Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa is a professional soldier who is leading a battle against terrorism and destructive ideas. He made his position crystal clear on constitution and democracy on so many occasions. He wants to make Pakistan a peaceful, democratic and fast developing country. He has so far showed his commitment towards democracy, rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. Yes, he has certain opinions and views on different issues. Yes he has concerns on the state of the economy. But it will be wrong to say that he wants to impose his views and ideas as an alternate agenda. It is sad indeed that his commitment with democracy and constitution is being doubted and questioned without any substance and content.
He is the only army chief in the history of this country who personally went to senate to give briefing on the national security and other issues. He showed his respect for the parliament. He has his own opinions and views on different issues like all of us. One has the right to agree or disagree with his views. It is the essence of the democracy that despite having conflicting views, we respect each other’s ideas and views. We engage in democratic, open and frank discussion with the liberty of having different views.
But it will be wrong to doubt the intention of the others on the basis of conflicting or different ideas and thoughts. A professional soldier like General Bajwa should not be targeted to get cheap popularity or attention in the western media. If one look what he said on different issues then one find it difficult to disagree with him. Pakistani democracy, governance and economy need major overhauling and changes. But the political leadership has so far failed to improve the governance and delivery system.
Even though, military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor (DG ISPR) categorically denied the existence of any Bajwa doctrine as it is been discussed in the media, but the debate is still on. Most of the pro-democracy liberal and secular columnists and writers of the English language newspapers still believes that Bajwa doctrine not only exists but already on the implementation stage. They link the judicial activism and removal of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through a judicial verdict. A heated debate is going on in the media between pro-democracy and pro-military intellectuals, analysts and writers. This discussion is the manifestation of the mistrust that exists on both sides. It seems that pro-democracy camp is not satisfied with the explanation and denial of the DG ISPR.
The DG ISPR in a press briefing on Wednesday dismissed media conjecturing about the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ as incorrect and emphasised that it was only a security concept that had nothing to do with political and constitutional matters.
“If there is a Bajwa doctrine, it is a security-centric concept, whose objective is to improve the security situation in the country to a point desired by civilians and those in uniform alike. … This doctrine should therefore be seen within the security parameters.” It’s a security concept having nothing to do with 18th Amendment or judiciary, explains military spokesman. “Everything was lumped together and presented as the Bajwa doctrine,” Gen Ghafoor regretted.
“There is no mention of 18th Amendment in it, nor is there any reference to the judiciary,” he maintained. Gen Ghafoor praised the 18th Amendment for streng¬thening provinces through devolution of power and decentralisation of authority. He clarified that the army chief never spoke against the amendment in total. He said the military’s primary concern was security and it wanted the capacity of civilian law enforcement agencies to be enhanced. Law and order has been devolved to the provinces after the enactment of the 18th Amendment and it is believed that this area has suffered due to inadequate resources and politicisation of police has intensified.
The Bajwa doctrine originally came into public view in January and included concepts like peaceful borders, weapon-free society, terror-free country and rule of law. Explaining the concept of the army chief’s doctrine, the military spokesman said that every army chief had a position on issues and gave his guideline for handling them. Gen Bajwa, he said, wanted a peaceful Pakistan and that was his doctrine.
Now the question arise that why the DG ISPR was forced to clarify the position of the army chief and why the media made it a big issue? It all started when the Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa invited some leading anchors for a off the record conversation. Some participants made this interaction public. Senior journalist and analyst Suhail Warraich wrote a detailed article in The News and Jang about this conversation. This leakage sparked the media debate on this issue. A number of articles appeared in newspapers after the meeting that was planned to be a background session, but one of the journalists in his article claimed that a new doctrine was in place and its various facets included political and financial elements besides international vision, a counterterrorism strategy and a vision for military command.
Did army chief General Bajwa done something new or strange that no other army chief ever did before? No, because every army chief has his own vision regarding security, defence, political system and democracy. We heard a lot about Kiyani doctrine and then Raheel doctrine and now Bajwa doctrine. What this shows is the fact that every army chief presents his vision to the army and highlights the challenges it faces. General Kiyani got opportunities to take power but he stood by the democracy. General Raheel Sharif got his own opportunities to derail the democracy and to take power but he gave democracy the chance to flourish.
Can anyone stop the army from taking power if it decides to do this? I don’t think any political party is in the position to stop or resist this move. If the democratic process still continued in this country without any interruption from last 10 years then this shows that army is not interested to take power. It means military leadership wants democracy, rule of law and supremacy of the constitution and parliament. But real concern of the military leadership is the failure of political system to deliver to the masses. This concern should be addressed to avoid confrontation and skirmishes.
If not why then he has been painted as someone who don’t care about constitution and democracy?
For some liberal and secular analysts the military is an anti-democracy institution. Which is not true? Only 4 out of 16 army chiefs imposed martial laws in the country. The military interventions in the past have created this false perception that every army chief wants to topple the democracy. This perception is build on a wrong assumption that army always looks or creates the opportunities to intervene and take the power. Many army chiefs got opportunities to take over the power but they decided not to take power and let the democratic process continued. This perception is wrong.
Can we demonise and accuse the present military leadership for the mistakes made in the past? General Bajwa is a true soldier focussing on the security and defence matters of the country. I have no doubt in my mind that he wants to take power and to derail the democratic process. We should not doubt his intentions and avoid making unnecessary criticism of him.
If we want to understand the problem of military domination then we should look back in the history instead of attacking the present military leadership. The institutional imbalances in our system and state structure have not really been developed overnight. This outcome is the result of a long historic process. Let’s examine this process in brief to understand this issue.
The dominant narrative on this question is a rather superficial overview of the historical development of colonial state structures. This is also linked with the reconstruction of the economic and social structures initiated by British imperialism after the War of Independence in 1857. The fault line of institutional imbalances that we witness today lies in the reconstruction of the modern state structure and society.
So, we inherited the institutional imbalance in 1947. This imbalance existed by default and design. We inherited a weak ruling class that mainly consisted of Muslim feudal lords, ex-officials of different princely states, Muslim traders, a few petty capitalists and ex-civil servants. On the other hand, the civil and military bureaucracy was well-trained, experienced and disciplined as compared to the civilian ruling class.
The ruling class was frightened of the consequences of general elections. The lack of public support forced them to form an alliance with the civil and military establishment. This alliance resulted in the establishment’s intervention in politics. Alienated from the people, the ruling elite consequently became dependent on the establishment to gain power. The already strong civil bureaucracy became more powerful. Nearly a dozen prime ministers were appointed and removed over the span of just 10 years.
The dysfunctional – or rather malfunctioning – state apparatus at the local level and the pathetic attitude of the local administration has further eroded the civilian authority.
Democracy will never be able to take root among the people if the medieval social and economic structures are not abolished. The people are the real custodians and protectors of the democratic order. But they only fight for it when they benefit from it.
The matter of fact is that General Bajwa expressed his opinion about the issues and problems faced by the country. He is representing the most powerful institution in the country. One likes it or not, army played important role in shaping and formulating the key policies. It is also a fact that military generals and high ups of the military is the most dominating section of the ruling class and the establishment. So army chief not only expressed his own feelings, priorities and thoughts but also the military command and his institution. The army chief and other military commanders interact with other officers on regular basis.
Every army played important and leading in the formulation of national security and defence policies of the country. So we are not different. The Western and stable democracies developed an institutional framework to discuss and to make decisions. They build institutions to make smooth decisions and policies through debates and discussions. We lack this institutional framework to avoid public comments and expressions. We need to strengthen our institutions to engage each other with a well thought out legal framework.
By Khalid Bhatti and M.I. Pasha
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13 November, 2019