Within the last few months, Balochistan was hit with multiple issues at once. Uncharacteristically heavy rains cause flooding in various parts of the province, which meant that the military would need to carry out rescue and rehabilitation.
The Indo-Pak escalation meant that forces were moving closer to the border. This left a vacuum in the spaces they vacated. Logically, non-military security forces were supposed to take charge of these areas. Yet, once the military began moving, hysteria and fear spread like wildfire as citizens feared for their safety.
The military makes up an integral part of any country. It ensures the sovereignty and sanctity of its borders and the security of its citizens. Historically, the military has played an extremely significant role in deciding our country’s fate.
Therefore in the last month, the military was expected to take charge of everything. Which is when many began speculating that the government has developed a dependence on the military to maintain law and order and, stability. Their institutions are becoming weaker and more vulnerable rather than independent.
It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Balochistan is much more stable now than it was a decade ago. It would also be correct to assume that the military has been an intrinsic, if not vital, part of this improvement. Stability in Balochistan has been a result of government and military cooperation, in addition to many other factors.
However, there is a clear difference between cooperation and dependence. The first implies that both parties work together and are equal partners in the process, while the second implies reliance and vulnerability of one side on the other. This reliance has often be misconstrued as control i.e. the military controlling the government.
From the War on Terror, border security and, rehabilitation and rescue missions, development projects and even foreign policy, our military plays an integral role in the matters of the state; as it does in most developing countries.
Balochistan is one of the least developed areas in the country; in terms of infrastructure as well as society. To improve life here as rapidly as possible, the government sought out support from the military.
According to statements from representatives of the Pakistan Army, the military is meant to take necessary actions to improve the law and order and in turn, overall stability of the region. Standard operating procedures for military operations are that forces would come in to improve security situation, help with rehabilitation and promptly retreat back to their original duties.
However, as it happens in such circumstances, they end up taking on many more roles than anticipated. This is also due to the fact that now, more than ever, the military plays a humanitarian role. By virtue of this humanitarian role, the military must partake in rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and development in addition to their original responsibilities to maintain internal and external security.
When the military participates in these areas for longer than necessary, government institutions become work-shy. They become dependent on the military to fulfill these humanitarian and social needs, even though, they are meant to collaborate with them.
These institutions need to be strengthened by placing more responsibility upon them, in order to go back to cooperating rather than depending on military assistance, which was always meant to be a temporary solution, not a permanent one. Military involvement in governance should always be considered a last resort.
One way of strengthening governance and its institutions is to decentralize power from the provincial government; giving local governments more authority and control. This strategy, endorsed by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, makes local governments autonomous and independent. Department-specific mechanisms and operating procedures need to be developed in order to have all departments functioning productively.
This process would also eventually help debunk the idea that the military has control over all government decisions in the region. Once a certain level of stability has been reached, the military should slowly begin retreating back to its original role as the transition to non-military inforced, sustainable peace takes place.
At present, though, that time is a long ways down the road. There’s also the question about who gets to decide when the opportune time for the military to retreat actually comes. Is the government planning this transition? Or are we content in this codependent relationship with the military?