Originally Published 2005-02-03 11:54:15 Published on Feb 03, 2005
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, in his five years as the martial law administrator, has never faced challenges of the magnitude he is grappling with now. Internally, Pakistan is faced with a crisis on many fronts. Despite a stable Government for over five years, and scores of promises, there is no sign of democracy.
Bad news for Musharraf
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, in his five years as the martial law administrator, has never faced challenges of the magnitude he is grappling with now. Internally, Pakistan is faced with a crisis on many fronts. Despite a stable Government for over five years, and scores of promises, there is no sign of democracy. Democratic institutions continue to be handmaiden to the military regime. The judicial system is an extension of the President's house.

The Senate remains an external office of the Military Secretary to General Pervez Musharraf. There is no opposition worth its name. Political parties that can influence governance are either the creation of the policy planning staff of the Pakistan Army or groups of corruptible, opportunist practitioners of politics. The Prime Minister, as other Cabinet Ministers, is handpicked by the General and has a clear mandate from the military leadership. Mr Shaukat Aziz thus remains a figurehead. The Leader of the Opposition, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose responsibility is to keep a check on the Government, is a prime ministerial aspirant, plays politics with the military leadership and has no interest in the affairs of the state.

For all practical purposes, the country is ruled by the military. It is, therefore, important to make an attempt to understand what is happening within the military establishment which has been ruling the country, on and off, for about half-a-century. This has a critical bearing on the future of President Musharraf and Pakistan. Though both the Indian and Pakistan military were created from the British Indian Army and had similar moorings, training, ethos and traditions, the Pakistan military began transforming into an all-powerful institution soon after 1947, primarily propelled by the collapse of the political system, a victim of corruption, political ambitions and lack of vision and direction.

The passing on of both Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan soon after Pakistan was formed was no less critical in bringing the military to the forefront of politics. After tasting the power of civilian control, it has never looked back, resorting repeatedly to taking over the reigns of governance either indirectly or directly. This is where the Pakistan Army, unlike other professional armies, differs drastically. Civil administration and politics are an essential part of the military ethos and training. A young Pakistan Army officer is trained not only to engage an adversary in the battlefield but also in manipulating political and other civilian organisations for the larger good of the military, and country. Today's officer cadre in the Pakistan Army, most of them post-71 appointments, are acutely aware of the importance of being in Islamabad, and not Rawalpindi. The last five years of General Musharraf's reign has only strengthened this conviction. 

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. In Pakistan, this aphorism is reflected nowhere more aptly than the military. A sizeable number of senior leadership of Pakistan Army is today corruptible, if not outrightly corrupt. Most of them enjoy positions of control and administration over civilian establishments like the Water and Power Development Authority which not only places vast resources at their disposal but also great opportunities to amass wealth and power.

General Musharraf has been benevolent to his acolytes in many other ways. Huge chunks of prime property have been allotted to military officers at throwaway prices. Despite overwhelming evidence of the rising bank balance and lavish style of some of the top generals in the Pakistan Army, the National Accountability Bureau, the watchdog established by General Musharraf, has failed to discover anything malafide in the Army establishment. It will, however, be unfair to assume that the entire Pakistan army leadership has been corrupted by money and power.

A large section of the new and middle-rung office cadre has remained far from the seat of power and thus comparatively honest and professional. This chasm will spoil the General's game in the near future. Young officers, fresh from the Pakistan Military Academy with their idealism and fervour unsullied by military politics, view many of their chief's actions in the recent past as compromises to the military aims and ideology.

First is the growing perception, both among civilians and the junta, that the Kashmir policy, one of the mainstays of Pakistan Army and Pakistan as a nation-State, has been compromised by continuing to engage India in an endless - many say fruitless - dialogue for peace. The belief in Pakistan is that India has been able to outmanoeuvre the General on Kashmir, bogging him down on peripheral issues like new bus routes, relaxed visa regimes and public display of camaraderie. This has upset the young officer cadre who were, in their class rooms recently, made to believe that the Pakistani Army is invincible.

Another setback to this invincibility has been the General's continuous association with the US in military matters. It has raised serious questions of integrity and sovereignty of the country as the US continues to pressure the General to wage a war against his own people in Waziristan and other tribal areas. The Waziristan operations, which followed Pakistan Army's subservient role in the war on terrorism, has been a gross failure, testing the Army's strategy and morale to a great length. 

The counter-insurgency strategy which the Army deployed in the first few months in Waziristan pitted the troops against the tribals, own citizens, who were obviously incensed by the Army's unwarranted attack on their villages and towns and prepared to fight till death. Though the Army deployed combat helicopters and heavy mortars and artillery guns in the area, it had to quickly re-think following strident criticism of using military against own civilians. This volte face betrayed a lack of planning on the part of military leadership which in turn meant absence of credible intelligence, preparation and strategy. The operations exposed the military's ignorance about the topography of the operational area, the strength of the adversary and a coordinated plan to evict or destroy terrorist networks entrenched in the area.

The lessons learnt in Waziristan, where the end to the conflict is not yet in sight despite several military compromises made during the past one year, reflect clearly in the Balochistan crisis. The General's first reaction was to take on the few Baloch rebels with a quick and decisive military action but he had to backtrack under civilian pressure - an action which has not been lost on the officer cadre which views it as another compromise. The General, despite the continuing bomb attacks on the Sui plants and fields, has chosen to negotiate peace with tribal leaders rather than taking them on militarily.

The General might have adopted a more prudent way out of the crisis but it has not gone down well with the Army. Negotiations might be good politics, but make bad military logic. The displeasure in the Army is evident from the way the higher authorities have chosen to brush aside the rape of a lady doctor at the Sui gas plant. The woman, who accused an Army captain, was whisked away to Karachi and the plant authorities were forced to register a case of dacoity instead of rape with the local police. The military leadership is hesitant to even question the young Army officer, fearing it will fuel a resentment within the young officer cadre which has been brewing ever since several young officers, under US pressure, were arrested for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

The General's insistence on continuing as the Army Chief till December 2007 could disrupt scores of careers within the constrictive pyramidal structure of Pakistan military hierarchy and fuel small but persistent wave of mutinous sentiments.

Courtesy:The PIONEER, Feb 2, 2005

< The writer is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation>

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