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Khaki Games

By Saad Hafiz:

It is evident from recent events that the Pakistan military has never accepted the concept of civilian control. Historically, the generals have maintained a consistent attitude that civilian leaders are, at best, temporary office holders to be outmanueuvred or outlasted. Civilian governments have been focused on the possibility of coups and the challenges of keeping the military in the barracks.

The country’s founders, preoccupied with nation survival, could not foresee the threat to civilian control of the military. Large military forces were not viewed as a danger to liberty; surprising, as that was a legacy of the British colonial period and the army’s occupation. Military forces were not seen as a risk to a nascent democracy. This allowed the establishment of an aristocratic and autocratic military class, which prevailed over the concept of a civilian-soldiery. The political leadership also did not foresee that large military forces would threaten economic prosperity.  There was little realization that maintaining large standing armies represented an enormous burden on the fledgling economy of a new nation. Finally, the civilian leadership did not comprehend that large military forces endangered peace and arms races led to war.  Thus, the lack of civilian control of the military that arose from a set of historical circumstances became embedded over time in Pakistan’s political thought through tradition, custom, and belief.

The US experience can provide valuable lessons to countries struggling with the challenges of an emerging democracy. After the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, President Abraham Lincoln decided to appoint the politically ambitious General ‘Fighting’ Joe Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac — the leading army of the Union. Desperate for victory, Lincoln wrote Hooker one of the most amazing letters in American civilian-military relations.

Lincoln said in part, “I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals, who gain successes, can set up dictatorships. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.” Hooker led the Army of the Potomac to defeat in the Battle of Chancellorsville, and he ‘resigned’ the position just before the Battle of Gettysburg. In contrast, Pakistani generals have never ‘resigned’ or shied away from setting up dictatorships despite repeated military failures from Khem Karan to Kargil. In fact, military defeats have not diminished the power and authority of the professional military versus civilian authority.

Other than preventing military coups, another key principle requires that the military serve in an administrative, not a policy-making role. Generals should not be involved in the political decision-making process. Their role must be limited to proffering advice regarding the use of the military in achieving policy-makers’ goals, and as to the probable success of the military outcome. It should be left to the political leaders to decide if the military option should be pursued. The civil/military balance can be disturbed by the ability of the military to succeed in imposing its preferred policy outcomes against the wishes of civilian leaders to the contrary.

This was the heart of General MacArthur’s challenge to President Harry Truman’s leadership, widely considered the most serious civilian-military conflict in the US, at least since the Civil War. MacArthur posed no threat of a military takeover of the formal mechanisms of the US government. Rather, MacArthur publicly questioned the civilian decision, after Communist China’s intervention in the winter of 1950, to pursue a limited strategy in the Korean War instead of outright victory.

MacArthur claimed that he was not required to take orders from the president as commander-in-chief, and that he owed a greater obligation to a higher constitutional authority. After he had been relieved from his command by President Truman, General MacArthur returned to the United States to cheering crowds and addressed a joint session of Congress. In a speech to the Massachusetts legislature, MacArthur said, “I find in existence a new and heretofore unknown and dangerous concept that the members of our Armed Forces owe primary allegiance or loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the Executive Branch of Government rather than to the country and its Constitution which they are sworn to defend.”

MacArthur’ firing established a precedent that generals and admirals could be fired for any public or private disagreement with government policy. Few Pakistani political leaders like Mr Bhutto, Mr Junejo and Mr Sharif have had the gumption to replace the military leadership over policy disagreements but their respective fates are well known.

In a December 3, 1973 article in Time magazine, the plainspoken and blunt Mr Truman was quoted as saying in the early 1960s:

“I fired him (MacArthur) because he would not respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a b****, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.” Ex-generals Beg and Durrani may soon end up belonging in this category!

The primary obstacle to civilian control of the military is often a culture that has glorified the military. Changing that culture is a difficult, but necessary task if the military is to be brought under civilian control. This will take time and education. Old military leaders who distrust civilian leaders must be replaced by new ones willing to work with, and for the civilian leadership. Obviously, if the civilian leadership is popularly elected, its legitimacy in the eyes of the people helps it control the military. This task is a difficult one but no more difficult than the task of building a sound, democratic government. It must be made clear that a military that sees itself as but one element of a democratic society will be stronger, not weaker, as a result, as its actions are more likely to reflect the sovereign will of the people it serves.

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18 Responses to "Khaki Games"

  1. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    The Khaki’s are called upon by the civil government and the civilians to come to their rescue. They are ‘pulled’ into politics….by the civilians alone.
    As of today, the civil govt is again waiving to the Khaki;s to come to the rescue of Karachiites…surely not their fault but the failure of civil govts.And all that the Khaki’s are made to do is in the ‘national interest;;.
    Lincoln did not depute a general to take charge of his country….that’s a wrong example having no parity with Pakistani politics.
    Sometimes things happen the other way round as they happened in East Pakistan: the civilians did not call in their own army but that of the enemy of their country for help. That, in a way, could be termed as ‘high treason’ but who cares?
    Civil govts have proved to be total disaster ,,,,in that they are bad administrators, more corrupt than the Khaki’s, tramplers of human rights, liars and frauds. The Khaki;s are also among the citizens….why shouldn’t they have a say in the affairs of their own country which may have come at the verge of destruction??? Why, why not??

  2. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    not interested in crap from the web,,,better speak up on your own!!

  3. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    for you to read and learn!
    mtt romney “my hero is hitler”

  4. Kamath. Canada Safari iPad says:

    I like your column. Insightful indeed and well written

  5. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thanks Mr. Kamath. It is difficult near impossible to convince other readers that it is the Pakistani generals pulling the strings that force politicians to do their bidding and not the other way round. The well heeled and powerful national security lobby in Pakistan has succeeded in conditioning many people to the idea that they are reluctant coup makers which is simply untrue.

  6. zafar Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    In the last column the change which many people dream about amongst which you are as well will not be coming in near 100 years.I have met many people in life whose children don’t even want any kind of education, and it is by birth in genes most of children in this country are not capable of learning or picking up knowledge and plus the so called system of education. Point to say is that you kill yourself for 100 years like previous 64 years and enjoy the dreadful democracy or go ahead with some kind of dictation which will pull you through this chaos with some irony (hopefully). Politics is not required for a nation to grow it is the work. People with politically faulty minds are never going to bring any fruit to this country except their own glory and your support at the cost of few favors.
    The moral of the story the civilians are completely incapable of maintaining their own selves. Some one needs to teach them some manners to live, like not the throw polythene bags in the drain pipe, drive in the lane, piss in the toilet and not under the wall, no wall chalking, don’t dig the hole in the newly made road by your beloved MPA, on and on and on. So if civilians can control this nose-dripping attitude of theirs then may be they can think about taking military under their order.

  7. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:


    You make it sound that the military is from another planet. They are also the people of Pakistan who enjoy unique privileges to be able to learn not to ” throw polythene bags in the drain pipe, drive in the lane, piss in the toilet and not under the wall, not indulge in wall chalking, or not dig holes in the newly paved road”. Most civilians do not have the opportunities to do so because the military takes up the bulk of budget which could be used for education and healthcare.

  8. zafar Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well said sir, and after most of budget utilized by military 18000Billion rupees 4Year corruption from our honorably expelled prime minister tenure, from which basket that came out? If Military tries to cut its budget , that will be a treat for political drain holes, which of course will be as usual moaning the same old “jamhoriat ki baqa ki jang” if military panicked on that. Still can any one think that military should just bow to politically highly qualified and certified corruption engineers. Military is from the planet earth and this is what the political civilian can’t believe , because they are the drain hole worms and just can’t feel this country as their home to stand on their feet and rather feel better to loot and rush down the hole.

  9. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thank you Mr. Kumar. I would say there is a huge military lobby but will beg to differ on whether the military enjoys ‘grassroot’ support. If the military had ‘grassroot’ support, dictators from Ayub to Musharraf wouldn’t have been removed through people movements.

    Which leads me Mr. Zafar’s comment which is the same tired argument about justifying military takeeovers because of civilian corruption. There are many types of ‘corruption’ including leading countries to war, coddling terrorist groups and buying civilian elections which have done more damage to the country compared to corrupt politicians.

  10. zafar Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    Military Takeover is not justified to buy civilians and their elections, certainly not. Ayub Khan,Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervaiz Musharraf that makes 4 of them and there were more than them who served as well. So mistaken 4 and rest are not,given the 32year and exactly 32 years for the others who didn’t do the mistake. So i want to give equal favour to both side of Generals, ones with coup and ones who didn’t. So now i will take out the common factor, i think you will agree the common factor is the very cooperating politicians. So i can say that i am not supporting any buyout for election to military. I want uni-directional rule over the country, which in our scenario seems to be only option for military, but if nation adjoins to any single person who can guide them to a destiny that will be quiet satisfactory. I find democracy a big fuss and a clumsy child’s time waisting excuse, like every party wants to claim that it is the only one and they have the only Quaid(please what was that)and they have forgotten Quaid-e-Azam. Just imagine Quaid-e-Azam alive. What you see? A man higher than any greed, lie, false hood and all nation ready to say yes on every command. How would that feel, a dictation or a wise man’s advice to guide you which you respect. That’s what i call wise dictation. So in all this mess i find a hope in military where might be one good soldier can bring life to this very confusing nation.

  11. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:


    Mr Nehru to Mr Singh is a great example of political and economic progress despite a huge rise in corruption.

    I wonder where Pakistan would have been if we had an uninterrupted democracy from Mr Jinnah to Mr Zardari minus Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf. 1) Still a united country 2) better educated and healthier populace from the budget redirected from defence 3)a more tolerant society because with ‘lying and corrupt” civilians calling the shots no coddling of terror groups would be possible and the list goes on and on!

  12. Dark Knight Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    @Zafar (November 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm)
    //…Just imagine Quaid-e-Azam alive. What you see? A man higher than any greed, lie, false hood and…//
    Yes, I see that and I also see a complete seperation of State and Religion, I see an egalitarian nation that is peaceful within and peaceful without. I see a country run on the principles of Equality, Justice and Fairplay.

  13. zafar Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Dark Knight…// state and religion separate? religion is within people and state is the land to live on, so what are you suggesting? State is never tied with religion in real fact, its the people, so if people follow any faith or descipline like fudalism, communism or capitalism that what state becomes. So let me say how you want it, state and capitalism, or, state and fudalism, etc. etc.So either people will worship per capital incom or what may be per land fudal. That will be quite interesting if some one can think about.

  14. Dark Knight Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    Thank you for that response. Now, we need to ask ourselves: have we, in any way, worshiped Money less than God, merely by calling ousrselves an “Islamic Republic”? I don’t think so. I think, we as a nation, are as materialistic and as much Money-worshipers within this “Islamic Republic” as we would have been if the state was politically secular. Yes, if we have done anything by bringing in “Islam” into our politics, is that we, as a republic, have damaged the name of “Islam”.

  15. zafar Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    That was remarkable. So bringing Islam in is damaging the name of Islam. So let us say once islam is out of politics, so what comes in. Before we lie in the name of Allah by false swearing for example, then what will shoulder our swears in the politics. Can you notice that? What will shoulder our lies. Let me put it in another way. Who decides what day is the holiday in the week. That is the political decision it should be sunday. So we successfully took out islam out of politics as well our lives by spending holiday on sunday in place of friday, which is more important in islam. So how much friday and sunday has put the difference. This will answer your comment that on friday will you worship money or in the mosque. I am very much observant of the fact people are worshiping money at the time of friday prayer. So will that be good example for me to refuse that state and islam should be put separate. You leave one by one each and every islamic decision in politics and people WILL be money worshipers.
    The other part of being materialistic and would have been better off being secular, seems like an escape plan to me. So it is already decided that all of us or most of us are materialistic and after being very aware of what we are still we have decided to be materialistic, in place of correcting our selves to something better. I can’t believe awareness has done such a harm to our thoughts that we have behavioral suicidal tendencies now. Sticking to our root and to our faith and favoring it will harm secular approach, is that what now people think?

  16. saadh Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    “Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.” RIP Ardeshir Cowasjee

  17. Dark Knight Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    I’m afraid I don’t see you logic. If we must have something to “shoulder our lies”, as you have quite appropriately put it, must it be “Islam”? I believe that Quaid-e-Azam truly had the foresight and wisdom to see the risk of the situation that we have landed ourselves in, by mixing Religion and Politics. Addressing the Central Legislative Assembly on 7th February 1935, Quaid-e-Azam said the following memorable words:
    “..Religion should not be allowed to come into Politics…Religion is merely a matter between man and God..”.

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