September Issue 2007

By | News & Politics | People | Q & A | Published 15 years ago

“It is not easy for political parties to take on a political army”

– Nawaz Sharif

Q: How do you view the military’s relationship with the state and society in Pakistan?

A: Pakistan is not the first country to have an army. Over the centuries, the civilised world has come to define the military’s relationship with the state and the society. There is now an internationally accepted norm of the nature of the relationship of any country’s military with its society and state. We see this relationship [existing] in all civilised societies, and I see no reason why Pakistan has to reinvent the wheel and define a different and unique relationship between its military and its society. Pakistan, in its constitution, has detailed the functions of the armed forces (Article 245), and there is no reason why, as a civilised society, the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, as enshrined in the constitution, cannot be met.

Q: Given the current geo-strategic situation in the country, a possibility exists of a combined military-civilian rule. How will political parties strengthen themselves in such a system?

A: There is nothing like a combined military-civilian rule. It is a myth which is propagated by military dictators to perpetuate their rule and [for the purposes of] exploitation. This combination can never work because they are contradictions in terms and outlooks. There was an experimental rule of this combination in an Islamic country, but it failed, and the country had to go for pure democratic and civilian rule. Civilian rule is for the good of the country and reflects the collective genius of the society, while military dictatorship is only for selfish motives and is geared to satisfy the needs of one man. The needs of society and those of one man trying to rule are not the same and this contradiction is disastrous for the country. We have seen a similar combination in Pakistan for the last eight years and the results are in front of everybody.

Q: Where have political parties faltered in strengthening themselves vis-à-vis a political army?

A: The political army, in our context, is a huge machine with enormous resources of all kinds. It is not easy for political parties, which have different political agendas and outlooks, to take on this huge machine. It is also not the intention to fight the army as a group. A few generals with very strong vested interests, by violating the basic oath of office that they have taken before the nation, are exploiting the resources of the army. Political parties do not consider the entire army as their adversary, but it is the corrupt generals who have created a gulf between these two important components of the state.

Q: What kind of a role do you want the military to have?

A: I am nobody to decide the role of military in the country. The role of the military in Pakistan has already been defined in the constitution of Pakistan, and any effort to rewrite it will be counter-productive and will damage the fabric of society.

Q:How can political parties and the civil society negotiate with the military and reduce the military’s expanded role in the state and society?

A: Pakistan’s military is an integral part of Pakistan: it is paid out of the tax-payer’s money and the common man has made enormous sacrifices to support this military. The military is an important component of Pakistan and has to play its role within the limitations of the rules of the land. Fortunately, it is not a foreign occupying army that Pakistan has to negotiate with. Pakistan is also lucky that most of the personnel of the Pakistan Army are law-abiding. There cannot be any negotiations on something which is [already] agreed [upon].

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. She tweets @iamthedrifter