Friday, April 26, 2013

The garrison state in Pakistan
By Ehsan Ahrari

The high visibility of Pakistan in regional and global affairs is one of the reasons behind the publication of a number of excellent studies explaining the country's internal affairs as well its regional and global strategic maneuvers. 

Ishtiaq Ahmed's book, Pakistan the Garrison State , is certainly one such book. Borrowing the concept, "garrison state," from noted American political scientist Harold Lasswell, Ahmed develops an engaging but complex narrative of Pakistan. 

His account starts from the birth of that nation in a highly volatile environment, and brings it forward to 2011. Since the Indian top leadership never accepted Mohammad Ali Jinnah's (founder of Pakistan) "two nation theory" as the basis of partition of British India, the chances of any cooperation between the two resulting states after their birth were minimal, to start with.The outburst of the Kashmir conflict in 1947, almost immediately after their inception as separate nations, dealt a severe blow to the prospects of cooperation between the two countries for several decades. 

The notion of a garrison state suits Pakistan to a tee, in the sense that, in such a state, the military not only remains as the most powerful actor, but also frequently becomes the governing entity. It also subsumes the concept of "national security state", where the power elites of the country under discussion are incessantly preoccupied with both external and internal enemies. 

In a garrison state, because of the military's (to be precise, the army, since it is the most dominant service in that country) fetish for devouring a substantial portion of the nation's meager but extremely precious capital in order to modernize itself, other vital societal issues - such as investments in developing modern educational institutions, a multifaceted industrial base, and state-of-the-art health care facilities and institutions, etc -are grossly underfunded. 

The garrison state also describes a state where internal ideological, sectarian, and ethnic conflicts continue to tear the country apart. Sadly, Pakistan not only contains all of these features, but it incessantly suffers from the acutely deleterious effects stemming from them. 

Domestically, Pakistan was never able to develop into a stable democracy. Consequently, its civilian authorities originally (ie, early 1950s) invited the army to intervene when they could not contain domestic violence and disorder. Later on, the army invited itself to become the ruling power of the state, starting with the coup d'etat of General Mohammed Ayub Khan in 1958. 

The gross incompetence of Pakistan's army as a governing entity became abundantly clear in the loss of East Pakistan under the military rule of Ayub Khan's successor, General Mohammad Yahya Khan. 

That tragedy was followed only a few years later by another coup, when the Islamist General Zia ul-Haq, not only overthrew the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1976, but also hanged him. 
Breaking from the unhappy events that occurred during the Zia regime, the fourth dictator of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf (who captured the reign of government by ousting the elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharief in 1999), did not hang any civilian leaders. However, Benazir Bhutto, the prospective prime minister in the then impending elections, was assassinated by Islamist terrorists. 

Thus, Pakistan became a country where democratic governance appeared only sporadically and was frequently interrupted by military dictators. 

Those autocrats will be remembered for their utmost incompetence, except for Zia, who will be remembered for transforming Pakistan - ostensibly irrevocably - into a highly explosive Islamist polity. 
Ishtiaq Ahmed's use of garrison state also underscores the notion of "fortress Islam", the rhetoric that the Pakistani military leaders used unsuccessfully to underscore their resolve to snatch the Indian-administered Kashmir from the grip of India's powerful military. 

The most disconcerting aspect of that rhetoric is that the Kashmir conflict has been permanently couched as a religious issue dividing the two countries. I say "permanently" because, as far as India is concerned, that conflict was resolved in 1948, and the Line of Control (LOC) separating the armies of those two countries represents the international border between the two countries. 

Pakistan's emergence, along with India, as a country possessing nuclear weapons since 1998, is an ominous development for two reasons. First, because the conflict between its indigenous Islamists and the army has only intensified since General Musharraf's myopic decision to use brutal force to end the Islamist occupation of the Lal Masjid (red mosque) in 2007. 

The fact that, under Musharraf, that country had become the frontline state fighting America's "global war on terror" was another principal reason underlying the conflict between the Islamists of that country and Pakistan's military. Since 2007, one can easily chart the worsening of that conflict in the form of several military campaigns in the North-West Frontier Province (now named Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Waziristan. 

Second, with the growing attacks of the Islamists on the military bases and other facilities of Pakistan-including the General Headquarters of the army and the headquarters of Pakistan's notoriously brutal Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has created worldwide anxieties regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. 

One regularly hears President Barack Obama and other US officials making public statements assuring the world that the Pakistani weapons are safe, while the Pakistani army remains worried about rumors of US-India, Indo-Israeli plans to either attack that country's nuclear plants or snatch its nuclear weapons. 

US-Pakistan and Indo-Pakistan ties have been highly dynamic and equally noteworthy features of that country's role as garrison state. Pakistan, along with Saudi Arabia, played a crucial role in enabling the United States to defeat and oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989. 

Pakistan's growing Islamization in the late 1970s and 1980s, along with the Saudi finances and the China's economic and military support, came in handy for the strategic purposes of the United States-sponsored jihad to win, as it turned out, the Cold War. The Soviet Union imploded only a few years after its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

However, once the communist superpower was ousted from Afghanistan, the United States folded its tent and left the area, leaving Pakistan to use the Islamist tool of its foreign policy to establish an acutely Islamist regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ironically, it was also Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban that became the place from where Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. 

Soon after leaving Afghanistan toward the end of the 1980s, the United States also intensified its economic and military sanctions because of Pakistan's not-so-secret program to develop nuclear weapons. 

The garrison state, though it was devastated by this decision, continued not only to survive, but went ahead with a firm resolve to develop its nuclear weapon. That determination was also mixed with a sense of urgency to develop its own existential nuclear deterrence against India. 

The highly turbulent nature of the Indo-Pakistan ties is the fuel that has been driving the Pakistan army's India-centric nuclearization objectives, as well as the modalities of its force deployments. Pakistan has always had deep anxieties that India was not happy about the partition and would go to any extreme to unravel Pakistan. The Indo-Pak war of 1971 over East Pakistan left no doubt in the minds of Pakistani generals about India's "evil" designs toward Pakistan. 

Consequently, Pakistan has not only acquired nuclear weapons of its own, but also has consistently refused to extend the "no first use doctrine" toward India. India, on the contrary, has offered that doctrine to Pakistan. More to the point, the focus of India's nuclear doctrine is primarily aimed at the PRC. However, from time to time, India has amassed troops along the Line of Control in response to terrorist attacks from Pakistan-based Islamist groups.

As an added response to such terrorist attacks, India has also publicized such warfighting doctrines as "the doctrine of limited war" and the "Cold Start doctrine", thereby further convincing the Pakistan army that India remains the foremost security threat to their country. 

US-Pakistan ties suffered another jolt when the lone superpower decided to establish a strategic partnership with its archenemy, India. The process started during the so-called "strategic dialogue" that the United States began with both India and Pakistan. However, the US-India rounds of those negotiations proceeded quite fruitfully, from the strategic perspectives of India. 

Pakistan felt neglected and marginalized, and its attempts to negotiate a similar arrangement with the lone superpower got nowhere. When President Barack Obama entered the White House in 2008, the US-Pakistan differences stemming Obama's Afghan war and his Af-Pak strategy became a constant source of escalating differences and irritation between Washington and Islamabad. 

The notion of a garrison state is quite useful in underscoring the struggle between the civilian and military ruling elites to gain the reins of the government and to keep the other side from taking it away. However, the resignation of General Pervez Musharraf in 2008, and the subsequent return of civilian rule in Pakistan could indeed be viewed as a distant promise of the weakening of the garrison state. 

Such a promise faced a setback, in the wake of a highly inept performance of the Pakistan Peoples Party-dominated civilian government. Even if the civilian government of Pakistan were to establish a reasonably decent record of good governance, the Pakistani army still would have remained as a chief threat to the long-term prevalence of civilian control of the government. 

For the first time since the unhappy history of Pakistan, the civilian government was allowed to complete its term of office. With the next general election that is scheduled for May 2013, there is a strong hope that civilian rule will prevail there for the foreseeable future. 

Still, one must continue to think about the ways to dismantle the garrison state in that country.
  •  The continuation of civilian rule in Pakistan will be an auspicious development toward that end. 
  • The second one will be the success of civilian leaders to negotiate with their Indian counterparts a political solution to the Kashmir conflict, which, in reality, means acceptance of the Indian stand that the Line of Control is, indeed, the de facto international border between the two warring nations. 
  • What that means is that Pakistan should swallow the bitter pill and accept that reality, and look toward negotiating some sort of autonomy for Kashmir along the same line, as was done by General Musharraf with the Indian government in 2006. 
The control of nuclear weapons is another important symbol of power in Pakistan. However, that authority is not likely to be given up by the army anytime soon. Still, one cannot rule out the likelihood that the future leaders of that entity might be forced to consider that possibility, if or when the civilian authorities propose an institutional arrangement that either complements the present system of national security council, or radically transforms it in favor of civilian leadership. 

All of these developments are likely to happen only if the next election in Pakistan results in the election of a competent corps of civilian politicians.

 Pakistan's army has enough trouble trying to de-Islamitize its own ranks and to fight the militant Islamists groups inside its borders 

while ensuring that Pakistan's quest for sustaining its own version of strategic parity with India is not seriously jeopardized by "rising" India's most visible resolve to become a great power with its own powerful military to boot. 

Under a democratic and stable Pakistan, it is likely to be persuaded to transform its role from a praetorian guard to a truly professional entity. That will only happen if the garrison state of that country is at least palpably dismantled. 

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, an Independent Defense Consultant, is a specialist in great power relations and transnational security who resides in Alexandria, VA, USA. He has 20 years of experience teaching in various senior military educational institutions, including the US Air War College, Joint Forces Staff College of the National Defense University, and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. He has consulted with and briefed top officials of USCENTCOM and USPACOM. His latest book on great power relations entitled, The Great Powers and the Hegemon, was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in November 2011
(Copyright 2013 Ehsan Ahrari)

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