Pakistan needs to balance itself between a welfare state and a security state: Experts

Islamabad: A civil-military dialogue is the only solution to the dilemma persisting between the need for a professional army and military influence in politics. The best forum for this purpose is the National Security Committee (NSC), which needs to effectively function as a platform for regular dialogue and consultation. In addition, both military and civil stakeholders must commit to the Constitution, as well as people’s welfare beyond the power dynamics.

The dilemma is that Pakistan still needs to define itself as a welfare state or security state. Striking a balance between the two is critical to ensuring a strong democratic framework in which the military’s role is subordinate to civilian rule.

This was observed during a session titled ‘Civil-Military Relations in a Democratic Pakistan,’ held as part of the two-day conference titled ‘The Constitution of Pakistan: Lessons for Next 50 Years’ co-organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad, and the Department of Law, Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Rawalpindi. The conference was addressed by veteran statesmen, jurists, and constitutional experts.

The session, chaired by Lt Gen (r) Naeem Khalid Lodhi, former federal minister for national security, was addressed as keynote speaker by Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), while researchers from various national and international universities presented their papers related to this theme.

“Civil-military relations are the most crucial aspect of the future democratic framework of Pakistan,” remarked Mehboob.

He underscored that “traditional civil-military relations are not sustainable” as “the current mess in economy, polity, and society cannot be separated from the so-called hybrid model of governance.” It is critical to adapt to the current challenges and develop a new, more dynamic approach to civil-military relations, he added.

He stressed the only way forward is through healthy and constructive civil-military dialogue, for which an active “National Security Committee provides an excellent forum” as it can facilitate open communication, develop mutual understanding, and help define a course for Pakistan’s civil-military relations in the future.

The debate around civil-military relations centers heavily on the role of the military and power dynamics between military and civilians. “The problems in civil-to-civil relations, as part of civil-military relations, are often overlooked,” said Lt Gen (r) Lodhi.

He underscored the need to broaden the scope of the civil-military relations dialogue to encompass civil-civil relations, which he remarked, were not functioning well, too, given the executive-judiciary, and federation-provinces-local bodies power dynamics.

Furthermore, he referred to civilian politicians seeking favors with the military to acquire power. He emphasized the significance of assessing the performance of civilian institutions and actors, as the level of collaboration and professionalism across civilian institutions is equally critical to democratic growth.

Regarding the perception that the military defines the country’s national interest, Lodhi said it is a consensus among states that national interest is the welfare and well-being of the people. So it does not matter who defines it as long as it fulfills the purpose, he maintained.

In his analogy, the military is ‘the muscle’ of the state, and civilians ‘the brain.’ Therefore, both must work together to drive national growth. In this regard, “people’s welfare and well-being must be the common goal of both” the military and civilians, he stated. However, he added that politicians should show their capability instead of just seeking popularity.

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