Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Civil Military Relations

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Over the past four months I have made two trips [1, 2] to Makran and have had extended exchanges with local men as well as with several defence services officers at various levels. These latter were from the navy and army. The lessons to draw were remarkable.

First off, most defence officers agreed that the people of Makran are simple, peaceable and friendly who appreciate developmental work in their district and that mischief does not come naturally to them. This would make them a community easy to work with and find acceptance from. Also, officers were of the view that the insurgents causing strife from time to time infiltrated into Makran from the more troubled districts of Balochistan to the northward.

That having been said, speaking to some influential locals in Gwadar showed that the presence of Pakistan Coast Guards and FC Balochistan, both paramilitary outfits commanded by officers seconded from the army, rankled universally. The grievance was the antagonistic attitude of the officers and men in these two outfits. They were, reportedly, rude and high-handed. People felt that men from both outfits behaved as occupation forces.

Projects like Makran Coastal Highway (MCH), Gwadar Port and a first-class port access road in the town, recently completed by Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) started off with appreciation. But as time went by, antagonism grew sharply until FWO builders even heard it being said that for all they cared the army could take their road away. In a district where this is prime access between Uthal (and by extension Karachi and Bela) and the entire lot of coastal towns all the way to the Iranian frontier, this rejection needs be taken note by those that matter.

Consider the navy on the other hand. Since the establishment of the base at Ormara about ten years ago, the navy has gone all out to win hearts and minds. In Ormara they now have a first-class hospital where local people are treated free of charge. There is a new cadet college with its first entry in place. There is also a high school and a college. All three educational institutions assign first priority to Makrani and Baloch children.

Just a decade ago, when MCH was not in place, Ormara did not feature on the provincial government’s scheme of things. Children from this town had to leave home after the eighth grade to continue school in Turbat or Karachi. When the navy put its medical and educational facilities in place about two years ago, it became the people’s great benefactor. Today, drawn by the high educational standard maintained by the navy, these institutions attract children from all over Makran. The respect enjoyed by the navy should therefore surprise no one.

Conversations with private individuals in Ormara and Gwadar showed that Coast Guards and FC, being employed in law enforcement and anti-smuggling operations, maintain a high-handed presence emulating the behaviour of the despised police of the country. In contrast, the navy is benign. They meddle with no one’s affairs and they are easily accepted by the people.

Strangely, the army’s brains have never worked in this direction. From among the many officers spoken to it was only a single mid-ranking army officer who worried about his organisation’s tendency to act as an army of occupation. This one individual suggested that when the army is placed in charge of an uplift project, especially in Balochistan, it would do better to initiate with a project of public use like a scheme for potable water or health and educational facilities.

Though he did not know of the tried and tested process of Participatory Rural Appraisal, he suggested that all army initiatives should begin with such an exercise in order to take the communities on board. What was needed in his view was a sense of ownership within the community for whatever facility the government was providing.

This was not a singular individual. In the villages sprinkled along the length of MCH, I met several men who spoke highly of other officers. Officers who left the area more than a decade ago and whose memory is still cherished. The one trait that set these officers apart was their amiability and their concern for the betterment of the communities they dealt with. These were men who were ready and willing to help beyond the call of duty.

We see that the navy has won friends and admirers by its work in Makran. We also see individual army officers earning the love and respect of the Baloch. Why, then, is it impossible for the army as an institution to garner the same feeling in Balochistan? [Images Husain Qazi]

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 01:30,


At 22 February 2014 at 17:03, Anonymous Khurshid Khan said...

Typical of our empty FIROUNIYAT towards our own poor and oppressed people as we have that brown saib mentality still in our genes. We surrender on one call of the white masters but try to bully our own poor masses. Again a typical mind set of some egoistic maniacs and is a sad state of our behavior. Did we learn anything from East Pakistan humiliation?

At 16 October 2014 at 13:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Mauriyan empire weakened, 50 years after the death of Ashoka the Great in 185 BC, probably the first organised military coup took place in the territories of Pakistan. The Commander in Chief of Mauriyan Armed Forces took power in a successful coup d'état and proclaimed himself the Emperor.

Apparently, the term civil-military relations took a new meaning since then.



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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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