Military Dictatorship: Better form of government?

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Many of the great philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, Cicero and many more have stressed the importance of government and various form of government like democracy, aristocracy, etc. One of the important models of government is the 5 regimes which classifies the forms of government into different levels and this is formulated by Aristotle. The world has seen glorious phases of administration in different time periods. History helped us witness the rule of kings and queens in the form of monarchy, rule of aristocrats in the form of oligarchy and aristocracy, rule of elected representatives by the people in form of democracy, the rule of stone-hearted dictators like Hitler who ruled Germany, Mussolini who ruled Italy, Kim Jong-Un who is still ruling North Korea, etc in the form of dictatorship. There were gradual changes in the way of administration with the change in kings and also, there were change in government and policies. We have seen the golden age of Guptas, heard of great Mauryas and many other prominent royal lineages that ruled Indian states. As far as the world is concerned, we have seen ambitious rulers like Alexander the great, Napoleon, Julius Caesar and many others. As time advanced, the tradition of kings gradually started decreasing and the concept of democracy and dictatorship emerged prominently. In present, only 3 forms are government are prominent and they are Democracy, Communist rule and Military Dictatorship. Military dictatorship is the type of government that has hit the news recently and also very often and are established through an act known as ‘Military coup’. According to a statistical data, from the year 1950-2010, there has been 457 attempts of military coup where 227 were successful and rest in vain. The recent example of this is the occurrence of events in Myanmar. This article tries to discuss the reason for dethroning a pre-existent form of government and take over the administration by force and whether this form of government is better than the most accepted form of democracy.        

History of Military Dictatorship:

On 1st February of 2021, the military coup in Myanmar (popularly known as Burma) succeeded in bringing down the people chosen democratic government and successfully established Military government or dictatorship. But this is not the first time, where the army has rebelled against its superior power. There have been many instances of this act in various parts of world. The act of coup can be defined as “a brilliant, sudden, and usually highly successful stroke or act”[1]. The history of coup dates back to later half of 20th century. For example, in the year 1966 it happened in Nigeria, where a military group killed 15 elected representatives including the then Prime minister and seized the power and thus establishing the first military government post-second world war. Aftermath, the military leader took the administration in his hands and suspended the pre-existing constitution thus leading to the first successful military coup. After this, there have been numerous coups and attempted coups in almost majority of countries. Our neighbouring countries of Pakistan has seen series of coups and was under the military rule for several years.

There is a famous quote where the military coup has been described as “The curse that no Pakistan ruler has ever escaped”.[2]  The atrocities of the military began in the year 1953, where the then Governor-general Ghulam Muhamad, along with Ayub Khan-who provided troops for this purpose, seized the power and dethroned the then Prime Minister even after securing full majority. For the first time, a foundation for forthcoming military coups was laid down in the case of Federation of Pakistan v. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan.[3] The courts in this case, failed miserably to carry out the primary responsibility of delivering justice to the people. The meaning or definition of ‘Doctrine of necessity’, developed by the famous law writer and cleric, Henry de Bracton was changed as the court declared the military dictatorship as an action arising out of necessity. But the fact, it was the necessity as per the law writer, but an event that occurred at regular intervals in greed of power. This coup in 1953 can be called as hint for events that was waiting in the near future.

After the 1953 coup, Pakistan witnessed yet another in the year 1958. As people say, “history repeats”, the greed of power paved way for this coup. During this period, dissolution of the constituent assembly by the then president of Pakistan and appointing Ayub Khan as commander-in-chief of Pakistan. But there was a turn of events, where the commander himself banished the then president and took over the complete rule of the country. Later In the year 1977, one more coup known by the code language of ‘Operation Fair Play’, was performed. The then commander ordered arrest of the newly elected constituent assembly including the prime minister. This took place on midnight of 4th July,1977. The coup was successful and the constitution was suspended. Martial laws were imposed. If these coups were aggression from the military, the coup in the year 1999, was nothing but the government’s invitation to the military. Then then prime minister tried to dismiss the commander-in-chief and also, stooped his plane from landing on the Pakistani soil, when he was returning from Sri Lanka. By this act, the government displayed its respect towards the army and triggered a spark of disloyalty by the army. The senior officers who were loyal to the commander in chief, ordered their troops to arrest the prime minister and establish the rule of their master. This led to establishment of military government for the fourth time. 

Other than Pakistan, other neighbouring countries of India- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China (pre 1950s), Myanmar have been affected by the coups.

Recent Coup in Myanmar:

The country of Myanmar located at south east Asia is known as Burma. It is a neibhouring country of India, which has the population of 54 million and more, experienced an unfortunate event recently. On the first day of February 2021, there was turn of events, where the people who slept under democratic rule, woke up under military rule. The democratically, people elected government under the leadership of the prominent leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was deposed and the military took over the administrative power of the country, by detaining the most prominent leaders of the newly elected cabinet. This was a shocker or the people of Myanmar as they had come out of Military rule in the year 2011, after a very long period under military rule i.e., from the year 1962 to 2011. The military that seized the power, declared emergency for one year which can be extended as per the circumstances. This coup came as support to the opposition’s claim of improper and unfair elections and demanding of re-elections. But the election commission stood beside the National League for Democracy which had won the general elections by landslide victory, under the leadership of Ms Suu Kyi, had set aside these claims citing them as baseless. This led the military to intervene and the loyalty of senior authorities towards the commander in chief rather than the state, contributed to the success of the coup. The democratic leader who was under house arrest for over 20 years, is again detained and the power is snatched which, as per them is rightfully acquired. The commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing is the person in charge after the coup. This event has triggered a series of reaction all over the world. There are many protests and debates for and against this move from the military, which just discarded the people’s selection, which should be the primary priority. The new president of United States-Joe Biden, who has assumed the power recently has threatened the military to step back or face the sanctions imposed. United Kingdom, also supported United States, along with United Nations and also backed National League of Democracy. This has hit the world of social media, as anyone would be shocked to see their world turned upside down when they wake up. As said earlier, there has been 227 successful coups and 400+ coup attempts, the question rises whether the better form of government is military dictatorship?

Military Dictatorship: Ideal Way for Betterment or Massacre?

The world has witnessed the worst of atrocities by a military dictator as well as benevolent dictator rule. Example of same i.e., best rule is the dictator rule in Brazil. But it is very unfortunate to say that, the most disciplined and stringent type of government or rule has led to several atrocities and massacres in course of time. The research says most disciplined and stringent because, the world knows how a military or soldier is. People cannot find anyone who is more disciplined than soldier. But that rule by soldier has led to loss of life by many innocents. The example of Germany, which under the rule of Hitler, witnessed the massacre of a large number of Jews, which changed the colour of the land to red. Around 6 million Jews were killed and this black incident is termed as ‘The Holocaust’. Similarly, in Italy, Mussolini who first disagreed with Hitler, later joined hum and declared war against France and Great Britain that led to loss of life of many innocents. When it comes to Pakistan, our neighboring country, there has ben 3 wars fought with India in the year 1947, 1967, and 1973. These were all under the military rule and the decision taken in greed of power and expanding the territory. All of these wars have been dominated by India and it’s been proved costly on part of Pakistan, as they had to lose a lot of soldiers, along with ammunitions, equipment, aircrafts, sub marines, etc. Also, the military rule or dictatorship gives the full authority to military. Power corrupts people and absolute power corrupts people absolutely. Along with these 3 wars, the military aggression of 1999 in Kargil sector of India, can also evidently prove the incapability of certain military powers to rule the country. Military rule or dictatorship is an ideal form only when it arises due to necessity, but not of aggression and during unnecessary circumstances and greed of power. A country which has military rule against the will of people, must be ready to face revolution and that rule will come down some or the other day.                       

[1] Merriam-Webster’s, Dictionary of law (Feb. 20th,2021,5:06 PM),

[2] Times of India, The curse that no Pakistan ruler has ever escaped (Feb 20th,2021,7:21 PM)

[3] Federation of Pakistan v. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan; (1995) PLD FC 240

Author: Karthik Surya MR ,Christ University, Bangalore

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.


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