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The role of political parties and leadership in processes of military change

The findings suggest that civil-military relations can depend on the political leadership of the civilian government, the party or coalition in power, but also on the military leadership, i.e. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in power. A significant role of the individual agency in security governance and institutional decision-making was also found.

Political parties can be an important intervening factor in the dynamics of change, transition or political reform in hybrid orders. They are anticipated to push for reforms in each of the intermediary stages of transition to democracy (s. Chapter 2): (a) ‘preparatory’ - “one of struggle and conflict over power between different social forces”, (b) ‘decision-making’ - “an act of explicit consensus in which (...) political leaders accept the existence of diversity in unity and, to that end, agree to institutionalize some crucial aspects of democratic procedures” and (c) ‘habituation’ - “politicians and citizens alike apply the new rules to other issues and adjust to the new democratic structure” (Rustow 1970: 346; see also Serra 2010: 10).

Advancing these theoretical propositions, this book argues that the political parties’ ability to effectively trigger change and transformation can depend on their leadership, capacity and ideology. PPP’s propensity towards supporting CSOs was found to be comparatively higher than that of other political parties. One respondent emphasised that “Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is comparatively more supportive to CSOs and civil society, because of its origins in traders and farmers and civil. PPP are more liberal in outlook. When PPP was in power, NGOs did spoke” (Interview Participant #23, Senior Academia Representative). This has been endorsed by several respondents: “PPP period was very good” (Interview Participant #16, Senior NGO Representative). Another interview participant highlighted:

In the PPP government, former Prime Minister Gilani said that we do not “accept state within a state”. That was a very open categorical statement. It was the headline in the media that day. I also remember a statement by the co-chairperson of PPP, “you [the COAS] are here for three years, we are for longer”.

(Interview Participant #7, Senior Academia Representative)

The processes of ideological modernisation were also observed in the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz [PML(N)] party, as the respondent claimed:

I wrote a paper on political manifestos of political parties in Pakistan. I took all excerpts related to different foreign affairs, from all mainstream parties. The title is [anonymised]; I was developing it on defence and foreign policy, particularly on Kashmir. On PML(N), my finding was that since 2002, this language was incorporated in the manifesto, which was overwhelmingly pro-military. Because, since their genealogy is also rooted in the military, they were openly pro-military. In one of the manifestos, the idea was, whatever kind of assistance, financial or other, whatever we can as civilian government, will do to give assistance to the military. But then I read manifestos from 2008 and 2013, this argument becomes very neutral, it was not closely attached emotionally to the military. There was one sentence, that every institution should work within its habit. So, they have changed.

(Interview Participant #7, Senior Academia Representative)

However, in general, political parties were perceived to often view NGOs as competitors and to a lesser extent as partners, with many political parties generally portraying internationally funded non-state actors as “agencies of foreign governments” or “anti-state” (Interview Participant #4, Senior NGO Representative). This can have tremendous implications regarding the perception of non-state organisations at societal, government and military levels.

One significant aspect in civil-military relations and the process of transition in Pakistan is the ontological link between the military institution and political structures. Some political parties were facilitated by the military and many maintain connections with the current military establishment. This can overall constitute a structural impediment to institutional change. Another issue can be related to the parties’ ideological commitment to peace and democratic values. One political party (Muhajir Qaumi Movement, MQM in Karachi) is considered to be responsible for identity-based conflict and violence, making democratic progress rather difficult. Recently, the political-ethnic MQM, split into two main factions (MQM-London and MQM-Pakistan), lost political control of the city of Karachi, its traditional stronghold. It is widely believed that the military establishment was responsible for triggering the breakup of the party.

At a military institutional level, the hierarchical organisational structure as well as the lack of supportive political culture towards NGOs seemed to have prevented the military from integrating civil society on its agenda, asserts one participant (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative). A process of transition to democracy can be estimated to be pro- cedurally ongoing in Pakistan, but neither the military nor the civil society nor political parties have been able to establish a permanent and formal role in optimising and democratising the policy-making process.

The importance of the individual agency was also emphasised by respondents. It was perceived that there can be different intensity degrees of civil-military cooperation at an institutional level in comparison to interaction at a personal level. The quality, intensity and type of civil-military interaction can be different when it occurs at an interpersonal level of interaction. Improvements might occur when interaction takes place in personal capacity (Interview Participant #33, Senior Military Representative).

One respondent highlighted the importance of change pertaining to military individual agency: “Discourses are not institutional, but individualistic and can change with the change in command”, the respondent said (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative). The more liberal the programmatic vision of the military, government or political party, the more likely it is to engage civil society actors in their work. Overall, political parties were perceived to be tremendously important in stimulating change. “NGOs can provide work on a think tank basis and lobby, but it is basically the political parties who have to take the lead”, asserted one participant (Interview Participant #32, Senior Media Representative).

Along strategy, funding, institutional framework, leadership and political parties, the media was found to be another significant factor (determinant) influencing civil-military relations and the development of a democratic political culture.

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