For the first time in six years, the military leadership has come to the Parliament House to brief lawmakers on the security situation. Just the occurrence itself is symbolic; the military is answerable to the civilian government and can be called to the seat of civilian power to be questioned. More so than muddled verbal statements, this action does more to establish notion of civilian supremacy, hence it is appreciable.
However, this doesn’t mean that the institutional tussle in the nation is resolved with this one visit – far from it. While this statement was much needed, especially after Faizabad conflict, committed democrats should not sit easy. After all, our civilian leadership is often “requested” to visit Rawalpindi for meetings, and that will continue to happen; and the manner of the Military leadership’s arrival - in a show-stopping helicopter landing with heavy security arrangements, will leave little doubt in mind when the balance of power lies.
The meeting carried out also in response to the Senate’s worries of the parliament being left in the dark when it came to country’s primary affairs. One of those is security developments and talks concerning US policy on terrorism-in which Pakistan has become extremely central, especially after the Trump Administration’s constant hostile chiding.
However, on that front, the meeting was largely perfunctory, as we were told little on what was discussed and agreed in the foreign trips of the army members on matters pertaining to security and policy shifts. The Senate was just vaguely told that the army chief’s visits to neighbouring countries had proved to help improve Pakistan’s ties with them. In essence, the military did not provide any answers and we were left just with the conclusion that these trips are important for national security - essentially saying they will continue to happen the way they have been.
Similarly, on the operations update, the Chief of Army Staff (COAF) simply narrated the numbers of missions conducted and people arrested. These numbers are meaningless without context or conclusions. Who did the military target, what is the objective of these missions and have those been achieved? These are the questions that go unanswered. In the same way, the statistic that the military courts had managed to decide 274 cases and had awarded 161 death sentences does not mean anything until we are provided strong links and patterns to terrorism.
The parliament consists of skilled lawmakers, who will not be appeased with just the facts with no background. Nevertheless, civil military cooperation needs to be appreciated, as little and cursory as it is.