By Haya Hamid |
The fundamental premise of a realist world system argues the paramount importance of military might. WhilePakistanas a country is persistently chasing the liberal dream of democracy, the country’s government systems have been in a constant state of pendulum between the civil and the military establishments. The patrons of democracy have often been found scoffing at the idea that all one needs to do to ace aPakistanstudies exam is to stress that our martial laws were the need of the hour. Not meaning to sound biased towards either school of thought, but the logical sentiments that many Pakistanis are now voicing is that if democracy means high inflation, loss of jobs, lack of basic resources and poor law and order, then does that not justify a military intervention, if it were to happen?
To many the answer would be a straight of negative, to others the question of what system followed is of less importance as compared to whether the goals are achieved or not. True, it was during Ayub Khan’s tenure thatPakistan’s economy grew at its fastest and yet it was the people who brought about the change when the rise in sugar prices served as the tipping point. Today, Pakistanis are surprisingly more tolerant of the sham of the government even when their kitchens have stopped running with shortage of gas during peak winter season.
The question of National Security cannot be taken out of the equation either. While the military establishment is supposed to be the defender of our ideological and geography borders, the civil government is supposed to be the nation’s servant. Or so to speak. With the global hegemon constantly pushing ‘do more’ to a near back breaking level, and the government constantly complying while standing on its people’s back, it does not come as a surprise that the rumors of a near martial law after sacking of the defense secretary were not met by outrageous hue and cry by the general public.
Military establishments inPakistan, for the most part have commanded a lot of respect from the people. Whether cause for that is religious to those that hold Pakistan as a sacred land or whether it is because defense of the country is a noble assignment, a common man consciously or subconsciously relies on the military in the face of not just adversity but also as a stick which would keep civil governments in check if they go out of hand, unless of course the military itself does not interfere in politics. This reason primarily is why the masses inPakistannever give up on their establishment despite often unfortunate and trying meddling within the domestic running of the country. Armies, all across the globe in their own respective states command authority not because of their manpower, but because of their access to weaponry; Weaponry that is seen to be used against its own people time and again, like in the case of the Iraq War and now the Egyptian unsettlement. Like S.E Finner clearly articulates “Armed forces have three massive political advantages over civilian organizations: a marked superiority in organization, a highly emotionalized symbolic status, and a monopoly of arms”. In Pakistan however, where hardly any government has completed its respective tenure, and generals hold power for at least a decade at best, the institution of armed forces is called time and again during matters of national security crisis, whether they are domestic or are flanked from outside the borders. Historically reflecting, it can also be noted that the reliance on military body was founded soon afterPakistan’s creation. With no civilian political institution inherited at the time of a bloody inception, the country that was building from practically nothing found itself reliant on its civilian and military bureaucracies, the only two best organized institutions. The latter also serving as a symbol of national unity amongst a nation prone to be divided by their ethnic divides unless faced by a stronger collective enemy.
Coming back to the present day, and Pakistan’s turbulent relationship with its allies and paramount strategic geographical location, it comes as no surprise that the COAS General Kayani is ranked 34th most powerful person in the world while the director general of the inter services, Gen. Shuja Pasha stands on 56th position in the Forbes list of world’s most powerful for the year 2011. This is the COAS’s second consistent representation on the Forbes list.
The authority position of any COAS and DG ISI ofPakistanis only multiplied by the growing external threats coupled with domestic incompetence of civil governments. The Zardari government which came to power under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, white washing their corruption of billions of rupees is now only inciting a military coup that the COAS has been seen to be resisting for the past many months. Coupled with turncoat allegations on the envoy to the United States, the NRO issue being pushed in the supreme court and the memo-gate scandal serving as a huge question mark on the loyalties of the domestic government, Defence Analyst Ahmed Qureshi calculates that “The Pakistani government has concluded it will lose these cases and that it is better to pick a fight with the military, incite a coup and come out as pro-democracy martyrs. It would help them secure American support and help in escaping toDubai,LondonandNew Yorkto plot how to destabilize the country.”
This again brings us back to the responsibility of the state, in providing the people with a proper system of governance while battling out the threats from both within and abroad. This responsibility, during the scene of a parliament collapse falls on the next most powerful institution and while the choice to aggravate public sentiments by getting directly involved in politics is something that this army leadership is commendably avoiding so far, what options does it have on its plate in case things take a turn for the worse are concerns that the establishment and its people need to address collectively.
Even if the elections are held premature to their tentative date, they seem to be possible only in the condition of a peaceful unraveling of the hostile situation between the government and the armed forces ofPakistan.