Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pakistan's military has directly and indirectly managed the country's affairs for more than half the period of its independence.

Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint

  • When Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state in August 1947, it brought together disparate Muslim-majority provinces of the former British colony with limited experience of integration.Military influence has been strong for several historical reasons.
  • No civilian-political institution existed at the time of independence, other than the imperial bureaucracy and military.
  • Being a country shaken at its birth by the bloody riots marking Partition, Pakistan's early years were a time of efforts to build everything from scratch.

  • With resources in short supply, expectations raised by heady rhetoric and a largely inexperienced political elite, Pakistan soon became dependent on the two best-organised institutions.They were the civilian and military bureaucracies.
The political elite's standing eroded after the death of Pakistan founder and Muslim League leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in 1948, and the assassination of his successor, Liaquat Ali, shortly afterwards in an abortive coup.

Only national institution

  • In a country driven by ethnic and sectarian divisions, the military, dominated by the majority Punjabi and influential Pashtun communities, saw itself as the only truly national institution.
  • This power grew significantly after military dictator General Zia ul-Haq helped US President Ronald Reagan's war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
  • Its long stints in power during which civilian institutions were stunted have given it the ability to subvert civilian institutions.

Turning point in Pakistan Army
  • At this time, Islamists secured their position in the elite and encouraged their cadres to join the army as officers.
  • This resulted in a polarisation between religious and secular schools that would divide the force for years.

Role of the US
  • The Pakistan army also grew in size, strength and influence because of assistance from the US.
  • In 1953, the US, in its efforts to build a bulwark south of the Soviet Union, signed several military agreements with countries in the region, including Pakistan.
  • Large sums of money and military supplies started arriving and continued to do so until the second India-Pakistan war in 1965.

  • Initially, the civil and military bureaucracies worked as partners, but since General Ayub Khan's first period of martial law in 1957, the civil service has played second fiddle.
  • The bureaucrats provide the brains, as it were, to the army's brawns, in running the country.
  • General Khan's so-called decade of development saw stability and growth.
  • But the defeat in the 1965 war led to the army's invincibility being challenged by an increasingly vocal opposition.
  • This became a surge after his protege, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, deserted him and established the Pakistan People's Party.
  • In 1969, protests spearheaded by students led to a second takeover - by General Yahya Khan, the army chief.

Inner contradictions

  • His efforts to restore democracy and introduce a universal adult franchise showed up Pakistan's inner contradictions.
  • The majority-province of East Pakistan elected a party demanding provincial autonomy to what should have been a clear majority in Pakistan's legislature.
  • The refusal by Mr Bhutto and the army to accept this led to violent resistance in East Pakistan.
  • The dishonour and shame suffered by the army has never been forgotten.
  • This led to a military crackdown, civil war, Pakistan's military defeat and the emergence of Bangladesh.

  • However, failings by Mr Bhutto allowed the army a way back to power.
  • His increasingly authoritarian rule gave rise to growing political opposition, giving the army a handle.
  • Mr Bhutto's ousting in 1977 and execution in 1979 showed the army's capacity to topple elected leaders.
  • Mr Bhutto, ironically, was himself partially responsible for restoring the military's influence.
  • He deployed the army and the air force to fight a feudal-tribal-Marxist guerrilla force in Balochistan Province.

And he encouraged young PPP cadres to join the force as officers, although this was not looked upon by senior generals particularly favourably. 


Ayesha Siddiqa in her book “Military Inc. - Inside Pakistan's Military Economyexplains how Pakistan Army rose higher than the political institutions in Pak !

  • ·       Siddiqa shows how the power of the military has transformed Pakistani society, where the armed forces have become an independent class.
  • ·       The military is entrenched in the corporate sector.
  • ·   So Pakistan's companies and its main assets are in the hands of a tiny minority of senior army officials.
  • ·  Siddiqa examines this military economy and the consequences of merging the military and corporate sectors.
  • ·       Military Inc. analyses the internal and external dynamics of this gradual power-building and the impact that it is having on Pakistan's political and economic development.

Pakistan's generals, Ayesha Siddiqa shows, control empires that would put to shame those of many despots worldwide. On average, senior commanders of the Pakistan armed forces retire with legally acquired assets of between $2.5 and 6.9 million, depending on their rank. President Pervez Musharraf alone, she states, has eight properties, including a 2,000-square yard (1 sq yard = 0.836 sq metre) plot in Karachi, a 1,200-sq yard plot in Rawalpindi, a 12,000-sq yard plot in Gwadar, a 900-sq yard plot in Peshawar and a farmhouse in Islamabad. 

  • According to Ayesha Siddiqa's research, this private wealth is a spin-off of a private military empire: five conglomerates, which are estimated to control one-third of all heavy manufacturing and run almost 100 subsidiaries with interests in everything from cement to cereal production. 
  • These enterprises have helped create massive networks of employment and patronage, which sustain the armed forces' control of civil society. 
  • While the armed forces claim that their operations are self-sustaining, just nine of the 96 major armed forces-owned businesses file public, audited accounts - and they have often received massive bailouts from the state, not to mention extensive subsidies. 

 She argues: "The spread of the military fraternity in all important segments of the state, society and economy represents more than just a belief in the greater capacity of the armed forces. The military as a group has visibly graduated to become a class, and its serving and retired members are benefiting themselves from the organisation's immense power in relation to other domestic players" 

"The political players in Pakistan and other dominant classes or groups like the civil bureaucracy and the entrepreneurial class," Ayesha Siddiqa argues, "are bound together in partnership with the military fraternity." 

"Since the country's socio-political system is predominantly authoritarian and has a pre-capitalist structure," she continues, "the ruling classes are not averse to using military force to further their personal, political and economic interests. The elite therefore continue to strengthen the armed forces and contribute to the evolution of the military fraternity into a class." 

  • Ayesha Siddiqa ends her work by pointing to the grim connection between the armed forces' search for legitimacy and their patronage of Islamists. "The strengthening of the religious Right," she points out, "served the purpose of consolidating the control of the military over the state and society." 
  • However, the alliance between the military and the mullahs threatens the traditional elites and middle class, who in the past backed the armed forces.


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