Pakistan military has performed better as a rented entity in other countries than it has as a national army in Pakistan
‘The state in Pakistan is reflecting the fragmentary nature of Pakistan’s society and polity,’ says Nadeem Farooq Paracha.
Born in Karachi, Nadeem Farooq Paracha is a leading cultural critic, political analyst, and a columnist. In the 1980s, he was active in student politics at college with Peoples Students Federation (PSF). Twice, he was arrested under the Zia dictatorship. For ten years he worked with the Jang Group (first with Weekly Mag and then with The News between 1990 and 2000). Currently he is doing regular columns for the DAWN, Dawn.com, The Pioneer and Indian Express. In an interview with Viewpoint, he discusses the character of Pakistani state. Read on:
Ayesha Siddiqa in her book Military Inc (2007) describes Pakistan as a Praetorian state. In his recently published Pakistan: The Garrison State (2013) Ishtiaq Ahmed describes Pakistan as a ‘Garrison state’. Pakistan is also described as the ‘National security state’ in journalistic narratives. How would you characterize the Pakistani state?
I wonder if Pakistan really has any kind of a state left anymore. Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned expressions like Praetorian, Garrison and National Security State are basically mediations on a similar concept. By and large, Ayesha and Ishtiaq Ahmed are talking about the same thing. I’d say Pakistan is a National Security state. Same thing.
Do you think Pakistan can also be described as a Rentier state? After all, it has been renting out military services to Gulf sheikhdoms. Post-9/11, it has rented out military facilities to the USA True, the rent is not on regular basis as stipulated by Hossein Mahdavy who propounded the theory. However, Pakistan has largely been under an autocratic rule. Your comments.
I think any state with a large and, if I may, an entrepreneurial military would have a prominent rentier side to it as well. And ironically, the Pakistan military has performed better as a rented entity in other countries than it has as a national army in Pakistan.
Do you think the Marxist notion of state as a particular expression of class formation instead of a “thing” or collection of individual social actors is relevant?
As a self-proclaimed Marxist during my student years, I was never comfortable with this concept.
To me this idea is too abstract. I’ve never been able to relate to it on an intellectual nor on an instinctive level. I think the whole concept of individuality finally managed to overpower at least this Marxian idea of the state in me, especially considering the fact I live in a country where religious sectarianism and ethnic nationalism have submerged the whole concept of class as being secondary.
Khaled Ahmed in his booklet Pakistan and Nature of State: Revisionism, Jihad and Governance (2009) claims: that unlike other states that have three mutually balancing centres of power i.e. the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, Pakistan has six ‘existential’ pillars of the state: ‘Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, Army plus Establishment, Media, and Jihadi Organisations’. Do you think Pakistan is an exception to rule?
Ahmed is correct. The state in Pakistan is reflecting the fragmentary nature of Pakistan’s society and polity. One can say that all six pillars usually feed off each other, but not always. And when this happens you get a situation like the one we are in these days.
This is certainly exceptional and exactly the reason why policy formation through a consensus is so tough in this country and also why most political scientists of the world have struggled to fully understand the political dynamics of Pakistan.
We have states within a state so much so that the conventional idea of having a state has rapidly withered away.
The previous government was able to complete its term in the office. The military was, for a combination of factors, not able to intervene and short-circuit the democratic process. For the first time, a democratic transition was made possible. Do you think that this development shows waning character of state’s Praetorian/Garrison character?
I hope so. But it can also be said that the Praetorian character of the state may be waning within one aspect of the state, the military, or at least it appears so under General Kayani. But it might be emerging, at least as a tendency and attitude, in some other pillars of the Pakistani state.
Recently we have seen how the electronic media and the judiciary have tried to assert themselves. Though they have done so in the name of democracy and free judiciary, it has at times exhibited the same kind of an authoritarian bent, arrogance and myopia that was once associated with the Pakistan army.