A lack of sociological imagination and the consequent disconnect from reality and clarity cause confusion and crises. The debate regarding civil-military relations appears to be an effort to deliberately create an environment of conflict to malign the defence forces and intelligence agencies of Pakistan to the extent of harassment and embarrassment. There is need for new attitudes about our national security issues; to understand and tackle the external and internal forces trying to destabilize Pakistan.

Zulam rahe aur aman bi ho

Kya mumkin hai

Tum he kaho

Can peace and tyranny co-exist is the question; a question which may be put to the sponsors of “Aman ki Asha” which stands neither for peace nor any such wish. This fact, our simple people do not understand.

The rule of the situation has always been the guiding principle in politics and administration. When I wrote, ‘Let democracy succeed’ (The Nation, June 5, 2008), it was another time, another place. Today’s trivialism, confusion and tension is different. Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Aslam Beg has succinctly reflected on the current scenario, presented a solution and arrived at some conclusions with which we may or may not agree. However, our consideration should be to establish an environment that is stress free for a way forward within the democratic political structure.

General Aslam Beg has proposed a three-point formula to normalize tense civil-military relations: 1) the high treason case against Gen. Pervez Musharraf should be dropped and he should be allowed to go abroad; 2) PEMRA should ensure that no TV channel telecasts programmes that undermine the prestige of the army; and 3) ministers or other leaders should be barred from speaking against the people who defend the country even at the cost of their lives. The General was of the firm view that the Constitution would not be able to block a military intervention if the rulers did not give the army its due respect.

The army is the defender of our geographical and ideological frontiers. People truly respect the army for its vital role in nation building and providing essential support to civilian administration in disaster and crisis management, and boosting the economy. The same is expected of the media and other institutions.

What a country needs has to be viewed in the context of a realistic and objective framework. Some people, although not affected in any significant way, complain of emptiness, of the insipidity in life because the country is ruled by the military. They complain the morning news sours their breakfast and their whole day. But what exactly are these people contributing to the establishment of a meaningful constitutional democratic order? Perhaps it’s just fashionable to say these things in passing.

The country was exposed to serious internal threats, including the challenge of coping with the needs of its rapidly increasing population, human resource development, economic performance, alleviating poverty, addressing and reviewing civil-military relations, governance and, above all, extremism.

There are pitfalls in civil as well as military ways of handling issues and solving problems. The problem with military rule is that civilian institutions cannot retain and maintain their democratic character. The missing link is thus the element of consensus on policies through negotiation. The military becomes part of the problem rather than the part of the solution. Moreover, in military rule people lose confidence in the institutions which ultimately affects their performance negatively.

There is a crisis of governance and absence of democracy within political parties. Issues of national integration are critical to Pakistan’s democratic development. The development of the political processes is constrained by the legacy of long periods of military rule. Religious intolerance and sectarian divide presents a challenge. Other challenges to the civil society include lack of political will; the moral vacuum that exists in public administration; and fast deteriorating human rights and the law and order situation. We need an enabling culture to meet the challenges of change and to create opportunities for the welfare of the people. Things have to move beyond political expediency.

The civil-military relations in Pakistan are difficult. Disgruntled politicians are partly responsible for inviting the army to take over the government and frequently repeat the episode. Each branch of the government should develop independently in terms of its professional excellence, yet they should all perform jointly for achieving national goals, working collectively under a system of checks and balances and responding to the call of transparency and accountability. It is time that the Pakistan armyfocus all its energies on developing professional competencies and excellence rather than indulge in politics. This is the time to rethink civil-military relations. This is the time to remove misperceptions and avoid prejudices. This is the time for politicians of all shades to demonstrate a higher sense of responsibility. This is the time to empower the people so that they can preside over their own destiny.

Strengthening civil-military relations will be desired and required for a meaningful counter-terrorism cooperation aimed at bringing peace and stability to the country. This assumes special significance in the context of the Post 2014 situation in Afghanistan in which Pakistan will have a key role to play.

 The Writer is a former director NIPA, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.