Pakistan’s army has literally occupied the country for more than half of its 60-year history and dominated _ or ended _ the fragile rule of the few civilian governments to take office.
The army’s position as a mercenary force –” rented by US for $100 million a month – on the front line of the neocons’ war of terror and the army’s ever increasing involvement in the economy suggest the generals are well-equipped to defend their privileges and are be reluctant to share them in the name of democracy.
Officers and their families have their own upscale schools, hospitals and housing compounds. The military is deeply involved in businesses from banking to transportation and, under President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, scores of retired officers have been appointed to run civilian institutions, from universities to the municipality of Islamabad.
"You now have the army completely embedded like marble inside most of the civil institutions," said Shaun Gregory, a Pakistan expert at the University of Bradford in Britain.
Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, declared Pakistan’s current state of emergency in his capacity as army chief, underscoring the importance of the military in the nation’s turbulent politics. He is refusing to say when constitutional rule will be restored.
He promises to step down from the military once his Oct. 6 presidential election victory had been endorsed by a hand picked Supreme Court after unconstitutionally and illegally removing judges of the Supreme Court as they were about to declare that he is not eligible to run the country. After relieving the Supreme Court of the most independent justices, Musharraf tempered his pledge again on Sunday with an affirmation that the nation’s soldiers will back him in any dispute. As if the army is sold to him, he declared: "Even if I’m not in uniform, this army will be with me," Musharraf said.
Pakistan was not founded with an oversized security apparatus. However, it was strong enough to take over. To establish its hegemony within, the army fought three wars with its eastern neighbor India, the first within months of independence in 1947 and lost all of them. Pakistan also has had border disputes with Afghanistan that have fueled enduring tension on its western frontier.
"Unfortunately, Pakistan did not inherit a strong political system. In the first nine years we couldn’t even find a constitution," said Mirza Aslam Beg, a former army chief. "It was in this time that the military physically took over."
Pakistan army has always exploited the fear of India and make the nation feel that without a black budget for defence and without un-accountable military rleadership, Pakistan will be over run by India. Some historians see that legacy in the harsh attitude of Pakistan’s military-dominated elite toward dissent, its bickering politicians and the US interference and using the army as a mercenary force. The subservience to the US and its mercenary attitude is unlikely to change soon.
"As long as there is the context of the war on terror for the next decades _ goodness knows how long _ that is going to continue to create a security-focused situation" that the military can exploit, said Gregory.
Musharraf insists his latest suspension of the constitution amounts to a state of emergency, though critics note that he acted in his capacity as army chief and have called it "mini martial law."
The general insists he had no choice but to remove Supreme Court judges who were hampering the fight against terrorism by ordering the release of suspects held without charge. The Supreme Court judges said on TV that they were given no evidence of the alleged “terrorists” involvement in terrorism at all. They said the court documents are on the record and the government officials failed to produce a single shred of evidence against the people Musharraf now calling as terrorists. Moreover, the judges who were sitting on the panel who ordered the alleged terrorist released have all taken oath under Musharraf’s new PCO after November 3, 2007, whereas those judges who were not even on the panel of those cases have been deposed.
Musharraf lies and raising the banner of fighting terrorism has underlined how both Musharraf and his supporters in the West – who appear loathe to sanction Pakistan’s latest authoritarian lurch – see the military as the key bulwark against Taliban and the mythical al-Qaida amid rising extremism, particularly in the regions bordering Afghanistan.
Like all uniformed rulers before him, Musharraf insisted he was acting to protect the nation’s vital interests.
Political parties, in contrast, remain weak – dominated by individuals rather than policies, lacking nationwide appeal and with a record in government stained by corruption and vicious feuding.
The generals, abetted by Pakistan’s powerful and well-resourced intelligence agencies, have been quick to cut down the few prime ministers who tried to take control.
Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, who staged his coup in 1977, overthrew Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of current opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and arguably the most able politician in Pakistan’s short history. That is what the US wanted at that time. The US allied with the opposition religious parties and supported a campaign for Islamic rule to throw out Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto through street power. Musharraf toppled Nawaz Sharif when the latter tried to fire him.
The criminal record of Pakistani general grows. Pakistan army troops on the lower level, however, suffer from the damage which policies of the slavish generals are following at the top.
These days, it is hard and humiliating for the military personnel to come out in public in uniform without having looked down upon by ordinary Paksitanis. The hatred towards army as an isntitution grows. People don’t know that the ordinary soldiers have no power or say in the decision making at the top. It is the generals with sick and slavish mentality who sell their conscience and the country’s independence. The public, however, only know that the soldiers at the lower level are the one’s who are holding the gun to their head and detaining, torturing and killing their loved ones.
Therefore, military as an institution has generated enough hatred for itself that anything can trigger a civil war in Pakistan. The struggle has already begun between the people and the mercenary army. But in the full fledged civil war, it would be most of the military personnel fighting on behalf of the people, not as soldiers of the mercenary army but as the people of occupied Pakistan. The desertions have already begun. These would simply increase in frequency.
That is when the matter will get worse for the generals who are busy digging their own grave these days. No slave master will come to their rescue from Washington as no slave master came to the rescue of the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussain. Those who wanted a "war within Islam" will be the only one to enjoy the bloodletting, but not for too long.