T  he crude nadir in civil military relations with a hyperactive media house spewing vitriolic propaganda is hardly surprising. When states cede too much space to non-state actors and misuse what they have, this is the logical consequence. Successive regimes and security establishments cognisant of such threats failed to act in time. Previously they traded exclusive spaces for opportunism. Failure relates to the absence of institutionalism and opportunism called collective megalomaniacism. The security establishment ignored the obvious from 2001 to 2013.

In a series of studies beginning post 9/11 and culminating in Pakistan’s Future War, a hypothetical scenario suggested that the biggest threat to Pakistan would come from its exploitable internal vulnerabilities. The studies did not interest generals in Rawalpindi. Balancing acts failed and incrementally pushed the military and the country into a trap. Being the author of these studies, I scripted my fears in 2008 in the leading English media through a series of articles. My sojourn did not last. I asked, why has the focus of the charge sheet shifted from the country to the armed forces of Pakistan? I ended saying that Pakistanis need to understand that in the scheme of things, the degradation of the army is a key plank in the objective to rid Pakistan of its nuclear capability. I was suggesting that the mother of all battles would be the degradation of the armed and nuclear forces of Pakistan.

The past six years indicate that events unfolded as scripted. The foreign funding of media and investigative journalism is no secret. Baloch separatism intensified under the eyes of the judiciary and was glorified by segments of the media. While India effectively elbowed Pakistan out from cricket, Geo Sports continues to telecast IPL matches. Times of India, Geo’s partner in ‘Aman Ki Asha’ led by Arnab Goswami airs a vicious programme to disgrace Pakistani participants. Where is Aman and where is Asha?

The battle lines gathered critical mass following a mysterious and contentious electoral mandate subverted by the lower judiciary and a segment of the media. Victory was declared through the same media house with only 25% of the results in. The judiciary did not react to allegations. Election tribunals ran at snail’s pace. India is advocated as the lynchpin of Pakistan’s economic recovery. For a change, Punjabi ministers are at the forefront of anti-military propaganda with dire implied threats. Battle lines are moving into the heartland of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s internal instability, subversion of regulatory mechanisms, militancy and unchecked stream of information has combined with personal vendettas to intimidate Pakistan’s security establishment into submission. Normatively, such a policy would strengthen democracy, but the conspicuous lack of political ethics in other shades of governance indicate an agenda laden with questionable intentions. The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and a sketchy counter terrorism policy belie the unwillingness of the government and opposition to squarely address the issue. It provides militants with the time, space and legitimacy to reorganise and regroup to fight another day. It is shocking that some daydreamers compare the fighting capability of militants to Afghans who defeated Soviet Union and NATO. Use of non-state actors to subdue the law enforcement agencies in the remotest sense will invite domestic, regional and global reactions. Legitimately sanctioned international interventions could follow.

Hamid Mir was a reluctant visitor to Karachi. Given that Hamid Mir and the Jang group were cognisant, armed escorts were missing. The car was not bullet proof. The location was an obvious ambush site and not secured. The assailants were in haste and lacked the precision of a top intelligence agency. The reaction of Jang Group and government ministers reflected a pre-determined and provocative mind-set; one of crises management and damage limitation.

But this standoff is neither the first, and nor will it be the last. It is the reflection of a mindset over turfs. Such policies of one-upmanship will continue to dent civil military relations. It is unfortunate that leads were not taken from the previous government. Lessons from the confrontational and bulwark attitudes of the past are ignored.

Since 2008, many incidents threatened to derail both the democratic process and civil-military cooperation. The memo scandal was built on the argument of civilian supremacy. Incidents like Salala, Raymond Davis and Abbotabad failed to undermine the indispensability of the armed forces to combat and defeat terrorism. Pakistan’s Army was capable of mopping up Waziristan after Swat. DGISI was in favour of a quick and effective operation. The COAS ruled it out in fear of a backlash in urban areas. From a strategic point of view, this inaction from 2010 to 2013 provided respite to militants and their sympathisers in political parties. The military allowed sub conventional threats to grow. Had it concentrated on operations and not checkmating President Zardari’s tenure, Pakistan’s political landscape would have been different. Extensions were non-productive. A genre of post 1971 security officials are expected to contend and clear a backwash they did not create. A wider and intense spectrum of militancy is now visible. The army needs the nation at its back now more than never before.

No political party in the opposition seems prepared to challenge the government on confrontational behaviour. PPP lacks the leadership but not the political sense to seize the moment of its choosing. It will play this waiting game, allowing others to err, and will hope to bounce back popularly.

The silence of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf is intriguing. In 2012, it emerged as a party of change. In 2013, it suffered most in the election rigging. But strangely, the party maintains immoral neutrality over events. What holds it from assuming a leadership role in a situation tailor made for its own high ideals? 

A nation does not live on slogans alone. Pakistanis have to find a leader with credentials to unfold the thesis of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It can happen if social scientists are accorded space as political philosophers and thinkers.

n    The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist and a television anchorperson.