Pakistan’s Army belongs to the barracks in Rawalpindi, not in the corridors of power in Islamabad

Army belongs to barracks in Rawalpindi

By: Hiranmay Karlekar

Embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari may want to improve relations with India but his Generals will not allow him to do so. New Delhi must keep nudging Islamabad to strengthen its democratic institutions. That alone can contain the Pakistani Army

Something that was never stated officially but said or hinted at media talk shows or in private conversations during Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit was that India had a responsibility to help Pakistan’s democracy to consolidate itself. There is nothing exceptionable in the suggestion. Every democracy has a responsibility to strengthen kindred political systems. The question is: How should that be done?

The standard answer, to reach out to Pakistan in friendship, would raise the question of concrete steps in which the process should manifest itself. Expansion of trade opportunities and liberalisation of visa regimes, which have been on the anvil for quite some time, may help, but not beyond a point. The goodwill created by both can be shattered in a few hours by another terrorist outrage like the 26/11 one, which set the Indo-Pakistani dialogue back by several years.

One may argue that the present regime in Pakistan headed by Mr Zardari genuinely wants peace with India and is keen to fight terrorism, whose victims include Benazir Bhutto, Mr Zardari’s wife and the Pakistan People’s Party leader who has become an icon of her country’s democracy. One will also hear that the incidence of cross-border terror strikes in India has fallen sharply and organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, already on the defensive under the Government’s pressure, are unlikely to stage another 26/11-type dramatic adventure after the American announcement of a $10 million bounty on the head of the LeT chief, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.

Without dismissing the first two claims out of hand, one would do well to remember that there are strict limits to what Pakistan’s present democratic Government can deliver.The Army is doubtless on the defensive at the moment because of its failure to even detect the United States’ commando raid on May 2, 2011, that killed Osama bin Laden. The commandos had done their job and left with Laden’s body by the time Pakistan’s Air Force could launch fighter jets to intercept them! Its image has been further undermined by its confrontation with the Government on the Memogate issue in which the then US Ambassador to Washington, DC, Husain Haqqani, was accused of having sent a memo to the Americans, through a expatriate Pakistani businessman, seeking intervention against a contemplated military coup and promising to toe what can only be described as a pro-American line in every respect. While Mr Haqqani was forced to resign on November 22, 2011, the coup, rumoured to be imminent in early January this year, never materialised.

Even if one concedes that all this is true, a revival of the Army’s prestige and its capacity to stage a coup can hardly be ruled out. This can happen if a stable Government eludes Pakistan after the 2013 general election and the Americans cease to be interested in intervening in Pakistan — or are unable to do so — after the completion of their withdrawal from Afghanistan. And it is hardly any secret that the Pakistani Army is implacably hostile to India and is likely to sabotage every serious move to improve India-Pakistan relations.

This is not only because of the growing presence in its ranks of dyed-in-the wool Islamist fundamentalists allied with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and organisations like the Hizb-ut Tahrir which have links to Al Qaeda. In Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, Ayesha Siddiqa refers to the term, “Milbus”, to connote “military capital that is used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity, especially the officer cadre, but is neither recorded nor part of the defence budget….Its most significant component is entrepreneurial activities that do not fall under the scope of the normal accountability procedures of the state, and are mainly for the gratification of military personnel and their cronies.”

Ms Siddiqa further states, “The intellectual and physical hegemony of the military actually serves the purpose of guarding their economic interests.” Pakistan’s military, therefore, will make every effort to regain its hegemony. India, therefore, has to consider very carefully what it can do to help Pakistan’s democracy and not take any ad hoc decisions. Meanwhile, it must remain prepared to thwart the efforts of organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which retain their extensive terror infrastructure intact, and will certainly wait for opportunities to stage a venture like 26/11.

Courtesy: Daily Pioneer

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/51415-army-belongs-to-barracks-in-rawalpindi.html

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