U.S. Loves Military Government

The U.S. compulsion to rely on the military only, for the near future, does not bode well for the interests of the Pakistani civil society.

by Dr. Manzur Ejaz – Weekly Independent

January 10, 2002

The other day, Robert Oakley, known to be the U.S. viceroy rather than a simple ambassador during 1980s, declared Pakistan's 'President' Pervez Musharraf as the sole source of salvation for Pakistan in a TV interview. In his view, 'Pakistan's political elite' – he specifically mentioned Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif – 'is corrupt to the core and cannot be trusted for putting the country back on track.' It appears that the U.S. backing for military rule in Pakistan has been given a new lease: Washington may not go beyond paying lip service to restoration of democracy in Pakistan in coming months and years. The U.S. may raise the issue of restoration of democracy in Pakistan from time to time to put pressure on the military for achieving its goals in South Asia.

Ambassador Oakley is considered the elder wise man and is heard in Washington diplomatic circles. Most of the South Asian U.S. experts and think-tanks, largely comprising retired diplomats or officials of intelligence agencies, have worked closely with the Pakistan Army and bureaucracy during the Cold War. U.S. 'war against terrorism' has brought them back. They feel more comfortable dealing with the army and bureaucracy rather than with political leadership. As a result, same old Pakistani bureaucrats, technocrats and retired military officials are being inducted into newly resurrected research groups and task forces in Washington.

Probably, it is easier for the U.S. to deal with the army because of its centralized leadership in comparison with noisy, self-destructive and anarchic political elite. Further, the military leaders can deliver promptly: they, unlike the political leadership, are not accountable to public and need not balance various constituencies. Furthermore, in many key strategic areas, military's acquiesce is essential even when the civilians are at the helm of affairs: military can easily thwart the agreements negotiated by the political governments.

In the present circumstances, the contentious issues facing the Pak-U.S. relationship cannot be resolved without the military's active engagement. Jehadi forces and other private militias cannot be wrapped up in Pakistan unless the military and its agencies agree to take concrete steps. Similarly, none else than the Pakistan military can address Kashmir issue. Therefore, the U.S. will be looking up to General Musharraf or his successor for achieving its objectives in the region.

Naturally, the U.S. will rely on the military at the expense of neglecting civil society and its institutions. Consequently, movement for the restoration of democracy and building up of other institution will suffer and, in the end, anti-U.S. sentiments will rise even among that section of the public that is pro-U.S. Political leaders, including Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, looking towards the U.S. for their rehabilitation will give up and adopt anti-U.S. rhetoric. Probably, they have already undertaken such an approach by staying away from the meeting called by Musharraf to exchange views on imminent threat of war between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan may have made significant gains in the post-September world in economic and geopolitical sense but lost on some other accounts. Substantial amount of financial aid can alleviate Pakistan's economic hardships and cleansing of Pakistani society of destabilizing forces can bring much-needed internal peace and harmony. However, it has been observed that, in the ultimate analysis, the societies falter due to lack of appropriate political and societal institutions. Pakistan may have fallen back in this regard in this new world order.

Pakistan's civil society was getting weaker even before September 11 events. Military's penetration into the civil institutions was progressing at an unprecedented rate. Never before such a large number of military men were inducted into civilian jobs in any government: it seems that serving and retired military officials are present everywhere in the government set up. It will distort the evolution of civil institutions and the military will have more reasons to keep control over the society to protect the interests of its constituency - the military men serving in civilian institutions.

Pakistan's disastrous foreign policy was also a result of overwhelming control of the intelligence agencies. It was non-transparent and could not be bought in the arena of public debate. As a result, it was skewed in the wrong direction and Pakistan became one of the most isolated countries in the world. Exclusion of political elite in redirecting the foreign policy can take it in the wrong direction again.

The results are disastrous whenever and wherever policy decisions become non-transparent. Even in the U.S. history, it has been observed that secretive policies have always led to debacles. A part of the U.S. intelligentsia is worried about the secretive nature of the Afghan war: they fear that such a policy is bound to harm the country. So, it is the very nature of non-transparent policies (even formulated by politicians) and not the military that brings harm. Chances of open policy making are getting bleaker now.

The U.S. compulsion to rely on the military only, for the near future, does not bode well with the interests of the Pakistani civil society in the end. Ultimately, the establishment of a democratic government in Pakistan is the responsibility of its citizens. However, the help expected from the U.S. in this regard wouldn't be coming soon: the sooner the politicians realize the better it is.

[Copyright 2002 Weekly Independent]

Originally posted in the Weekly Independent


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