Governance in Pakistan is a delicate balancing act between the military chiefs and the elected civilian government. It is a power-sharing arrangement whereby the military has important influence over foreign, security and key domestic issues, and mediates confrontations among feuding political leaders, parties or state institutions- if such confrontations are deemed threatening to political order and stability. Although the civilian government enjoys considerable autonomy for political and economic management and exercise of state authority, it is expected always to consider the military’s sensibilities. The military has repeatedly demonstrated that it can and will influence the nature and direction of political change without necessarily assuming power. How to cope with this kind of ‘soft’ military intervention is a common dilemma for civilian leaders of states that have experienced prolonged military rule. The civilian regimes that succeed military rule face serious identity crises. On the one hand, these governments want to prove that they are not under the tutelage of the military and can act autonomously. On the other hand, they cannot afford to alienate the military leadership, whose support is crucial to their survival. Their task is complicated by the fact that the top brass are loath to surrender the power and privileges that they enjoyed during the years of military rule. The military ensures that there are sufficient constitutional and political safeguards to sustain their entrenched position in the period after their withdrawal from direct rule. Extended military rule in a multi-ethnic and diversified society also increases political fragmentation and creates vested interests supporting authoritarian and non- democratic political arrangements. These conditions make the task of political management difficult for any post-martial law civilian regime aiming to establish its credentials as a genuine democratic government while not alienating the senior commanders.
About the Author: Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi is a renowned political scientist and military analyst.