Feeling the political heat from the public and some politicians, Pakistan’s military chief, Pervaiz Kiyani, has hit back accusing that this is an effort “to drive a wedge between the army, different organs of the state and, more seriously, the people of Pakistan, whose support the army has always considered vital for its operations against terrorists.” Translation: To ask for the civilian control over the military and to scrutinize its mammoth secrete budget is creating a wedge between state institutions. Naturally, if the absolute supremacy of the military institution—a taken for granted privilege—is challenged it will create a wedge in the existing institutional alignment.
Gen. Kiyani’s statement makes it clear that the military is in mode to introspect, reform and help Pakistan by stepping back from national politics. Instead Gen. Kiayni is combinative, using the same old clichés and employing slick political strategies. The military does not want to or is not getting it as to what is wrong.
What is wrong with Pakistan military? Fundamental blunder of the military is to establish a monopoly over defining Pakistani nation and its interests. It is not the military that defines the nation and its interests in any civilized country. It is the duty and task of the political forces to do so and the military follows the dictates of the civilian government’s defined objectives.
In Pakistan’s history from Gen. Ayub Khan to Gen. Kiayni, military chiefs take it upon themselves to define the Pakistani nation and its interests. In the rest of the world the dictum is that ‘war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals’ but in Pakistan it is just the opposite ‘war and national interests are too serious matters to be left to the civilians.’
Pakistan military defined Pakistan as a religious state from the very beginning but the trend accentuated after losing war in East Bengal. The logical lesson from losing East Pakistan should have been that a country cannot be united on the basis of the religion. Bengali Muslims rebellion should have been an eye opener for the military. However, it embraced the most illogical conclusion and embarked upon a course to turn Pakistan into an Islamic theocratic state. Military reached this conclusion just because it was only Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) that was its partner in butchering the East Bengali Muslims. Post 1971 war nexus between military and religious parties, specifically JI, always played the major part in shaping Pakistan of today.
Without getting into details of how the military-mullah alliance created religious bigotry, theocratic laws and, ultimately, proliferation of jihadi producing madrassas, we should look at the final outcome. Jihadi producing madrassas were abetted, encouraged and financed by the military. If it was not so let us assume that somehow such schools were being established by the Marxist or Maoists? Would military allow it and watch from the sidelines or destroy them? Let us assume that instead of Muslim jihadis, India like Maoist movement had started a guerrilla war against the state what would be military’s response? They would have been crushed ruthlessly. Therefore, there should be no doubt that proliferation of armed bands of jihadis is the outcome of military’s ideology imposed on that society. It is the military’s nation defining monopoly that has created the present disastrous situation.
The irony is that military is not willing to recognize the mess they have created. They are not prepared to back off from nation defining and hand over this function to civilians. May be civilians will not be very successful in this venture but they have yet to prove. On the contrary, military prescriptions are well tested in the last 60 years and we know that they have created havoc in Pakistan. They should look at Pakistan and see the ruins created by them. But will they? It does not seem likely because monopoly over ideological discourse is closely linked to their institutional and personal interests (perks).