The author is an affiliate of Conference of Defence Associations Institute and a political and defence analyst with a distinguished career in the armed forces and international diplomacy. In the backdrop of a debate on an alleged leak in an eminent newspaper as well as army chief, General Raheel Sharif’s retirement – or service extension issue – Adnan Qaiser examines civil-military relations in its historical context.
Between Traitors and Politicians
History of nations is often dull and boring; not so Pakistan’s, whose civil-military power-politics and internal brinkmanship remain full of intrigues, treachery, and conspiracies. The country, which has lately been called a “disastrously dysfunctional country” by no less a person than President Barack Obama remains an enigma for the world. While Pakistan’s military establishment is criticized for keeping its nation in poverty (at the expense of military power and a nuclear arms race with India), as well as denying its citizenry the fruits of democracy (due to army’s repeated takeovers and meddling in politics), it is important to historically look into the insidious role played by successive Pakistani politicians in unravelling their own country through their disloyalty with the nation.
In his book Political Order in Changing Societies, Samuel Huntington had identified the malaise of military interventions lying “… not in the social and organizational characteristics of the military establishment but in the political and institutional structure of the society.” 
The shocking revelation made by the BBC in June 2015 about Pakistan’s fourth major political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), receiving funds, training and weapons from Pakistan’s archrival India for the past two decades – in order to create instability and bloodshed in Pakistan’s financial hub Karachi – uncovered the ‘political treason’ to undo the idea of Pakistan. Resultantly, not only that Karachi remained a haven for terrorism, extortion, kidnappings for ransom, drugs, narcotics and money-laundering to the annual tune of Rs.230 billion (US$2.2 billion approx.) a total of 16,509 people also lost their lives in target-killings between 1994 and 2015.
Pakistani police also arrested a number of MQM activists, admitting in front of media for having received training from Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). It is widely believed that MQM militants enter Indian waters disguised as fishermen, only to be arrested by India’s maritime forces and released after a few months of training as a goodwill diplomatic gesture.
BBC’s claims were further corroborated when MQM’s leadership – including its chief Altaf Hussain – confessed to its links with RAW during Scotland Yard’s investigations in money-laundering charges against them. Separate inquiries by London’s Metropolitan Police into the murder of MQM leader, Dr. Imran Farooq in London in September 2010 also confirmed the allegations.
Additionally, during ‘Karachi Operation’ against organized crime and terror-outfits, Sindh Rangers and National Accountability Bureau found key political leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – the second largest in the country – also carrying-out terror-funding through their unabashed financial corruption. Alarmingly, MQM’s top leader Mustafa Kamal, who lately defected from his party, made a startling disclosure in his press conference on 3 March 2016 that the briefing on MQM’s funding by RAW to Karachi leadership was made in the presence of Pakistan’s then interior minister, Rehman Malik – belonging to PPP and entrusted with the country’s national security. While Mr. Malik denied the allegation, the minister is believed to have repeatedly blackmailed the MQM for its continued political support to PPP during its 5-year rule between 2008 and 2013.
MQM’s treason revived memories of 1992–94 when fully demarcated maps for ‘Jinnahpur’ – a separate state for the Mohajir (migrant) community – were unearthed from MQM’s facilities during the military’s clean-up operation. Torture cells, splashed with human blood, and caches of arms and ammunition – similar to the one found on 5 October 2016 – underscored MQM’s way of militant politics. Despite MQM having remained in power, off and on, its chief, living in self-exile in London, kept demanding a separate country – or at least a separate province – for the Mohajirs – threatening otherwise to turn Karachi into another Somalia.
This is another thing that despite law-enforcing-agencies lodging several police complaints, no concrete action against MQM – or its leader in exile – is visible on ground except Lahore High Court’s decision in August 2015 banning Mr. Hussain’s media coverage; Sindh Assembly also adopted a resolution in September 2016 demanding his trial for treason under Constitution’s Article-6 – knowing full well that under Pakistan’s law no person can be tried in absentia. Owen Bennett Jones, an eminent British journalist tracking MQM related developments has recently concluded that owing to Mr. Hussain’s political weight it would be politics, and not law, deciding cases against him.
Propped-up by neighbouring India and Afghanistan, Pakistan’s conspiratorial politicians have kept the country a ‘national security state.’ While Baloch Sardars (chieftains) remained preoccupied with their struggle for an independent Baluchistan during ‘five insurgencies’ in the past 69 years, the nationalists in the Sindh province, continued their political blackmail using a so-called ‘Sindh-card’– threatening secession for ‘Sindhudesh’ (just like Bangladesh). By considering to grant asylum to a Baloch separatist leader and raising the issue of alleged human rights violations in Balochistan in his Independence Day speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed India’s linkages with Balochistan unrest. Carey Schofield, on the other hand, wonders in her book Inside the Pakistan Army, as to why “Indian national anthem refers [so] possessively to Sindh in its second line” – a land not part of India’s geography.
However, surprisingly, the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remains mute and motionless on all such disclosures. Even the horrifying confessions made by the recently arrested (serving) Indian naval intelligence Commander – working for RAW through neighbouring Iran – that his ‘network’ had been carrying-out subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan since 2003, failed to move Mr. Sharif to voice any protest against India or Iran. Consequently, Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif felt constrained to step in and not only (publically) protest against India’s clandestine activities in Pakistan through Chahbahar port (in connivance with the Iranian intelligence) to the visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in March 2016, but also ordered a counterterrorism operation by Punjab Rangers in Mr. Sharif’s bastion of power, the Punjab province, without the latter’s (legal and constitutional) approval after the ‘Easter Bombing’ in Lahore.
However, unsurprisingly, army chief’s actions caused such uproar in the power-corridors that the Ranger’s operation had to be halted in its tracks. The recently leaked report is surprising in the sense that any operation against sectarian and jihadist outfits in Punjab province had been resisted not by the army but Sharif brothers themselves – having appeased the proscribed militant groups for long considering them as their vote-bank.
Furthermore, The Long War Journal’s damning report on Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif seeking to strike a peace-deal with al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban in July 2010, to spare his province from terrorism, indicated PML(N)’s policy towards condoning jihadism and terrorism. Never mind that in 2013, when Sharifs were already in power, a total of 220 sectarian attacks took place in the country killing 687 innocent people and injuring 1,319 others. Meanwhile, the Karachi Operation continues to drag aimlessly in its third year without making any new arrests or making progress on the ongoing investigations due to political pressure and expediencies.
Hassan Abbas, in his book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, underlines how the multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic mosaic of a nation-state failed to forge into national cohesiveness. He observes, for instance, “When Pakistan came into being [in August 1947] it did so as a state but not as a nation. The historic experiences of the Muslims of India were not such as would forge the spirit of nationhood among a disparate peoples.” Abbas also notes the missing patriotism among Pakistan’s feudal elites right from the outset: “Among the available political elite … only a few were committed and capable. The rest were a bunch of feudal lords who had joined the [independence] movement in the last days to reap the benefits and save their lands.”
Pakistan’s politicians’ were also guilty of politico-clergy courtship, as revealed in veteran journalist Babar Ayaz’s book What’s Wrong with Pakistan. As he says, “Pakistan is today being consumed by the religiosity that was whipped as a ‘means’ to achieve a separate homeland.” Blaming Pakistan’s “genetic defect” on the (Hindu-Muslim) “two-nation theory,” Ayaz concludes that Muslim elites “used religion unabashedly” to protect their self-interests after their complete rout-out in the 1937 elections.
Confronted with innumerable internal challenges Pakistan could not evolve an honest and strong political leadership that could hold the country together and steer it out of many of its problems. The resultant constitutional chaos and political vacuum forced its military establishment many-a-times to step-in and save the country from total collapse or falling apart.
Basing Pakistan’s ‘national insecurities’ on American political scientist Harold Lasswell’s theory of ‘garrison state’ (1937), historian Ishtiaq Ahmed quotes military researcher Brigadier (Ret’d) A. R. Siddiqi in his book The Pakistan Military in Politics: “Since there is no other institution to rival the military in organization and discipline, above all, in its control of the instruments of violence, its image grows apace, and presently reaches a point of predominance and power where it becomes an object of mass reverence or fear. A sort of (sic) prussianism is born to produce an army with a nation in place of a nation with an army. The national identity and interest is progressively subordinated to the growing power of the military image.” 
The political circus between 1947 and 1958 saw Pakistan’s first prime minister assassinated and six others dismissed, resigned or removed one after another, which led General Ayub Khan, the commander-in-chief, to impose martial law. Instead of formulating a ‘consensual constitution’ – which was finally promulgated in 1973 – Pakistan’s visionless Constituent Assembly came out with a page and a half long document in 1949 called the ‘Objective Resolution.’ Bequeathing Pakistan’s identity and ideology to faith, the resolution laid the foundation for Pakistan to become an Islamic Republic, granting unrestrained powers to its clergy – leading the nation on path towards extremism and militancy through ‘political and militant Islam.’
Ironically, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind – whose offshoots later emerged as ‘Jamaat-i-Islami,’ ‘Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Pakistan,’ and ‘Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam’ in Pakistan – had opposed the creation of Pakistan. However, through their riots and violence, the clerics deformed Pakistan’s diversified and multi-ethnic landscape. First, the anti-Ahmadiyya riots in 1953 – which turned into ‘Khatam-e-Nabuwat Movement’ in 1974 – forced the government to declare Ahmadi sect as non-Muslim. Even a liberal President Ayub who always believed “Pakistan was not achieved to create a priest-ridden culture but it was created to evolve an enlightened society” failed in curbing the ‘power of pulpit.’ The religious forces provided fuel to the protest movement of 1968 causing such an unrest in the country that President Ayub had to hand over the reins of power to General Yahya Khan, who imposed Pakistan’s second martial law in 1969 stating, “I simply cannot throw the country to the wolves.”
The author, in one of his earlier studies, had noted: “Real democracy in Pakistan is yet to arrive. The country continues to be governed under a sham dispensation in which only a handful of elites comprising of feudal and tribal Sardars (Chieftains), plus a dozen or so richest families of Pakistan, continue to hold and share power. Rather than issue-driven, Pakistan’s personality oriented and patronage-ridden politics does not represent people’s genuine aspirations. Denying meaningful land reforms that would curtail and tax their large agricultural holdings, these elites keep state institutions subservient through age-old British Colonial and magisterial system leading to institutional collapse. Pick any large land-owning family only to find their presence in all opposing political parties through intermarriages, constantly changing loyalties, only to stay in power.”
Historian M. Ikram Rabbani describes Pakistani political mindset in his book Pakistan Affairs: “Politicians had a very rudimentary understanding of power and acted with irresponsibility. They frequently mistook the state-power, which was a trust reposed by the nation, as their personal power and glory. The leadership, equating with abuse of authority refused to be regulated by laws and rules meant for running the government considering themselves above the law. Behaving like medieval kings, they spent public money at their personal whims. Instead of institutionalizing the state authority, they personalized it.”
Former president, General Pervez Musharraf seems to concur when he recently observed: The “inherent weakness” of Pakistan is that democracy in the country has not been tailored in accordance with the dictates of the environment. “There are no checks and balances within the system. The Constitution doesn’t provide those checks and balances.” However, the irony is that despite ruling Pakistan for 32½ years, the army also failed in bringing structural reforms in the country that could genuinely empower people; institute social-justice; remove class distinction; develop national cohesion; and bring state institutions out of political influence. Pakistan, thus, remains a sad spectacle of national disharmony and societal decadence, challenged with internal dissensions, economic privation and political turmoil. The civil-military musical-chair of power, meanwhile, goes on.
During his rule, General Musharraf too fell to the temptations of Pakistan’s politics of nepotism and cronyism. The general’s constitutional reforms, which included increasing the parliamentary seats for women for their better political representation through nomination by party heads – and not by directly contesting the elections – continues to be abused as politicians keep appointing their spouses and other elite family members to the legislature, making a farce of representational democracy.
Author Christine C. Fair, considered to be an authority on Pakistan, notes in her book Fighting to the End: “Thus, within a few years of the coup the army chief, with the help of the intelligence agencies, cobbles together a “king’s party,” which draws from established mainstream political parties and new entrants seeking to take advantage of the military regime’s patronage.”
National unity and state institutions remain the resultant casualties. Throughout its turbulent history, Pakistan could not evolve a constitutional model or a governing system that could address the needs of a struggling nation-state. Pakistan’s political conspiracies and unending constitutional crises had convinced the fathers of Pakistan army very early that parliamentary democracy could never work in Pakistan’s environment, making them to introduce the concept of ‘guided or controlled democracy.’ President Ayub Khan had a considered opinion when in his address to the nation on 1 March 1959 he stated: “The Westminster model did not suit the genius of the people of Pakistan.”
Interestingly, Ayub Khan’s downfall resulted from an ill-conceived Operation Gibraltar in Indian held Kashmir that led to the India-Pakistan War of 1965. The war that lasted for only seventeen days ended after the Tashkent Agreement, which the politicians, especially Mr. Khan’s ambitious foreign minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto drummed-up as Pakistan’s humiliation. Ironically, as Hassan Abbas recounts, it was “Bhutto, [who] in his letter to Ayub of May 12, 1965 … recommended that [such] ‘a bold and courageous stand’ would ‘open up greater possibility for a negotiated settlement’ [on Kashmir].”
On the other hand, the politicians in the East Pakistan – alienated from the step-motherly treatment of West Pakistan’s feudal landlords and the military – kept hatching conspiracies for the creation of Bangladesh with India’s help. Although released under public protests and anarchy, Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the leader of Awami League and founder of Bangladesh, was arrested and tried for treason in 1968’s ‘Agartala Conspiracy.’ On his visit to Bangladesh in June 2015, Prime Minister Modi had proudly acknowledged India’s conspiracy against Pakistan for the creation of Bangladesh.
While Pakistan’s military is blamed for the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, its underlying cause is recognized as the political obduracy of Mr. Bhutto and Sheikh Mujeeb, who could not agree on a power-sharing formula after the first general elections of 1970. One should also add Sarmila Bose’s recent scholarship Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War rejecting the “dominant narrative” of Pakistan army’s excesses in the East Pakistan, stating, “Many facts had been exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed.”
While Sheikh Mujeeb was assassinated by his own military in August 1975, Mr. Bhutto wrote his fate to the gallows due to his unremitting political ambitions. Not only did he rig the elections of 1977 but also brutally suppressed his opponents (Pakistan National Alliance Movement) – throwing them in jail on fabricated sedition charges in ‘Hyderabad Conspiracy’ in 1975. Military establishment’s suspicions can be gauged from the fact that after his hanging in April 1979, Mr. Bhutto was unclothed and photographed (to ascertain if he was a proper Muslim with circumcision).
Critically analyzing “Pakistan’s secretive, paranoid, dysfunctional government[s] and politics,” James P. Farwell in his book The Pakistan Cauldron, finds “Pakistani politics are devious, complicated, and nuanced. In a place where contriving conspiracy theories is a national sport, politicians are always suspects for possible betrayal,” which unfortunately turns-out to be true.
The lack of trust between Pakistan’s military and its politicians has a long history. In Magnificent Delusions, Husain Haqqani documents “When the creation of Pakistan appeared inevitable, Ghaffar Khan [head of the National Awami Party, now Awami National Party] demanded that the Pashtun areas be allowed independence as ‘Pashtunistan,’ a demand that the British did not accept.” Several Pakistani Pashtun politicians have since maintained intimate relations with Afghanistan, which had “voted against Pakistan’s admission to the United Nations” due to non-recognition of the Durand Line border between the two countries. Not only does Kabul have a Pashtunistan Square next to its presidential palace, but a Pashtunistan Day is also celebrated on 31stAugust every year.
The cracks between the politicians and military establishment first appeared in 1948, when Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan arbitrarily ordered Pakistani troops to accept a ceasefire in the first ‘Kashmir War.’ Without consulting with the army commanders, who believed victory was achievable, the decision caused great resentment in the army ranks. The ‘Rawalpindi Conspiracy’ case in which Major General Akbar Khan and other officers were caught planning a coup d’état in March 1951, followed by prime minister’s assassination in October the same year, carry strong linkages. Military researcher Shuja Nawaz chronicles in his book Crossed Swords “[T]he unfinished war contributed to the political instability of Pakistan. The unhappiness with the … decision-making of the politicians led to tensions … between the military and the politicians.”
Politicians’ role in destabilizing each other’s governments in the so-called democratic era of 1990s was also blamed on the army. The military establishment, however, remained preoccupied with having adequate opposing political forces in the country to avoid disturbing the status quo that could threaten national security. The military had genuine ‘political trepidations’ behind the creation of Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI) and other accusations like ‘Mehrangate’ and ‘Operation Midnight Jackal.’
Pakistan’s two-time prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, – just like her ambitious father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – was reckless and untrustworthy due to her lust for power and courtship with foreign powers. Mr. Ikram Rabbani and distinguished journalist Zahid Hussain have recorded Ms. Bhutto’s notoriety for crossing several “red lines,” and seen as unpatriotic and a “national security risk.” Under apprehensions about her rolling-back Pakistan’s nuclear program, Ms. Bhutto was never granted a visit to the Kahuta Research Laboratories. She was also accused of allegedly handing-over a list of Sikh insurgents – who were supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as part of the Khalistan Movement – to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in their meeting in July 1989, after which the movement was brutally crushed. Interestingly, the same accusation kept echoing during the joint-session of the parliament called on 6 October 2016.
While recording the subversive activities of Ms. Bhutto’s two brothers, Shahnawaz Bhutto and Mir Murtaza, Carey Schofield in her book Inside the Pakistan Army further notes, “Over the next ten years [after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s hanging, their terrorist organization] al-Zulfiqar staged a campaign of bombings, robberies and assassinations in Pakistan – culminating most famously in 1981with the hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Peshawar to Kabul.” Meeting their ultimate fate, Shahnawaz Bhutto was mysteriously poisoned in 1985 and Murtaza Bhutto was killed in a police encounter while Ms. Bhutto was Pakistan’s prime minister in 1996.
President General Pervez Musharraf’s repeated allusion to Benazir Bhutto and her father as the “worst things happening to Pakistan” in his memoir In the Line of Fire demonstrates military’s misgivings about the Bhuttos. Highlighting leadership requirements in Pakistan, General Musharraf had further pointed out that Benazir Bhutto “was very unpopular with the military. Very unpopular … [for] you shouldn’t be seen by the entire religious lobby to be alien – a nonreligious person … [and] don’t be seen as an extension of the United States.” However, the ‘insinuated blame’ laid on General Musharraf and Pakistan’s security agencies for the mysterious assassination of Ms. Bhutto (on 27 December 2007) by Heraldo Munoz (the Chief UN Commissioner) in his book Getting Away with Murder is questionable.
Having a history of acrimonious relations with the military establishment, Bhuttos’ PPP government from 2008 to 2013 tried to undermine Pakistan army and the ISI a number of times. First, it allegedly got ‘military oversight pre-conditions’ added to the 2009’s US Kerry-Lugar Berman Act (for the grant of US$7.5 billion aid to Pakistan). Then in the aftermath of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the PPP allegedly sent a treasonous ‘memo’ to the US government asking for support against a military takeover – compromising in return Pakistan’s nuclear program and its national security. Smelling conspiracy against the state, the Supreme Court formed a judicial commission, which was foiled by PPP’s then ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani – the prime suspect who managed to abscond from the country through his leadership’s help. An agitated former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani further condemned the establishment as a ‘state within a state’ in the parliament on 23 December 2011.
Following the South Africa model, the PPP government also tried to bring major cuts to Pakistan’s nuclear program. So much so, while announcing his peace initiative to India during his media interviews in 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari reversed Pakistan’s stated policy of first use of nuclear weapon under Indian aggression. Pakistan’s former Permanent Representative to the UN, Zamir Akram, recently revealed that the PPP government had harmed Pakistan’s strategic interests by mischievously ‘not blocking’ (a non-NPT signatory) India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008. Finally, PPP not only tabled a bill in the Senate for the civilian control of ISI on 8 July 2012 but the ‘Committee of Whole Senate’ also asked for clipping ISI’s wings in January 2016.
It is difficult for Pakistan to survive as a nation-state under its unfaithful politicians. Mr. Zardari – who is PPP’s co-chairperson and ironically remained Pakistan Armed Forces’ supreme commander during his five year presidency – displayed politicians’ hubris and contempt for the military when in June 2015 he not only threatened his own army with fire and brimstone but also chided the army chief saying “You come here for just three years [tenure], while we are here to stay forever.” While Prime Minister Sharif remains reluctant to forcefully condemn India for its brutalities in Kashmir and subversion in the country, Pakistan’s Pashtun politicians keep fraternizing with an increasingly hostile Afghanistan at the cost of Pakistan’s sovereignty, integrity and national interest.
Political deceit, betrayal and treachery against Pakistan remind us the words of Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
Former US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Armitage had stated in an interview, “Twenty-five years from now…I can assure you there will be a nation called Afghanistan, with much the same borders and the same rough demographic makeup. I probably couldn’t say that about Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s civil-military dilemma has been aptly theorized by Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed in Pakistan Military in Politics: “[Since the political class had been] seriously wanting in its commitment to democracy … military takeovers were the result of the failure of the political process and a lack of clarity on ideology and societal objectives.”
The army, nonetheless, finds itself in a bind: Neither can it impose martial law (due to international pressure and a free media), nor hold its dishonest politicians accountable (due to political expediencies, weak and corrupt state institutions under sham democracy and a decayed judicial system). Its inaction against the traitorous MQM, PPP and others speaks volumes about army’s shrunken political space and limits to its political power and influence. Choosing between the constitution and the state, the military, however, will have to decide sooner rather than later like Brutus (in Julius Caesar) saying, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more.”
Hybrid Governance through a Soft Coup
The real civil-military conflict in Pakistan is not us versus them; it is us versus us.
Having alternately ruled the country for the past 69 years, Pakistan’s civil-military relations remain fissured. While the politicians try to preserve the constitution – which promotes and protects the interests of the elite class – the army remains committed in safeguarding the state from internal and external threats, even at the cost of democratic mores and civil liberties.
India’s first prime minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, had exonerated his rival military establishment by stating, “It is not the inordinate ambition or a special taste for the politics but the failure of political classes to govern effectively that the military intervention takes place in Pakistan.” 
Considering the establishment’s deep involvement in the affairs of the state, former President General Pervez Musharraf had always advocated military’s viewpoint: “If you want to keep the army out, you have to keep it in,” which can be accomplished by giving a proper constitutional role to the military.
The trial of General Musharraf, on politically motivated charges of treason and subverting the constitution had only aggravated civil-military frictions. When some key government ministers started berating General Musharraf publicly – of course with the tacit approval of the prime minister – Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif had to step in and warn the chattering political class on 6 April 2014: “Pakistan army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride.” General Sharif carefully chose the venue to home his message – General Musharraf’s Special Service Group’s (SSG) Ghazi Base at Tarbela.
Moreover, neither Pakistan’s politicians nor its military saw eye-to-eye on the issue of domestic terrorism. While terrorists continued to bleed the nation, the government took refuge behind holding (unending) unconditional talks with so-called “stakeholders.” The last straw on the camel’s back turned out to be the terrorist attack at Karachi airport on 8 June 2014, which left General Sharif with no choice but to launch ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azab’ in North Waziristan a week after on 15 June 2014 at his own behest, forcing the government to fall in line and follow his lead.
Such leadership turned General Sharif into a mover and shaker of Pakistan’s domestic as well as foreign policies, rendering the civilians irrelevant in what had been seen as ‘a soft coup.’ While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif retained the foreign minister’s portfolio to himself – ostensibly to ward-off army’s pressure – General Sharif become the de facto foreign minister, representing Islamabad in all the major capitals of the world. Undoubtedly, General Sharif’s commitment to the nation as well as his charismatic leadership eclipsed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The prime minister’s concessions to India had further antagonized the army, starting from his unilateral invitation to then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (without consulting the military establishment) after his election victory. Notably, India remains belligerent, as seen from its brutal repression in occupied Kashmir, continuous ceasefire violations at the Line of Control and Working Boundary at Jammu and Kashmir, and subversive activities inside Pakistan.
Mr. Sharif’s decision to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2014 further upset many people at home, since that decision relegated Pakistan – the world’s seventh largest military and a nuclear power – to the status of other smaller South Asian states, whose heads were also invited to a ceremony meant to assert India’s hegemony in the region. Having compromised Pakistan’s stance on the disputed region of Kashmir, Mr. Sharif’s mute response on Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) decision to strip Kashmir of its ‘special status’ forced General Sharif to come forward and underline the significance of Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein” on 30 April 2014.
The military also stalled the government’s plans to accord Most Favoured Nation status to India (disguised as ‘Non-Discriminatory Market Access’) in January 2014. An offended prime minister’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, took a swipe at the army while speaking to The Guardian on 13 February 2014, accusing it of blocking the Pakistan-India trade deal.
As if this was not enough Pakistan’s defence minister and minister for climate change publicly blamed two former director-generals of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for conspiring to topple the government during the opposition’s Dharna (sit-in) between August and December 2014. The 126 days long sit-in (protesting the rigging of 2013 elections) rocked the capital Islamabad when violence broke out and police’s brutal response killed one person while wounding over 400. Although a military intervention was widely rumoured, the army’s good sense prevailed, counselling the government to handle the protests with political sagacity and restraint.
The army school massacre in Peshawar, although, brought the sit-in to an end; it compelled the government to kick-start a National Action Plan (NAP) in December 2014 to rid the country from extremism and terrorism. However after two years it is now clear that Mr. Sharif just wanted to buy time and ward-off public and military pressure on him at that time. Later, despite General Musharraf’s treason trial getting stalled, the government remained defiant; it did not remove the defence minister or the senator who had berated the two heads of ISI for conspiring to dislodge the government.
The military, however, continues to exercise restraint. One, it has weakened itself politically, losing considerable political space to the civilians as well as to the media and civil society over the years. Secondly, despite having the ‘Egypt model,’ the international community is loath to accept another military takeover in another fragile Islamic country. Finally, the military seems to be aware that Pakistan’s plethora of problems can only be addressed politically.
Notwithstanding, military’s little ability to control white-collar crime, the nations keeps looking towards the army for civilian accountability seeing the pathetic state of a ‘politically compromised’ National Accountability Bureau and a ‘subservient’ Federal Investigation. Although, the ISI had been restraining the erring civilians in the past, the lust of power, greed and personal weaknesses of the two former army chiefs – General Musharraf and General Kayani – rendered the ISI ineffective (How General Musharraf weakened the ISI as an institution by granting unrestrained powers to military intelligence (MI) due to his family relations with the then director-general MI is subject of another discussion). Moreover, the abject state of Pakistan’s judicial system – acknowledged by its recently retired chief justice of the Supreme Court – brings all accountability efforts to naught.
The arrest of a few mid-to-senior level corrupt government officials – who acted as the politicians’ front-men – brought so much political pressure on Mr. Sharif that he buckled under his pledges of ‘Charter of Democracy, which had vowed to keep the army out of politics in May 2006. MQM’s en bloc resignations from the National and Sindh Assemblies on 12 August 2015 and PPP’s threat to ‘wage a [political] war’ against the government made the prime minister revive the disingenuous politics of “friendly opposition.”
Playing deft ‘military diplomacy,’ General Sharif, however, restored the army’s image and esteem in the public. The return of the general’s counterterrorism powers – seen as forcibly taken from the civilians – had only galvanized the whole nation behind him. After the Peshawar school attack on 16 December 2014, General Sharif huddled the wrangling politicians together, lifted government’s moratorium on hangings of convicted terrorists, and obtained approval of military-courts through a constitutional amendment. The army also introduced a novel concept of ‘Apex Committees’ with its Corps Commanders jointly overseeing the governance issues with the chief ministers of the four provinces.
The army further obtained wide-ranging powers through Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA), which allowed the arrest of civilians connected to financial corruption (linked to economic terrorism). However, PPP head Mr. Zardari warned Prime Minister Sharif that he may someday be also caught under that very law. Naturally, the politicians let the law to quietly expire and die its death. With the exit of General Sharif from the scene in November 2016, the military courts will also dissolve on 7 January 2017.
By turning the retirement – or service extension – issue of General Raheel Sharif into a major national controversy, Mr. Sharif has not only nullified the ‘Raheel doctrine’ (that governed the country for nearly three years), but also stalled the accountability drive from entering into Punjab – prime minister’s power-base. Earlier, there had been serious apprehensions that General Sharif’s rising popularity among the masses could result into his sacking by an insecure prime minister – having disastrously acted twice in the past. Dawn newspaper’s leak is most probably meant to heap all the blame of Pakistan’s ‘policy failures’ on General Sharif – ensuring his fall from grace and getting him an unceremonious exit. All the politicians now seek is a new ‘politically pliant’ army chief based on his family connections with the Sharifs.
The ‘civ-mil hybrid system of governance’ was not workable and didn’t work; politicians never allowed the military to share political power causing hindrance. Until Pakistan’s flawed political fundamentals are corrected and its old Colonial system is overhauled, civil-military distrust and acrimony will continue. While its political uncertainties remain unending, Pakistan keeps moving in circles finding no headway; another protest rally by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf is due on 30 October 2016, threatening to block the capital Islamabad.
While history keeps repeating itself, Pakistan can ill-afford a return to martial law; neither, however, can it survive under its unfaithful politicians.
Perilous State: Between Fragility and Nuclear Power
Famed entrepreneur Jean Nidetch had noted: “It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” Sadly, the people of Pakistan don’t control their fate, rather a handful of political and business elites write the destiny of this beleaguered nation of 190 million.
In his 2016 State of the Union address, President Obama warned that Pakistan would continue to face “instability and turmoil for decades.” Earlier, Central Intelligence Agency’s director, John Brennan, had also observed the country was posing “strategic and tactical challenges for policy makers.” The fact remains: Pakistan worries the world. The question is why a nuclear power, which has indigenously developed upwards of over 110 warheads, 11 state of the art delivery systems as well as cruise missiles, remains internally unstable. The answer lies in its political leadership’s rentier mindset, the continuity of dynastic politics, the perpetuity of feudalistic social structure, the lack of accountability and above all the abundant availability of foreign aid and loans – the fruits of which never reach the common man.
Eminent journalist, Fahd Husain, notably observed: “Afghanistan may have been bombed to rubble, but Pakistan has been governed into ruins. Ruler after ruler ravaged and pillaged this land, gnawing and clawing at its flesh till there was nothing left but bare bones. This is why there is now a wave of revulsion against all those who exercise authority by wearing the rotting garland of mandate.”
While Pakistan decries global bias against it, the country had been awash with international aid and assistance and economic support loans for the past several decades. Yet, standing as 14th Fragile State in the world, Pakistan’s economy remains crippled; state institutions have reached near bankruptcy; and state infrastructure is in shambles. The country’s foreign debt rising to an alarming level of US$73 billion by successive governments (August 2016 statistics) – to the extent of borrowing fresh loans to payoff interest on old debt – raises serious questions about Pakistan’s ability to perform its debt-servicing in the coming years. It seems the country remains under a notion that the international community won’t let a nuclear power collapse in any circumstance. Wishful and naïve!
In his book The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, Canadian scholar T.V. Paul finds Pakistan suffering from a historical “geostrategic curse,” that has resulted in an addiction to foreign-aid for survival. Finding Pakistani elites – including its military – against incorporating much needed reforms (to keep enjoying the privileges of status quo), Paul blames the leadership for not taking advantage of the 20th century’s economic growth opportunities.
Despite Pakistan waking up (belatedly) to the stark realities its incapacity and lack of will is writ large in its actions. Consider, for instance, its military effort to eliminate the terrorist Tehrik-e-Taliban from North Waziristan since June 2014. The army claims successes but internally displaced people (IDP) remain stranded due to political ineptitude. The army and intelligence agencies are also battling an insurgency in Balochistan province since 2004. Some successes are visible but the military is blamed for “missing persons.” While the accusation is unjustified; in insurgencies, the enemy often gets blurred, Pakistan cannot afford – or allow – a repeat of East Pakistan. The paramilitary Sindh Rangers has been carrying out a clean-up operation against terror networks and organized crime in Karachi since September 2013. However, despite achieving some success and winning public accolades, street crime remains unabated. The Sindh government further made the operation a feud, with the province standing on one side and the federal government and army on the other, after Rangers arrested one of its political heavyweights, charged with terror-funding and support. Resultantly, the operation drags on in futility.
Pakistan is also standing-still on its National Action Plan (NAP), which was devised after a barbaric terrorist attack at an army school in Peshawar in December 2014. Government’s debility had became instantly visible when it dropped three crucial elements of 20-point NAP right at the outset, including action against (212) proscribed outfits, reform of madrassas (religious seminaries) and the repatriation of Afghan refugees. It is, therefore, not difficult to imagine the dismal state of government’s response on other seventeen pledges, such as introduction of counter-narrative against extremism, action against armed militias and sectarian violence, control of hate speeches and literature, anti-cyber-terrorism, prohibition of foreign funding, revamping of criminal justice system, reforms in tribal areas, stemming religious persecution, and deployment of a dedicated counterterrorism force.
Despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seeing threats to the territorial integrity of the country, his government received a scolding from the military to gear-up its “governance” on NAP – further aggravating civil-military tensions. International Crisis Group had also noted (in July 2015), “[T]here is little evidence of progress on many NAP targets.”
Pakistan’s lack of resolve brought 625 terrorist attacks in 2015, killing 1,049 people and leaving 1,443 injured. Another terrorist attack at a university near Peshawar on 20 January 2016 hence was waiting to happen. Government’s helplessness in front of a rogue cleric of capital’s infamous Red Mosque made New York Times highlight the “unaddressed issue of ideological indoctrination,” which keeps Pakistan on the path towards extremism.
The army is further at odds with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML(N) on the issue of sectarian groups, with whom PML(N) keeps doing electoral alliances and seats adjustments during elections. Furthermore, conservative and right-wing population has remained PML(N)’s vote-bank. Therefore, despite Punjab Rangers (briefly) launching a covert operation and eliminating the entire top leadership of (anti-Shia) Lashkar-e-Jhangavi in a (questionable) police encounter, no further action has taken place against other banned militant outfits.
The military also faces a dilemma about the future of jihadists and how to rein-in the Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri mujahedeen, seen as legitimate freedom-fighters.
While India keeps demanding to take action against alleged Mumbai attacks perpetrators (belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba) as well as Jaish-e-Muhammad – for allegedly carrying-out terror-attacks at Pathankot airbase (2 January 2016) and at Uri brigade headquarters (18 September 2016), Pakistan’s foot-dragging comes from three considerations: One, there is lack of concrete evidence against these groups; Two, taking action at these militant groups amounts to turning them against yourself, and; Three, the ‘utility’ of these forces in the larger framework of geopolitics in the region and for the promotion of Pakistan’s vital national interests.
Despite demonstrating its focus and determination through Operation Zarb-e-Azab, the army finds it enervated and contained in the political decision-making. Even though army chief, General Raheel Sharif vowed not to allow “even a shadow” of Islamic State (Daesh) on Pakistani soil, society’s fast-paced radicalization provides fertile ground for Daesh’s recruitment. Educated youth involved in terrorism have joined Daesh and well-to-do families are moving to Syria to fight alongside the terrorist organization.
Pakistan’s internal turmoil is linked to its societal chasm and stark economic disparities. With the political elites and the entitled class apathetic towards the wellbeing of an ordinary Pakistani, frustration and anger keep piling-up among people facing daily hardships. One has always maintained that Pakistan’s feudal and Sardari system (due to lack of proper land reforms in the country, like those which were instituted in India immediately after the partition); social injustice; income disparity; Thana culture (police brutality); non-availability of quick justice; lack of education and health facilities; and unemployment have remained the primary drivers of internal terrorism and crime by marginalized youth.
Pakistan’s seasoned diplomat, Iftikhar Murshed had strikingly noted: “What the leaders of Pakistan have never understood is that man lives for bread alone when there is no bread. This was the conclusion that Maslow reached when he enunciated his concept of the hierarchy of needs. It is the economic impulse that has been the game-changer in the major revolutions and upheavals of the previous century. There is a lesson in all this, which those at the helm in Pakistan have never learnt.”
Some statistics are instructive. A nuclear Pakistan ranks 147th out of 188 countries in the UN Human Development Index and 130th out of 142 in the Global Prosperity Index. Transparency International rates it 127th most corrupt country out of 175 and Global Competitiveness Index ranked it 126th – 14th from the bottom. Save the Children reports Pakistan having world’s highest first day deaths and stillbirths – 40.7 per 1,000 births.
In September 2015, the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice was told that human rights violations are on the rise in the country, with 20,665 such cases reported in 2014/15. The 2014 report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was earth-shattering. Among its most frightening statistics: 1,723 people were killed and 3,143 injured in well over a thousand terrorist attacks; 1,261 cases of kidnapping of women for forced marriages; 114 cases of acid attacks; 210 people were killed in sectarian violence; 45 polio vaccinators were also killed; 597 women and girls were gang-raped; 828 were raped; 36 stripped in public; and 923 women fell victim to honour killings. With 25 million children out of school, a total of 3,508 children aged 11–15 were also sexually abused. Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court admitted that the state had failed in providing speedy and inexpensive justice to the masses.
In this backdrop, international concerns are valid. While the army is viewed as an ultimate saviour, its image continues to receive media-bashing due to the personal weaknesses and lust of power of its last two army chiefs. Had this been the state of affairs in the past, a martial law would have already been in place. Since the country cannot be brought-down to build anew, it must reform itself employing collective wisdom, state-benevolence and international support.
However, as one journalist aptly put, “Pakistan is broken, but it isn’t broken enough to incentivise anyone in power to really fix anything. Or to put it another way: the state won’t reform, but it does respond — and as long as it can respond, it doesn’t need to reform.”
Adnan Qaiser began his professional career as a commissioned officer in the Pakistan army and took early release as a Major. While working at various command and staff positions, he developed a thorough understanding of national politics, civil and military leadership, intelligence establishment, regional geopolitical players and the security and policy issues that preoccupied them. Moving on to international diplomacy, he fostered political, economic and cultural relations for the next 12½ years at bilateral and multilateral platforms, watching closely some of the most turbulent times in the South Asian and Middle Eastern politics from a G7 perspective. Emigrating to Canada in 2001 he upgraded his education and worked at various senior positions in diplomatic missions, NGOs and private-sector enterprises. Speaking many of the languages and having deep insight into the region he has written and published papers on Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Middle East and Canada’s military engagement in Afghanistan and has been a regular participant at Canadian television talk-shows as well as a speaker at various Canadian think tanks. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Note: This is an updated paper; the Conference of Defence Associations Institute has earlier published its abridged versions.
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