Javid Husain It is unheard of that a democratically-elected government would pass a vote of no confidence against itself. Yet, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has done something similar with far-reaching implications for the countrys politics, security and economy. The Prime Ministers decision to extend the tenure of the Army Chief for a period of three years amounts to a vote of incompetence against the present PPP-led government. By taking this decision and the reasons given by him in its support, the Prime Minister has virtually admitted the inability of his government to perform its constitutional functions. The decision also brings home once again the fragility of our political institutions and the dominant role that the army, which is just a department of the federal government, has acquired in our national affairs over the past several decades to the detriment of the country, especially its political evolution, economic strength and even its long-term security. In fact, sometimes it appears that instead of the federal government controlling the army as required under the constitution, it is the army that plays the decisive role in major national issues. That is, instead of the dog wagging the tail, it is the tail that wags the dog in Pakistan. The reasons given by the Prime Minister in support of his decision to extend the Army Chiefs tenure are not only unconvincing, they also reflect poorly on the health of both the civilian and military institutions of the state. The Prime Minister has said that the decision was taken for the sake of continuity of the counter-terror operations and because of the effective role that the Army Chief has played in the ongoing war against terror. Ideally, no government and no institution should be dependent on a single individual for its effective and smooth functioning. As the saying goes, the graveyards of the world are full of indispensable people. Individuals come and go but the institutions must continue to perform effectively. The departure of an officer, howsoever senior and capable he may be, should have only a marginal effect on the performance of the army as a whole. If that is not the case, which I doubt very much, there is a need for a major overhaul of the armys training and promotion procedures. Secondly, we have been fighting the so-called war against terrorism for the last eight years without the light at the end of the tunnel. What is the guarantee that this war will finish by 2013 when the extended tenure of the present Army Chief will come to an end? Does that mean that the present Army Chief has to continue in his office as long as the war against terrorism continues? Further, one must take into account the effect of this decision on the morale of the senior army officers, who must have had the natural expectation of being considered for promotion as the Army Chief after the normal three-year tenure of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani comes to an end. More ominously, the decision to extend the tenure of the Army Chief carries the potential of starting in the armed forces the rotten culture of extensions beyond the retirement age from which Pakistans civilian bureaucracy suffers. It would not be inconceivable now to see senior army officers demeaning themselves in front of their civilian masters for wangling extensions of their tenures with predictable negative consequences for the armys morale, professionalism and efficiency. The Prime Ministers decision to extend the Army Chiefs tenure also bodes ill for the future political and economic health of the country, besides reflecting the incompetence of the federal government. According to the constitution, the federal government exercises control and command of the armed forces which are supposed to implement its policies and decisions relating to the countrys security. The ultimate responsibility for safeguarding the security of the country, however, lies with the federal government which can use military, political, diplomatic and economic means at its disposal to realise this objective. The war against terrorism cannot be won by the military alone. The strategy of the war against terrorism must comprise a careful mix of political, diplomatic, military and economic elements. The extension of the Army Chiefs tenure reflects a very limited comprehension of the multi-dimensional character of the war against terrorism neglecting its political, diplomatic and economic dimensions. It is also an acknowledgement by the Prime Minister virtually from the rooftop that his government lacks the ability to lead the war against terrorism which is its responsibility under the constitution. Above all, the extension in the Army Chiefs tenure has serious negative implications for the growth and maturing of the countrys tender plant of democracy. There is no doubt that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani since taking over the command of the Pakistan army has played a positive role in strengthening democratic institutions and practices in the country. He deserves appreciation of the nation for the professionalism he has shown so far. However, historically speaking, the country in the past has suffered from the practice of extension in the tenure of the Army Chief, as reflected by the conduct of Ayub Khan who became so powerful as to overthrow the civilian government and impose martial law in the country. The early Islamic history provides useful guidance for our elected rulers for keeping the military under strict civilian control. The real reasons why Hazrat Umer soon after becoming the Caliph removed Khalid bin Waleed from the command of the Muslim army in Syria, despite the latters outstanding generalship and military victories were twofold: Hazrat Umers feeling that the Muslim soldiers were becoming psychologically dependent on Khalid for victory in the battlefield, instead of relying on Allahs blessing, and the institutional strength of the Muslim army as a whole; and secondly his apprehension that growing popularity of Khalid bin Waleed, as a victorious general, might undermine the authority of the civilian government in Medina. Our present elected rulers would be well advised to study history to draw appropriate lessons for their guidance. As they say those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. It is not difficult to visualise that the extension in the Army Chiefs tenure by three years will greatly add to his power and influence, which are already overwhelming, in the countrys decision making councils. Our country has already suffered because of the over-militarisation of the state institutions. This has resulted in skewed priorities in favour of the military, especially the army, which claims the lions share of the nations resources at the cost of the economic development of the country and the welfare of its people. This trend has dangerously slowed down the countrys economic growth rate, negatively impacted the welfare of the people and threatened the long-term security of the country. The danger is that these negative tendencies will gather strength with an Army Chief, who is even more powerful than in the past. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com