The General Jahangir Karamat formula

  • Every country is different

All ideologies in the world can be viewed in the light of a particular era and its circumstances. Communism was successful in Russia but failed to set down deep roots in Europe. Democracy, monarchy, and communism are only a few ideologies among many. The suitability of a particular ideology depends on many circumstances. It is not right to assume that an ideology that works well in one country can be applied successfully in any other.

The Arab Spring of a few years ago was a source of joy for the democratic countries of the west. They believed that this marked the end to centuries of monarchy and dictatorship. In the end, these reforms cost many lives and only worked partly. Libya is still not stable. Syria has been in a state of war for the past five years. Although the west tried its best, Russia and its allies prevented the imposition of any artificial political system and now Syria seems to be reverting to its old system. In Egypt, Morsi had democratic power behind him, but as he started gathering authority martial law took the power from him and the state revived the system of Hosni Mubarak. Now, the government of Egypt belongs to el-Sisi. Turkey, after many eras of martial law, encountered democracy. The country was introduced to the presidential form of government by Tayip Erdogan, but he now seems to be gathering unobstructed authority. What are the results of the reforms of the Arab Spring if every country seems to be reverting to its previous state?

Every country is different. Each has its own history, religious beliefs, and social traditions. Those nations that adopt ideologies keeping in mind their people’s temperament and customs emerge victorious. In this context, there is not one solo ideology that can be considered universally right. While there may be dictatorship in Arab countries, the people there are living a prosperous life. In the socio-democratic system in the west, too, are happy people. China thrives under a combination of socialism and capitalism. If Pakistan could implement a system based on its own history and particularities instead of an imported one, it could prosper as well.

For the past 70 years, Pakistan has been party to a political tug-of-war with no signs of political temperance. This country has been the victim of martial law, civilian martial law, semi-martial law, even democratic systems resembling martial law. Politics is a power-grabbing game. Those in power in Pakistan have exploited one ideology after another, none of them lasting for long. For decades, Pakistan has been faced with been a large amount of political tension between the civilian and establishment camps causing immense harm to the country as a whole.

The Arab Spring of a few years ago was a source of joy for the democratic countries of the west. They believed that this marked the end to centuries of monarchy and dictatorship. In the end, these reforms cost many lives and only worked partly

Looking at the political history of Pakistan, the political confrontation started by the democrat Bhutto against the martial law of General Ayub resulted in the regime of Yahya Khan. During this era of political conflict, the intent of these three to keep power in their own hands — without ceding political space to others — resulted in the breaking up of the motherland. Zia-ul-Haq made countless changes to the constitution in order to prolong his tenue and retain absolute power. The aftermath of these conflicts and constitutional changes can still be felt today. The historical lack of harmony between civilian powers and the establishment has always caused extreme internal turmoil in Pakistan. A nation cannot progress under constant political tension and confrontation. Only by resolving disputes and working together democratically can Pakistan move ahead.

Thinking open-mindedly about the prosperity of Pakistan brings to mind the formula that General Karamat gave to the International Security Council during an address in 1998. In speaking to the Naval College, he suggested forming a national security council to avoid conflict between the civilian domain and establishment. The then prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not take this suggestion seriously, leading to a wider gap between the civilian power and the army. General Jehangir Karamat then resigned and Musharraf came into power through martial law. Musharraf formed his own national security council, but as it started gradually losing its importance, the defense cabinet committee was formed in its place. While the national security council has since been revived by the present regime, it does not work in accordance with its core ideas, scope, and spirit.

While critics of this council would argue that parliament is supreme and all power must be vested there, having all power in one solo political platform makes it highly susceptible to corruption. A system of checks and balances is required. America is a democratic nation and ensures these checks and balances through its government separated into three parts: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The president, the head of the executive branch, comes to power through votes from the people. The president establishes the judicial system with permission from the legislature, which is also elected by the people. In this way, this country established political solidarity. A proper system of checks and balances could be established in Pakistan by implementing General Jehangir Karamat’s original idea of a national security council.

Pakistani political leaders must unanimously amend the constitution to implement General Jahangir Karamat’s formula. His plan was to give the army a permanent constitutional role in decision making. This system will bring much needed political stability to the beleaguered nation by permanently breaching the gap between the civilian, establishment, and army camps. In a country whose past is marked by every colour of martial law that can be imagined, giving the army a controlled role in governing could be the particular system that Pakistan needs to be stable and thrive. While it may not match what other countries have, it may be exactly what Pakistan – and its people – need.