by Masood Ashraf Raja

It is often declared that without the army, Pakistan will disintegrate as a nation. Maybe, that is partially true as a functional national government does need a strong armed force. But a deeper look at our system suggests that military itself has become the main cause of Pakistan’s instability and bleak

According to an apocryphal story, immediately after General Pervez Musharraf launched his infamous Kargil offensive, the Indian Prime Minister contacted Mr. Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister of Pakistan.

“Mian Sahib” asked the Indian PM, “What are you doing to us? Why has your army launched an offensive in Kargil?”

“Let me ask my generals and then I will get back to you,” replied Nawaz Sharif

“That is the difference between you and us, Mian sahib; we don’t ask our generals, they ask us before they do anything” is said to have been the Indian PM’s reply.

This story, often repeated in the streets of Pakistan, is also a sort of popular self-awareness of how things stand in Pakistan when it comes to civil-military relationships.

In the military circles, of which I was a part for fourteen years of my life, the civilian administration is always seen as corrupt and inefficient. This view is, of course, partially true especially if one compares the two systems without incorporating their attendant peculiarities. It is easy to be professional and efficient in the military: everyone is trained to do their job and there is an established hierarchy of rank structure buttressed by an uninterrupted history of functionality as an institution. Furthermore, the military leaders only have to deal with highly indoctrinated troops who, being soldiers, have no right to any kind of free will or civic rights. It is easy to command and manage a captive audience.

Our civilian systems, however, neither have a continuous history of functionality nor do they comprise a system in which the hierarchy is clearly established and articulated. Because of various martial laws and other military interventions neither the people nor the so-called leaders have truly learned the ethics and politics of public political life. Resultantly, most of our politicians see their offices as a path to self-agrrandization and have no qualms about using their influence to enrich themselves. Since the system is unstable, the politicians’ psyche is connected to short-term goals. So, instead of refining their message and streamlining a long-term, people-oriented politics, our politicians are more focused on the short-term goals. If the threat of military take-overs had been eliminated, just like the Indians did, then over the last sixty years we would have also developed a more responsive and transparent system of politics and governance.

Pakistan is also still burdened with a medieval system of production in which the large landholders still rely on captive labor to continue reproducing the inequalities that we inherited at the time of the partition. How is the army to blame for this? Quite simply, one look at who did the military mobilize during their regimes will be a good answer: Ayub Khan relied on some heavy weights of Pakistani feudality and Zia-ul-Haq, despite his pseudo-Islamic policies, also worked through the same ”notables” in all regions of Pakistan. Mr. Musharraf, notwithstanding his pronounced liberalism, also worked with cahudries of Gujraat and other such parasites to keep his regime functional. In the entire thirty or so years of the aggregated military rule, not even one of them even hinted at land reforms or tried to disrupt this unjust, unequal system of wealth distribution. In fact, by supporting the zamindars and the waderas, the military has provided them new inroads into the nation’s politics: pretty much all major parties now field feudal candidates from the rural heart of Pakistan, candidates who are basically there to safeguard their own interests and to maintain the status quo.

It is often declared that without the army, Pakistan will disintegrate as a nation. Maybe, that is partially true as a functional national government does need a strong and established armed force to maintain order within its borders, to provide emergency relief, and to also safeguard against foreign aggression. But a deeper look at our system suggests that military itself has become the main cause of Pakistan’s instability and bleak future. This isn’t something new; one look at human history is enough to prove that eventually it is always the high military expenditure that brings nations and empires down. At the height of its power, the Roman Empire relied heavily on the Roman legions for the expansion of empire. But in the end the legions themselves became too expansive to maintain and thus became the cause of the failure of empire. Same happed to the Soviet Union. We are headed the same way. We all know that we cannot afford to spend so much on the military but we must, as our politicians neither have the courage nor the popular support to reign in the military elite.

The civil military relationships in Pakistan, therefore, are a symptom of a nation gone wrong, a nation in which people are still living in squalor while their leaders and their generals live like kings.

It is quite obvious that our politicians are mostly corrupt and probably do not care about the people, but part of this apathy is systemic: if the politicians are in it for the short term and do not have to worry about their long term obligations to their constituents, then the system does not force them to become more receptive to popular demands. The generals, on the other hand, have no reason to pander to the people especially if they can continuously rely on popular distrust of the politicians and a constant invocation of outside threats. The result of this military civilian symbiotic relationship is that Pakistan has increasingly become a dysfunctional state in which might is right and the only way to make ourselves look better is to keep deriding other nations.

Rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a direct result of, among other things, the unequal and unjust society that the army and the politicians have constructed over the years. Think of it this way: if you feel powerless and silenced with no recourse to a functional justice system or a vibrant social system, then you will sign up with anyone who promises to literally restructure the entire socio-economic edifice. The left in Pakistan has never been able to promise such an upheaval: in fact, the Pakistani left, whatever is left of it, has itself become an elitist pursuit by some real and mostly pseudo intellectuals whose political alignment is mostly with the feudal or industrial bourgeoisie. In such a scenario, only the most fundamentalist mullahs can mobilize the people as they can, at the end of the day, at least promise revolutionary change.

In wake of the recent Memogate scandal and other national debacles, it has become evident that the interest of the army and those of our politically elected leaders are on a divergent course. Yes, we need the armed forces: at least, they provide employment for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis directly and indirectly. But we need an army that knows that it is one tool in the hands of popularly elected governments, an army that enables Pakistan to become a viable, pluralistic democracy.

Our politicians also need to learn that they are servants of their people and unless they internalize this core principle, they will continue the inane and self-serving politics that has now made them a joke in the region as well as in the world.

If the present government finishes its term, ineffective as it maybe as a government, it will be the first popularly elected government to do so in my entire lifetime. So, yes, their corruption and failure notwithstanding, let us aid and help this government so that we can have another and yet another popularly elected government. A functioning system of politics is the only way for Pakistan to become a viable nation and for that to happen, the Pakistan army will have to learn to think of itself as an instrument of Pakistani state and the generals will have to learn to be servants of their people: Yes, the very people whose poverty and suffering underwrites the privileges that our generals enjoy as their rights.

Author of Constructing Pakistan (Oxford UP, 2010) Masood Ashraf Raja is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of North Texas, United States and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. His critical essays have been published in journals including South Asian Review, Digest of Middle East Studies, Caribbean Studies, Muslim Public Affairs Journal, and Mosaic. He is currently working on his second book, entitled Secular Fundamentalism: Poetics of Incitement and the Muslim Sacred.

“The Dictator” Plans Trip to Saudi to Ask for His Old Job Back

Musharraf plans trip to Saudi to rally support: sources

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf – File Photo

DUBAI: Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf plans to travel to Saudi Arabia soon to gather support for his political comeback, Saudi and Pakistani sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Musharraf, who has been living abroad since he resigned in 2008, has said he plans to return to Pakistan this month, despite possible arrest, in order to participate in a parliamentary election due by 2013.

“Musharraf will be travelling to Saudi soon in order to get support before he goes back to Pakistan,” said a Gulf-based Saudi source familiar with the matter. A Pakistani source confirmed that Musharraf, who is in Dubai, was to travel to Saudi Arabia soon.

The source declined to say what form of support the former president is seeking. But some reports have said that Musharraf, who faces possible arrest on charges that he had failed to provide adequate security to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, will seek Saudi guarantees that he would not be detained.

Saudi Arabia, which has considerable influence in Pakistan because of its economic support, has expressed concern over the friction between the army and the government in recent months.

“The stability of Pakistan is very important to the region and has to be maintained,” said a second source familiar with the matter.

On Sunday, Musharraf is scheduled to address a rally via video in Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub, Karachi, sources in his recently formed All Pakistan Muslim League said.

Has the “Pakistani Taliban” Actually Been A Substitute Tribal Police Force In Training, All Along?

[It is impossible to know the truth about the following article, since it is also impossible to know the sources where the information was obtained, but it does makes sense.  It explains the truth about what has been transpiring in FATA for the past ten years.   The ISI has a unique talent for making the Pakistani people learn to beg to be screwed, in ways that they have always rejected in the past.  They did it around Wana; they did it in Bajaur, now they are doing it in all of the Tribal Region.  In the early years of Bush’s terror war, Musharraf and his generals tried desperately to obey Mr. Bush, by pushing the Army into S. Waziristan, but soon found, that “the tribals” violently rejected the Army’s presence and threw their support to the local militants.  That was when the Army’s “Plan B” came into effect. 

Plan B was the indirect approach–let the militants form their own governments in the agencies and wait for the people to howl over their enforcement of their fake “Shariah.”  When the Army finally turned it all over to Mullah Sufi and his Qazi courts, the tide had turned and the people demanded that the Army take control, just what the generals had always planned.  We are now seeing the beginning phase of “Plan C”–government surrender to complete militant control over all Tribal agencies, except for Orakzai and Khyber, as well as Balochistan.  The Pakistani citizens who are unfortunate enough to live in the described zone will answer to local mafia overlords–Hekeemullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman. 

This is a double-cross of major proportions.  The people of Pakistan deserve better.]

Security agencies want TTP to abandon Orakzai, Khyber

Military not keen on regaining control of other tribal regions which border Afghanistan. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Security agencies want the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to abandon their strongholds of Orakzai and Khyber for a possible truce but are not keen to wrench back the control of other lawless tribal regions from the militia.

Officials and TTP affiliates told The Express Tribune on Friday that the militia was being pushed to vacate Orakzai Agency because of its close proximity to the garrison city of Kohat.

“We don’t want to run unnecessary risk. If we tolerate the Taliban presence, it will be a strategic mistake. We will be on their target, if things go wrong again in the future,” said an official privy to the ongoing peace talks between the militants and security agencies.

Same is true for Khyber Agency, which borders Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that has borne the brunt of the war on terror in the past three years, the official said. “We cannot continue to allow them to maintain a presence near our cities from where they can plan and mount attacks,” the official added.

Both sides, however, said that the military was not keen on regaining complete control of other tribal regions, which are controlled by the TTP or its splinters including South Waziristan, Bajaur and Mohmand – the regions that share borders with Afghanistan.

Serving and retired military officials said the Taliban could not be trusted because of their ‘dubious’ past when they used peace accords for expanding their reach.

Though the Pakistani military denies it publicly, it was reported last week that its peace negotiations with the Taliban had entered a make-or-break phase and an agreement was possible in weeks to come.

But at least two militant commanders loyal to Hakimullah Mehsud said that it looked hard for both sides to find common grounds for TTP’s withdrawal from Orakzai and Khyber.

“Hakimullah was a TTP commander in these areas before taking over the group’s overall command … he won’t like to see Orakzai and Khyber slipping out of his hands so easily,” said one of the commanders.

It was, however, not clear how strong Hakimullah’s control over the group was as there were reports of several top commanders revolting against him in recent months.

Several TTP associates said Hakimullah was no more a functioning head of the group he once controlled with absolute authority and his role had been taken over by Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, his longtime deputy but a bitter rival now.

Commanders close to Wali said he was more than willing to have an unconditional accord with the Pakistani government as soon as possible.

It was not immediately known whether TTP commander for Orakzai, Maulvi Noor Jamal or Mullah Toofan, and for Dara Adamkhel (another region close to Kohat) also supported Rehman. Officials said the military was still facing some ‘pockets of mild resistance’ in Orakzai.

Published in The Express Tribune