureaucracy as an unsecured state. This fear was at that time justified from Indian opposition to the establishment of Pakistan. Obsessed with this threat, we tried to have allies that can help us financially as well as militarily; we started to strengthen the military institution at the cost of democratic ones. By doing so, the military found every reason to interfere in every core issue of the state.

Making this fear as justified ground; many military generals sacked politically elected governments after that. History has proved that it was not a matured approach.

Morality or immorality of Pakistan’s politics

Currently, the term “hybrid system” being used for the governance system vocally in Pakistan is very confusing. By saying this they mean divide rule—rule by the civilian government and military combine. This can only confuse. Well, no one will have the idea of who is actually running the state. That is to say, politics has no morals. A well-known political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli in his ever-resonant short book, The Prince, advises his titular 16th century Italian Prince to set aside his ideals in ruling and instead pursue a path of power aggregation and consolidation by any means — because: politics have no relation to morals.

If history is the guide, we can see that multiple times the military establishment has intervened in the political affairs of the state

Machiavelli could hardly have expected that his words would still have such relevance half a millennium later, but I was reminded of them a few days before watching Maryam Nawaz’s interview to BBC Urdu.

Can army sack a democratically legitimate government?

Recently, in an interview to BBC Urdu, Pakistan’s leading Opposition leader Maryam Nawaz on Thursday indicated to hold talks with the powerful army to reduce the prevailing political tension in the country but said any such dialogue should be held openly in front of the people – not in secret. Maryam, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President and daughter of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, however, said that any such dialogue should be held only after the Imran Khan-led “selected” government was sent packing. “Army is my institution. We are ready to hold talks (with the army) but only within the framework of the Constitution and such talks will be held right before the eyes of the people. We will not hold any secret dialogue, she said in an interview with BBC Urdu.”

Read more: Maryam Nawaz is ready for talks with establishment if Imran Khan’s government is toppled

She added that any such dialogue would be held from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of 11 opposition parties formed to oust the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government. “We are not against the institution (of the army) but we believe that in order to move forward, this government should be sent packing,” she said. Can the establishment do so? Or is it a legitimate act that the army sacks a democratically elected government?

Pakistans politics based around personal whims and family interests

In some political systems, ideology may be an important factor in recruiting and motivating party members.

What does this depict that there is no immorality in dealing with the army as long as it fulfills the interests of one and his family. One thing more that can be concluded from it is that there is a lack of political philosophy, ideas and self-beliefs in Pakistani democracy. Pakistani politicians have no political identity, which revolves around political ideology and convictions. In other words, their whole politics revolves around their personal whims and family’s interests. The same pattern can be seen in the public at large in Pakistan where they vote based on tribal linkages and self-centred interests. Ideology and a specific distinctive political philosophy could be the foundation of politics.

Currently, the term “hybrid system” being used for the governance system vocally in Pakistan is very confusing. By saying this they mean divide rule—rule by the civilian government and military combine

In some political systems, ideology may be an important factor in recruiting and motivating party members. But, in Pakistani democracy, the case is totally different. In Pakistan, economic interests or self-interests and social outlook may be more important than ideological commitment.

Biden: an example for loyalty

In America, for instance, politicians are linked with their parties for years and do not change their loyalties in any case. The case of Joe Biden, president-elect, is worth mentioning here. He was elected a New Castle County Councillor in 1970, and became the sixth-youngest senator in American history when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972, at the age of 29.

Read more: A brief look at the politics of US President-elect Biden

Biden was a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and eventually its chairman. He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and again in 2008. Biden was re-elected to the Senate six times, and was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to serve as Barak Obama’s vice president after they won the 2008 presidential election; Obama and Biden were re-elected in 2012.

Having defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election, he will be inaugurated as the 46th on January 20, 2021. He worked with his party, Democratic Party, for approximately fifty years. But he has never abandoned his ideology.

Hit and trial method

One other central idea of Pakistani politics, which has extensively been debated in print and electronic media, is that if military and establishment’s interference stopped in Pakistani politics, it will repair itself by hit and trial method—again and again, elections will be conducted periodically and the system will itself be repaired. But we had seen that from 2009 to 2013 there were three political stakeholders in Karachi city—PPP, MQM and ANP. All of them had their militant gangs who were involved in the chaotic atmosphere of the city until the supreme court of Pakistan interfered and ordered rangers to start operation in the city.

Resultantly, the establishment of Pakistan with discipline, but forcefully, interfered in the so-called democratic politics, chaotic and disordered, and restored the disordered politics into an ordered politics. Which is showing that issues of war and peace are the most momentous any nation can face, and at times of crisis, many nations turn to their military for leadership.

Read more: What does a President Joe Biden mean for the world?

Military is to serve the nation not to lead it

However, a democracy’s military serves its nation rather than lead it: military leaders advise elected leaders and carry out their decisions. Only those who are elected by the people have the ultimate authority and responsibility to decide the fate of a nation. This principle of civilian control and authority over the military is fundamental to democracy.

To conclude, civilians need to direct their nation’s military and decide issues of national defence. Not because they are necessarily wiser than military professionals, but precisely because they are the people’s representatives and, as such, are charged with the responsibility for making these decisions and remaining accountable for them.

The author is a civil engineer and independent researcher and freelancer. He can be reached at shahfahad1313@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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