Military’s complaint

Published November 12, 2015
.—ISPR/File
.—ISPR/File

A DAY can make a great deal of difference. On Monday, the prime minister and his senior aides, along with senior military officials, met to review progress on the National Action Plan. The meeting concluded that progress in some key areas was not satisfactory.

Crucially, the official reports of the meeting did not specify what new steps were decided on to improve implementation of NAP in the areas where progress was found wanting.

The next day came the institutional blowback. In a blunt statement following the corps commanders’ conference held on Tuesday, the ISPR communicated the military’s unhappiness with the extent to which the civilian side of the state is allegedly lagging behind the military side in fighting terrorism and extremism.

Also read: Implementing NAP is a shared responsibility, govt reiterates

Clearly, it cannot be a welcome state of affairs when the military leadership is publicly assailing the civilian leadership of the country. What compounds that problem is that a day earlier the army chief himself participated in the NAP review meeting convened by the prime minister.

Could the specific concerns the army leadership has about NAP’s implementation not have been communicated in private?

There is another aspect to the problem: are the military’s claims of success in fighting terrorism and militancy really what they are made out to be? While no one would claim that the civilian side of the state is performing adequately, it is also the case that the civilian shortcomings are in full view of the public.

Is that necessarily so in the case of the military? When it comes to military operations in Fata, for example, are the frequent claims of sustained progress in any way independently verifiable?

While Operation Zarb-i-Azb has disrupted militant networks in North Waziristan and reclaimed territory that militant groups dominated for years, there was never any road map to success declared by the military in advance. That means there is no way of knowing if Zarb-i-Azb is going according to plan and original expectations.

Furthermore, with the majority of the IDPs yet to be resettled, it is not known at what cost the military successes have come. Consider the situation in adjoining South Waziristan, where a military operation launched in 2009 has yet to lead to the full normalisation of the agency.

Finally, presuming the military’s intention is to work in coordination with a civilian leadership jolted into action, were Tuesday’s statements via the media in any way helpful to the very goal the military is ostensibly trying to achieve?

In the realm of civil-military relations, a civilian leadership is unlikely to be humiliated or coerced into doing its job by the military. Such public pressure may in fact breed more resentment among the civilian leadership and help thwart the very goal the military is trying to achieve.

Fighting terrorism and militancy must remain a national priority. The civilians need to do more. The military needs to be wiser.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2015

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