Global Think Tank Network
(GTTN) of the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) organized a
high-level discussion session on civil-military relations in Pakistan on
Thursday, the 17th of March. GTTN Senior Fellow and former Commander 11 Corps,
Lt. Gen. (Retd) Masood Aslam, made a detailed presentation on the topic.
Eminent intellectuals, academics, distinguished statesmen, diplomats, scholars,
and students were present. Some of the personalities who participated in the
discussion included GTTN Senior Fellows; former Chairperson HEC, Dr.
Atta-ur-Rahman; Rector NUST, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Asghar; former Federal
Minister Dr. Sania Nishtar; Rector NUML Major General (Retd) Ziauddin Najam;
CEO and Group Chairman Interactive Convergence Dr. Shahid Mahmud; Former DG IB
Dr. Shoaib Suddle; and Editor-in-Chief Blue Chip Magazine Humayun Gauhar.
The discussants agreed
that the question of civil-military relations lay at the very roots of the
challenge of organizing and managing a modern nation-state. This challenge had
been met by different nations and peoples in different manner around the world.
One common thing that was to be noted in countries and states like the US,
Germany, and UK, where this question seemed to have been satisfactorily
settled, was the mutual recognition on the part of civilian and military
spheres of authority of the indispensable functional presence of both for
ensuring a successful and secure polity focused on delivering a free, safe, and
decent life to their citizens. However, in these countries the process of
establishing and maintaining the harmony between spheres was difficult and in a
state of precarious equilibrium at any point in time.
It was unanimously
affirmed that this mutual recognition and respect had been historically and
routinely lacking in the institutional interaction between different spheres of
decision-making in Pakistan. The problem of the lack of civil-military harmony
had chronically beset the country since its inception as an independent and
sovereign state. One of the most potent reasons that had hampered the dual
process of the development of state institutions and maturation of state
functionaries in Pakistan was the sinister regularity with which the
civil-military understanding or interaction broke down and resulted in the
alternation of inefficient military rule and clueless political dominance.
Further, differences in cultures of leadership and orientation of objectives in
politics-civilian and military spheres were stated to be a major factor in the
perpetuation of mutual suspicion that manifested whenever any major national
situation rose or an important decision had to be made.
The discussants realized
that there was an urgent need to promote greater goodwill and common
understanding between political and military leadership. It was stated that
uncompromising preference for and insistence on competence, merit, and
integrity across the whole spectrum of private and public spheres was one way
in which harmony could be established not only between civil and military
spheres but between all segments and sections of society. However, it was also recognized
that this long-term solution could be brought about only through certain
fundamental changes in the way Pakistani society had been organized. While,
gradual but committed efforts had to be undertaken for the realization of the
long-term objective, immediate modi Vivendi also needed to be created urgently
to enable trust-based civil-military harmony.
recommendation was to shift the emphasis provisionally from civil-military
interaction and relations to the delimitation of roles of civil and military
spheres leading to the formulation of strict and verifiable key performance
indicators (KPIs) for both spheres. This had to be followed with the establishment
of a viable system of monitoring and evaluation to ensure if these KPIs were
being fulfilled meticulously and efficiently by both the spheres.
recommendation that came out of the discussion was to leverage the power of
higher education, science, and technology to try and create a workable harmony
amongst these spheres through focusing the attention of both on the primary
need of acquiring the latest body of knowledge and technology to enable
Pakistan to become globally competitive and sustainable in the present and the
future. This could not be done unless the focus of both politics and military
was the establishment of an elaborate, extensive, dynamic, flexible, and
advanced infrastructure and system of knowledge creation and dissemination that
was able to reach the whole length and breadth of Pakistan and specialized in
turning raw human resources into human capital of the highest order. This focus
would allow leadership classes in Pakistan to look beyond the medieval conceptions
of power and authority. These obsolete conceptions of power were built on a worldwide
of a bygone world in which there used to be minimal social mobility with
minimal local and global networking which in turn was compounded by mass
ignorance. Leadership style and culture of governance in Pakistan, regardless
of institutional spheres, was, therefore, completely out of tune with the
demands and realities of the 21st century world in which Pakistan found itself.
Pakistan could no longer be kept in such a time warp. Focus on knowledge and
innovation would have far-reaching beneficial effects for the country. It was recognized
that this focus did not only have to be verbal, but also had to reflect in
governmental priorities, become the leading concern in actions of leaders and
masses alike, and transform into the top priority of social and institutional
relations in the country.
A second interesting and
promising recommendation was common learning sessions conducted by leading
national and global experts for different institutional tiers of leadership. From
the national level all the way down to the local level in diverse fields that
were critical to running the 21st century, states, markets, and societies and
crucial for managing continual local, national, regional and global change.
These sessions were considered an extremely important tool for creating the
cutting-edge mind-set required for governing Pakistan efficiently.
Interestingly, the People’s Republic of China had institutionalized such
learning sessions for its leadership at the highest level decades ago, which,
to a large extent, enabled China to become a first-order global power in a
space of just three decades. It was recognized by the discussants that these
sessions, if they were ever to be conducted in Pakistan, had to be persistent
and persevering so that the initial ingrained cynicism of officialdom could be
In sum, the discussants
asserted that improvement in civil-military relations were an evolutionary process,
but the task of statesmanship and policymaking was to positively accelerate the
process rather than disrupt it. A brief investiture ceremony took place at the
end of the discussion session for the thought leaders associated with NUST