Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Politics. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 26 June 2022

Pakistan: Persistent Praetorianismlocked

Pakistan: Persistent Praetorianismlocked

  • Aqil ShahAqil ShahDepartment of International and Area Studies, University of Oklahoma

Summary

The military has dominated politics and national security in Pakistan since the decade following independence from British colonial rule in August 1947. The country appears to be caught in a persistent praetorian trap: It has experienced three military coups (1958, 1977, 1999, and an intra-military coup led by General Yahya Khan against President and Field Marshall Ayub Khan in 1969), and each of them was followed by military or quasi-military governments (1958–1969, 1969–1971, 1977–1988, 1999–2007) that have left behind legacies curtailing the authority of civilian governments long after the generals exited power. Scholars have examined the causes of military intervention, the role of the military in democratic transitions, and the patterns of civil–military relations under elected rule, which are perennially defined by military autonomy and weak civilian control.

The military established its most recent dictatorship under General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, which lasted for 8 years. The subsequent transition to civilian rule in 2008 resulted in the first ever transfer of power from the government of the left-of-center Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which had completed its constitutional tenure, to the right-of-center Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N of Nawaz Sharif) in 2013. Bipartisan reforms enacted in 2010 restored the 1973 constitution’s federal parliamentary structure and removed several authoritarian distortions (e.g., the power of the president to arbitrarily sack elected governments) introduced under military rule. In the subsequent 2018 vote, the incumbent PML-N government peacefully yielded power to the right-of-center Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). Despite multiparty elections followed by executive turnovers, civil–military relations remain fraught and the generals continue to retain their vast prerogatives and reserve domains under elected regimes, including institutional affairs, defense allocations, commercial interests in vital sectors of the economy, foreign policy, nuclear weapons, intelligence, and even civilian administration. Between 2008 and 2017, civilian government made repeated attempts to erode its privileges (e.g., the PPP government’s decision to place the country’s main intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), under civilian control) and challenge its presumptions of impunity (e.g., the decision of the PML-N government to prosecute Musharraf for “high treason”). The military responded by publicly contesting civilian policies, resisting or rejecting directives, and mobilizing its civilian proxies to destabilize elected rule. In 2018, the generals manipulated the polls to install the pro-military PTI in power. The country’s weak democracy has since mutated into a hybrid regime where formal democratic political institutions mask undeclared martial rule.

Subjects

  • Governance/Political Change
  • Political Institutions

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription