Seminar in Washington DC
By: Khalid Hashmani
Once again, Washington DC witnessed another interesting and informative session. The “Pakistan and Its Army: A Changing Relationship? ” event was held on Friday, September 28, 2007 and organized by the South Asian Program of Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The key panelists at this event included Shuja Nawaz, author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its army, and the wars within” and Colonel (ret) David O. Smith, Country Director for Pakistan in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Policy).
Mr. Shuja Nawaz, who is writing a new book on Pakistan Army, comes from a Pakistani military family and is a brother of a former Chief of Staff of Pakistan Army. He began with the statement that “Pakistan is a country that is still struggling to become a nation”. With the separation of half of the country in 1971, a divide between religious and moderate segments of Pakistan has allowed military to rule Pakistan.
He said that although the country was created in the name of religion, the founders of Pakistan were unanimous that it was not to be a religious state. The power of military has grown mainly on account of fear and relationship with India. In the past, people had utmost respect for Army and considered it a strong non-corruptible institution but with time people has come to see it as a one of the root causes of country’s problems. The successful military rules have left national institutions so weak that these institution cannot even work during civilian governments. He said that Army does not have any close relationship with religious elements or attached to a particular ideology. He called Army’s rule as “controlled form of democracy” in which a Parliamentarian form of government becomes more like a de-facto Presidential form of government. He criticized the increasing involvement of Pakistani military in running businesses and industries and said these involvements often lead to decisions that are counter to national interests.
Mr. Nawaz tried to convince that present day military is changing as it is no longer predominantly from the three districts of Punjab. He said that the current trends show that its composition mainly comes from those who are from large urban areas. To emphasize that Army is no longer a Punjabi Army he said that the recent figures show that recruits are being hired in all provinces. It is only after I questioned him about the numbers of native Sindhis and native Baloch in Army that he conceded that many of these recruits may have come from those families that migrated from India, Punjab, and Pakhtonwa and are now settled in Sindh and Balochistan.
Talking about the perception that Pakistan should adopt the Turkish model where military has a special role, Mr. Nawaz said that such a model is not going to work because neither the Pakistan Army is as homogeneous nor the people of Pakistan are passive any longer.
Comparing the past and current financial burdens imposed by military, he said that in 1965-70 period, Pakistan spent about 2.8% of GDP on military and in 1970-75, it grew to 4% compared to only 3% that went to the “development” expenditure. He added that today only 14% of all revenues remain available for investment on the social needs.
Talking about one of a critical “governance” changes that has occurred in Pakistan since the start of military rule was in the “warrant of Precedence”. Before Ayub Khan, the senior most military position was at the 20th position in the order of precedence and now the Chief of Staff is at the number one (1) position. He commented that not even periodic civilian regimes have tried to change this order precedence.
Mr. David Smith, started his remarks by saying that he was proud to have attended the Pakistani Army Staff College in Quetta. He said that like the US military, Pakistan Army too is ill prepared to deal with insurgency type of warfare as it requires decentralization in decision making, creativity, and taking risks. He added that “centralized” system has roots in the South Asian culture (from father to his son – to his son –) and poses the greatest challenge in successfully introducing serious changes. Citing an example from his stay the the Quetta staff college, he said that he was impressed with many things but felt that his fellow student did not show much creativity. Often in certain exercises, even though the students were told to think on their own and come up with own solutions, invariably, students came up with the “cookbook” solutions.
In the Question-Answer session. a member of audience citing the recent event where 280 soldiers including officers and one Lt. Colonel surrendered to insurgents without firing a single shot, asked if the Pakistani Army has lost its will to fight against stronger adversary. One of the panelists responded that the actual facts have not come out in public so we do not know the real story and added that newspapers quote some soldiers as saying that they could not fire on fellow Muslims because if they died in the return fire, they would not go to heaven. To which, another member from audience said, that such stories do not make sense as soldiers from the same Army did not hesitate in firing on and killing innocent Baloch men, women, and children who too were Muslims. In conclusion a panelist said that he would agree that we really don’t know who is being recruited and who is joining Pakistan military.
29 September, 2007
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups,