Senate of Pakistan

Minutes of the Meeting (public hearing )

November 28, 2012


Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS)

Civil-Military Relations

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production

Amjad Pervaiz, Senate Special Secretary

(i) Lt Gen (Retd.) Saleem Haider
(ii)Salim Abbas Jilani
(iii) Hasan Askari Rizvi

Attending Members of Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production:
(i) Senator Farhat-Ullah Babar
(ii) Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel
(iii) Senator Moulana Muhammad Khan Sherani
(iv) Senator Sehar Kamran

The session was preceded by a recitation from the Holy Quran


1. Senator Mushahid Hussain opened the proceedings with a note of welcome. He stressed the importance of initiatives such as the current hearing, emphasizing their role in generating critical discourse on issues of concern, and encouraged participation in the interaction that would follow the talks.


Amjad Pervaiz introduced the speakers, and invited Lt Gen (Retd) Saleem Haider to speak first.


2. Saleem Haider, a recipient of the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, former Corps Commander and current member of the India-Pakistan Soldier Initiative, noted that civil-military relations were an important topic of debate in Pakistan, unlike many other countries.  Emphasizing the importance of history in understanding the subject at hand, he pointed out the period of British of rule and the immediate aftermath of independence as two significant eras.


In the British era, he explained, the army’s role as a well oiled bureaucratic machine that oversaw the working of a multitude of institutions, established its reputation for efficiency and dependability. After independence, with the state institutions being unable to deal with the plethora of problems that had emerged, and the army, being an established and functioning institution, stepped in to fill the void. However, he stated, this event allowed for the accumulation of a tremendous amount of power in the hands of one individual, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and led to an unfortunate trend of military takeovers in the country in the decades to follow.


He was of the view that the mistrust felt by the civilian side lay only in their relationship with the higher tiers of the army leadership. Echoing a view expressed earlier by Senator Mushahid, he stated that Pakistan could learn from the example of Turkey, a country which also had a history of military takeovers, but one where the state institutions had strengthened themselves and checked this practice.


Concluding with recommendations, he stressed the importance of good governance, of the development of the rule of law, of an independent judiciary, of state institutions working within their constitutional limits, and the responsibility of the media in the period of transition Pakistan was going through.  


3. The second speaker was Syed Salim Abbas Jillani, current Chairman of SSGC, and formerly having served in several distinguished capacities including Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Chairman of PIA, Federal Minister for Defence and Defence Production, Secretary Defence of Pakistan.


He discussed the fundamental distinctions in the operative rules and norms that defined the civil and military leaderships anywhere in the world, and the role that these distinctions played in making difficult the development of normal civil-military relations.

He described the military as an organized, disciplined and efficient body with the classic contours that define a typical bureaucracy. He touched upon the fact that as an institution, it looked after its members, who enjoyed certain advantages that were criticized by the civilian sphere.


In talking about the civilian leadership, he stated the need to accord due importance to the power of the people, in addition to the former fulfilling its end of the social contract. He felt it not only needed to strengthen the role of the parliament by seeking its mandate on all major policy issues, but also had to develop mechanisms to cope effectively with any form of disaster that struck the population, mechanisms, he pointed out, that already existed in the army.


4. Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent political and defense analyst, and former visiting professor at prestigious institutions such as the Punjab University in Lahore and Columbia University in the United States, was the third and final speaker on the panel. He focused on contemporary developments in civil-military relations.


He stated that while the military remained a formidable institution, its role in affairs of the state had declined over the last five years, as attempts were being made to redefine its relationship with its civilian counterpart. He noted that while there had arisen certain anxieties, it was a process headed in the right direction. At the same time, he felt, it would not be possible to achieve a complete return to the classic model wherein the military played no political role at all. He felt that while the army had now assumed a role on the sidelines, it was still an influential actor, and he felt this was a trend which would continue. He reiterated that there had been a gradual yet positive transformation in the relationship between the two institutions.


Dr Rizvi cautioned against upholding extreme perspectives with reference to the roles the military was expected to play in state affairs, and emphasized on the need for developing a greater understanding of the its role and functions. He put forth three proposals: one, for a change to be brought about in the military mindset; two, for the establishment of a credible civilian political framework; and three, for the country to redefine its security, differentiating the internal from the external.


He said that the civilian leadership had failed to address the core issues the country was beset with: a weak economy and religious extremism. He also reflected on the lack of support from the quarters whose backing the military had traditionally enjoyed – the political far right – in its fight against terrorism, and stressed the need to support the military in its struggle to contain militancy, which he cited as greater than any external threat.  


5. Thanking the speakers for sharing their views, Senator Mushahid reiterated the fact that Pakistan was evolving with multiple power centers, and highlighted the role played in this evolution by a dynamic media, an active judiciary, and a prominent civil society with particular emphasis on the role of women and the youth. He stressed the need for the government to deliver on its responsibilities of good governance, strengthening the economy and improving the law and order situation. He also touched upon the need for Pakistan to develop an indigenous Counter Terrorism strategy, a failing on the political side.


The floor was then opened for discussion.  


6. Key points that were raised by the audience included the lack of respect for the sanctity of the Constitution, the improved role of the judiciary, the contentious budget accorded to the military, Pakistan’s military operations in FATA and KPK, and the aftermath of the 2014 NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.


7. This was followed by input from the members of the Defence Committee. Senator Farhatullah Babar praised the military for its strength as an institution, but stressed that there was a need to change the mindset which held that an individual in uniform was a greater patriot than one without, and in order to change it, a level playing field needed to be created for civil and military leaders alike.


Seconding Dr Hasan Askari’s argument, he felt that the change in the role of the army signified hope for the reform of civil military relations. He hailed the important step that had been taken with the current hearing in promoting dialogue on this concern, and encouraged the Senate Defence Committee as well as the National Assembly to take further initiatives for dialogue, in which the concerns of both sides could be addressed.  He also felt there was a crucial need to understand that the greatest threat to Pakistan emanated internally, in order to alter the existing mindset.


Senator Moulana Sherani felt there existed the lack of an adequate sense of nationalism, and the coherence to move forward towards a collective desired objective. He criticized the lack of national vision and agreement on how the state was to achieve its desired objectives, and the absence of clearly defined foreign and domestic policies. He expressed his view that the law was not meant to dictate which direction the country should move in, but to ensure that it steered itself in the right one. He felt that there existed a vacuum which could only be filled by ideology, one that would help the nation unite.


Senator Haji Adeel stated that the relationship of the common public also needed to be highlighted and factored into this discourse. He expressed his dissatisfaction at the inadequate representation of the common man in cantonment boards and it needed to be rectified.


Senator Sehar Kamran lauded the new role of the military and the change it brought about in opposition to traditional trends. She stressed the need for the nation to stand united and to eschew any activity which could work against the nation’s morale.


8. Senator Mohsin Leghari asserted that there was no difference in the concerns and objectives of the civil and military institutions. He reiterated the need for any perceived divide between the two to be overcome by means of dialogue.  


Senator Khurram Dastageer underlined the importance of the sustenance and revival of democracy. He expressed his view that foreign policy formulation needed to be brought under the parliament and this was important in order for democracy to survive.

9. The panelists then addressd the hearing once again for their final comments.


Salim Jillani addressed the role of the civil bureaucracy and good governance. He believed it was vital for the civilian government to consider the civilian bureaucracy as a well as committees such as the Senate Defence Committee in establishing and supporting civil military relations.


Lt. Gen (Retd.)  Saleem Haider stated that circumstances were improving and were bound to improve further if the military kept to its defined role and built up civilian trust in it.


Dr. Hasan Rizvi stated that the questions that had been raised highlighted that the fact that the topic of civil military relations encompassed several issues of a political and social nature, and it was not possible for all these concerns to be addressed in one session only. He lauded the current hearing as an important first step and asserted that the strengthening of institutions could only take place through dialogue.


10.Senator Mushahid made the closing remarks.


He articulated the mission of the Senate Defence Committee to serve as a bridge between khaki and mufti as well as a bridge between the military and media, and stated that the civilian side could contribute towards boosting the army morale.


A professional and constitutional role, he stressed, was important. The parliament was there to play a constitutional role. Pakistan’s problems would not be solved by one party or person, but by multiple institutions.


He explained that the rules of the game had changed, as the political forces in the country had matured and the army leadership had changed also. He pointed out that the civilian government was nearing completion of an uninterrupted five-year tenure, and re-asserted that a new culture was developing within Pakistan.


He concluded his remarks by thanking the SDPD for hosting the event.


The hearing was attended by representatives of academic institutions, think tanks and media

The entire proceedings were streamed live on the Senate Defence Committee Website


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