Change in civil-military relations

Another indicator of the ideological shift in the military’s strategy and doctrine from t] to t2 is the substantial change in civil-military relations and the military’s readiness to acquiesce the processes that can enable the development of a democratic environment, for survival purposes. As showed by the results in Figure 6.4, civil-military relations, including NGO-military relations, improved after the military regime of Pervez Musharraf.

More than two-thirds of the respondents in the analysed sample perceive that the operational environment in general and the conditions of interaction with the military, specifically, rather improved after 2008. Only 9% consider that the situation remained constant while 5% of the respondents evaluate the change as rather negative, with the conditions for interaction during the Musharraf regime being perceived to have been better - “I feel, the government was also NGO friendly before, also because decentralisation of power and local government structures” (Interview Participant #10, Senior NGO Representative). Surprisingly, one virtue of the Musharraf era was media liberalisation and the proliferation of private broadcasting, which constituted not only a ‘viable’ economic reform and modernisation but also a possible source of public support (Hassan 2017: 77-8). Many political leaders were forced into exile; nonetheless, some political forces, such

Estimation of the Perceived Change in Civil-Military Relations from t| to t

Figure 6.4 Estimation of the Perceived Change in Civil-Military Relations from t| to t2.6

as the ‘King’s Party’ (the PML-Q) - which was believed to be “under the direction and scrutiny of Musharraf” (Ali 2020: 184)-continued its activity.

Most respondents were of the opinion that the post-Musharraf period was not only coup-free but also reflected a certain change of the military institution, strategy and attitudes towards democracy. This was emphasised by several civilian participants in the study:

  • • ‘Military has changed from its position 10 years ago (...) today’s military is democratic, supportive, inclusive’ (Interview Participant #11, Senior Media Representative).
  • • ‘Environment is more conducive right now. (...) The military institution is also more inclined to root out these extremists from Pakistan’ (Interview Participant #23, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘[SJince 2008, the military is accepting their role under the command of civilians, at least formal’ (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘Historically, Rehman7 has a history for fighting the dictators and the rights of the people. During Musharraf time, they were banned. They were able to cross the finish line after Musharraf’ (Interview Participant #40, Senior Media Representative).

In consistency with the previous findings, the results in Figure 6.5 suggest that the quality of civil-military relations post-Musharraf largely improved. The results illustrated in Figure 6.5 present the types of interaction between NGOs and the military, distinguishing between coordination (formal integration), cooperation (informal interaction), collaboration (formal and informal interactions) and no interaction.

Type of NGO-Military Interaction

Figure 6.5 Type of NGO-Military Interaction.1

More than half of the organisations assess their interaction with the military as mainly cooperation, i.e. informal type of agreements and contact, while 16% estimated their relations with the military as collaboration (both formal and informal). Less than 5% of the organisations claimed to be engaged in formal operations with the military, while about one quarter stated that they do not have any interaction with the military. Interaction between CSOs and the military can take the form of joint projects, policy consultation or participation in security-related conferences or research. For some organisations, it is more difficult to cooperate with the military than for others, mainly depending on their strategies, vision towards change or policy area in which they operate. Many organisations consider coordination, cooperation or collaboration with the military unfeasible due to the lack of institutional liaising mechanisms. Some reject it on principle and some have not thought about the possibility of integrating the military in their work. CSO-military coordination, i.e. formal agreement, is rare, as formal mechanisms of interaction are absent and coordination can usually take place via the government or ISPR, which is the media department of the Pakistan Armed Forces, in charge of coordinating news and information as well as of public relations.

Based on the instances of interaction between military and civilian organisations narrated by the respondents, it was found that military and civilian actors might work together more effectively in the implementation phase of their projects, particularly in difficult or insecure contexts. NGO workers and military personnel do joint work, often at a grassroots level, during the implementation of specific projects. For example, in difficult terrains such as Waziristan, FATA or Swat, the military often facilitate civilian organisations conducting activities there, in the form of transport, security and guidance:

  • • ‘They provided us transport and everything. They guided us. (...) Sometimes they provide helicopters also. Then they invite many NGOs representatives, not only one. Then they go together. One higher officer like colonel or brigadier, he will coordinate and brief about the area, conflicts, problems, their operations and then we will implement or facilitate’ (Interview Participant #14, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • ‘Once you get the NOC, which is a major step in implementing the project, they are quite adjusting and they help you in the field. They do support you, they provide security, but it is all dependent on the NOC. Once you get it, if you sit and talk to them, they understand. Still, there is a need for training, awareness sessions, capacity building on approaches which we are using as humanitarian actors and the commitments which we need to fulfil. Which the state is signatory of (...) (Interview Participant #41, Senior NGO Representative).

Compliance with legal provisions, in this case the obtainment of the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Interior, is a genuine prerequisite for cooperation with military institutions at a grassroots level. The NOC is an approval which is issued by the Ministry of Interior to individuals or organisations aiming to travel or conduct activities in the regions considered sensitive or restricted due to the security situation. Particularly after the US security operation in relation to Osama bin Laden with the alleged support of a staff affiliated with the US INGO Save the Children, the process for obtaining the NOC became more difficult and uneven. Many NGOs struggled or were unable to obtain the legal permission, while numerous NGOs were found to be able to apply and get the NOC for conducting activities in restricted areas. It is mostly projects in the developing and assistance sector, such as offering medical and healthcare, educational or vocational training, housing, which were found to be more likely to get the support of the Ministry of Interior and receive the NOC, and then the support of the military staff on the ground.

The difficulty of a possible coordination between the military and civilian organisations, particularly NGOs, consists in the different objectives and strategic visions of the military and NGOs, which impede them to be involved in centralised decision-making structures required by the processes of coordination. As one of the respondents emphasises:

[T]he approaches are different. The humanitarian actors have to follow some standards and international protocols, like Geneva conventions, human rights conventions, UN protocols, but the military have a different approach. They are working on the preventive side through the use of force. We are also working on preventive, but through different approaches, awareness raising, social cohesion, rehabilitation, social support, assistance in terms of soft and hard. We do face a lot of challenges and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, the humanitarian actors are quite vulnerable. (...) They do not trust CSOs because they see them as agents of some foreigners. And the military are also not satisfied with humanitarian actors, they think they are involved in corrupt activities and anti-state. But the story is not that. They are seeing it from their own perspective.

(Interview Participant #42, Senior NGO Representative)

The results show that on the ground, particularly at the level of implementation, it is more cooperation (informal agreement) and far less coordination (formal agreement) taking place between agencies. The military is assisting civilian actors, including NGOs, in resource allocation and development activities in insecure regions. Trust relations and routinised interactions might develop over time. This represents a significant shift in civil-military relations in comparison with the Musharraf era, when this type of cooperation was less conceivable or only conceivable during the time of major crises and natural catastrophes.

The ideological shifts in the military institution were also emphasised by the military’s change in its positionality vis-a-vis democratic processes. Through radical changes in the organisational structure and strategic vision, the way in which these dynamics take place is explained in detail in the next sub-section.

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