[Perhaps Mr. Quraishi is repaying a debt to his political benefactors within the Kuwaiti occupation authorities who discovered him, recognizing his potential to contribute to their right-wing cause, or maybe its his lifelong infatuation with the military, but Ahmed has really strained his own credibility with this paean to Gen. Kayani. Kayani is joined at the hip with Admiral Mullen. To welcome a military intervention by the Pakistani Army is to welcome American intervention in Pakistan’s struggling democracy. Pakistan’s only real hope is for some stout-hearted Pakistani leader, perhaps a doctor, or other respected professional man to come forward and gather popular support to Chief Justice Chaudhry, as he tries to find Pakistan’s “disappeared” and reign-in the all-powerful agencies of Pakistan, who answer to no one.]
… But we are nowhere near that right now. Gen. Kayani certainly has no such thing in mind according to people who have met him.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Monday, 15 February 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—”This was my first interaction with the soldier who commands the seventh largest military force on the face of the planet.”
With this catchy line, Dr. Farrukh Saleem began his brief and fascinating account of a meeting with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
On Feb. 10, 2010, Gen. Kayani met a group of Pakistani commentators and security analysts. The briefing was the third since the military began asserting Pakistan’s legitimate security and strategic interests in Afghanistan and the region.
On January 28 and 29, Gen. Kayani told NATO commanders in Brussels that Pakistan’s legitimate security interests will have to be respected.
Earlier, he told Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal that instead of worrying about appeasing India, Washington better start paying attention to Pakistan.
This is a major development in the eight-year US-led war in Afghanistan.
At one point, Mr. Saleem makes an interesting observation about Gen. Kayani’s cool demeanor.
“Yes, he has the capacity for abstract thought, cold rationality and coarse creativity – all in one,” he says. “And yet he inhales reconstituted tobacco. Yes, he uses a filter and a cigarette holder. Yes, he never takes deep puffs and, yes, he only consumes half a cigarette at a time.”
At another point, Mr. Saleem makes an interesting use of pun. Talking about the general’s smoking habits, he says the following: ‘He knows that some of the things that he is doing are wrong, but still won’t give them up.’
Probably it’s a polite reference to the conspiracy theories that fill the US and British media, or the Am-Brit media, about Pakistan, its military and its intelligence agencies. So some skepticism is natural.
But the best part of his column in The News International was this concluding paragraph:
“I can tell you that I came back both proud but with a painful realisation; proud knowing that our legions are being led by strategic minds and sad to have discovered the much too visible an intellectual gap between our top political brains in Islamabad and our strategic minds at work in Rawalpindi. And what does he think about our politicians? When it’s breezy, hit it easy.
Could it be that the army rules not through the barrel of a gun but because of their intellectual superiority? Could it be that the army rules because our politicians have failed to institutionalize politics? Could it be that the army rules because our political parties do not transcend individual human intentions? Could it be that the army rules because it has structures, mechanisms of social order along with strategic thinking?”
In essence, Mr. Saleem hit at the core reason why the Pakistani military intervenes every time politicians lead the nation to a dead end.
Most importantly, the above reasoning answers even a more important question: Why the military mounts successful interventions and why the politicians can’t muster the moral authority to resist them.
Pakistani politicians remain a chaotic, undisciplined and shortsighted bunch. Their parties are messy and loose groupings of special interests in their crudest form. Almost all of them have lifetime leaders who never give way to fresh blood. And they are not public institutions but private, family-owned affairs.
Since the return to democracy in Pakistan in February 2008, hardly any of the parties in government or opposition devoted any high-level party meetings to education, health, culture and sports. None of them has plans in place for running the country. Worse, none has any vision.
The best place in Islamabad these days to see this mess in action is the National Defense University. Since 2002, the NDU has been holding the annual National Security Workshop. This is a unique 6-week course. It brings together politicians, military officers, businessmen, lawyers, social activists and journalists. The group is taken through a virtual tour into the corridors of strategic decision making in Pakistan. The course ends with a weeklong exercise that sees the class divided into a Pakistani government and a shadow government, complete with their own secretariat and staff. On the last day, the two governments frame and deliver a policy plan to deal with a hypothetical strategic crisis confronting Pakistan. The plan has domestic, military and foreign policy components. Often, senior commanders from Pakistani military’s General Headquarters attend the last day’s presentations.
NDU officials, both civilian and military, have one observation that has been constant during the past eight years of national security workshops: Military officers, businessmen, social activists and journalists often show the best performance. Politicians come last. Most can’t even draft a single-page policy brief, or work with a PowerPoint presentation.
In essence, middle class Pakistanis – military officers, businessmen, social activists and journalists – fair better than the politicians, mostly a feudal landowning elite.
This gets blurry sometimes, but you get the general idea.
And middle class Pakistanis can’t make it to political parties, let alone to the federal and regional parliaments and governments.
Elections might change this, but certainly not in the foreseeable future. And Pakistan may not have the luxury of time.
If the national deadlock continues with mounting domestic instability due to massive corruption and mismanagement by our politicians, the military may have to contend with one last intervention. It would be the last because if the military failed this time to help set Pakistan on the right track, it could be a free fall after that because Pakistanis are getting increasingly restless with the existing decay. Social turmoil simmers just beneath the surface.
If it comes to a military-led intervention, both military officers and politicians will have to stay out of actual power. The army chief may not become a chief executive. The military might have to look into a new concept called the ‘Smart Coup’, where the military can bring capable Pakistanis to power with a firm executable plan of reform over five years, or more, fully backed by the military. There may not be time to put the plan to vote. It will have to be implemented.
This would be the absolute last option. But we are nowhere near that right now. Gen. Kayani certainly has no such thing in mind according to people who have met him. He wants democracy to work for the time being and he has proven this by resisting several opportunities to intervene over the past two years.
Pakistan is full of resources and opportunities, but it lacks good leadership and clean management. Even the bare minimum of these two commodities is not available in today’s Pakistan.
Books on political science and theory in Washington and London can’t help with this. Pakistanis will have to do what’s best for their homeland.