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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid