Non-linear and incomplete transformation
While the results provided in this chapter showed that most respondents believed that there was a tangible withdrawal of the military from civilian affairs after 2008, the military was found to follow a trajectory of non-linear and incomplete institutional change and transformation. This is suggested by the military’s uncertain disengagement from a ‘good/bad Taliban’ policy and deep-rooted (undemocratic) elements in the military organisational and decision-making structure.
First, despite several effective counterterrorism and counter-crime operations, the sincerity and credibility of the military’s counterterrorism strategy seem to remain uncertain. Several respondents, including from the military, claimed that the army shifted from the ‘good versus bad Taliban’ policy that was previously publicly acknowledged by high-level military officers. But simultaneously, a significant variation vis-a-vis this policy in the military’s actions in real-life politics could be ascertained. There was a generalised opinion that the military has adopted a robust approach to eradicate terrorism and militancy after the resurgence of large-scale terrorist attacks after 2014, but the data of this research also confirmed the military’s support for Jamaat-ud-Da’wah (JuD) (Interview Participants #19 and #44, Senior Military Representatives), a group formally registered and operating as a charity society (NGO) but known to be linked to the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This has raised doubts about the sincerity of the military’s approach to prevent home-grown terrorism. Under the 2014 NAP on security and counterterrorism, the military claimed to indiscriminately fight against terrorism and was presumed to have detached from its previous (publicly acknowledged) approach differentiating between ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’. But many respondents pointed out that the army is not always pro-peace, and its commitments to indiscriminate counterterrorism remain fluctuant. The credibility of the armed forces’ strategy is found to be impaired by the contradictory actions at an operational level. For example, while the military took action against the JuD leader under the EU and US pressure, the data also showed the military’s continued support for JuD activists operating in Balochistan, KP or other ‘restricted’ or sensitive areas exposed to higher risks of recruitment and radicalisation. This reflects a heterogeneous and non-linear position on the issue of security and terrorism. In addition, the Pakistan military was claimed to be responsible of numerous enforced disappearances, in particular in Balochistan. Increased transparency and access to independent commissions to monitor and investigate the human rights situation could shed light on these issues and perhaps increase the domestic and international trust deficit in the armed forces. However, robust mechanisms in this regard have not yet been institutionalised.
The continuous necessity of military operations to maintain a secure and relatively stable environment highlights the weakness and failure of the military’s approach to be sustainable. This was started to be questioned by more and more people in Pakistan. One senior NGO respondent was of the opinion that:
[The] Army’s approach is reproducing their existence while failing to be sustainable. I do not know how sustainable these operations have really been. If peace is going to be held as for so long as a man in uniform is standing in front of them, (...) I do not know how successful that will be. (...) If human rights would be respected during security operations of the military we would not question that much (...) but there seems to be a general consciousness that is absolutely opposed to the idea of law and rule of law and to the idea of being accountable to anyone. (...) We do not want them to be accountable to NGOs, but to their own mechanisms.
(Interview Participant #34, Senior NGO Representative)
The perceived continuous military assertion of power and control can significantly inhibit the development of civilian political institutional structures. Particularly in conflict-affected areas, e.g. in FATA, structures of the civilian institutions have been largely undermined since the beginning of the counterinsurgency operation. Many believe that, due to its longstanding tradition in governance, the military “sees itself as the real guardian of this territory called Pakistan” (Focus Group Discussion with Participants #9a and #9b, Senior NGO Representatives). As a result, this is likely to obstruct the process of transition from traditional military visions to new ones.
The dynamics of incomplete transformation were also reflected in the adoption of the NAP. This policy was found to have become a prototype of civil-military engagement and joint decision-making for the Ministry of Interior, military and other security-relevant institutions after 2014. Some believed that it allowed the military to maintain actual control while creating the appearance of civilian oversight. The military’s support for the NAP has been immensely acknowledged by the civil society as a shift towards an indiscriminate counterterrorism approach. However, it also revealed the limitations of the military institution to act as a democratiser or democratic actor in a highly insecure and instable environment such as Pakistan. Criticism was exerted with regard to the asymmetric implementation of the different dimensions. In particular, there was lack of clarity towards the strategy on the social dimension of the NAP. At the request of several NGOs, a NAP on human rights was also adopted, with the objective of protecting human rights during the implementation of the NAP on counterterrorism (Interview Participant #38, Senior NGO Representative). Nonetheless, this aspect did not receive much attention during the announcement of the NAP or the implementation stage and it was overshadowed by the death sentence and the military courts at the enforcement level. Another weak point of the NAP was related to the assessment of the implementation progress and transparency. One respondent suggestively claimed that:
The biggest flaw in that design is that it is not designed in one integrated manner - i.e. this is the project, you group a number of actions, you do assign a person to implement and monitor, you design project outputs and results. Nothing is there.
(Interview Participant #10, Senior NGO Representative)
This view outlines the perception that, despite the involvement of various stakeholders, ranging from political institutions, to civil society representatives, including NGOs and think tanks, during the drafting and at various implementation stages, there are many opinions that the decision-making about the outputs is not a collective one, but that, instead, the vision of the military institution prevails: “One man is heading all committees” (Interview Participant #10, Senior NGO Representative).
Second, linked to the dynamic described earlier, deep-rooted traditional elements of military mentality, vision and organisational structure are found to constitute some impediments towards a greater modernisation of the military institution. As the respondents put it: “There is still this cocoon decision-making. One person sitting in the room, not much information around him, his will is implemented across the border” (Focus Group Discussion with Participants #9a and #9b, Senior NGO Representatives). This once more highlights the critical importance of leadership as an intervening variable in the processes of institutional change and transformation. It also shows the asymmetric dynamic of change at an intra-organisational level. The military lacks robust intra-organisational accountability or checks- and-balance mechanisms, and this can expose the organisation to various sources of instability. Depending on the constellation of exogenous and endogenous variables to which the institutional structures on one side and the military personnel on the other side are exposed, processes of change can be performed quite differently and vary in magnitude and impact. For example, the military personnel who had extensive interaction with internationals or benefitted from training abroad (e.g. with other armies or in civil-military frameworks) might have different attitudes towards institutional change and democratisation than military staff who did not benefit of such training or interaction. As a result of these complex and uncontrollable dynamics, the processes of change and transformation will come across relatively heterogeneous, inconsistent, asymmetric or even in the form of contradictory processes of military adaptation.