Home Contact Us  

Pakistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4048, 23 July 2013

IPCS Book Review

Pakistan: Civil-Military Relations and the Instrumentalisation of Political Power
Rana Banerji
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS
E-mail: rbanerji49@gmail.com

Military Agency, Politics and the State in Pakistan
Ejaz Hussain
Heidelberg Series in South Asian and Comparative Studies- Vol VI: 472 pages
Publishers: Samskriti, New Delhi, 2013

This book examines the causes and modes of repeated military interventions in Pakistan and the instrumentalisation of political power by the military through an analytical model of civil-military relations (CMR). Authored by a young Pakistani scholar, Dr Ejaz Hussain, currently an Assistant Professor on Political Science in the Department of Humanities at the COMSATS (Commission on Scientific & Technology for Sustainable Development in South Asia) Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, the study concludes that the military intervened every time by rational choice to protect its own economic interests.

Dr Hussain did his PhD in Political Science from the Heidelberg University and an MA in Asian Studies from Lund University, Sweden. He also taught at the Forman Christian College, Lahore. Using the Analytic Narratives methodology of American political scientist Peter D. Feaver to define CMR (published in ‘Armed Forces & Society’), Dr Ejaz selects five units or dates of military coups - 1958, 1969, 1977, 1999, and 2007. To explain each case, a ‘Dependent Variable’ of the coup d’état itself and two ‘Independent Variables’ - ‘Working or shirking (agency A)’ and ‘Own versus larger interests (agency B)’ are conceived. Dr Ejaz depicts civilian politicians, civil bureaucracy, and the military as `principal agents’ and the judiciary as plain ‘agent’. He then poses a ‘primary hypothesis’: that ‘the military intervenes in politics because of its inherent agency, not culture, identity’ or even its ‘structure, or external or internal threats’.

Several ‘secondary hypothesis’ are postulated: military intervention - both direct and indirect - is primarily caused by its political interests, having intervened the military utilises its political space to maximise its economic interests, the interventions occur whenever its political space is perceived to be constrained by non-military actors such as politicians, civil bureaucracy, and the judiciary; every time a coup is staged, the military re-negotiates rules of the game with other stakeholders, and ultimately, the coup is a marker of the military’s political weakness rather than strength.

While these postulates can be empirically justified, this conceptual framework is rather complicated and does not make for lucid understanding or easy reading. Dr Ejaz also tends to rather summarily disparage shortcomings of other standard works on the subject like those of K.K. Aziz (Party Politics in Pakistan: 1947-1958) and Ayesha Siddiqa’s ‘Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’ (OUP, Karachi, 2007).

‘Agency’ is defined as the capacity to make things happen. Actors, i.e. military, civil bureaucracy, politicians, and the judiciary are seen as inherently rational, each having their own institutional values and interests and tending to act so as to maximise their interests. While the military could make things happen, politicians or civil bureaucracy were shirking agents every time a coup happened.

While Iskandar Mirza was the principal actor in the October 1958 coup, and his aim was to ‘secure and prolong his bureaucracy’s principal ship vis-à-vis shirking politicians’, he made Gen Ayub Khan the Prime Minister. Ayub could pack off Iskandar Mirza soon enough as he calculated his institution’s political strength and compared it with the weakness of politicians and civil bureaucrats. The military was successful in obtaining judicial legitimacy as well - this was an example of shirking by other actors in the CMR equation.

In March 1969, Gen Yahya ‘cited the worsening law and order situation and the military’s lack of preference to re-negotiate rules of the game with shirking politicians’ as primary reasons for the second coup d’état. The security of the State was stated as ‘a complimentary factor to self-legitimise’ the action.

During the first democratic inter-regnum of 1973-77, though Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto meant to seriously prevent the military from growing politically and did install ‘oversight mechanisms’ to not allow the military to flourish economically, he made several compromises on his own radical reform measures, used Army Act provisions to discipline an increasingly irascible political opposition, allowing political space again to the Army instead of distancing himself from it, to show the Opposition that its power was withering.

In July 1977, ‘the military was able to obtain legitimacy for the coup’, once again ‘because political leaders (of both PPP and PNA) failed to steer the country out of crisis;’ before the politicians could put their own house in order, the principal agent (Military) under the most ruthless Martial Law dictator so far, Zia, ‘left no stone unturned to de-politicize, factionalise and physically crush them.’

In the immediate post-Zia period, the military had a few choices - it could have imposed martial law, it could have sincerely gone back to the barracks, or it could hold elections and then make a show of returning to the barracks. The author holds that the Military chose the ‘rational third option’ but ultimately never went back to the barracks, preferring ‘to face the non-military actors’ after the election, ‘in its capacity of principal, with coercive means at its disposal to deal with the shirking elements’, if and when necessary.

Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure and the bringing in of Nawaz Sharif through the military machinated Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), was a phenomena of ‘civilian circularity’, where the Military did not find it necessary to intervene, as their primary economic interests were not being threatened. The interests of the other actors - politicians and bureaucrats - remained subservient. Benazir tried to create a political space for herself but she had to cope with ‘an empowered President in Ghulam Ishaq Khan’ and ‘the principal military, which had a penchant to keep Foreign Policy and Defence Policy in its exclusive domain’.

After Nawaz Sharif came to power, differences surfaced every time there was a change of the Army Chief. This caused worsening of relations between the Prime Minister and the President. The dismissal of the first Sharif government in 1992, though not a coup, is described as marking ‘the military’s agency, which chose to punish shirking Sharif through the medium of presidency.’

During Benazir’s second tenure as PM (1993-96), she is seen by Dr Ejaz as ‘having taken a carrot-approach vis-à-vis the military,’ while resorting ‘to the stick-approach towards the judiciary and the opposition’, appeasing ‘the principal by not questioning its economic enterprises.’ However, Farooq Leghari as President chose to oppose Bhutto ‘due to diverging preferences in terms of maximising own interests’. He ‘acted in strategic understanding with the principal’, as he had neither the ‘army nor political force to confront Bhutto on his own’.

When Benazir challenged her dismissal, ‘the judiciary acted on partisan lines for rational reasons.’ It wanted to ‘settle the score with the sacked PM’ because of ‘sour relations’ earlier. Here (pg 279) surprisingly, the author claims, ‘she in strategic alliance with the principal did not want the political institutions to develop to such an extent where they could pose any challenge’ to their common interests (her own and the Army’s) - this seems an erroneous premise, to say the least!

Sharif’s passing of the Thirteenth Amendment after getting re-elected as Prime Minister with a massive popular mandate is seen as a major development, which tilted the constitutional balance of power, marking ‘agency and rationality of politicians who, despite being agents of the military, had chosen to shirk and thus affect rules of the game jealously guarded by the latter.’ The Military at this stage could have ‘a) staged a coup to punish the shirking agent; b) caused defections through its intelligence agents; c) it had the choice to strategically compromise with the status quo and adopt a wait and watch policy;’ it chose the third option.

However, Nawaz was in a hurry and CMR reached a critical point over the selection of the next Army Chief (Musharraf superseding two others - Ali Quli Khan Khattak and Khalid Nawaz). The Army accepted Karamat’s unceremonious ouster and Musharraf’s appointment because it was bound by institutional rationality, albeit only tactical. Later, Nawaz continued with his incremental policy of trying to control the principal military, but the Military was not fully on board when the Lahore bus visit of the Indian PM took place, nor while planning the Kargil intrusion. Nawaz’s ouster by Musharraf demonstrated ‘the phenomenon of civilian circularity’, which was ‘rational rather than structural in nature.’ While the ‘military’s agency and rationality was reinforced, the politicians gave more preference to their private rather than national interests’.

The Military’s confrontation with the Judiciary (March-November, 2007) is examined towards the end, though Dr Ejaz Hussain sees Chief Justice Iftekhar Chaudhry opting to ‘shirk by according more preference to larger than purely institutional interests’. In terms of the study’s causal model, this is explained as ‘a result of the military’s agency - its inherent capability to get things done.’ In what seems an analytically inaccurate prognosis, the author suggests the Judiciary’s one-sided persecution of the PPP may ‘further consolidate the military’s principal ship’. Though the May 2013 elections did not see the PPP getting any benefit from its effort to play ‘martyr’ against this persecution, the military will now have to cope with a re-invigorated Nawaz Sharif’s ‘incremental efforts’ to send it back to the barracks.

Dr Ejaz Hussain’s work is a useful enough addition to the academic literature on this topical subject but not one that could be recommended as initial reading for every interested student of Pakistan’s history.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Manpreet Sethi,
"Book Review: Contextualising Iran," 30 April 2013
Anwar Alam,
"Book Review: Contextualising the Arab Spring Within the Legacy of Resistance," 25 March 2013
Rishika Chauhan,
"Book Review: Assessing Asian Military Strategies," 25 March 2013
Ashok Bhan,
"Book Review: Addressing the Psychosocial Paradigms of Terrorism," 14 February 2013

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Election Year in Pakistan: Key Dynamics and Prospects

Pakistan: Census Complexities

Trump's Afghanistan Strategy

Pakistan: The Nawaz Ouster

The ISI and Kulbhushan Jadhav's Second “Confession”

India-Pakistan: Three Years of Wasted Effort?

Pakistan and the Panama Papers Verdict

In Context: Pakistan's New Army Chief Gen Bajwa

Fragility in Pakistan

Book Review: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Pakistan: Kamal’s Dramatic Return and the Fate of MQM-A

Has Peshawar Changed Pakistan’s Approach to Tackle Terrorism?

Pakistan: MQM Under Siege

The Military Reshuffle in Pakistan: Is the Army Chief firming up his control?

Pakistan: A Hyper-national Security State

Talks with the Taliban: Endgame for the Military

Pakistan 2013: Civil-Military Relations

Pakistan: The Military Shuffle and Consolidation under the New Chief

Pakistan: The Hakimullah Mehsud Killing

Intrusions along LoC/IB in J&K: Pakistan’s Objectives

Pakistan: Who will be the next Army Chief?

Pakistan: The Abbottabad Commission of Enquiry

B. Raman (1936-2013)

Special Commentary: The Military and Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan

Pakistan Elections 2013: Caretaker Prime Minister & the Election Scenario

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.