Despite the apparent acrimony between Pakistan’s various power brokers, all seem to be cognizant of the changes that have taken place. In their addresses on Monday, both Kayani and Chaudhry called for a redefinition of the concept of national security and said that no single institution can dominate this process. This overlap was noted by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who has had a tense relationship with the military over the past twenty years and has allied himself with Chaudhry in recent years. The prime minister-led Defense Cabinet Committee, which acts like a national security council, and a number of parliamentary foreign policy, defense, and national security committees have played a more visible role in discussing and shaping national security policy.
Pakistan is possibly experiencing the end of military hegemony and the beginning of an era of consensus. But for these changes to crystilize, the country’s power brokers must purge themselves of hegemonic tendencies and a pathology of saviorhood. The army will have to concede that military officers can be as corrupt as civilian politicians. It will have to prepare itself for a time in which parliament will review its budget in detail. The Supreme Court will eventually have to temper its use of suo moto power and, for example refrain from determining the prices of compressed natural gas and sugar. And civilian politicians will have to recognize that corruption is bleeding an almost bankrupt Pakistan and empower an independent and competent accountability force.
In 2013, Pakistan’s power shift will be on even more tenuous ground as it could have a new prime minister, president, army chief, and Supreme Court chief justice. All of their tenures will come to an end next year. And a potentially new cast of characters will have to earn the trust of one another and evolve formal and informal mechanisms of collaboration. Working through consensus and making compromises are key. Pakistan’s power brokers acknowledge this, but next year, it will become more clear whether they really mean it.
Arif Rafiq is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and president of Vizier Consulting, LLC. He tweets at: @arifcrafiq.