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Thread: Pakistani Military and Politics

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

    Default The Afghanisation of politics: Politics in Pakistan mirroring Pakistan on Afghanistan

    A short article from Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, which is almost a comedy. It starts with:
    CALL it the Afghanisation of politics. You can guess what they don’t want, but you can’t really be certain about what they do want. And maybe it makes a kind of sense: you can’t ever be defeated if you never say what it is that you really want.

    I am not sure who 'they' are; the politicians, ISI and the Army?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-11-2018 at 09:13 PM. Reason: This post has been copied here, it may help the context for the next post.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2009

    Default Pakistani Military and Politics

    a long (and excellent) essay from Dr Hamid Hussain, originally written in 2003, still relevant.

    The full text is here.


    Politics and profession of soldiering has nothing in common. They are totally different but essential elements of any society. Politicians and soldiers have an interesting relationship in all societies. In societies where civilians are in control, military officers act in accepted boundaries though ready to defend their turf against civilian encroachment. In societies where political institutions are weak and there is lack of consensus on legitimate course of succession, soldiers gradually expand their area of influence. They gradually restrict the role of civilians in various areas and sometimes directly take over the state replacing the civilians. This generally accepted model does not mean that military as an institution has no relevance to the important policy decisions. Even in countries where the tradition of civilian supremacy is well established, military has a political role relating to national security, albeit a different one. One commentator has correctly pointed that “the military’s political role is a question not of whether but of how much and what kind”...

    The soldier has replaced the civilian. What to do next? Due to the nature of their ethos and training, military leaders run a tightly controlled and highly authoritarian model of government. The decision making process is not seen a ‘political enterprise’ but ‘an apolitical, problem-solving exercise’. [6] Military leaders disdain political activity and mass participation as it causes disorder. In the early part of the military rule, this can be achieved easily without excessive use of force. The circumstances under which Ayub Khan in 1958 and General Musharraf in 1999 took over gave some transient room for personal charisma of the coup leader. Unstable political activity from 1954 to 1958 (the main cause of which was the authoritative intervention and intrigues of Governor General) and charisma of Ayub resulted in initial welcome of coup by general public. Similarly, complex problems of a soft state like Pakistan in 1999 had caused sufficient apathy of general public and personal charisma of Musharraf worked in favour of military. Both cases proved once again that ‘legitimation through charisma alone tends to be unstable and transitory’. [7] The military men should know better. Even genuinely populist civilian leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not last more than four years as he was unable to address the fundamental issues facing the society. Once the military rule is prolonged some kind of participation becomes essential. This means that the reluctant military leader has to embark on a course, which he hates. He has to indulge in ‘the demeaning and distasteful business of compromise and bargaining’..

    Once the military becomes the dominant institution, a new class of officers emerges which elaborates military’s political role. This is the ‘military intellectual’ class. In case of Pakistan, this class of officers (exclusively senior officers) has attended Command and Staff College at Quetta and National Defence College (NDC) in Islamabad. Increasingly, officers belonging to two military intelligence organizations, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) are visibly found playing plain politics. In Pakistan, the most vocal proponents and defenders of military rulers are the most politicized officers who have been directly involved in political intrigues. When the military’s role is expanded to nation building tasks, the political role of the military is not seen as a defence of specific class or ethnic interest but as the autonomous representation of the ‘national interest’...

    The rise of intelligence and security apparatus is the inevitable outcome of prolonged and repeated military domination of the society. The political armies for effective control use increasing internal and external surveillance for systematic information gathering. It painstakingly builds up ‘the organization of permanent supervision through informants or political commissars, and widespread practices of repression, intimidation and political blackmail’.[22] In case of Pakistan, there has been a meteoric rise of the intelligence agencies in the last two decades. The clout of intelligence officers in the society and military has dramatically increased.[23] This has further complicated the political scenario. The effect on military itself can be judged from the fact that a large number of heads of MI and ISI have been sacked/retired before completing their terms. The list of generals includes Hamid Gul, Asad Durrani, Javed Ashraf Qazi, Javed Nasir, Ziauddin Butt and Mahmud Ahmad. In addition, increasing role of officers with intelligence background in different sections of the society after retirement is another landmark of the complexity of the problem...

    The political role of the military has its negative effects in long term, which may not be visible, in short term. In case of Pakistan, there has been no radical coup and no violent showdown between different interest groups (with the exception of Bengali nationalism which resulted in separation of Eastern wing with the help of Indian arms). Even military rulers understand the limitations of overt coercion and repression. They use ‘parallel power mechanisms provided by intelligence services, paramilitary, private or criminal armed entities’.[29] Over the last two decades, Pakistani military leadership has used informal types of coercion. Private armed groups run by religio-political parties were not only used in the military’s foreign policy agenda in Afghanistan and India in 1990s but were selectively used to pressurize the civilian governments. In 2002, the military leadership has learnt the hard lesson of futility of such shortsighted policy decisions. The role of intelligence apparatus has been institutionalized while paramilitary force (Rangers) has been rapidly expanded. This approach has resulted in two negative consequences. First, it has eroded the cohesion of armed forces and damaged its institutional integrity. Second, the political entities have become more polarized making any reconciliation very difficult...

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