Friday, 23 May 2014
Pakistan army back in the driving seat, Dr Shabir Choudhry
Pakistan army back in the driving seat
Dr Shabir Choudhry 23 May 2014
It is wrong assumption that Pakistan was created to promote Islam, or it was established for the welfare of the Muslims of the Sub Continent; if anything Muslims of South Asia were divided and they suffered most as a direct result of the division of India on religious lines.
Those who established Pakistan had strategic, political and imperialist aims in the region; and in order to advance their agenda they needed a religious state which could look after the interests of the West and Capitalism. For that purpose they left in charge Brown Sahibs who were trained and educated by the British to carry the burden; and no wonder the British trained army, the British appointed feudal lords and the British trained bureaucracy has always been at the helm of affairs in Pakistan.
This troika always ensured that the interests of the West are appropriately looked after; and that democracy does not get its roots in Pakistan. They also ensured that people are not empowered and they always remain divided on religious, ethnic and linguistic lines and remain subservient. Furthermore they ensured that the ordinary people always remain at subsistence level where they are only worried about their next meal.
This troika also obtained help of judiciary and the religious leaders, and that made it easier for them to advance their agenda. They were in a position to determine what national interest of Pakistan is. Who is a patriotic and who is a traitor. Who is a true Muslim and who has committed blasphemy and who has become a Kaffir? Above all, who can protect the national interest and who is a security risk.
Pakistan army’s record against its enemy - India is abysmal, as they have not won any war, and lost East Pakistan by surrendering more than 90,000 armed personnel in December 1971. Even its record in fighting their ‘own boys’, known as ‘strategic assets’ or Jihadi groups is not impressive either as they have lost very senior army officers and more than 5,000 men in uniform without achieving tangible results.
However, army’s record against civilian governments of Pakistan is brilliant, as they have successfully invaded their capital four times and directly ruled the country for more than three decades. The remaining period in the life of the country men in uniform dictated the terms by either sitting in the back seat, or on the front seat.
Nawaz Sharif came to power third time, hoping to assert the civilian rule as he had the majority in the Parliament and the public support. Also the geo political situation was such that it looked men in Khaki will not dare to challenge the civilian rule. Men in Khaki only allow civilian rule to continue if they do not challenge army’s writ in certain areas of policy. Any civilian ruler in Pakistan who thinks he is the real Chief Executive and acts like one as well is asking for trouble; and Nawaz Sharif has asked for the trouble.
He is trying to assert the civilian rule, which the army cannot tolerate. He is working hard to provide Pakistan economic stability and make peace with the Pakistani Taliban and insurgents of Balochistan. Also he wants to have friendly relations with India and have mutual cooperation in many areas including trade and commerce. He has also abandoned this policy of previous governments to have a strategic depth in Afghanistan, and have a government in Kabul which Pakistan approves or likes.
The army has serious disagreements with some of the above. Although Army Chief’s name is Sharif and he is handpicked by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for this post, but once the wooden stick that symbolise the change of command was passed on to him, he became loyal to his constituency; which means leave sharafat at home, and use the stick to get the desired results for the army.
The army started asserting themselves some months ago; hence we see the turmoil in various walks of life in Pakistan, including in media. A few days ago to show the civilian government their place, the army chief told Nawaz Sharif: "The time for talk is over." What this means is that the army will decide how to deal with the Taliban. They not only launched air strikes, but also started ground operations which will surely result in casualties on both sides.
More than likely the Taliban will spread this ‘war’ to other areas, especially in Punjab and in Karachi, which will surely hurt the government and its attempts to provide political and economic stability. One Cabinet Minister of Nawaz Sharif Government said: "This is the clearest signal yet that the army will dictate its terms now". The government officials now acknowledge that ‘relations between the two branches of power are at their lowest ebb for years’.
Taliban or the Jihadi groups have killed many officers and army men. The army officers were getting impatient with the talks with those who killed many of their friends and colleagues. One army officer said: "We will avenge the blood of every last soldier. Talks or no talks, the army will retaliate".
Despite pressures from the army and religious groups, Nawaz Sharif wanted to go ahead with his plans to strengthen trade and friendly relations with India. However, on advice of some senior people he cancelled it at the last minute. But it does not mean that the tussle is over. Another point over which serious debate is going on is whether Nawaz Sharif should accept invitation by Narendra Modi and attend oath taking ceremony.
Although going is tough and the civilian government is perceived as weaker and vulnerable, but in my opinion, Nawaz Sharif must not give in to these pressure tactics. He is an elected Prime Minister of Pakistan with right to rule; and he should formulate policies and not the army Chief. The role of army is not to run the country. Their role is to defend the borders of the country, which they have failed to do.
Nawaz Sharif must go to New Delhi. It will create conducive environment and provide opportunities to understand the new Prime Minister of India, who is carrying a certain baggage; but who is determined to implement his agenda and take India forward. Refusing to go will send totally wrong message at home and abroad. The International community will think, despite the image of being an extremist, Modi invited Nawaz Sharif, as he wanted to have friendly relations; but it was Nawaz Sharif who showed obduracy because Pakistan did not want friendly relations.
At home and abroad it will be clear that Nawaz Sharif has succumbed, and it will be the other Sharif who would be perceived as a real ruler of Pakistan. If that happens, it will be sad for democracy and fundamental rights in Pakistan. It will endanger economic recovery in Pakistan, and it will jeopardise peace and stability in the region. Furthermore, it will provide very serious threat to future of Pakistan as a nation state.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs