Since NSC’s creation, no PM has effectively utilized the forum Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs the meeting of the National Security Council. — Twitter/File
Given Pakistan’s political and governance history and the charring civil-military relations, there is a sense of hope and positivity linked to the public resolve by the military
leadership to remain within the confines of its constitutionally-mandated role and to never again interfere in the politics of Pakistan.
Not only will this help the country move towards consolidating effective democratic governance,
but it will also allow for greater focus for the institution and its personnel to further hone their professional skills and excellence.
It is also worth noting that such a resolution could have only been made possible
through a process of sustained and unbiased introspection within the institution which speaks
volumes of the professional maturity and discipline that our armed forces are known for.
However, for this resolve to translate into a sustained reality for Pakistan,
it is equally necessary that other state institutions and actors, including leading political parties, undergo somewhat similar self-analysis and soul-searching.
The centrality of the issue of our civil-military relations in bringing
Pakistan to the state of utter misgovernance requires another serious acknowledgment:
the regression in civil-military relations in the past 7 decades took place due to a complex web of thinking styles and judgments of individual leaders,
institutional structures and peculiar value systems of various institutions and organizations,
and internal and external challenges fuelled by regional and global influences.
This gulf that developed over time in the thinking, perceptions, behaviors, actions, and reactions of the military and successive political leadership,
While those at the helm of affairs on each side must have tried and failed at
Evolving an institutional system of decision-making on national security issues is one such fundamental failure.
There is a legitimate and necessary requirement of effective governance to invite and involve
the input of national defense institutions in national security and defence-related decision-making.
Every functioning country provides for one or the other kind of institutional setup to seek and utilize this input in critical decision-making.
At various times in our history, there have been several attempts to create forums where
From various models of defense committees of the cabinet under civilian governments to a law-based
but unwieldy National Security Council under military
time, leading to a wider chasm in institutional relations.
One of our key recommendations to successive governments that PILDAT developed
alongside a group of eminent citizens from various walks of life, including former military officials,
to bridge the gap between civil and military thinking and perceptions, the creation
of a forum of consultation on defense and national security, decision-making was the key.
regular discussion on strategic issues that cause such huge divergence
in thinking on both sides which often leads to the derailment of the entire process of democracy.
The recommendation eventually led to the creation of a National Security Committee (NSC) in 2013,
the first time with a complete and independent secretariat in the shape of a separate National Security Division (NSD) charged with the responsibilities
of convening meetings of the NSC and collecting, coordinating,
and collating proposals and input from all relevant ministries and organizations for the consideration of the NSC.
Among other functions, the NSD was the line ministry on national security and was responsible to brief parliament and its committees.
The creation of the NSC would fill the huge void that existed in our policy-making and would institutionalize decision
and one-on-one interactions between elected premiers and successive military commanders before.
the forum of the NSC was especially crucial to formalize irregular and personalized interactions
into the formal and regular presentation of policy advice and its consideration for national decision-making.
Despite taking such a huge policy step in the right direction, sadly it was
former prime minister Nawaz Sharif himself who paid little attention to effectively utilizing this critical forum.
Soon after the first few meetings, he preferred to manage relations with the military through personalized, one-on-one interactions bypassing the NSC.
History is clear how these personalised interactions did little good for his holding of the office.
It is important to note that forums like the NSC which exist and function effectively as central forums of national security decision-making in countries including the US, UK, India, Israel,
As prime minister, Nawaz Sharif only convened nine meetings of the NSC in his four years and two months. After his exit, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as PM tried to actively utilize the forum and convened and chaired 14 meetings in his 10 months of premiership.
Former PM Imran Khan whose government began the mantra of a “same page”
relationship with the army also did little to institutionalize the relationship and decision-making in this crucial area. In his entire tenure of three years and eight months,
he only convened 12 meetings of the NSC though he held 32 one-on-one interactions with the army chief alone and 104 interactions in the presence of the army chief.
Since assuming the office of prime minister eight months ago,
Shehbaz Sharif has only convened and chaired a sole meeting of the NSC
— though of course he too has met the outgoing and the new COAS several times in individual settings.
The important forum of the NSC has been only convened by successive premiers in the case of critical emergencies. For instance, the lone NSC meeting convened by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif a few days after he took an oath of office as PM was to have the
Earlier as prime minister, Imran Khan held NSC meetings in his last year
in office only to discuss issues like the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,
the strategy to discuss the end of the TLP march towards Islamabad at the time, and his
last NSC meeting while facing a vote of no-confidence to discuss the alleged US conspiracy to oust him and sending of diplomatic demarche.
the elected prime ministers (with the possible exception of Shahid Khaqan
Abbasi whose term was very short anyway) has worked to effectively utilize the crucial forum of the NSC.
Instead, successive civilian and military leaders have pursued the same old informal, ad-hoc, transient, and personalized manner of dealing with issues.
The NSC has remained dormant and neither the quality and pace of the relationship nor the process of our national decision-making has improved.
Our recent history is categorically clear on the calamitous management of individualized relationships. The NSC is the only forum for institutionalizing this liaison and for institutional decision-making.
much like Rule 20 of the Government of Pakistan Rules of Business,
to define a periodicity of weekly meetings. It is equally important that periodic meetings of the NSC are
inter-institutional relations to reset each institution’s role and domain according to the constitution.