By Harry Pasha:
With pressure mounting on the PPP government and President Zardari at the center of every new crisis, it appears that the house he built by patching together some deals is crumbling faster than a thatched cabin pulverized by a fierce typhoon. The formidable alliance he cobbled together with major political parties is shaken up by the establishment assault and appears to be near collapse.
Pakistan’s history is replete with similar stories. Contrary to the common belief, the Army started interfering in country’s politics when it first helped Gov. Ghulam Mohammed remove the second PM Nazimuddin from power in 1953. US ambassador in his confidential Memo to the State Dept stated: “<b>Nazimuddin dismissal was planned and accomplished through combined efforts of Army leadership (specifically Def Secy Iskander Mirza and C-in-C Gen Ayub) and Gov Gen himself</b>”. “the Governor-General, Mr. Ghulam Mohammed could never have dared to dismiss a Ministry which had appointed him, had he not have had the support of the Army. The Army would take its cue from the Defense Secretariat. Therefore this is in fact a coup d’etat by Mr. Iskander Mirza and the Army, which has nominated Mr. Mohammed Ali as its agent.” In 1952 Gen. Ayub Khan told the US Consul General in Lahore, “<b>that the Pakistan Army will not allow the political leaders to get out of hand and the same is true regarding the people of Pakistan. He stated that he realized that the Army was taking on a large responsibility, but that the Army’s duty was to protect the country.</b>”
Gen. Ayub was planning to take over the government since 1953 and had informed the US embassy in no uncertain terms that the Pakistan Army would immediately declare martial law and take charge of the situation… and “<b>the Pakistan Army would not allow either politicians or the public to ruin the country</b>”. Ayub had arbitrarily decided that he would not allow even the people of Pakistan to decide the fate of country and he or the Army would make that decision. Pakistan had and still is paying a huge price for the haughty worldview of the Army Generals. References Below.
The Army cultivated US from the early 1950s to become its important ally in the region. The various defense agreements that Pakistan signed with the US enhanced the image of the Army in the general public and allowed the Army to become the most powerful political faction in Pakistan. Initially, the US would go along with the Pakistan Army’s coup but after the Soviet Union withdrawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the US developed a policy in the area that called for some form of partnership between the Army and the civilians and the first Benazir government in 1989 was the first beneficiary of the change in US policy after Gen. Zia died in mysterious circumstances.
<b>Jon Alterman, a very typical member of the National Security priesthood in the US recently re-emphasis the policy in Egypt’s context and he wrote, “American interests,however, call for a different outcome, one that finds a balance — however uneasy — between the military authorities and … politicians.” </B> NYT see below.
The policy was again implemented in Pakistan when an uneasy alliance between the Musharraf government and the PPP was presented to the people of Pakistan in 2007-08; the partnership with the PPP was agreed upon and mediated by Condoleezza Rice, former US Sec of State.
The Kerry Lugar Bill in 2009, in the Army’s view, broke the agreement the Army had with the US and the Zardari government as the K-L Bill called for stopping all US Aid to Pakistan in case of the Army interference. The Army believed that the Army agreed to a partnership with the civilians but the K-L bill clearly put the Civilian government on top and that was not acceptable to the Army.
The narrative of often uneasy relationship is not confined to Pakistan only and many countries including the US share many forms of often contentions and sometime mutually acceptable partnership between the Military and the civilian governments.
The government in the US itself has developed in to a partnership between the civilians and the Pentagon. With strong democratic currents and tradition of regular elections, the civilian organs such as the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House wield more power in the internal affairs but the Pentagon input is vital in running the foreign and defense policy of the US. One sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote extensively on the military-civilian Partnership in the US in the mid fifties and presented the idea of the Power Elite. Later it was publicly acknowledged by President Eisenhower when he talked about the rising Military-Industrial complex in the US in 1961. There were many conflicts between the White House and the Pentagon within the Kennedy Administration over Cuba. Preside Johnson was pressured in to sending more troops to Vietnam by the Pentagon. He ended up ceding the control of the Vietnam War and his foreign policy to the Pentagon. During the Clinton Admin, the Pentagon refused to send ground forces to Serbia and Kosovo in 1998 and the whole operation was conducted from the Air. Recently, President George W. Bush and his political cronies also known as the Neo-cons took the lead in starting the Iraq war but soon after the start, the Bush admin lost control of its defense and foreign policy and was merely a spectator when decisions were made in Pentagon for the war on terror or the Iraq and Afghan war issues. He was so much under the Pentagon thumb that he frequently sent the Army Generals to the Congress to defend the Iraq war. The US Army Generals were repeatedly found to be parading the Congress and promoting their war policies. The famous Surge in Iraq was publicly advocated by the US Army. The Bush admin and its civilian spokesperson always deferred to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the architect of the Surge, on policy matters. There was a battle in DC between the Pentagon and the Obama White House over more troops in Afghanistan in 2009 and both parties had been talking to each in public by way of multiple leaks.
Then we have Israel where the Israeli Defense Forces popularly known as the IDF shares power with the civilians and the elected Prime Minister. In Israel usually the Defense Minister is either a former General or a representative of the IDF. The IDF enjoys a veto power over Israel’s foreign policy. Recently both the present and the former Mossad chiefs publicly disagreed with the civilian Government of PM Netanyahu over Iran’s nukes.
Turkey’s history after the First World War is also replete with battles between the civilians and the Army Generals. One Turkish Prime Minister lost his life, like ZAB did in Pakistan, over the control of the country. However, over the years and after a long struggle, the civilians appear to have an upper hand but to say that they are completely independent would not be accurate. The Turkish Army still has tremendous clout over the state affairs.
Historically, the Pakistani politicians enter the government knowing full well that they have to share powers with the Army but slowly the Army interference in even the minor issues of governance frustrates the civilian leaders. Former PM Nawaz Sharif twice ousted the COAS after he was frustrated with the undue Army interference and now Zardari government finds itself in an irretrievable situation.
NOTE: The article is based on research and the references are provided at the end. I would appreciate it if the editors please not change the subject substantially as all parts ofthe article are linked with the issues involved.I have placed bold tags on some sections. Thanks.
Harry Pasha is management consultant based in the USA. He has a keen interest in Pakistani politics and US –Pakistan relations. He occasionally writes for the Sindhi daily, Kawish.