Lack of transparency, frail democratic systems and frequent military interventions in the governance systems, are some of the issues plaguing most of the countries in the Muslim world, said scholars, who had converged in Turkish metropolis of Istanbul.
Organized by the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), some 20 scholars who debated civil-military relations across the globe, stressed upon the need to understand the essence of political systems and local realities in the Middle East and the North Africa.
“Militaries are at the center of the decision making,” said Rachid Tlemcani, professor at the University of Algiers in Algeria.
He said militaries in the region have a strong relationship with external players, in terms of buying arms and then to seek support to fight people, when they hit streets.
“It is now time to develop a new approach. We cannot understand situation in our societies with [western] traditional approaches and concepts of political science. The new theory should reflect the complexity of the local realities,” he emphasized.
He stressed that governments in Muslim countries need to evolve a system to take everybody on board in the decision-making process, rather than vesting powers in a single entity or a small group. He recommended to introduce democracy and decision-making process at the levels of village and towns, to organize people to take decisions on their day to day issues.
Urging militaries to focus on external threat and protect borders, rather than interfering in politics, Tlemcani said the region will remain dependent on foreign partners for development and protection of national security, if military does not return to barracks.
Case of Pakistan
Debating the case of Pakistan, scholars said both military and politicians in the country have used one another to further their interests. “From Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif, most of the prime ministers used the shoulders of military to come to power, but once they consolidated power, they began confrontation rather evolving and strengthening systems,“ said scholars.
Ejaz Hussain, who teaches at Iqra University in Pakistan, said the military became a principal actor in 1960s in his country. He said before that civil bureaucracy had become a powerful force. Maintaining that Pakistan had a “defective democracy”, he said the country’s systems have not evolved since its inception in 1947.
“There is very little discussion on civil-military relations in Pakistan. The actors in Pakistani politics, in particular, the civil bureaucracy and the politicians, rely on and invoke the instrumentality of democracy. They use democracy as a tool to manipulate in terms of electoral weightage to enter parliament and then they never use democratic means and use power to promote their political or commercial interests,” he said.
The scholar said that Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had imagined a country with strong political foundations. “He did not like military and civil bureaucracy to intervene in political system,” said Hussain.
“Threat from India has been invoked by both civilian and military leadership, which historically is fact of life. But has been used by stake holders to put impediments towards democratization or otherwise,” he said.
Supporting his argument, he said the most powerful political leader Bhutto was curtailing the role of army during his tenure in 1970s. But at the same time imposed an authoritarian rule to control political elements in Balochistan. “Bhutto used all authoritarian means to stay in power,” he said.
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