Civil-military Relations & Democracy

Civil-military rel

The word ‘civil’ refers to the civil government as an entity, of which the military itself is a significant part. The civil government is decidedly the superior of the two and the only relationship between them should be that of a superior and a subordinate. But, in Pakistan’s case, the subordinate entity has, time and again, toppled the superior entity’s rule. These interventions have impacted all state institutions including the Constitution, Parliament, Judiciary and the Civil Services so hugely that all sections of the society abhor any repeat of such intervention.

Professor Samuel P. Huntington, in his book ‘Soldier in the State’ and Morris Janowitz in the ‘Professional Soldier’, agree that the worlds of the military and the civil are fundamentally different from one another. Both these political scientists discussed in their respective books that how best the two can coexist without endangering liberal democracy.

Huntington believes there is a strong contrast between the attitudes and values held by the military personnel, who are mostly conservative, and those held by the civilians, who are mostly liberal. Each of their separate world consisted of separate institutions with their own operative rules and norms. Huntington suggested that in order for the civilian authority to maintain control, it needs to find a way to direct the military without unduly infringing on their internal autonomous character and organisation or the prerogatives of the military world and thus provoking a backlash. The civilian authority has to determine the quantum of control which must necessarily be institutional and lawful and not for seeking political advantages.

Professor Janowitz more or less agrees with the above thesis, but introduces a theory of convergence, meaning that while the differences remain within the two separate worlds, the civil authority, understanding the need for a strong professional military and still desiring supremacy in control and direction within a democratic state, must try to get institutionally closer to each other through better understanding and arrangements. The arrangements proposed by him are the establishment of large paramilitary forces fully trained and equipped to remain at the backup of the police and other civil forces, which must also be equally well trained and equipped but which must be able to deal effectively as a first layer with the internal disturbances.

In essence, both Huntington and Janowitz would want the military to remain totally away from the negative political and social influences of the civilian world on a professional army and, to a lesser degree, on the paramilitary forces.

Pakistan Army inherited strong British traditions of strict meritorious recruitment, a very rigorous and professional training for the officers’ core leading to a recognised university degree, inculcation of strict discipline, goal orientation, refresher courses and mid-service training as well as a high level of esprit de corps. They are encouraged to live in isolated cantonments with their families and generally come in contact with their civilian counterparts sometimes in city markets or on TV. They have their own sports grounds, own social get-togethers, own schools and colleges and own hospitals. So, the Pakistani military has a world of its own where the rules of behaviour, conduct of business, modalities of doing work, respect for orders from above, nature of conferences, levels and depths of discussions are totally different from their civilian counterparts.

Pak Army’s Strengths

Let us look at the institutional arrangements of Pakistan Army Officers’ Corps a little more closely for a better understanding. The following attributes in Pak Army officers are more conspicuous:

  1. The military is a highly organized and disciplined force with a clear command and control structure from top to bottom. It recruits its soldiers and officers quite transparently on merit and in accordance with fixed standards to ensure quality of intake. It is highly disciplined and abhors disorganisation and ill discipline. What the civilians may consider the political convulsions as the beauty of democracy, the military would consider, chaotic and undesirable. The military’s concept of loyalty to Pakistan is somewhat fixed and is a result of its own acquired knowledge and perceptions of the currents, cross-currents and under-currents prevailing in the region.
  2. The military believes that it is mandated to fight such subversive attempts by the Constitution and defence policy. It, therefore, keeps fighting for budget in proportion to India’s much larger budget to be able to pursue its defence.
  3. The military believes in preparing itself for various eventualities and variants of war in great detail. These follow the Defence Policy objectives and guidelines approved from time to time by the federal cabinet. Detailed planning is done, for instance, for evacuation of people in case of damage to a river or canal to safer places and for that to pinpoint places for lodging/boarding, identification of boats and boatmen, hospitals, food, transportation etc. Nothing is left to chance or to verbal orders.
  4. The military believes in looking after its soldiers and officers in peacetime to enable them to fight any war without domestic worries. The military looks after their health and other basic needs, even after retirement. These measures include many privileges greatly criticised by many civilians, but jealously guarded by the military.
  5. The military believes in strict discipline, which would forbid unauthorised contact by any officer with any outsider or a political personage. The promotions and appointments within the military are made by following strict standards and all outside influences in this regard are greatly discouraged and looked down upon.
  6. Since soldiers and officers are drawn mainly from rural lower middle class, largely from Punjab, KP and Sindh, few even from Balochistan; they are mainly conservative, and religiously inclined and by and large averse to Western modernism. The military has fought three wars with India, and is fighting presently an elusive war against the terrorists whom one cannot even easily recognise that who are from within Pakistan and our own people but led astray by adverse beliefs and propaganda.

Strengths of the Civilian Government

On the other hand, the civilian government draws its strength from the political party who had won an election. But, in Pakistan, the contesting parties not only appeal directly to the voters but also seek support of multiple smaller interest groups who all become the winner after the elections for their return of favour. These favours usually are beyond the pale of legal propriety and devoid of merit. Generally, the parties do have their manifestos containing their proposed political, social, economic and other programmes and policies. These policies are implemented by the bureaucrats who are recruited on merit, trained in various professions and placed in jobs with appropriate tools and work environment for carrying out the programmes and policies.

In a parliamentary democracy, where governments can change after elections, such trained specialists should be totally neutral and apolitical. Otherwise, every new government will have to recruit hundreds and thousands of these specialists afresh which would be a tortuous process. The worse will be if a party in power tries to woo these permanent state servants to serve their own party and personal interests by various means which would come within the definition of corruption. To prevent such eventualities, the framers of the Constitution provided a framework which holds the governments accountable and checks them from indulging in malpractices. This framework is in the form of:

  1. Parliament, with opposition parties free to ask any question and enquire into anything.
  2. Judiciary, which not only interprets laws but also checks the government where it goes wrong.
  3. Auditor General, a senior post protected by the Constitution to audit the government expenditures.
  4. The Executive, comprising the military and the civil service under the control of the executive government to carry out all its lawful orders.


The strength of an elected government lies in its popularity amongst the people which is determined by the effectiveness and quality of the various services performed by the state functionaries under the general policy control and guidance of the political government. The true fruits of democracy are enjoyed by the people of a state through good governance.

The people want democracy, but they also want peace, order and justice around them within their own life time. They want end to their poverty within their own lives. They want health, education, equal opportunities of development for all children now, not tomorrow. This is the essence of social contract. The convergence between the civilian government, the political elite and the civil and military professionals takes place around good governance delivered to the governed whose ultimate satisfaction is the guarantee of a sound polity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *