On the Same Page -The History of Martial Law in Pakistan

11 mins read
Martial Law in Pakistan
Photo: AFP

The term “On the same page” is always referred to as an ideal situation or environment for the country’s civilian government when both civil and military leadership are considered to support each other and have trust in each other. However, unfortunately, our history reveals that whenever these both leaderships have been on the same page the inflation and unemployment have been increased, productive and progressive activities have been decreased, scams and corruption have been increased, and the level of toleration and forgiveness has been decreased, and all this makes us a violent-nation.

Further, many other factors play a pivotal role in a country’s devastation like terrorism, injustice, lack of inter-religious harmony, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and lack of well-mannered and competent political leadership, which are directly or indirectly interlinked with the nature of civil-military relationship whether it remained good or bad.

On the other hand, most of our population is young and illiterate, and the country had been under military rule for more than half of its existence. That was why Islamists’ presence in the country, especially in our political system, increased over time. Though there are three main stakeholders in Pakistan: the military, the Islamists, and the civilian government, but first two actors have played a crucial role in creating today’s Pakistan, which has violent and disorganized religious and political parties and unstable civilian governments.

Moreover, the country’s civilian governments also have little control over the country’s powerful establishment backed by the Pak army. The army is the most trusted, disciplined, and cohesive institution. That is why the country had witnessed a military presence in its governmental system since its birth. Additionally, the weak civil institutions that fail to figure out the country’s challenges are due to a lack of well-established political parties headed by competent leaders.

Samuel Huntington is a well-known researcher on civil-military relations; ‘he argues that to eliminate the possibility of the military’s encroachment into governmental affairs, civil supremacy must be present. He added that the backbone of a strong, well-established political system is a high level of political institutionalization. A major distinction between a politically developed system and an underdeveloped one is the numbers, size, and effectiveness of its organizations.’

In addition to understanding the role of the military and its interference in our politics and civilian institutes, we have to understand a few factors:

  1. The “British Raj” occupied the Indian subcontinent for nearly one-hundred years (1858-1947). It had used the divide-and-rule strategy, which played a critical role in creating the partition’s violent atmosphere.
  2. Unfortunately, Quaid-e-Azam died one year after Pakistan’s independence, too soon for the young nation. Furthermore, the first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali, was assassinated in 1951. After Quaid’s death, the country’s direction was derailed by leaders who stepped in with their own agenda.
  3. The creation of Pakistan was ultimately due to a desire to have a country where Muslims would be fairly represented. Still, Islamists took advantage of this approach and used religion as a tool against politicians from time to time.
  4. Though Islam was used as a source of national identity in creating Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam, in his famous speech, said, “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.
  5. The country is vastly diverse; many ethnic, linguistic, and regional differences exist. These have and continue to cause great challenges to the civil-government structure.
  6. The country’s first constitution was not completed until 1956, nine years after independence. This delay was caused by the parliament’s reluctance to lose their power once the constitution was ratified.
  7. In a security dilemma and the military budget, Pakistan became a priority, indirectly increasing its strength and power and furthering the country’s poverty.
  8. Finally, the weak political institutions and parties and incompetent leadership and the country’s geography and demography contribute to governmental failings and complex civil-military relations.

The History of Martial Law in Pakistan

Pakistan has witnessed four military coups, but none of them had a justified motive; moreover, successive governments had made sure that the military should be consulted before they took any key decision, especially when related to the Kashmir conflict and foreign policy. Though every martial law dictators had used some reasons and motives to support their unconstitutional act, things were different in reality.

1st and 2nd Martial Law in Pakistan:

In 1958, President Iskander Mirza took over the country, deposed the government of Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon, and declared first martial law. He appointed his close associate Gen. Ayub, as the Commander-in-Chief of the army. However, Ayub ousted Mirza when he became highly dissatisfied by Mirza’s policies and imposed second martial law. At that time, critical incidents were being happened that both dictators used as a tool to get the public’s support.

Major incidents were as follow:

  • Baghdad Pact later known as CENTO was singed and its member was Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.
  • The Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 was started because of Operation Gibraltar supported by Pakistan Army.
  • First Democratic Elections in the country were held in 1970. Awami League won seats in a majority in East Pakistan while Pakistan Peoples Party won most in West Pakistan that took the country toward another war.
  • The war of 1971 when Pakistan had lost its East part
  • Baloch Nationalist uprisings; the Baloch rebellion of the 1970s was the most threading civil disorder in the country.

3rd Martial Law in Pakistan:

Bhutto appointed Zia-ul-Haq, but he toppled Bhutto’s government and imposed third martial law in the country. Zia appointed Mushtaq Hussain as a chief jurist for Bhutto’s case, who was publicly known to hate Bhutto and played a controversial role in Bhutto’s removal as foreign minister 1965.

Major incidents before and after this coup were as follow:

  • In 1972 Bhutto officially announced Nuclear Weapons Development Programme.
  • First Gulf War; Pakistan reached an agreement with the Saudi government to send several brigades of the army to help Saudis.
  • Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
  • Siachen Galcier; Pakistan lost its position on Siachen Galcier in 1980.
  • Kargil War: after the failure of the 1989 attempt to re-take the glacier, the Pakistani army developed a daring plan, and in the winter of 1998, Pakistan had taken the Kargil hills, and a war started between India and Pakistan.

4th Martial Law in Pakistan:

It is said that in 1999 then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had planned to remove Musharraf from his office while he was coming back from Sri Lanka and replace him and his loyal military colleagues. Still, on the other hand, Musharraf had a contingency plan too in place. His plan got success, and 4th martial law was imposed.

Major incidents were as follow;

  •  Standoff with India, a militant attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, resulted in fourteen deaths, including the five perpetrators. India claimed that Pakistan supported the attacks.
  • Military assistance to Sri Lanka; Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy a strong relationship, and India always sees this relationship as a danger to its existence.
  • 9/11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by terrorist groups against the United States.
  • War in the North-West region; after the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan joined the US-led war on terror and helped the US military by severing ties with the Taliban and immediately deploying more than 72,000 troops along Pakistan’s western border to capture or kill Taliban and al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan.

While summing up this topic, I must say a constitution plays a pivotal role in a country’s growth as it defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made. It is a set of rules regulating the powers of its government and its citizens’ rights and duties; hence, this is our duty to respect our constitution and perform our duties as per its guidance. If the constitution becomes our first and foremost priority while handling civil and military affairs, no power can stop us from progressing.

Staff Writer

The Wallet Team produces these stories.

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