There has been a constant tug of war between politicians and the Khakis over establishing their respective institutional superiority in Pakistan. The chronology of the civil-military relations in Pakistan essentially substantiates this very fact. On account of certain conflict of interests, there exists a considerable trust deficit between the two. The political ruling class has always been worried about the Bonaparte tendencies of its top military commanders. They often consider Khakis a great hurdle in the way of articulating and consolidating their authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in the name of democracy. There is also a class of politicians, which looks toward Khakis for managing their entry into the corridors of power.

On the other hand, being the integral part of the de facto power structure of the state, the khakis have been acting as the sole arbiter of national interests. They have been quite sceptical about the loyalty, capacity and integrity of their civilian masters. They often take every political endeavour to establish civilian supremacy in the country as a deliberate move that aims at undermining their well-organized institution. They are also often accused of wrongfully exploiting certain inherent frailties present within the democratic political system. Sometimes they also fail in resisting the temptation to eat the constitutionally ‘forbidden fruits’ in the country.

Presently, some quarters are, covertly or overtly, pointing fingers at the army for the on-going confrontation between the government and Azadi-Inqlab marchers. It is being referred as the ‘script writer’ and the ‘third umpire’. Recently, ISPR has strongly ruled out such speculations by reiterating its pledge to uphold the supremacy of the constitution. Likewise, the government can also be seen publically rejecting this perception about the army.

Somehow ignoring altogether the nature and basic dynamics of civil-military relationship in Pakistan, the PMLN tried to make the khakis subservient to the political ruling class at once, after getting into power last year. Certain PMLN policies have been instrumental in deteriorating the already-troubled civil-military relations in the country. Having unjustifiably ousted and exiled by the Gen(R) Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif found it difficult to use democracy as the ‘best revenge’ against the dictatorship as did the PPP in the past. This may be the reason he decided to teach a less onto former coup-maker. The ill timed, narrow-scoped and poorly worked out criminal trial of Pervez Musharraf for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution is generally considered to be the major spoiler of the civil-military relationship. The government has miserably failed in assessing Khaki sentiments and sympathies towards their ex-boss.

Similarly, the government has also ignored the so-called ‘Indian factor’ that determines and controls some crucial decisions and policies in our security state. It showed unnecessary optimism in unilaterally normalizing or strengthening its ties with India by disregarding actual realities on the ground. Soon after his recent electoral victory, Nawaz Sharif expressed his desire to invite Indian PM Manmohan Singh to attend his oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad. He also readily accepted Indian PM-elect Narendra Modi’s similar invitation and participated in his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi some months ago. It is generally believed that PM Nawaz Sharif had gotten nothing out of this visit except the further annoyance of the Khakis.

The anti-terror strategy of the government has also been another major irritant. The government wasted a lot of time in its ill-conceived dialogue process with the militants. Having lost a large number of personnel in various terrorist attacks, the army has been having some serious reservations and objections vis-a vis this snail-paced dialogue process. Eventually, it decided to strike back by launching a full-fledged military offensive, the operation Zarb-i-Azabin North Waziristan. Some time ago, we also saw the two important federal minsters, the Khawaja Asif and Khawaja Saad Rafique, openly bashing the khakis for nothing.

In the event of deadly attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir, the ISI-Geo stand-off is regarded as the last straw that breaks the backof this ailing camel. Apparently, the government has failed in performing any positive role to resolve this conflict. It has been blamed for titling towards a media house in the name of upholding the freedom of press and freedom of expression. Failing to get desired moral support from it, the khakis looked quite unhappy and dissatisfied with the government.

It is quite unfortunate that the civilians and the Khakis have resorted to a sort of cold war, when the country direly needs a harmonious mutual relationship on account of internal and external challenges. Pakistan is in a state of war against violent non-sate actors, which are posing an existential threat to it. We also need to take some crucial decisions owing to the rapidly-changing geo-strategic realities in the region.

On the Eastern side, a Hindu nationalist and hardliner like Narendra Modi is in power. He has unilaterally suspended the bilateral talks between the two counties. He also intends to unilaterally change the special constitutional character of the Kashmir to the dissatisfaction of the Kashmiris and Pakistan. Likewise, in Afghanistan, political instability and internal turmoil is on the rise. Keeping in view the post-withdrawal perspective in Afghanistan, we will have to contain and engage all the anti-Pakistan elements present on its very soil. Besides this, the current volatile situation in the Middle East may also adversely affect Pakistan in some way.

In such state of affairs, Pakistan can hardly afford a ‘luxury’ like the civil-military confrontation. Instead of indulging in foul play, both power players should strictly observe the recognized rules of the game. Both players should also realize the presence of the two new active and vigilant referees in the playground in the shape of independent judiciary and free media. Before behaving like his close friend, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, PM Nawaz Sharif should first learn to act like this pragmatic leader who has secured a considerable popular support in Turkey by winning the hearts of the people through good governance and effective management. Survival of the fittest and the pre-eminence of the powerful is the basic law of the Jungle. Therefore, the political class should realize that the very objective of civilian supremacy cannot materialise without ensuring the rule of law in the country.

    The writer is a lawyer.