Was the 16-month PDM rule a Civilian Surrender?

DND Thought CenterWas the 16-month PDM rule a Civilian Surrender?

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

The 16-month tenure of the Shahbaz Sharif Coalition government has practically ended while leaving historic inflation behind while promising a better future.

   

The wide-ranging legislation of the last month of the PDM government provided expected opportunities to its opponents and even to his supporters who believe in the classical form of democracy to blame PDM leadership for “Civilian Surrender”.

As expected the primary target is Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and according to critics, it is overriding federal ministries and discarding provincial autonomy

One can find a number of articles that appeared in the last week highlighting the new “Civil-Military Relationship” crafted by PM Shehbaz Sharif. If we gather major points of criticism against the PDM government in such content, we can find four canons targeting PDM rule, and one of them is the alleged “betrayal” of its 26-point agenda of Civilian Supremacy that PMLN and PPP promised under the Charter of Democracy. It is also claimed that PMLN and PPP are competing for getting better positioning in GHQ to please the military leadership as much as possible.

Civilian Surrender or Sane Selections

As expected the primary target is Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and according to critics, it is overriding federal ministries and discarding provincial autonomy (18th Amendment), and creating supra-constitutional bodies to handle foreign investment and a broad range of economic ministries. The One-Window Operation through a Whole Government body is being tagged just as “buzzwords” for the alleged military’s takeover of all natural resources, agro-lands, minerals, water, power, energy, IT, AI, etc.

The second canon is targeting the PDM government for passing bills such as caretaker powers, amendments in the Army Act, Official Secrets Act, Digital Media Law, Privatisation Law, and PEMRA amendments.

The third is focusing on the Census issue claiming that the census issue paved the way to postpone elections till the re-demarcation of constituencies.

The fourth is canon spraying claims such as reducing civil liberties, freedom of expression and independence of media.

Critics believe that PDM has compromised liberties to stop the way of an illiberal populist Imran Khan back to mainstream politics. They believe that the worst sufferer of the situation is “Civilian Supremacy” and second is the democracy. I would like first to address this particular grievance of supporters of the supremacy of the civilian system.

There is no doubt that the military leadership had been asking the civilian leadership to handle the situation in the post-Project Imran Khan dismantling phase and was confined to only its Garrisons (security of the country) till May 9, 2023, but then it was compelled to respond after whatever had happened on this unfortunate day because Garrisons were attacked and this all did not happen in one day. Since voting out from PM Office, former Prime Minister Imran Khan was fanning hatred among the masses against the institution of the military and attacking verbally almost every day against the former and sitting leadership of the Pakistan Army the civilian structure was standing away and was enjoying the situation, might be following the Greek mythological thought that “let the creature eat its creator”.

Imran Khan was not barred from abusing the state institutions while the civilian judiciary during the time of 11 months (from April 2022 to May 2023) had been showering praise, affection, support, and undue respect on Imran Khan and the civilian bureaucracy did not try to come forward and clamp him under rules and civilian tools dealing with media management virtually surrendered to Imran Khan. Is it not true that the PDM government preferred to work with PTI-placed media managers in private as well as in public media hubs and failed miserably to mitigate attempts of PTI to develop hatred among people against Pakistan Army? This undeniable role of “Civilian rule” continued along with comedy theatre run by Imran Khan that at last ended as “Tragicomedy” theatre on May 9, 2023. Did civilian structure not fail in averting the 9th May tragedy?

Don’t you think recent legislation including amendments in the Army Act, Official Secrets Act, Digital Media Law, and PEMRA amendments are directly linked to mitigating possibilities similar to May 9 in the future? Whatever happened on May 9, 2023, was planned and executed by former PM Imran Khan but this is also true that the civilian administrative structure did not avert the situation due to a lack of interest or incompetency of administrative tools.

The criticism regarding Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is uncalled for because a country that is on the verge of financial collapse had to tailor something unusual and out of the box to avert the economic collapse. Nobody can call SIFC a “supra constitutional body” because the Parliament has passed the law and now it’s working within the parameter of the constitution, democracy, and the parliament.  This body has been constituted to handle foreign investment and a broad range of economic development because we have seen that strategic projects like CPEC could be halted when the PMLN government was changed and PTI took over the steering seat. This is an aged-old phenomenon in Pakistan that important projects even those backed by sovereign warranties had been closed down and thrown in a trash bin on political considerations and this habit of civilian administration had been the greatest impediment to attracting foreign investments because foreign as well as domestic investors have no trust over political governments in Pakistan due to alleged corruption within the civilian administrative structure.

According to the article “Tides of change: Pakistan-GCC agricultural collaboration” published in Arab News, the annual report for the year 2023 released by the US Department of State titled “Investment Climate Statements: Pakistan,” foreign investors have been demanding from Pakistan to improve legal protections for foreign investments, clear and consistent administrative policies and a system that can ensure political harassment-free environments for foreign investors. The writer of the article believes that SIFC has been established to address objections raised by foreign investors and it will also work as a “sovereign guarantee” that the change of political governments in the future will not hamper national commitments granted to foreign investors.

The third canon is that Census results have been approved to pave the way to postpone elections till the re-demarcation of constituencies. This is written in the constitution that once census results are approved, the next general elections would be held after the delimitations process is completed because it would increase/decrease seats among provinces therefore instead of appreciating the PDM government for addressing demands of provinces to hold elections after fixing/creating new seats of provinces, this action of PDM government is being taken as an “attempt to avoid forthcoming general elections”.

The fourth allegation is that the PDM government by taking certain actions has compromised and reduced civil liberties, freedom of expression, and independence of media. I am of the view if freedom of media is running news without verification, abusing institutions, and fabricating fairytales under the banner of “News/Analysis” then one can say yes—the PDM government has banned this practice.

Overall the major accusation against the PDM government is that it has wider the role of the Pakistan Army in the future economic design and development of the country by forgetting civilian bureaucracy and civilian administrative structure. I wish to ask those who are raising this objection do they think that the civil administrative structure is effectively serving the country. Pakistan’s debt has already reached over $125.7 USD billion in March 2023 under continued democracy where civilian bureaucracy has been running the country. This debt was at a record low of $37.2 USD billion in Jun 2006. The matrix of the last 10 years showed external debt hugely increased during the years 2018-2022 because it was around $80 billion in 2017 and it jumped to around $130 billion in the year 2022. The only industry that grew in Pakistan in the last two decades is real estate which has been eating out arable lands in the quest of achieving “horizontal growth” of the housing industry and this situation was not possible without the help of the Land Revenue and Management system headed by officers of Pakistan Administrative Service because the act of changing lines drawn between Grey areas and Green areas is just a matter of one stroke of an administrative pen.

We must accept the reality that we cannot run the fragile economy solely depending upon one stratum of society—the civilian one and the Civil Administration has categorically failed and can not serve without total structural revamping. However, nobody dares to even talk about its revamping

We must accept that the civilian state governance system is so redundant that it can only serve its social and economic interests. Sarcastically I can cite that civil administration had gone too low that it could not even deal with the heavy snowfall situation of 9 January 2022 and the Pakistan Army had to respond to save people stranded in the situation after news flashed on television screens that 22 people had already died while sitting in their vehicles. The swift response from Kuldana military camp saved the rest of the people while responsible civil administration was not seen anywhere around the scene. We must be honest enough to accept that a country with this kind of civil administration cannot be run (neither by martial law rule nor by parliamentary rule).

Have you ever watched any social media reel telling you how many civilian bureaucrats have foreign wives and how many of their children are getting an education from the top and the most expensive Western institutions?

Since civil bureaucracy is too strong so no civil or even military government takes a risk to make them answerable in front of the state and politicians understand that the parliamentary system can be sent home within minutes but terminating a grade 6 employee needs several months of homework and a long legal process because they are “permanent”. Now what to do? The most appropriate option or selection with the PDM government was to forget civil administration and plan a future with COAS Gen Asim Munir who himself approached prime minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif with a vision to save the country and for fixing impediments and hurdles that are on the way of possible prosperity.

You must have seen thousands of social media posts about how many former military Generals and politicians have property abroad/ living abroad and have dual nationalities, how many children of military men/politicians are studying abroad, and where and how many perks and privileges a military senior officer gets after retirement

Being a student of Political Philosophy I am crystal clear that we are living in the second decade of the 21st century and we must come out of the political romanticism of classical democracy of the early 60s. We must face realities instead of living in a trance of slumber. We must accept the reality that we cannot run the fragile economy solely depending upon one stratum of society—the civilian one and the Civil Administration has categorically failed and can not serve without total structural revamping. However, nobody dares to even talk about its revamping.

In the end, I wish to ask some questions to my friends who believe that the civil supremacy of the administration model must be maintained and followed. My questions include:

Have you ever read a list of how many sitting and former bureaucrats are enjoying double nationalities?

Have you ever had access to information about the properties of civilian bureaucrats abroad?

Have you ever seen any talk show that has discussed and shared information about the incompetency of civil bureaucracy?

Have you ever watched any social media reel telling you how many civilian bureaucrats have foreign wives and how many of their children are getting an education from the top and the most expensive Western institutions?

Have you ever had access to information on how much a grade 20 plus civilian bureaucrat is costing the country every month?

However, you must have seen thousands of social media posts about how many former military Generals and politicians have property abroad/ living abroad and have dual nationalities, how many children of military men/politicians are studying abroad, and where and how many perks and privileges a military senior officer gets after retirement.

Have you ever thought why we accuse only politicians and military men for their alleged corruption, extravaganza lifestyles, and their properties within the country and abroad but we never discuss the same issues related to civilian bureaucracy?

I am of the view that with the grave economic and strategic threats that Pakistan is facing, we cannot afford to call each other “bloody civilians” and “DHA Walas”. We all have to stand together by forgetting the vocational division provided by the centuries-old concept of classical democracy and also by forgetting the bitter past to move forward in the future.

Must read

Recent News

Gates Foundation, PM’s Climate Aide vow to jointly work for Pakistan’s climate resilience building

0
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have agreed to work jointly for building Pakistan’s...

Ishaq Dar outlines key objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy

0
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar on Tuesday addressed the 51st Foundation Day of the Institute of...

No new duties to be imposed on solar panels: PM

0
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced that no new duties will be imposed on solar panels to ensure common man's access to...

Interbank Dollar Rate Today in Pakistan – 25 June 2024

0
Interbank Exchange Rates in Pakistan The Interbank Closing Exchange Rate in Pakistan has been issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for June 25,...

In some areas, terrorists still roam around at night: Khawaja Asif

0
LAHORE, Pakistan: The Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said that in some areas, terrorists still roam around at night; however, he clarified that the...
Advertisement