Army and country

It’s time we stopped fearing the army and, instead, hold it to account.


George Fulton December 07, 2010

At first glance, the WikiLeaks revelations about the Pakistani army aren’t exactly, er, revelatory. So General Kayani and the intelligence agencies call the shots in Pakistan. Nothing new there, you may be thinking. Everyone knows that. Any foreigner arriving in Pakistan is soon pulled aside and told a couple of pithy lines about the army. One being that the three As run Pakistan — Allah, America and the Army. The other is that whilst most countries have an army, the Pakistani army has a country.

But reading the cables starkly in black and white, one is reminded how truly prevailing the army is to Pakistan’s society and long-term survival. The very institution that is supposedly designed to protect us is bringing Pakistan to its knees.

Let’s take parliamentary democracy. In theory we have one of those, with elected leaders to do our bidding, but WikiLeaks reminds us otherwise. Zardari wants to implement stiff sanctions on terrorist financing and close down terrorist training camps, but he can’t. Why? The unelected and unaccountable military and intelligence agencies won’t allow it. We are also told that Kayani planned to pressure President Zardari to resign and replace him with Asfandyar Wali Khan. Er, on whose authority? Sorry, old chum, but I thought that decision fell to the Pakistani people at the ballot box, not a man who wears spaghetti on his shoulders.

The cables also reveal the army’s support of the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the faujis’ raison d’etre, it’s primary reason to exist, the first line in their handbook if you will, to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic? Or perhaps it’s to make cornflakes that taste of cardboard?

But the reason for the army’s support for the militants is of course our hatred of India. Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban, despite their continuous killing of our own citizens, are apparently a vital part of our national security. Read that sentence again and it sounds like something from “Monty Python”. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Yes let’s threaten India by funding and supporting people who attack India and, er, ourselves. Good job.

In addition, the army’s paranoia and cold war thinking has stopped successive civilian governments from making any constructive attempts at long-term peace with India. An economic powerhouse that could bring thousands of jobs to Pakistan remains a foe, thanks to the faujis.

For too long the military/intelligence nexus has been immune to any sort of accountability or criticism. We can judge the judiciary, pillory the politicians and mock the media. But the army receives a free reign. The generals/admirals/air marshals — who can be as corrupt and venal as the political class — rarely receive similar press coverage, despite the fact that the army is the biggest private landowner in Pakistan. They run businesses, residential areas, schools and hospitals but somehow they largely avoid scrutiny. Funny that.

It was fascinating how the Pakistani press covered the WikiLeaks scandal. Much was made of how America still has huge influence in the running of Pakistan’s affairs. But the media ignored the larger uncomfortable truth. The reason we are a client state to the US is because the army is the largest mercenary force in the world. According to WikiLeaks, Kayani wanted to avoid the impression that the military is for ‘hire’. However, when only 40 per cent of military aid is accounted for and returned to military coffers and you request $26 million for barbed wire and a further $70 million for radars despite the fact that the militants have no airpower, it’s hard not to come to that conclusion.

It’s time we stopped fearing this institution and, instead, hold it to account. Only then can we go some way to reclaiming our country. Who knows, maybe one day Pakistan may have an army that serves the country, and not the other way round.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2010.

COMMENTS (121)

R S JOHAR | 10 years ago | Reply @Sqn Ldr S Ausaf & J Oberoi Oberoi, I would like to correct you since Ausaf categorically states that Army rescued Pakistan by taking over the reigns of the country and obviously these so called rescue acts had nothing to do with wars with India. Its another matter that Pak Army had always been the originator of all wars with India, whether it was genocide in Bangla Desh subsequenly leading to war, mis-adventures in 1965, Kargil and on going proxy war in Kashmir. Sqn Ldr Ausaf, your statement that Pak Army had rescued the country is far fetched as majority of Pakistanis state openly that the country is on the brink today due to thirty years of misrule by Army dictators. Gen Niazi's genocide in BD divided the country into two parts, late Gen Zia created the era of exporting terrorism using it as a tool for settling political and military disputes with India and in Afghanistan giving rise to terrorism in Pakistan, making discriminatory laws against minorities resuting in hatred and killing, to extend his rule, made extensive use of religion and mullas which encouraged sectarian violence, Gen Musharraf choked judiciary and killed democracy etc etc. The ongoing proxy war can lead to yet another war. Pl do think it over whether the above actions during Army rule were disastrous or rescue acts for Pakistanis.
J.Oberoi | 10 years ago | Reply @Sqn Ldr S.Ausaf Husain ( Retd), do you care to qualify your statements with some facts? How did the army "rescue" Pakistan time and again? Are you referring to the three wars that Pakistan "won"? Is that what you have been led to believe? Funny how a nation can "win" a war and yet 94,000 soldiers along with officers and generals signed a document of surrender.
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