You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pakistan: Always A Martial Show

Pakistan came into being out of a nationalist cause; The ethnic Muslim minority felt that it’s rights will be preserved and well served under a separate democratic setup, rather than living along an overwhelming majority of Hindus. Also there is a theory that Great Britain also wanted a buffer state between Muslim belt and India, to save a quarter of world’s population living in Sub-Continent from effects of "Islamization", as well as break it into multiple segments, so it never emerges as a challenging power to it’s ambitions in East.(Middle East, Hong Kong, Burma and Japan to name a few). Nevertheless, we had PAKISTAN.

Sub-Continent was divided according to electoral results of 1946 elections, the area where Muslim League won majority seats, constituted Pakistan. One can assume that since the basis of a country coming into being is democratic, It will inherit a democratic culture and it will continue to be a democracy. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, owing specifically to one institution, Military.

In 1947 Gen. Gracy was Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. The first challenge for the young army was to brace itself against the Indian advance in Kashmir. Mr. Jinnah, the democratically elected head of state ordered Gen. Gracy to counter Indian army’s mobilization. It was flatly refused by him, saying that he still took orders from British imposed Viceroy of India, not the Governor General of Pakistan.

Time taken to sort that out, proved consequential as young indigenous officers, under the is command, had seen how they can challenge authority of democratic institutes to serve their own interests.

This was the seed of poisonous ivy which will engulf Pakistan in times to come. After General Gracy, there were twelve Military Chiefs up till Gen. Musharraf. One died mysteriously during his tenure, Two were prematurely retired by suspecting Prime Minsiters, out of the remaining nine, five have been the De-Facto Presidents of Pakistan ( three for a little over than ten years each and two for a few months) primarily as a result of string of coups against the democratic Governments.

There have been various common patterns with regards to these military takeovers. Firstly, it is always done in a roughly ten year cyclic period. Pakistan came into being in 1947. General Ayub ruled from 1958-1969. General Zia ruled from 1978-1988. General Musarraf ruled from 1999-2007. Ironically they almost coincide with either the beginning or the end of an American (usually Republican) Presidential term.

All military dictators have given concessions to US and its allies in return for strong military assistance. Gen Ayub during height of cold war gave bases to American U-2 spy planes in return for 100 plus F-86 fighters & generous aid to Army. General Zia turned Pakistan as a base of operations for CIA and Afghani fighters during Russian Invasion in return for F-16’s, Combat helicopters and missile defense systems. General Musharraf once again acceded to American Intelligence and Military and gave air and ground bases for American Invasion of Afghanistan in return for U.S. $70 million a month military assistance.

As long as these dictators have served White House well, there has been minimal pressure on them from international community, each one of them has carried out their personal agenda of quenching democratic movements and strengthening their rule, via active role of military intelligence agencies in virtually every Governmental institute and society.

Each one of them had a dismal human rights record. They arrested, killed, abducted or exiled anyone and everyone from civil society raising voice of concern. These include prominent writers, poets, actors, democratic workers, labor unionists, student leaders, journalists and lawyers.

They have played havoc with country’s constitution to suit to one man rule. They have shaped Military and society alike to suit their own mental ideals.

Gen Ayub abolished provinces and states and turned Pakistan into one unit under his direct rule. He made a trusted general, Governor of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). His atrocities were so grand that it resulted in thousands of deaths, political instability and eventually it’s breakup from Pakistan.

General Zia "religiosized" the military to an extent that it’s motto during his time was converted to Emaan(Faith), Jihad (Holy War) and Taqva (Piousness) Fi Sabilillah(For the sake of Allah). Services Book Club printed thousands of volumes of Jihadi text, the whole fight in Afghanistan was fought in the name of religion. This resulted in elements of military sympathizing with religious and Jihadi groups, turned Pakistan into a safe haven for them, who later emerged as Al-Qaeda & Taliban. He amended constitution so that he can dismiss elected assemblies at his will, which he exercised in 1987.

General Musharraf played havoc with the constitution in place, suspending it twice, abolishing all fundamental, constitutional and human rights of a nation of 160 million. He marginalized the Balouch and Pasthun ethnicities via military operations in minor provinces. Divided the society with his newfound ‘moderate’ and ‘hardliner’ muslim themes. Intelligence agencies leashed illegal abduction operations which resulted in the ill-famous “Missing Persons” case of hundreds of people abducted by agencies and made them “disappear”.

Moreover, the democratically elected leaders, specially sitting Prime Ministers have been removed from the national political scene by military covertly or overtly, during the coups or during the tenure of dictatorships. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali was shot (1953), Opposition Leader Miss Fatima Jinnah was strangled to death, (1966) Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged (1979), Prime Minister Junejo removed (1987), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif exiled (1999), opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto shot(2007). All these cases remain unsolved till date; there has been no pressure from outside or inside to hold a fair or international investigation. The Grand Masters in Washington never bothered about it as well.

This leads to a simple equation for any Military Commander. As long as he can exploit interests of White House and serve them well, he can not only conduct coup, rule the country and can share the spoils of the power with corrupt top brass.

The Question is why is it happening so very often? We might have to consider countless parameters of this equation, but a few according to my understanding are listed here.

The intelligence machinery in democratic states is usually under civilian watch, as is the case in with D.S.T. in France, R.A.W. in India or with the CIA & US Senate. In Pakistan, the ill-famed ISI(Inter Services Intelligence) is a subset of Military. Governed and operated specifically by Pakistan Army. Since in Pakistani politics Military is a stake holder, therefore it serves military’s interest of remaining in power. Unless ISI and tens of other intelligence agencies like it i.e. the M.I.(Military Intelligence), I.B.(Intelligence Bureau) and Paramilitary FIUs(Field Investigation Units) etc. are properly “Civilized”, recurrence of coups won’t stopped easily.

Superior rights of military personal should be abolished. In the amended constitution of Pakistan, amended off course by the military, any Military officer is not answerable in a civilian court; any military authority, which in the name of defense personal welfare accumulates nearly 20% of country’s 796096 sq. km territory, or military cantonments, is not answerable to Metropolitan or Civilian governments. Hence the commissioned officers, specifically top brass specifically enjoy benefits of vast array of real estate schemes, minting millions.

Corporate Ventures of the Military which range from Banks, Financial Services, Heavy industries, Commercial hospitals, Dairy products, Arms & Ammunition Exports need to be put under civilian check and balance or abolished altogether.

Constitutional amendments made during the tenure of dictatorships, which among other things, resulted in exceptional powers for one man rule must be rolled back.

International stance especially from EU and US as well as from China (another "friend" of military dictatorship) should be of no-tolerance for dictators.

People of Pakistan should have access to free media & independent judiciary which can keep a check on excesses of military. Keep people informed and provide them relief.

I might have been a little demanding, but until these and many other things that provide military with a huge leverage over civil society aren’t roll-backed, there will be one military dictator after the other, until this country falls apart and breaks up into minno radical ethnic states, turning South Asia into another war torn Africa, which I fear is just around the corner.

The writer, Mohammad Ali, 26, is a Lahore University of Management Sciences alumni, He contributes to, He lives and works nowadays in Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at

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