Gen Kayani speaks on democracy
A rule of thumb in Pakistan for many decades: when the army chief speaks, it is worth listening to ~ for clues about national security policy and the state of civil-military relations in particular.
Over the last year of his six-year stewardship of the Pakistan Army, Gen Kayani has increasingly spoken bluntly about those two issues and he turned to them once again on Saturday while addressing fresh graduates at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul.
On the issue of democracy, few dates could match the relevance of Oct 12 ~ it was on that very day in 1999 that Pervez Musharraf, the man who nominated Gen Kayani to succeed him in 2007, overthrew an elected government.
Democratic continuity is a must and the country&’s elected leadership must be the one to take the big decisions, Gen Kayani told his audience of future military leaders.
The gist of Gen Kayani&’s comments on democracy and civil-military relations is unarguable and rightly so.
But true democracy is so much more than just continuity and a regular schedule of elections; it is about the civilians slowly but surely being the ones truly in charge.
Since Gen Musharraf&’s rule, the army has certainly pulled out of many domestic spheres and made little or no attempt to interfere in many spheres under control of the civilians, for example, the economy or changes to the Constitution.
But that quickly changes where key security and related foreign policy issues are concerned. On Afghanistan, in Fata, on relations with the US and India, on nuclear policy, who is really calling the shots? While the space for the civilians has increased in these areas, it seems fairly clear that the military still wields a veto over civilian initiatives or ideas.
Until that changes, can it really be said, as Gen Kayani claimed on Saturday, that “decisions regarding the destiny of the people of this country are being taken by [the political] leadership”?