How to address the Puzzle of Military Intervention into Politics in Developing Democracies by Taking Pakistan as Case Study: A Theoretical Debate

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This paper discusses why military intervention takes place in developing democracies by taking Pakistan as a case study with a focus on theoretical intricacies. There may be different theoretical explanations as to why the military imposes martial laws and takes the affairs of the state into their own hands. It discusses Samuel P. Huntington’s Professionalism, Michael Desch’s Structural Theory, based on internal and external threats and other theories of military takeover but what is found in the context of Pakistan but found Samuel Edward Finer’s Disposition and Opportunity theory of military takeover more suitable. It suggests that the military in developing democracies where it has historically imposed martial laws is always ready to take over the country but wait for the right opportunity to come. And when the opportunity is presented in the shape of poor governance on the part of civilian leadership, the army makes a comeback and takes over the country.                              


Key Words

Military Intervention, Politics, Democracies, Pakistan



The need for maintaining a standing army is a universal phenomenon. Every country, either big or small, strives to strengthen its defense capabilities against any real or perceived threat. Given the anarchical nature of global and regional political order, security is the greatest of a country’s needs. There is no denying the fact that freedom and liberty can only be ensured through the erection of strong military force. Even large democracies based on the ideals of idealism can’t deny the importance of maintaining an army to ensure what civilians are unable to.  No doubt, their function is to carry out what is instructed by the civilian authorities. However, once established, the military itself becomes a potential threat to the interests of those who make them in the course of time and whose orders they are supposed to obey. The terms of reference are often broken, especially in developing nations.

Asia and Latin American countries are under spotlights for quite a while for being good examples of praetorians.  Around the world, especially in developing countries, there can be seen the erosion of democracy with a significant increase in the influence of the military in a country’s political affairs either directly or indirectly in the course of political change. (Rizvi, 2013). In some cases, they have staged direct coups by displacing civilian governments and have assumed direct control of state affairs. While in others, they have been playing an extra constitutional role in collaboration with influential elites of the society or bureaucracy. However, countries where militaries have assumed political role share greater commonalities in terms of socio-economic conditions and political behavior. Most of such states suffer from extreme poverty, illiteracy and unemployment and serious governance crisis. They, in other words, are poor and underdeveloped nations (Rizvi, 2013). Moreover, armies in developing states with colonial past have maintained enough role in the political decision-making arena (Finer, 2009). There the boundaries between civilian and military responsibilities have become blurred, with the later frequently encroaching into the jurisdiction of the former.

 Pakistan is the world’s 36th largest country in terms of total land area; it has numerous geographic vulnerabilities with border disputes with neighboring states (Aguilar, Bell, Black, & Falk, 2011). Between 1947 and 1950, Pakistan was a nascent state in the real sense, with its infrastructure yet to establish. Its territorial and ideological boundaries were contested by neighboring states resulting in an atmosphere of fear and a sense of insecurity (Wilke, 2001). Geographically, Pakistan has never felt secure on its eastern and western borders since birth. The cumulative bitterness, frustration and pain accompanying Pakistan's creation and the continued threat to its existence from its larger neighbor has conditioned much of its political history since I947 (Wilcox, 1965). India has posed a big challenge to Pakistan’s internal security and territorial integrity and strived hard not to let any opportunity go to undo the 1947 partition plan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Pakistan founder, believed in peaceful co-existence but soon found it a dream far from reality.

It is very unfortunate that vigorous propaganda has been going on… that Pakistan is… merely a temporary madness and that Pakistan will have to come into the Indian Union as a penitent, repentant, erring son… It is now clear beyond doubt that it was well-planned, well-organized, and well-directed, and the object of it all… was to paralyzes the new-born Dominion of Pakistan (Khan., 2007).

Pakistan “lives” vis-à-vis India. The ideological divide between the two determines the hostile relations between the two successor states of the British Raj until the present day. Because India is more populous, stable and powerful in military terms, besides cherishing a hostile attitude towards the younger brother, the Pakistan Army easily assumed a crucial role in defining Pakistan’s destiny in terms of the political aspect of national life (Wilke, 2001). Given Pakistan’s volatile relationship with India, centered on the decades-long conflict for control of Kashmir, Pakistan has always been a ‘security state’, and the national military has historically been a key player in the geopolitical arena (Balachandran, 2014).

Afghanistan on the western border also issued controversial statements to make Pakistan feel insecure. They challenged the validity of the Durand Line and put a claim to some of the Pashtun territories across the border in Pakistan. The newly born Pakistan was faced with the dilemma of survival, and to ensure its independence, the leaders, even the civilians, had to switch huge funds to the military defense capabilities. Defense agreements were made with foreign nations. The results of large funds allocation and exposure to trainings in technologically advanced countries were many. But among all, the Pakistan army emerged as a stronger and more coherent institution relative to other state institutions in Pakistan.

Pakistan armed forces cashed well on the apprehensions and fears of the people. The belief that Pakistan may not live long if the military was not properly trained and equipped had taken firm roots in the minds of those who had given innumerable sacrifices to win independence. On the other hand, the early death of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan created a vacuum that the political leadership failed to fill for a long time. With incapable politicians in charge of country’s affairs, the situation worsened on economic and political fronts. In such a situation, the army’s influence, as well as the role, was bound to take roots.  

Pakistan is a case in point of turbulent civil-military relations. In the 59 years since Pakistan became an independent state, the military has overthrown democratic governments four times. When martial law was imposed for the first time in 1958 in the whole of Pakistan, the 1956 constitution was abrogated. Yahya khan’s martial law in 1969 also caused the abrogation of Ayub’s 1962 constitution. But martial laws imposed in 1977 by Zia ul Haq and Parvaiz Musharraf in 1999 only put the 1973 constitution in abeyance. The reason for the non-abrogation of 1973 on two successive occasions may be the popularity of the constitution that has been passed with mutual consensus and due deliberation among the political leadership of the country. So the military may not have felt it appropriate to scrape the constitution that bears some credibility in people’s eyes. Ironically, every time the Pakistan army has taken over the affairs of the state into its own hands, it has put a halt to the democratic process.


Military Involvement and Intervention into Politics

Although the line between involvement and intervention may be blurred and unclear in certain cases, still a difference exists. According to Moskowitz, military involvement in politics may extend over a continuous range of activities and possibilities, while intervention is more discrete and objective. The later means military is entering into an unacceptable area or activities that fall within the constitutional jurisdiction of the civilian authorities (Bhimaya, 1997). In the words of Samuel Finer, the intervention of the military into politics means the deliberate substitution of their own policies or persons for those of recognized civilian authorities in a democratic state (Finer, 2009). Moskowitz statement is more comprehensive than Finer and draws a sharp line between involvement and intervention. Involvement is less visible; intervention is more direct (Bhimaya, 1997). Military involvement in politics is a delicate issue and can even be seen in democratically developed countries where senior army officers influence important policy matters. They have been regularly found sitting in meetings of purely political nature, w3hose say guides the proceedings of the matter under discussion given their technical superiority. However, intervention into politics is a radical unconstitutional act whose legitimacy can’t be justified.

The military takeover doesn’t happen in a vacuum anywhere around the world. Certain variables and factors are at work in the background to force, motivate or give a reason to the army to take affairs of the state into their own hands by displacing civilian authorities. Much of the available literature on civil-military relations in the production of the writings of western scholars and writers whose views can’t explain well the situation in Pakistan.


Samuel P. Huntington’s Professionalism

Samuel P. Huntington pioneered the work on civil-military relations and tried to explore the issue that disturbs the equilibrium. Huntington has suggested a theory of civil-military relations keeping in view the long American political system caught between the variables of military professionalism and the military’s participation in the political activities of a country (Huntington, 1957). Before going into the theoretical aspect of civil-military relations, Huntington discusses the fundamental psychology of a soldier that guides his conduct during peace as well as war times. His mentality bears importance because it shapes his attitude towards the state, statesmen and politicians that determine the direction of civil-military relations. He discusses in detail the structure and responsibilities of the armed forces in developed as well as developing states. Huntington maintains that if the military’s division of function and training program is directed to address external instead of internal threats, there is a greater likelihood of the military not inferring or intervening in the country’s politics. It is very interesting to note that coups led by the military in developing states are considered to be an alternative to bloody revolutions or peaceful revolution to change the prevailing legal dispensation (Hussain., 2010).

      Huntington’s approach to controlling armies by civilian leaders in a democratic society is of two types; subjective control and objective control (Nix, 2012). As far as the subjective control model is concerned, the military is closely integrated into and participates in the country’s social and political setup. In the subjective model, the civilian leadership of the country retains maximum power in relations to the army (Kadwani, 2003). In such a case, the military’s professionalism remains low (Nix, 2012).

      Huntington’s preferred model is the objective model of control, which stands in direct contrast to the subjective one. In this approach, both the civilian politicians and military professionals concentrate on their respective area of jurisdiction and arena of expertise with the least quest for interfering in other affairs (Nix, 2012). The professionalism of the military would most probably render the army neutral politically in any polity (Kadwani, 2003). The causal chain of the theory runs as follows: autonomy leads to greater professionalization of the armed forces, which results in their political neutrality and voluntary subordination. An army that is more professional will certainly be more subordinate to the will of political leadership (Feaver, 2003).

Samuel P. Huntington’s views on civil-military relations carry much weight but are often criticized for certain shortcomings. His objective control model and professionalism are more reflective of the Western developed societies whose socio-political realities are different from those of developing nations. So any theory developed from experiments in one society can’t be implemented in another society with different parameters. Pakistan is a different society faced with so many external and internal challenges where the army has got a different role to play, given all the realities it exists in.  Moreover, in Pakistan’s case, the professionalism of the military has not rendered politically neutral as, over the years, it has been able to acquire the latest weapons and training program in the course of strengthening its defense capability against India. All this has enabled the Pakistan Army to develop greater influence on matters of security and foreign policy as well as conflict with civilian authorities for maximum resource allocations (Kadwani, 2003). The professionalism of Pakistan armed forces has never obstructed it to make a coup. Moreover, it is not only the professionalism of the military that determines the matter to intervene or not. There are so many other factors to be taken into consideration as they are important in the army’s making a coup, as mentioned in the case of Pakistan in the above lines. Huntington ignores them all.


Michael Desch’s Structural Theory

Michael Desch, an American political scientist, has also tried to dig out the basic problem that upsets the relations between civilian politicians and armed forces. He has gathered his views in his Structural Theory of civil-military relations. Structural Theory looks into the army’s involvement in political affairs from the perspective of threat perception. Among so many others, he considers the survival of a state as the greatest of its needs in a competitive environment (Aziz, 2008). This threat can either be real or perceived and can either be internal or external or both. Desch’s theory specifies external and internal security threats to be independent variables while domestic factors as intervening variables and explains when these variables become more or less important (Desch, 1999).


Table 1. Internal/ External Security Threats and dynamics of Civil-Military Relations (Desch, 1999)


High External Threats

Low External Threats

High Internal Threats

Poor Civilian Control (Q1)

Worst Civilian Control (Q2)

Low Internal Threats

Firm Civilian Control (Q3)

Mixed Civilian Control (Q4)


Desch Model Summarized form (Hussain., 2010)

·         Civilian control is good if the external/internal threat is high/low

·         Civilian control is worst if the external/internal threat is low/high

·         Civilian control is mixed if the external/internal threat is low/low

·         Civilian control is poor if the external/internal threat is high/high

Desch’s Structural theory suggests that a state wherein there is a low internal threat and high external threat denoted with Q3 will have the most favorable civil-military relations. However, when a state is faced with high internal security threats and low external security threats (Q2) will have the worst civilian control of the armed forces. In a situation of structural conditions of Q1 (high internal/external threats) and Q4 (low internal/external threats), structural effects are indirect so that other factors at the domestic level, especially military doctrine, play a more decisive role (Woo, 2007).

Desch’s model is too much unclear, leading to confusion. What exactly is meant by internal and external security threats, especially the level of threats to call them low or high? Again it’s very difficult to say whether the threat is real or perceived. Further, even if we agree that India poses a threat, what internal security threats are faced by Pakistan?  If the threat is the only determinant of a military takeover, then the 1999 martial law should never have taken place because Pakistan felt too much secured after the May 1998 nuclear blasts on external borders. Nuclear weapons, no doubt, are deterrence against any threat, either real or perceived. As far as an internal threat is concerned, a well-organized insurgency or a civil war can pose a threat to the state apparatus. Pakistan’ economic and political system was not bad enough to be called near to collapse in the 1990s besides having established law enforcement agencies capable of quelling any armed movement. So no real or perceived threat existed in the 1990s that could provide a ground for the takeover as provided by Desch’s theory.


Mazhar’s Path Dependency and Historical Institutionalism

History carries importance, and events in the present are path-dependent for having a chain of roots connecting to the past (Aziz, 2008). Policies in any given state are path-dependent, and once introduced on that path, they continue along until some sufficiently strong political force or an event of unusual nature deflects them to a different course. Path Dependency narrows down conceptually policies made at one time in history and links them through time. Pakistan, since birth, was faced with the threat of survival. Indian leaders issued statements in public gatherings terming Pakistan a temporary arrangement soon to be merged with its parent state. The dilemma of state survival imperatives leading to a spate of military-cum-security alliances from the 1950s onwards with the Western World in particular further entrenched the military in the decision-making processes in the country, exemplified by, for instance, the 1954 induction of the serving chief of the Pakistan Army (who led the first military coup of 1958) General Muhammad Ayub Khan as the Defense Minister in the cabinet (Aziz, 2008). Furthermore, the agreements made for defense purposes had the uniqueness that they were negotiated and signed by the serving army chief instead of the foreign minister of the country. Thus, if in a given polity at the time of its inception, policies made to ensure state survival over other considerations, then the emergence of powerful institutions such as the military and (or) bureaucracy is most likely to happen.

Past leaves marks on the present, the traces of which are the institutions created by policies, behaviors and choices adopted in the past and thus help to explain not just where we stand today but also how we got there in the process of historical development. A disproportionate allocation of budget to the military in comparison to other institutions coupled with the weaknesses of the political leadership of the country and apprehensions of survival against Indian threat made it easy for the army to ascend to the level of policymaking and then even take over the country through coup with least inconvenience. Given similar policy choices (defined by state survival permutations), the capacity of other institutions such as the political party or an elected legislature to constrain the influence of the military or the bureaucracy will then remain severely limited.

Mazhar’s analysis, no doubt, is a healthy approach to stimulate further research. Pakistan army has been found at the focal point of decision making vital for state survival since inception, but why they make a coupon a particular period of time and not at the other. Taking the 1977 martial law as a case study, Pakistan politically could not be worse than at the time of the coup. The armed forces were demoralized and had lost the energy to have any appetite for yet another coup. They had been ousted in the most disgraceful manner from power in 1971, and if Mazhar’s is applied, the coup should not have taken place. The debacle of Dhaka and the subsequent surrender of the Pakistan Army was an event of far greater magnitude to have changed the course of events. But it didn’t happen so, and the moment they were offered an opportunity, they availed it.

Peter D. Fever’s Agency Theory of Civil-Military Relations

Peter D. Fever offers a different model to explain the relations between the civilian and military and the reasons why the later violates the terms of oath and takes over the affairs of the state from those who create them. Originally Peter has borrowed the concept of Agency Theory from economics where it explains the relations between employer and employee. The theory, no doubt, is a good addition to the existing literature on civil-military relations.  

Agency Theory has two actors; Civilian Authority and Military. Under the Democratic Theory, the former elected to the corridors of power through the vote is certainly principal while the latter is agent to be working under the direction and direct supervision of civilian politicians (Feaver, 2003). As civilian authorities create the military, they expect that the later would work the way they want. The interaction between the two is strategic and carried out in a hierarchical structure. The relations are strategic because the choices made by civilian authorities are dependent on what the militaries are likely to do. It is hierarchical because civilians enjoy a privileged status and have legitimate authority over the military. So in a democratic society, it is the civilian who enjoys the status of principal while the military retains the position of agent. Further, it is argued that both the actors are rational, with each having all the wisdom to advance and protect its institutional interests. Whatever decisions they are going to make are based on a rational approach, seeking more benefits than the cost. However, it is assumed that the players know the costs and benefits arising out of the action each will take.

As the civilians create the military, the former delegate certain authority to the later for the purpose to effectively carry out what they have been made responsible for. This delegation of authority may be complete but not without some monitoring mechanism. To keep the armed forces under some control not to act on their own, the civilian authority establishes certain SOPs to maintain its superior position. Peter D. Fever calls it Oversight Mechanism and is ensured through various means.  However, this oversight mechanism should be legitimate as anything illegal will be resisted by the armed forces, sometimes even termed as interference in their institutional business. Thus, monitoring is bothersome as this causes to develop a rift between the two institutions.

Peter D. Fever introduces the concept of working and shirking to understand well the relationship between civilians and the military. Working is getting things done the way civilians want from the military. Shirking is doing things the way the military wants, violating the very principles of democracy (Feaver, 2003). If the military is doing things to the satisfaction of the civilian principal, it means that the former is working. In such a situation, they are rewarded in different ways. On the other hand, doing things, not to the satisfaction of the principal will be termed as shirking, costing the army with punishment. However, it is a matter of debate whether the agent actor will be caught or not if he shirks. Detecting shirking depends much on the monitoring mechanism. The more effective is the oversight mechanism, the more chances of catching the military agent to shirk. Further is to clarify the fact that punishment is not a foregone conclusion as the civilian authority may lack the political power to punish a popular man in uniform who shirks. So punishment is dependent on many other factors besides shirking. For example, it is easy for a popular civilian government to punish a General whose popularity may not be as high as needed.  

The problem of either working or shirk comes from the fact that civilians and military being two different institutions, have their own institutional interests and rank them accordingly. They prefer to shirk if it serves their interests the best and vice versa. They will also shirk if they think it will not be detected, provided it pays more than what it costs. The minimum form of shirking is a crisis, while the maximum is a coup when the military completely replaces civilian author and takes the affairs of the state into its own hands. However, to avoid shirking of the military, it is important to strengthen the oversight mechanism. 

Fever’s introduction of Agency Theory is a good addition to the literature on civil-military relations. However, it falls short of applying to Pakistan. He has developed the model, keeping in view the American system, which completely is a different story. There has never been a coup since its independence. Theirs is a mature democracy with military never found to shirk. They have a well-kept military response to the civilian authorities. Pakistan presents a different picture. Over the years, civilians have failed to develop a robust oversight mechanism to catch the military when they shirk. Given the weaknesses of civilian institutions, Pakistan’s army has worked with great independence and has even encroached into the civilian area of jurisdiction. But the government has never been able to dare to keep them under civilian control. The fact of the matter is Pakistan military has kept itself insulated from civilian oversight. They are a state within the state. How can Agency Theory be applied to Pakistan’s case when the relationship between civilian authority and the military is not that of principal and agent?


Samuel Edward Finer’s Disposition and Opportunity

Samuel E. Finer has written too on civil-military relations and has tried to find out reasons for a military takeover. His work is a valuable addition to the existing literature on coups. He is more logical and comprehensive in his approach, appealing strongly to common sense and ground realities. His concepts of Disposition and Opportunity have greater relevance to explain military takeover in Pakistan.

Samuel describes in the first place a distinct set of countries where governments have been repeatedly subjected to interference by their armed forces, especially the army, from time to time with regular intervals. These countries are surely not the kind of liberal democracies like the US or British, wherein the military is subordinate to the dictations of civilian politicians (Finer, 2009). Such countries have the uniqueness to have remained under the British colonial dominance for centuries who find it hard to get rid of their royal dictatorial past. They have yet to learn the art of governance and establish features representative of true democratic ideals. Resultantly, the military has emerged there as a distinct and strong political force that finds it not troublesome to dislodge even an elected civilian government. When such a takeover happens, it often goes unnoticed, for it is not an exceptional phenomenon. 

The author describes various kinds of military rules as indirect and direct. The first of the indirect is the limited or intermittent military rule. By it is meant that the military intervenes at regular intervals to secure certain limited objectives. The other indirect is complete or continues military rule, which stands for military control of all the activities of the puppet government. In both these cases, the military controls the show from behind while a nominally civilian government remains in place. The civilian authorities bear all the constitutional responsibility for what happens in the country. 

One of the military interventions is direct (Finer, 2009). Here the army assumes the responsibility of what is purely the mandate of civilian authorities and takes all the affairs of the state into their own hands. As they lack the element of legitimacy, a puppet cabinet is appointed after some time to take care of the governmental affairs.  Such a takeover is a gross violation of the constitution and could be seen in democracies standing on fragile foundations. As the army may not expect a sever public reaction to their takeover, issues in governance give the military a good opportunity to remove the incumbent government. The story of Pakistan’s coup d etat is an excellent reflection of the quoted paradigm.

Disposition and opportunity are the two features enough to explain a military coup in a developing country with a lame democracy (Finer, 2009). Describing the motives disposing of the military to intervene, it is the manifest destiny of armed forces to pull the state out of the moral and material disaster even at the cost of the intervention. Everywhere around the world, wherever the army makes a coup, they consider themselves to be the savior of the nation with no price high enough to save the state from the ultimate debacle. In almost all walks of national life, including politics, administration of economic and governmental affairs, when a persistent disorder and inefficiency are displayed with all other societal forces in virtual disarray and disorganized, the army prepares its mind to intervene. And so such illegalities may not offend anyone.

The anxiety to guard its corporate and institutional self-interest besides maintaining its autonomy from civilian authorities provide the armed forces yet another powerful motive to intervene in what it is constitutionally not mandated. In weaker and fragile democracies, militaries remain more aggressive, claiming to be the ultimate judge on all matters affecting them directly and indirectly.

Although the army lacks the moral and legal authority to rule, favorable public response empowers them to remain in power even for decades. But the question is why people in developing countries, in some cases, invite the army to takeover while in others welcome the military after they make a coup? The answer lies in the harsh fact that when an elected government suffers from governance issues, failing to deliver on people’s expectations and demands, such a government falls easy prey to direct military intervention (Finer, 2009). In countries where the balance of power is historically tilted in favor of the army, intervention is a walkover without coming across any resistance when a democratically-elected government betrays the trust people have reposed in it through elections, the military being the savior of the nation considers it to be its duty to intervene and "save the nation (Feaver, 2003).

Yet another motive to intervene is to safeguard and secure the corporate self-interest of the army as an institution. The anxiety to maintain and preserve its autonomy from other institutions provides a powerful motive to make an intervention. The military considers itself to be entitled to decide on such matters as recruitment, training, numbers and equipment. In certain cases, it can make the military to be the ultimate judge on all other matters affecting the armed forces either directly or indirectly. As these certainly include foreign policy besides domestic economic policy as well as inclusive education and the mass media of communication, such claims are bound to bring the military into conflict with the civilian government, which traditionally considers these matters to be part of their area of jurisdiction (Finer, 2009). However, such encroachment of the army into the civilian area of influence is due to the inefficiency of the later not to bring the former under its control to keep them limited to their constitutional responsibilities as required by the Democratic Theory (Feaver, 2003). Even in some developing countries, civilian governments ask the military to manage matters that the former fails to carry out effectively over the years. Once surrendered, the military then develops a claim on such subjects and refuses the total civilian monopoly on them. This reflects the inefficiency of the civilian dispensation; on the other, it gives the army an opportunity to develop first-hand experience of how to administer civilian affairs of the state. Pakistan suffers from the same dilemma.

The grievances of the army may also dispose of it to make an intervention in a given situation. These grievances or grudges of the army may be due to some difference of opinion, approach or strategy with civilian authorities on political issues either related to foreign or domestic policy (Finer, 2009). In countries economically and politically underdeveloped, the military would want all important decisions to be made according to its institutional will and priorities. Any decision that can damage the prestige and interest of the army will be resisted at every cost, even to the extent of intervention.

The army may have made up its mind but will wait for the right opportunity to exploit for intervention. S.E.Finer believes that intervention would fail if there is disposition but no opportunity. There are situations that make civilians increasingly dependent on armed forces. There may be occasions when the government suffers from governance issues which inversely adds to the reputation of the military authorities in a given state.

The increased dependency of the civilian authorities on the military may give the later the opportunity to displace the former with ease. This normally happens during times of war which greatly expands military influence, and so it continues for sometimes even after the war is over. This influence of the military has two aspects. Firstly, during war times, much of the policy matters and choices come under the influence of the army and are subordinated to the directions of the men in uniform. It has been seen in some cases that even civilian authorities voluntarily surrender security and foreign policy options to the military authorities. Secondly, the influence takes stronger roots in the minds of citizens when the armed forces show extra-ordinary bravery and patriotism on the battlefield. They are recognized to be the real savior of the nation who can deliver them of all miseries and mismanagement at the governmental level. All this results in an increased role for the army in matters whether foreign or domestic policy and so encroach into the civilian domain of influence. Immediately after the war, the military has a good opportunity to make a coup expecting no dissent at the grass-root level.

When the incumbent democratic government is subject to serious governmental crises besides falling short of having the support of other political actors and parties, dependency on the military goes up and may rely upon them as a police force (Finer, 2009). It is not surprising, therefore, that the military finds in civilian mismanagement the opportunity, the motive and subsequently the pretext for their intervention. The coup is welcomed and acclaimed widely by people with cheers and enthusiasm, expressing their excitement by coming out on roads when the political regime could not be more unpopular, given their poor performance in terms of governance (Finer, 2009). Around the world, poor governance and mismanagement of state affair have given the military a strong reason to make a coup. All this is manifested in people’s response in the aftermath of a military takeover who either remain silent or welcome the coup makers. “The revolution has taken place to free the people of Iraq from tyranny and corruption in domestic affairs. Under the old régime, there was no law or justice in Iraq. The interests of governing and the elite class were taken care of by the administration of law and state affairs under that regime (Kessing, 1963). The statement carries weight in countries suffering from governance issues where people never bother to come out in support of their elected representatives. What is more unfortunate is the fact that when elected representatives are subject to severe treatment at the hands of martial law administrators, even the voters who elect them to the corridors of power don’t stand in solidarity with them. They, in some cases, celebrate their fall.

Army cashes on civilian’s bad reputation, which ultimately raises the military’s goodwill.  Commenting on the 1958 martial law in Pakistan, Guy Wint reports that the government and politicians in Pakistan had lost all it’s worth and respect in the eyes of the people by the time coup was made in 1958. On the other hand, the army gained popularity and prestige by putting it in a good position to make a coup. There developed gradually a disproportionate imbalance between the respected and capable army held in high esteem and incompetent politicians to make the ground for first martial law (Kessing, 1963). One of the results of these undesirable events was that none of the politicians whom the army despised was able to make a protest. They simply withdrew. There was no fight in them, and the reason was that they knew they could raise almost no public support if they opposed the army. After the first few days, public opinion supported the revolution.' The declining trust and confidence in politicians and the civil process cause the popularity of the military to rise (Wint, 1960). This inverse relationship works in the background to create an opportunity for the army to make a coup.

The political structure, whether it is democratic or dictatorial, can never dare to ignore public opinion. However, public opinion would tilt towards any of the two who would deliver on their demands. It has been noticed in developing democracies that if an elected government fails to bring any improvement in the condition of people who constitute the major segment of society, people don’t mourn the fall of that particular structure. In many instances, the change, even if it is unconstitutional, is welcomed by the masses. This is a matter of great concern for countries striving for democracies to take roots, but where the military takeover is a phenomenon of a regular routine. If any structure fails to win public support, given its poor performance in terms of governance, it is most vulnerable to army takeover.



There are as many theories applicable to military coups in Pakistan as many writers. Samuel. P. Huntington’s professionalism was the first to appear in civil-military relations. His work has been the most studied and quoted literature on the topic under discussion. Despite his weighty arguments and analysis, Huntington’s approach fails to explain why the Pakistani army, with relative superior professionalism, makes coup time and again. This puts a serious question mark on the professionalism of Samuel P. Huntington. Michael Dasch’s Structural Theory is yet another valuable addition to the literature on civil-military relations. He proposes that threats that may either be internal or external or both are the sole determinants of a military takeover. If this is the case, a military takeover in October 1999 should never have taken place given the lowest external threats on the Eastern border in the wake of May. 1998 atomic bomb tests and Western border for having a friendly government in Kabul.

Mazhar’s Path Dependency and Historical Institutionalism was also discussed through critical lenses. He is right that the past leaves some impact on the present and future, but it’s not necessary that history would certainly repeat itself. He is of the opinion that if a military takeover happens once in a particular country, it will keep on happening again and again. This approach may prove wrong if the civilian government improves its rating and delivers on people’s expectations. If leaders of national calibre emerge with a credible track record and improve governance, the army would find it hard to make a coup. Turkey is a very good example to prove Mazhar wrong. But scrutinizing all the theories thoroughly, the most suitable is the one given by S.E. Finer. His Disposition and Opportunity concept is worth consideration and explains well the situation in Pakistan. In Pakistan army has always been found willing to take the affairs of the state into its own hands but waits for the right opportunity. And this opportunity is often found in civilian masters inefficiencies at the governmental level.


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