The military’s ‘compulsive intervention’ in politics due to weak government capacity
Weak government capacity seems to be often perceived as generating a genuine military ‘responsibility’ for maintaining national security and stability. The levels of civilian oversight are found to be low to moderate, with significant variation depending on the policy area. The military’s upper hand in politics and strategic decision-making is highlighted by the results in Figure 6.6, which illustrates the perceptions of the respondents with regard to the civil-military balance of power.
The results emphasise that the balance of power in transitional Pakistan is perceived to be inclined towards the military, with three quarters of the respondents estimating that the military has superior power in politics
Figure 6.6 Estimation of the Civil-Military Balance of Power.9
compared to civilian institutions. Only 9% of the respondents consider that the balance of power is inclined towards the civilian government. Less than a quarter estimate that political power is shared between the military and the government. These results lead us to infer that the army maintains a de facto veto in decision-making processes. The military’s prevalent role in politics generates significant civil-military imbalances and inhibits the processes of development of civilian political structures. The balance of power was perceived to be strongly inclined towards the military, and the role of civilians in decision-making seen as secondary, particularly in the areas in which the military organised security operations such as FATA or Swat. This was also highlighted during the focus group discussion: “There are seven FATA regions and every region is administrated by a political agent, called deputy commissioner. They became simply as the second figure, irrelevant as far as operations are concerned. (...) Civilian authority was rendered irrelevant” (Focus Group Discussion with Participants #9a and #9b. Senior NGO Representatives). Due to their weakened position and lack of capacity, civilian leaders seem therefore to have lower chances to become powerful agents of change in the processes of military transformation.
Civilian control of the military is embedded in the Constitution. As per Art. 243 of the Constitution, “the Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces” (National Assembly of Pakistan 2010). However, the Pakistan military has managed to successfully stage a number of coups d’etat and to be de jure in power for more than half of Pakistan’s existence as an independent state, while being de facto in power for even longer. Constitutionally, the Armed Forces can “act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so”, see Art. 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan (ibid.). Thus, the government appears to lack the capacity to completely subordinate the armed forces under its political control or to “politically leverage, or culturally manipulate the organization into compliance” (Grissom 2007: 920) and it often remains acquiescent of its exceeded competences. Moreover, the military has significant leeway in exceeding their constitutional role, often under the pretext of security and defence of the country from internal or external security threats. The perceived civilian institutions’ lack of capacity to exert oversight is emphasised in Figure 6.7.
The level of civilian oversight on the military was found to be perceived as low to moderate. No respondent assessed the government capacity as having the potential of sanctioning the military when its actions do not comply with the constitution or the rule of law in general. Sanctioning capacity here refers to the government’s ability to punish military disobedience and hold the military accountable or even “deprive military officers of benefits” for “military defeat, political or economic failures or human rights abuses” (Croissant et at. 2013: 49). Very few respondents estimated that the government has the ability to counterbalance the military, i.e. the civilian government attempts to restrict and control the armed forces’ ability to organise themselves and threaten the democratic establishment, or to monitor the military, i.e. the
Figure 6.7 Estimated Level of Civilian Control of the Military.10
civilian government has mechanisms in place to ‘detect’ military misconduct (Croissant et al. 2013). Most respondents claim that despite the formal democratic system of the government, the military is playing a key role in matters related to foreign policy, security and defence and other political sectors. International disputes with Afghanistan and India - which have proxy effects on some of the domestic conflicts - were regarded to be used by the military to justify its informal veto on national security issues and foreign policy. Almost three quarters of the respondents estimate the government’s oversight capacity as low to moderate: ‘appeasement’, i.e. civilian institutions set incentives for the armed forces to not intervene in politics (Feaver 1999: 228; see also Nelson 2002), ‘acquiescence’, i.e. the civilian government “refrains from intruding on military prerogatives and the institutional autonomy of the military” (Huntington 1995: 14; Fuentes 2000: 119; Trinkunas 2005: 10), or ‘compulsive intervention’, i.e. limited efficiency of government institutions offers a window of opportunity (and necessity) for the military to intervene in governance issues. Only 10% of the respondents estimate the level of control exerted by civilian institutions over the military as ‘political socialisation’, i.e. the civilian government has strategies in place to “strengthen the acceptance of civilian control by transforming the professional norms and mindset of the military officer corps through political education, the reforms of officer training programs and the reorganization of leadership principles” (Croissant et al. 2013: 50; see also Larson 1979; Bruneau and Trinkunas 2006). The lack of civilian oversight can be owed to the military’s rejection of government monitoring on one side and the government’s and society’s lack of capacity to monitor on the other side, as one respondent explains:
The civil society has almost no control over military, in Pakistan the military is a state within the state, and they do not accept any civilian government monitoring. The civilian state when possible follows the policy of appeasement. The civilian government refrains from intruding on military, not because they lack will but because they lack the power to do so.
(Anonymous CSO participant in the survey)
Lack of political engagement, management and good government often impedes civilian institutions from exerting civilian control and thus open the way for the military’s ‘compulsive’ interference in politics. “There is lack of political will, capacity and massive corruption”, claimed one civil society respondent in the anonymous survey (Anonymous CSO participant in the survey). The deficient capacity of civilian political institutions to consolidate the rule of law, control corruption and conduct good policy, which would benefit the people, is illustrated in Figure 6.8 based on the data from the World Bank.
In 2016, the government capacity to control corruption was lower than the levels in 2003 (see the dotted line in Figure 6.8). The rule of law dropped significantly in the year 2000, shortly after the coup d'etat and military takeover by General Pervez Musharraf. The period of the civilian government which followed was characterised by slight improvements in the rule of law, while the overall value continued to remain negative (ca. -0.7) in 2017 (see the dashed line in Figure 6.8). Government effectiveness started to drop substantially from 2006 onwards and started to slightly improve again from 2013 (see the grey line in Figure 6.8). The inability of the civilian institutions to establish the rule of law and maintain order and security seemed
Figure 6.8 Corruption, Rule of Law and Government Effectiveness in Pakistan (1996-2017).“ to have opened a vacuum that was filled by the military, and this had more or less the support of the society. As a formal overtake of power, i.e. coup d’etat, would not be acceptable to the Pakistani elite or society, the military adopted approaches reflecting the changes in the political culture as a result of a rapidly growing middle class and an emerging specialised elite.
Overall, despite tangible changes in the military institution, the processes of institutional change exhibited inconsistencies and discontinuities, showing thus a pattern of an incomplete, non-linear or hybrid transformation, in which elements of the old institutional structure and strategy co-exist with modern strategic and operational approaches. These dynamics are explained in detail below.