Military and Civilian Domains Should Stay Separate

Recently, well known columnist Kamran Shafi (incidentally, not a PPP supporter) suggested in Dawn that the ISI have a civilian head. As evidence, Mr. Shafi points out that the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies are all civilian run. Also, though, there was the notion that democratic countries are headed by civilian, not military leaders. A strong national defense is vital to protecting a democracy, but the final rule must lie with the people. Now, another well respected columnist and government critic writes that there is a growing involvement of military in traditionally civilian domains.

On Tuesday, a front-page headline in Dawn proclaimed: ‘Intelligence agencies looking into oil, gas deals’. The accompanying article goes on to report: ‘According to sources, a team of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) has collected record of the proposed transactions and interviewed the managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and some senior officials of the petroleum ministry.’

Who authorised agencies run by the military to investigate commercial affairs? To whom is the ISI/MI team going to present its findings? To what purpose will the findings be applied? None of these questions have appeared to worry many here.

Fixated as the media and the public are on the corruption allegations that are churning the political waters at the moment, it seems to matter little who is probing corruption and why — just as long as someone is, there’s hope that the ‘dirty’ politicians can be drained from the swamp. It’s a simple, visceral reaction in a messy place where there are few good options: corruption, bad; those fighting corruption, good.

But bad as corruption may be, the revelation of the ISI/MI probe is, or ought to be, equally, if not more, unsettling. It is yet another piece of evidence that the transition to democracy, already shaky because of the political sins of the politicians, is headed in the wrong direction, and that the military is perhaps quietly working to nudge it in that wrong direction.

Vital to our national defense is a strong military, but also an independent civilian government that can work to secure strong diplomatic ties with other nations. Just as it would be inefficient for the military to run the business sector, so it would harm our national interests to move away from a civilian democracy that represents the people back towards military dictatorship.

By strengthening both domains and building the bonds that help them work together, Paksitan will be stronger and more resilient in these troublesome times. By cutting off one leg, though, we will only topple ourselves.




3 thoughts on “Military and Civilian Domains Should Stay Separate

  1. When the real power even in the democratic setup lies with the military , having a civilian or military ISI head makes no difference esp when the agency is comprised of military men mostly.

  2. when we talk of democracy we should not include pakistan into it. because the there is no real decomocray of this i guess every one is familiar so in such circumstances how is it possible to hand over such a big responsibility to the civil head. we should not compare our self with America or UK there is a true democratic govt but here with us after pervaiz musharaf we still have a one man govt. why are we blind to this aspect. we should leave the job to those who are professional in that. until there is people,s govt in pakistan we should think of civilian isi chief

  3. I Proud to be a pakistani.Becuse My home land is Pakistan. I Love its forces who are reaily sensear to pakistan. and i love all pakistani becuse thay are my country fellows. forces should take any step for pakistan. I LOVE PAKISTAN AND WE SHOULD LOVE PAKISTAN. LONG LIVE PAKISTAN.

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