News / Asia

Upcoming Pakistan Vote Signals Change in Civilian-Military Relations

Sharon Behn
On May 11, Pakistan will hold national elections to usher in a new civilian government. After decades of military rule and political instability, this will be the first time in the country's history that a civilian government will transfer power through the ballot box. The handover reflects a shift in the relationship between civilian and military institutions in Pakistan.

Army leader General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has kept his vow to keep the military out of politics. After decades of military coups and political interventions, May's national elections will mark the first time a government has completed its five-year term and peacefully handed over power to another civilian government.
 
Former military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says both the military and civilian leaderships have matured since the country first became an Islamic republic in 1956.
 
"I would say the military leadership of this time has taken the principled decision to support democracy and not to allow the system to derail in any case, because they believe this is the way forward, as far as our nation, our country is concerned," Abbas said.
 
That decision is a milestone for Pakistan's democratic development and an expansion of the democratic process. This year for the first time, political parties are being allowed to campaign in the military-controlled northwest Federally Administered Tribal Areas - known as FATA -- on the border with Afghanistan.
 
Ashraf Ali, president of the FATA research center, says permitting those campaigns are a first step to integrating the region into the country's political mainstream.
 
“There is quite a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the masses who know that now this process is ours," Ali said. "They have been given a sense of ownership now. Previously it was the case they were excluded from the political process and that was the crux of the issues. Now they have been given the sense of ownership that these elections are meant for you, these are from you, and these are for you."
 
Ali says this sense of inclusion may also help the civilian leadership to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, which in turn could affect how the military moves forward in the militant strongholds.
 
"I believe that things are getting changed in FATA, in the given circumstances," Ali said. "I believe the civil-military relations are going to be getting better, and I believe now there is a realization on the part of the army, as well that it is the job of the civilian governments, that it is not the military to deliver on that front. It is going to be the job of the political administration to deliver."                         
 
Former ambassador Karl Inderfurth of the United States Institute of Peace says the changes taking place within and between the civilian and military leaderships will prove extraordinarily important for Pakistan.
 
But he cautions that it is a relationship that cannot be taken for granted.
 
"It is fair to say that the military, including the ISI, which is part of the military, remain key players in the political dynamic of Pakistan and will remain that way for the foreseeable future," the ambassador noted. "Indeed a democratic Pakistan and a strong military these are not incompatible; it is a question though of the military respect for and willingness to abide by, the decisions of a democratically elected civilian leadership. That is the issue here."
 
In economically fragile Pakistan, many point to weak growth, unemployment and the country’s ongoing energy crisis as major concerns for the incoming government.
 
Retired General Talat Masood says the economy has become so central for both the armed forces and the civilians that the two can no longer afford to move in different directions. But he warns that if a new government is too weak to govern effectively, the balance of power may tip once again.
 
"Well, I would say that if the next government fails to deliver to the minimum as far as the economy is concerned to meet the energy needs, the educational needs, and does not turn this somewhat semi-dysfunctional state into a functional state, then obviously the power of the military forces and the bureaucracy will increase, along maybe with the judiciary, and they will then fill in the vacuum," he said.
 
Overall, analysts agree the military will remain a key player in Pakistan, though it will likely remain behind the scenes. The question that remains is to what extent the country's top generals will abide by the national and foreign policy decisions of a newly-elected civilian leadership.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid