Is PTI trying to wreck the civil-military balance for their own selfish gains?

Published: May 12, 2017

Of course, this resolution of the issue is not something which an increasingly desperate PTI can accept and they are making it known.

As someone who is in the process of doing a PhD in political science, I am naturally passionate about the political matters of Pakistan. Although my research interests are eclectic and include topics like gender, religious minorities and current affairs, my special concentration is on the civil-military relationship. I do think that Pakistan cannot build proper political institutions without rectifying the civil-military imbalance.

The rectification of the civil-military imbalance, of course, requires political maturity and competence from the civilian leadership. To simply blame the armed forces is an oversimplified and clichéd explanation. In Pakistan’s case, the civil-military balance has historic origins dating back from the first decade after its independence. It emerged due to an interaction between external factors such as high threat environments and internal turmoil exacerbated by a weak political class and its incompetency.

After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s dismissal in 1977, the military, for the most part, remained in charge either directly or indirectly till 2008. Starting from 2008, the civil-military balance has been more fluid, though arguably military still has an upper hand.

The post-2008 period has nevertheless witnessed increased professionalism by the military leadership, and both General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and General Raheel Sharif, resisted temptations of overthrowing the governments. Gradually, the civil-military imbalance has been getting rectified, though we continue to witness an occasional hiccup.

The ‘Dawn leaks’ was one of these hiccups. Irrespective of the fact whoever the “culprit” behind the leak was, this episode soured relations between the civilian and military leaderships. Nevertheless, the issue would not have gotten so out of hand if some of the TV anchors on the electronic media and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on the political front had not played a negative role. Over the past seven months, PTI and some TV anchors have constantly tried to whip up the issue and drive a wedge between the civilian and military leaderships.

Knowing that they cannot win the elections in 2018, the Dawn leaks and the Panama case became PTI’s last hope and the party has continued to whip those up irrespective of the fact that these are not really important issues. It has openly asked for military intervention and gone for the judicial route in order to remove the government. Throughout the judicial proceedings, PTI and its leadership tried to give the impression that the verdict would overwhelmingly favour them.

After the Panama verdict on April 20, 2017, which did not give PTI the kind of “victory” it was looking for, the party shifted its focus back to the Dawn leaks. In this regard, it got its opportunity due to the furore caused by that infamous tweet by ISPR DG Major General Asif Ghafoor.

The tweet was a clear indication that civil-military ties were worsening and PTI, its leadership and a few TV anchors started to further exacerbate the situation by indulging in making provocative statements. One can hate the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Nawaz Sharif, but he is an elected prime minister and embodies the collective mandate of the people of Pakistan. Cheering that tweet and issuing controversial statements was extremely irrational and dangerous, but regrettably, PTI and even the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) indulged in it.

PTI’s expectations were of an open confrontation between the civilian and military authorities and a subsequent removal of the former. However, thankfully, the present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa acted quite sensibly, and instead of getting drawn into a confrontation, he has actually diffused the situation.

All reasonable and politically sensible Pakistanis have welcomed this new development which has avoided confrontation between the institutions and prevented the polity from becoming instable.

Of course, this resolution of the issue is not something which an increasingly desperate PTI can accept and they are making it known. Their party leaders have again issued controversial statements while their trolls on social media have gone completely berserk and are openly calling the settlement some sort of shady “deal”. Many have started to abuse the Pakistani military and are accusing them of selling out.

The irony is that the Pakistani military is getting abused for actually resolving an explosive situation here. Some of the tweets (which cannot be shared) from fake accounts have even made filthy references to the families of General Bajwa and Maj Gen Ghafoor.

All this fanatic behaviour is deeply disturbing and shows that the party and its followers are merely prioritising power over everything else and are ready to doubt even rational steps which diffuse the situation.

I think it would be better for the party and the hordes of its impressionable followers to concentrate on real issues and prepare for the elections next year. Their success chances will hinge upon how well they have governed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and also on the present government’s governance shortcomings. If they exploit the real issues politically, they will be victorious. However, constantly trying to take shortcuts will not only prove problematic for the country but also hurt them politically.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad Adeel

    Agree 100% with the writer.Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    11th article against my leader. Im counting.Recommend

  • RHR

    Keep counting. By the way I have written 40 articles on other issues also.Recommend

  • RHR

    Read the article firstRecommend

  • RHR

    Yeah I have become rich because of this blog. yawn…typical PTI troll behaviorRecommend

  • RHR

    First of all in this article I made it clear that tweet was wrong and Nawaz Sharif is represented by the people. I also criticized PTI efforts to invite military intervention. Article was on PTI attempts to drive a wedge.
    What exactly is your problem? The word civil military imbalance is often used in political science literature and therefore used here also. This does not mean that I am suggesting that there should be some “balance” where military should be controlling some power while civilians some. Of course military should always respect civilian authorities. NO WHERE did I write that military should not obey.
    What exactly you are trying to say here?Recommend

  • RHR

    Further the word balance in the title was not given by me. Tribune selected this title. But I am okay with it because balance is used in civil military relations literatureRecommend

  • Parvez

    He does come across as one of Maryam’s brigade …..Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    So what? IK has no right to become PM? Only corrupt can do this?Recommend

  • RHR

    Wow such a long rant!Recommend

  • RHR

    What NS did in 1980s is no justification for IK does in 2017. But anyways, thank you for your comment and also for showing immature teenage style of worship of Khan.Recommend

  • UsmanSK

    Just to show that he has a agenda to write against PTI and Imran Khan
    He wrote 13 articles on Express Tribune against Imran Khan and PTI
    1. Is PTI trying to wreck the civil-military balance for their own selfish gains?
    2. What kind of Naya Pakistan do Imran Khan and PTI have in mind exactly?
    3. Imran Khan might be “honest” but he can never be what’s best for Pakistan
    4. PTI knows that it cannot win the 2018 elections and the Panama case proves just that
    5. It is pretty clear that neither Ali Muhammad Khan nor PTI knows why Pakistan was created
    6. For how long will you keep defending Imran Khan, Hamza Ali Abbasi?
    7. Of the Lahore blast and PTI’s real “achievements”
    8.Dear PTI, remember when you vowed to end VIP culture? Well, meet Faisal Vawda!
    9. There is no genuinely liberal political party in Pakistan today
    10. Should Imran Khan be arrested for treating a Taliban leader?
    11. Did Imran Khan lie about the 2013 elections being rigged?
    12. If you blame Bilawal solely for the famine in Thar, then blame Imran for the suicide attacks in KP!
    13. The problem with Imran Khan’s politics
    He wrote 3 against and 2 in favor of PPP
    1. Bhutto was neither a total villain nor a complete Messiah
    2. Asif Ali Zardari vs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: Round 1
    3. After Benazir, PPP is no longer representative of all of Pakistan the way it used to be
    4. Sorry Bilawal, Pakistan’s misogyny will always confuse sensitivity with femininity
    5. In defense of the status quo
    For PMLN he wrote 1 in favor and 2 slightly against
    1. Why PML-N is right to propose the 24th amendment
    2. Why politicians like Javed Latif use women to humiliate opponents
    3. It’s time Nawaz Sharif realized the importance of women in politics
    In the two articles where he wrote against PMLN, he praised Nawaz Shareef and declared that as he has selected Marriyum as a future leader so that is commendable. (What should we say about this argument?)
    Second, in the other article, he tries to justify the wording of Javed Latif by saying that Sheikh Rashid and other political leaders also use similar language. (What a shameful argument) He tried to justify that it is common.
    From the above, we can clearly see that Raza has the agenda to target Imran Khan and he normally tries to hide his agenda by writing on off topics in-between.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ha, ha, …strong words.
    The talking heads on TV say there are 120+ persons and not just about 90……try getting a comment that does not tow the line even on the so called ‘ liberal ‘ sites and you’ll be lucky if you succeed.
    Blogs are really not taken seriously …. so adverse comments do get printed.Recommend

  • RHR

    Yeah I also wrote dozens of other articles including on gender, religious extremism, Turkey, secularism, also to deflect! In other words, around 37 other articles to deflect 11 against the great Khan
    You people are so funny! You accuse people of being a lifafa and at the same time expect gentlemanly behavior.
    As a writer I have a right to choose my topics and if if I have chosen PTI, the reason is that it is a reactionary party. I was once a supporter of PTI and much before that jalsa of 2011.

    That article on Javed Latif, I did not justify it but merely pointed that in our society unfortunately all have indulged in such behavior including PPP ( the party which I actually support). It was an article which tried to introspect why our society indulges in such shameful behavior. Saying that I tried to justify Javed Latif is wrong.

    In a later article I also posted video of Nawaz Sharif using filthy language against BB in 1990s to make my point.

    Secondly, if you are so “hurt” then dont readRecommend

  • PapaTango

    Just to be accurate: you said “Must be a cocaine overdose” not as you are trying to blithely claim “May be….”. Big difference. The tweet is there unless you have had the courage to show some consistency and delete it and apologize for showing the same behavior of which you accuse others…..Recommend

  • UsmanSK

    Your claim that you were PTI supporter before Jalsa of 2011 also not carry any weight. Because, you are unable to write a single article on the mega corruption of other parties. If you would have been PTI supporter, we would have written many articles against corrupt parties as well. If you really want to progress in political analysis and political write-ups, you will have to write on every party and in equal quantity. Your large number of articles against only PTI, decreases the value of your write-ups. I will suggest you to write on every party and in equal numbers so that no one can reject your arguments only because you are writing mostly against one party. Otherwise, declare openly that you are member of a team who has the agenda to malign Imran KhanRecommend

  • UsmanSK

    You are a PhD candidate, you must learn to absorb criticism. After PhD, for all of your life, you will write articles and will get reviews/criticism. If you will start fighting with everyone who will criticize your opinion, you will become punching bag for everyone. It is your right to write with what-so-ever biasness, it is also peoples right to criticize. If I say “lifafa mentality” then it makes me bad or bring me to a third class level as you say but it should not effect you because you have already expressed your opinion. I was disgusted by an article by a person who leave all the problems of Pakistan and mostly write against Imran Khan. It is my right to express my feeling on a blog that I feel as a “biased article” but as a PhD candidate you should learn to absorb criticism.
    A suggestion for you, never start chit-chat after writing an article. Your article is everything.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Hmmmm…..? Strange. Had no idea. Not subscribing to
    desi channels on cable, including Hindu Desh channels..
    So have no real time idea what the talking heads are spewing forth. But, begging your pardon, there were 5 bloggers, liberal who “disappeared” a few months ago. Then after a big hue and cry,4 of them were released. Now, they are like zombies. They dare not say a single word now. The 5th one is still missing. very likely dead, …….killed.
    Thanks for the heads up.Recommend

  • RHR

    Oh Bhai even must be in this way means the same. Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    Very apt response!!Recommend

  • make up

    After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s dismissal in 1977, the military, for the most part, remained in charge either directly or indirectly till 2008. Starting from 2008, the civil-military balance has been more fluid, though arguably military still has an upper hand.Recommend

  • RHR

    Sure! Thanks!!!Recommend

  • RHR

    Thank you. I again apologize for writing wow what a rant. You are a polite person and I should not have written that
    Regarding simply judging the whole party, I judge PTI from multiple angles and not just one


  • Sana Bhittani

    Hahaha Lifafa :)
    “the Panama case became PTI’s last hope and the party has continued to whip those up irrespective of the fact that these are not really important issues”
    If Journalist advocate Pakistani Nation that Corruption is not an Issue Than What’s the Issue?Recommend

  • Sana Bhittani

    BTW I hate all political Parties including PTI excluding Asad Umer and IK but PTI is least worst option. Will Vote PTI due to opening Ghost School Govt Girls Middle School Aramatala District Lakki (The most backward village) where now enrollment is more than 200 students. Built road for the said village. I visited with my Parent to DHQ Hospital in the evening 3-5PM during EID days. I want my parent check up in clics but get Surprised to know that said Senior Doctor’s will be available in hospital OPD instead of clinics. Again surprised to see that one can get free tests, Xrays & medicine in Hospital at RS.10 that is Hospital OPD fee. I never thought like that can happen to Pakistan most backward area in my life. I agree a lot of stockholders are opposing this types of reforms and change in our ranks in the society but these are must & must be sustained.Recommend

  • Andy Rabi

    Mr.Raja, you should apply for a job at PML-N media wing, they need someone like you to work for them.Recommend