Those obsessed with Pakistan’s military need to correctly and carefully understand the US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s telling comment terming the Pakistan Army a truly binding force. This is in recognition of the role Pakistan’s military has played in War against terrorism and counter-terrorism operations aimed at establishing regional and World peace. John Kerry’s comment does not, in any way, reflect on the performance of civilian government in Pakistan. Nor does, the not so deliberate a comment, suggest that the civilian government has surrendered its defence and foreign policy portfolios to the Army.

Certain things have to be done differently as per need of the situation, requiring alternate approaches and protocol. Many of the things in Pakistan’s politics are evident. But still what is evident has to be explained rationally and scientifically. It would be, perhaps, an overstatement to say where the US thinks the balance of power lies in the Pakistani politics. But from experience we know that the Americans feel more comfortable dealing with the Army bosses rather than civilian leadership, otherwise, a smart civilian leadership would not let it happen. It depends, however, on internal and external pressures a civilian government is subjected to and that who makes gains in the whole fiasco that started with the anti-government march on the Capital Islamabad and attacks on vital state institutions. It is politics of hate and devoid of politeness and good manners. This was never ever experienced before in Pakistan’s history.

The ever-increasing pressures on the government have resulted in loss of opportunity for Premier Nawaz Sharif to establish parliamentary supremacy. Whatever the intentions and aims of the PTI leadership, the writ of the government and that of the state has to be maintained.

If the misguided leadership does not wake up, the process of destroying institutions will not stop. In that case all political parties will have to be accountable for losses to the state and socio-economic development.

A strong Pakistan-US relationship is extremely necessary in context of Pakistan-US-Afghan relations. But in context of Pakistan’s problems and strategic geo-political status there is need to be friendly and cooperative with countries in the region, specially, neighbors like China. If Nawaz Sharif has made a successful March in that direction the people of Pakistan would appreciate his result-oriented efforts. Even the United States of America should view Pak-China relations positively. There was a time whenPakistan’s influence over China had helped the President Nixon to open a dialogue with Chairman Mao Zedong.

Recent events reflecting on Pak-US. relations and the US visit of the Army Chief in the background of India-US relations is something to Pakistan’s credit. After all General Raheel Sharif was representing his country. Pak-China friendship is, however, not an exclusive civilian domain. The Army Chief’s visit to China has never been a secret. The task specialization and the objectives of visit to China have been the major consideration in the past and even in the present Nawaz Sharif led PML(N) government. Political issues and power struggle at home should not be a hindrance in our external relations and foreign policy issues. The balance of power is dictated by the terms of reference that we are required to follow in our external relations.

Political Leaders in the government and the opposition have to have democratic legitimacy and diplomatic and political orientation and training. The Army is the defender of our geographical as well as ideological frontiers. People truly respect the army for its vital role in nation building and providing essential support to civilian administration in disaster and crisis management and boosting the economy. The same is expected of the media and other institutions. What a country needs has to be viewed in the context of a realistic and objective framework for establishing a meaningful constitutional democratic order.

The country was exposed to serious internal threats, including the challenge of coping with the needs of its rapidly increasing population, human resource development, improving economic performance, alleviating poverty, addressing and reviewing civil-military relations, governance and, above all, extremism. There are pitfalls in civil as well as military ways of handling issues and solving problems. The problem with military rule is that civilian institutions cannot retain and maintain their democratic character.

There is a crisis of governance and an absence of democracy within political parties. Issues of national integration are critical to Pakistan’s democratic development. The development of the political processes is constrained by the legacy of long periods of military rule. Religious intolerance and sectarian divide presents a challenge. Other challenges to the civil society include lack of political will; moral vacuum that exists in public administration; and fast deteriorating human rights and law and order situation. We need an enabling culture to meet the challenges of change and to create opportunities for the welfare of the people. Things have to move beyond political expediency.

Civil-military relations in Pakistan are difficult. Disgruntled politicians are partly responsible for inviting the army to take over the government and frequently repeat the episode. Each branch of the government should develop independently in terms of its professional excellence, yet they should all perform jointly for achieving national goals, working collectively under a system of checks and balances and responding to the call of transparency and accountability. It is time that Pakistan army focuses all its energies to develop professional competencies and excellence rather than indulge in politics. This is the time to rethink of civil-military relations.

The writer is a former director NIPA, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author