Why democracy doesn’t stand a chance in Pakistan

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Vyom, Dec 24, 2011.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    A French diplomat once famously described Pakistan as “an army in search of a country.” In the country’s 62-year history, so frequently has the army seized power that it, along with the ISI intelligence service, is universally acknowledged as the real power centre in Pakistan.

    Yet, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s comments on Thursday about the army acting like “a state within a state” that remained outside the authority of Parliament were sensational for the reason that civilian-military power tussles – of the sorts we’re witnessing today – happen more behind closed doors than out in the open.

    Gilani appears to have resigned himself to the inevitability of his civilian government losing power – or of him and President Asif Ali Zardari being replaced. Earlier on Thursday, Gilani had accused the defence establishment of conspiring against the government — a charge that Army chief Gen Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has since denied. Gilani was also extraordinarily candid while addressing the National Assembly. Taunted by Opposition members about an admission by the defence ministry to the Supreme Court that it had no operational control over the army and the ISI, Gilani unburdened himself forcefully.

    “Some institutions of the state,” he said, without taking the name of the army of the ISI, were historically addicted to act like “a state within a state”. And while earlier civilian governments may have been kosher with that, he found it unacceptable. He had completed 45 months in office — thereby establishing himself as Pakistan’s longest-serving elected prime minister — and did not feel the need to cling to office.

    “If they say they are not under the ministry of defence, then this Parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign,” Gilani said. He was, he said, calling an end to “this slavery”.
    As institutions that were being paid from the state exchequer, they were subservient to – and fully accountable to Parliament, Gilani thundered. “If somebody thinks they are not under the government, they are mistaken. They are under the government and they shall remain under the government, because we are the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.”

    Brave words those, but the reason why they are being greeted with cynicism today – rather than being seen as heroic — is that Gilani and Zardari, for all their recent pushback against the ISI-military overreach in policy matters, have yielded ground willfully and played by the unwritten rules of the games of Pakistani politics: after Allah, the Army.
    To be fair, these rules were laid down long before Gilani took office. Except for a brief period following the 1971 loss to India in the Bangladesh war of independence when the humiliated military fell off the pedestal, there isn’t a time when the army did not dominate politics in Pakistan — either upfront (as when martial law was established) or from behind the scenes.

    [​IMG]Although here have been rumours of Zardari and/or Gilani being replaced – they continued to yield more and more space to the ISI-military and gave them effective overlordship. Reuters

    Even the civilian governments that sporadically came to office knew full well that they served only at the pleasure of the military-ISI establishment. Anyone who stepped out of the box paid for it — by being booted out or, worse, bumped off. If democracy hasn’t taken root in Pakistan, the military-ISI establishment is of course primarily to blame, but the civilian administrations too share a bit of it for feeding the monster and not challenging the narrative with an eye on day-to-day survival.

    Soon after they came to power, Gilani and Zardari rewarded Kayani with a three-year extension, evidently in the belief that a mollified Army chief would buy them peace in the short term. And although that objective was never fully met – there have been constant rumours of Zardari and/or Gilani being replaced – they continued to yield more and more space to the ISI-military and gave them effective overlordship.

    Even a patently administrative matter that has no strategic implications for Pakistan – such as granting Most Favoured Nation trading status to India – has been the subject of controversy, because the civilian government said it wanted to consult “all stakeholders” on the matter. Among those “stakeholders” is also the Pakistani military, which is it today more than a military machine: it runs an industrial conglomerate, valued by some estimates at over $15 billion, which covers everything from bakeries to banks to security services.

    What changed all that was the memogate episode, soon after Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad by US Navy seals, which showed that a nervous civilian government, which feared a military coup by a humiliated military-ISI establishment, sought US help to defang the ISI.

    Ever since the details of a secret US memo, drafted by the then Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani at Zardari’s behest and delivered to US officials, became known, the strains between the civilian government and the military-ISI complex were exposed. The military-ISI establishment has since extracted bloodprice by securing Haqqani’s resignation, but it wants more, much more: the heads of Zardari and Gilani.

    Gilani told Parliament on Thursday that whereas the joint parliamentary committee, set up after bin Laden’s killing, was mandated to investigate the circumstances in which the terrorist came to be living in Abbottabad evidently with Army patronage, the military and the ISI were instead turning the heat on the civilian administration by inquiring why CIA operatives had been given visas to enter Pakistan.

    In that sense, the ghost of bin Laden haunts Pakistani politics today, and it isn’t about to be exorcised anytime soon.
    So why did Gilani speak out so forthrightly today? He perhaps reckons that his days in office are anyway numbered, so going down in style – by holding the banner of endangered democracy –plays well to his constituency. It invests him with the halo of martyrdom, and takes attention away from the colossal failures of the government on every front – from the economy to the security situation to Pakistan’s image on the world stage.

    And the reason why Kayani says the army won’t stage a coup is because it doesn’t have to: along with the ISI, the army already sets the agenda from behind the throne. If a change of faces is needed, it can easily engineer an election victory for an Imran Khan – and continue to be the power behind the throne.

    All this holds important lessons for the Indian foreign policy establishment, which under the influence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s peacenik instincts, has an aman ki asha. To negotiate any concessions with the civilian administration out of a mistaken sense of solidarity is utter folly, when the real power lies elsewhere — and is cussed about waging its proxy war. Geopolitical considerations may require us to be seen to be talking to Pakistan, but there is great wisdom in restricting these talks to the cricketing fortunes of the two sides’ teams and other such anodyne subjects— until Pakistan sorts out its internal power imbalances first.

  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
    Likes Received:
    My take on the issue.

  4. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    When the foundations itself are laid on an incorrigible and unethical grounds, what kind of fruits could be expected?
  5. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Both sides know that Judiciary has emerged as the third piller in Pakistan and that is why Army may not take over. In reality, ISI and Army is so powerful that they might not take over but would not allow Zardari and party to govern.

    The state is in Chaos and every actor is capable of dangerious actions to let the other down. Opening route to Afghanistan seems to be out for the time being unless US adjusts to Pakistani demand of army's pet "Strategic Depth" and "Stake in Kabul". Civilian govt wants to trade with India and do business with US sidelining the Army.

    Reconciliation seems to be difficult. India need to watch the events with gloves in hand and keeping the powder dry lest Kayani conducts another Kargil or Bombay to take over the power.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2011
  6. Zebra

    Zebra Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 18, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Pakistan Army Chief Rules Out Coup: Statement

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE , Published: 23 Dec 2011 10:41

    ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani has ruled out a military takeover in the country, describing rumors about a coup amid a political scandal as "misleading," the military said Dec. 23.

    "He (Kayani) strongly dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues," a military statement cited him as saying.

    The general, who was addressing troops in the Mohmand and Kurram tribal regions near the Afghan border on Dec. 22, "reiterated that (the) Pakistan Army has and will continue to support the democratic process in the country," according to the statement.

    The army chief's remarks were made public several hours after Pakistan's top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also ruled out a military coup.

    "Rest assured ... in this country there is no question of (military) takeover because the people trust the apex court now," said the chief justice while hearing petitions calling for an investigation into a memo scandal.

    A panel headed by Chaudhry is deliberating whether to order a probe into allegations that a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari wrote asking for U.S. help to prevent a feared coup and reign in the military's power in May.

    The armed forces have carried out three coups in Pakistan and is considered the chief arbiter of power in the country of 174 million.

    Pakistan Army Chief Rules Out Coup: Statement - Defense News

Share This Page