Extension for General Kayani

Letter July 24, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Your editorial ‘Democracy and the generals’ (July 24) on General Kayani’s extension is lucid and well-argued but the arguments avoid the main issues that have rendered democracy in Pakistan fraudulent throughout its history.

The editorial rightly points out that the continued dominance of politics by the military has made what passes for democracy here something of a pretence. But one reason why the army, with all its faults, has so often had to act politically is that civilian governments have never in any meaningful sense represented the interests of the Pakistani majority, nor even of the country’s enlightened minority: they have represented only the outrageously corrupt interests of those who have successfully grabbed temporary power. Naturally, the army has also shown itself to be abusive of its powers so military intervention has only ever brought temporary relief from cleptocracy. Pakistanis have yet to devise a means of ensuring the answerability of its rulers to the electorate. And I suspect that before they invent such a means the country will have disintegrated.

This may be so because all Pakistani power groups have been more answerable to American military and corporate interests than to the interests of the Pakistani people. Were the Pakistanis ever to elect a party led by, say Imran Khan we can be sure the Americans would soon subvert their choice. Americans hate independent political figures.

It simply cannot be true that the interests of the Pakistani people and those of the American power establishment coincide. The interests of these two groups are necessarily irreconcilable. And in that conflict the Americans and their proxy rulers will always win, because they hold real power. At least that has been the essential history of Pakistan so far. Until Pakistan is free from American and other external interferences — in addition to the malicious influences of its backward, ignorant, mullahs — there will be no hope for its people.

This is the sad truth that your excellent editorial fails to mention. Army bashing is attractive because it suggests the possibility of hope for Pakistan: just keep the army in its barracks and all will be well.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2010.


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