Sunday 2 September 2007

Pakistan Army Versus the State (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — In 1971, following the Indian army's defeat of Pakistan in Bangladesh and the capture of 93,000 prisoners of war, an opportunity was given to the Pakistani politicians to roll back the army's control over civilian life by curbing its powers and making it a professional force. President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto squandered that chance by his cupidity and hunger for absolute power.

Bhutto, who like Pakistan's founder M.A. Jinnah was an alcohol-loving, pork-eating ersatz Muslim, pandered to the religious extremists by imposing the will of the "ulema," or religious establishment, over not only the rest of the "ummah," or Muslims, but of all Pakistani society. During his six years in power, Bhutto crushed modern private industry through extensive nationalization and converted the Pakistan Peoples' Party into a family enterprise, a character the PPP retains to this day.

After Bhutto's hand-picked army chief, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, took over power and hanged Bhutto in 1977 for one of the numerous murders of his enemies during the previous six years, he completed the jihadisation of the Pakistan army that had begun in 1948 with the extensive intermingling of troops and religious fanatics during the 1947-1949 Kashmir war.

Zia sensibly secured the patronage of the al-Sauds by training the Saudi Arabian army and providing Pakistani guards to secure the safety of the Saudi ruling house during the tumultuous days in 1979 when Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over power in Iran. The al-Sauds have ever since been faithful to the ancient Bedouin custom of gratitude to those that help in times of adversity, giving the Pakistan army massive financial and other backing.

Unfortunately such support, together with the beginning of the Afghan jihad in 1980, set the jihadisation of the Pakistan military in concrete, with that "professional" military even adopting "jihad" as its official motto. Despite the numerous manifestations that show the military in Pakistan to be on the other side in the War on Terror, successive U.S. governments -- motivated by their own militaries as well as by the reliance of the Central Intelligence Agency on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in South Asia -- have significantly degraded the chances for success by mistaking the problem for the solution.

After 9/11, even the Bush administration -- then including such admirers of the Pakistan army as Colin Powell -- could see that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was a threat to international security. This Wahabbi state had been created during the Clinton administration as a perceived means of securing supplies of Central Asian oil and gas via Afghanistan, with current Bush favorites such as Zalmay Khalilzad and Robin Raphel playing a prominent part in the nurturing of the militia during 1994-96.

Since it was brought to power in 1996, the Taliban regime had been kept alive by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey, in that order, until Mullah Omar began believing in his own rhetoric of jihadi invincibility and foolishly permitted Sheikh Osama bin Laden to launch the attacks in New York and Washington D.C. Had the Bush administration used this outrage to defang the military in Pakistan and help roll up the Wahabbi infrastructure in that country, Britain would not today be experiencing the jihadi threat.

U.S. policymakers have acted as though the Pakistan army were identical to the Pakistan state, when in fact the fanatic-suffused military in that country has been an enemy of both the state and the people of Pakistan since the giddy days of the 1950s, when the mantra of anticommunism was discovered as the perfect means to con resources out of a credulous Washington establishment that then -- and now -- has very little comprehension of the inner dynamics and chemistry of Pakistan.

In the first weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration, guided by George Tenet and Colin Powell, made the fatal tactical blunder of once again relying on the Pakistan army to clean up the very jihadi forces that were its ideological basis for existence. Since then, this "relying on the Nazis to defeat Hitler" has resulted in the revival of the Taliban and the creation within the Northwest Frontier Province, Baluchistan and in parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir of training camps for Wahabbi terrorists eager for fresh attacks on Western targets. It is not a coincidence that the United States is unpopular with the people of Pakistan, who are aware that the military which oppresses them has total diplomatic and financial backing from the "democracy-loving" members of NATO. It would be hard to find a more egregious example of the contrast between words and deeds than the protestations in favor of democracy by the United States and the European Union and their actual policy toward Pakistan.

Like the people of the United States and Europe, Pakistanis would prefer to be governed by elected representatives rather than by jihadis masquerading as professional soldiers. Policy planners in Washington are still focusing on presumed supermen such as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, when they need to accept that only a return to full democracy, combined with a federalism that mandates the introduction of region-based quotas in the military, can roll back the jihadi tide in Pakistan that is most visibly threatening security in Britain, but will soon cover the rest of Europe as well as the United States in its destructive sweep.

-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University.)

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