Shrouded in mystery


    Civil-Military relations in Pakistan are no clearer


    Security and foreign policy is not in the civilian leaders control. The very fact that the army, which in other countries is part of the government, is spoken of in Pakistan as a separate and superior institution to the government in Pakistan tells us everything, said Haqqani.


    Pakistan’s security and military policy are covered in ambiguity. The civil-military relationship has been a roller coaster ride for many years and instead of changing the policies of the country the government is not doing anything about improving its relations with its neighbouring countries that have been falling apart due to this lack of clarity.

    Not only that, it has drawn criticism from allies like Afghanistan and the United States increasing the rift between the civil and military leadership threatening the long-term diplomatic strain.

    Pakistan’s increasing isolation from its neighbouring countries has also shown the need for clearer policies.

    Its variation between ‘good and bad Taliban’ and accusations that Pakistan supports the Haqqani Network is a direct threat to peace and stability in the region.  Two years into Zarb-e-Azb, the state policy with regard to the Haqqani Network is still not clear.

    Former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani while talking to DNA said that Pakistan’s security establishment has always had a certain ambiguity in its policies. Not only that, it presents its policy different to the domestic audience than it does to the rest of the world.

    “Pakistan would like its people to believe that the sole threat to them comes from India and that the Pakistani military is capable of handling this threat along with its allies (in earlier years the US, now the Chinese and maybe even the Russians),” he said in an email interview.

    The deteriorating ties with the US further decreased Pakistan’s importance as an ally to Washington after the US Congress debated on whether Islamabad is a friend or foe and thus, decided to decrease its economic and military aid given to Pakistan to fight ‘terrorism’.

    Public opinion about Pakistan has also had an impact on policy. According to a Pew poll, only 10 percent of Americans trust Pakistan and only 22 percent of Pakistanis have a favourable view of the United States.

    Similarly, Pakistan, now, is facing one of the biggest challenges ever. Ever since the purported ‘surgical strikes’ on terror camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir launched by Indian troops, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been threatening to destroy Pakistan. Not only that, New Delhi has intimidated Islamabad with a water war.

    Because of Indian lobbying, two US Congressmen have proposed a bill to have Pakistan declared a ‘terrorist state’.

    “Pakistan is a nuclear state, so the US will make sure not to put it under sanctions as its necessary for the US to stay connected with Pakistan to work on nuclear non-proliferation,” said academic Qamar Cheema while talking to DNA.

    “Hard sanctions are not imminent and this is not the first time that the United States is talking about declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Haqqani.

    Similarly columnist and a senior politician Ayaz Amir while talking to DNA stated that sanctions are too extreme of an option.

    Additionally, the tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan had earlier caused clashes among the armed forces from both sides suggesting that the relationship between the two regions is filled with disagreements.

    The lack of clearer approach in policy matters as such raises questions about the government’s competence. Why hasn’t the government been able to reach a consensus on a strategy regarding counterterrorism?

    “Pakistan has continuously been blamed for the US failure to pacify the situation with Afghanistan. Due to the lack of state policies Pakistan has always been put in the spotlight,” says Amir.

    Kabul has repeatedly blamed Islamabad for all its woes and snubbing it in every international forum. Not only that, the Afghan government increased the transit tax on Pakistani goods by 100 per cent, which caused the transporters to go on a strike, which has created a crisis situation across borders.

    Furthermore, the fact that Pakistan’s power structure is dominated by military suggests how there is little room for the civilian leadership to alter the state policy.

    “You cannot blame the army for expanding their area, but in order for civilians to dominate an area of their own they need to get their priorities right,” said Ayaz.

    Pakistan must develop a strategic and effective diplomacy to deal with the issues. The internal rift between the government and the civilian authority is the reason for the isolation of the country as it gives freedom to the non-state actors against whom action must be taken.  In addition to that, Haqqani said, “Pakistan’s neighbours and the international community want to know why Pakistan is willing to target only some terrorist groups –the ones that wreak havoc inside Pakistan –but not others, especially those that attack in Afghanistan and India.”

    Despite its success, Operation Zarb e Azb has targeted some terrorists, but only those that attack the Pakistani state.

    “The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani, that target Afghans and Americans, and the Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammad, that target Indians, have faced no action,” Haqqani added.

    This suggests that Pakistan needs to take action against all terrorist groups to end the perception about ambiguity in its views on terrorism.

    Furthermore, Civilian leadership cannot afford to make essential improvements in defining what truly is best for the nation or not.

    “Security and foreign policy is not in the civilian leaders’ control. The very fact that the army, which in other countries is part of the government, is spoken of in Pakistan as a separate and superior institution to the government in Pakistan tells us everything,” said Haqqani.

    Lastly, the need for leadership in Pakistan to set their priorities right is very important. Not only that, the need for a realist foreign policy should not be overlooked. The idea of a civilian control should only be considered if the leadership understands what needs to be focused on.

    We have to battle for our security, however, we ought not to make India the end all and be the greater part of our presence.