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Military intervention in politics (I)

Ziaullah Khan

The supremacy of civil government over military was the rule of British monarchs. At time of independence, Pakistan also inherited the rules from British but did not retain it. Political leaders including Quaid-e-Azam emphasized the supremacy of constitution over civil authority and military .Both are subjected to constitution but not vice versa. In early days the military was limited to their own professional duties like defense, security from external aggression and to provide assist to government, when it is called. When general Ayyub khan took over the command of Pakistan army as a chief of army staff he advised the troops to keep themselves distance from politics. He said:

“Keep out of politics. By saying this I do not mean to imply that you should not take an intelligent interest in the affair of your country.in fact, as a citizen of Pakistan you must do that. But, what you must avoid is taking any active part in party politics and propagation in such views.as I said before. We are the servant of Pakistan and as such servants of any part that the people put in power.”

Military aloofness from politics showed at that time when Governor General Mohammad khan offered to Ayyub Khan in 1954 to take the control of civil government but he refused. He considered it not only illegal but immoral for army to shoulder the liabilities of civil government and run the machinery.

Despite the fact, military become a part of politics and start intervention in civil affairs with civil authority. Why military became a part of politics? Are our civil authorities not so competent to run the machinery of state? Are our representatives cannot do proper legislation or military is craving for power? I think these are not valid reasons for military intervention. There are few other reasons which I am going to pinpoint it.

Firstly, when Pakistan got independence in 1947, there were bazillion problems which were faced by Pakistan. Its existence was moribund at that time, because there were communal riots, undefined bordered, strained relation with India, war in Kashmir and maintenance of law and order situations. In such intense situation there was a need of army to settle the problems.

In addition to this, the weak social base, disarray of political leadership and political parties and the lack of organized political support resulted in the weakening of political institutions. The ruling government failed to make clear policies about social, political and prudent advancement for people.

Thirdly, the military had taken the responsibilities of police on own shoulders to correct the law and order situation due to failure of civil authority, so it provided an opportunity for army to take interest in civil affairs.

Although army had also supported civil government to fight the natural calamities. Flood in East Pakistan had taken the lives and properties of many people. The army was called to support the flood torn people through shelters, medical, food and water bottles. They also restored the communication, reconstruction of dams, government institutions, repatriation and rehabilitation of the people. The army also came forward to fight the invasion of locusts in KP and Baluchistan in 1951 and 1952.

The army had also provided assistance to civil government in civil affairs in the form of three operations to deal with smuggling and food shortage. The name of the operations were operation jute (1952-1953), operation service first (1956) and operation close door (1957-1958).

Operation jute was conducted by army with the collaboration of civil authority to stop the smuggling of jute to India. For gaining of that purpose government exuded a smuggling ordinance and authorize all civil and military officers to detain and arrest all those who smuggle the jute and seizure the smuggling commodities.

Operation service first was conducted against the food shortage in East Pakistan in mid of 1956.There was a shortage of food due to less supply of food stuff to open market. Provincial government brought the food commodities but it were stored by stockholders. The shortage put the people into trouble, especially back of beyond areas, so government handed over the food program to army. Major general Jelani was appointed as a head of the food program. He was authorized to appoint army officer’s at district and Tehsil level to look after the program. The operation was also successful because it decrease the high price of food stuff and reached the food stuff there, where it was insufficient.

The last operation was against the smuggling of medicine, jute, foodstuff and flight of capital to India. When East Pakistan civil authority including police and border police failed to coup the smuggling business, chief minister of East Pakistan made a request to army to take the control in his own hands. Army took the responsibility and sealed the east India border. This operation was less successful than the others.

Furthermore, in 1953 army found another opportunity to involve in politics and run the civil administration. Riots were outbreak in whole Lahore against anti-Ahmadis. People were demanding from government to declare them non-Muslims because they don’t believe in finality of Holy Prophet (SAW). They also demanded the dismissal of sir Zafrullah Khan, foreign minister, and other military and nonmilitary officers from government departments. When the balloon goes up from government hands, the army was called on and martial law was imposed in Lahore on March 6, 1953. Army divided Lahore into 6 sectors and authorized the military officers to protect the life and property of citizen and arrest all those who conduct riots and looting the public property. The deteriorated condition came back on the track within 3 months. The martial law was dropout on 14th May 1953 and handed over the civil administration to civil authority.

Last but not the least, in 1951 some army officers make a conspiracy which is called “The Rawalpindi conspiracy case”, which shows their interest in politics. According to the Prime minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali khan, “the aim of the conspiracy was to commotion in the country by violent mean and in furtherance of that purpose to subvert the loyalty of Pakistan defense forces”. The conspirators had planned to arrest the civil and military officers to establish dictatorship on communist line. They supposed, the constitution structure and economic policies would be borrowed from Russia.

In a nutshell, after the demise of Quaid-e-Azam Pakistan suffered from the lack of competent leadership and well organized political parties. The leaders indulge themselves in corruption, nepotism, favoritism in government departments and others illegal activities. On the other hand military was getting high value among the citizens. The military involvement in civil affairs exposed the incompetency of civil government. The continuous intervention of military cause the decline of civil government institutions and causes inclination of military by earning them an important status in Pakistan politics.

Writer: Ziaullah Khan

The writer is law student at Islamia College University, Peshawar, he can be reached at khetran65@gmail.com.


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