— Elements of the state
General Kayani, the army
chief, has given the country’s politicians a lesson in tactics. While
politicians often opt for knee-jerk responses to serious matters or follow
their staffers’ improvisations, the general has chosen to play by the
We live in a permanently fluid state. Some analysts call it a state of permanent coup. Editorials in foreign newspapers call it “a coup by other means”. Some say this time it’s a case of a PCO before the coup referring to some recent orders by the Supreme Court.
Truth is that it’s a case of brinkmanship that has lasted unusually long. Would it be correct to say that this is a state of permanent brinkmanship?
Some see in this prolonged brinkmanship a cause of hope: the army has not acted so far; it has bowed before the will of the court. Overly optimistic is how one could view this, considering the posturing of the leader of the country’s largest opposition party, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. His very sight on television screens spells crisis. The name parliament irritates him no end. The corrupt government must resign immediately and call fresh elections, Mr Sharif suggests.
Truth is that any political development of any kind will not surprise many if and when it comes. The countrymen are prepared for any eventuality as are the political players.
Beyond this here-and-now politics are some structural constraints, a historical context that puts all the chaos in a neat perspective. Suddenly all the mayhem that we see around us makes so much sense. How is the present connected with the past has been explained so well in today’s Special Report by I.A. Rehman and Dr Mohammad Waseem. Where we fail is in connecting the past and the present with the future. The solutions may have been presented here in this Special Report but no one is ready to pay heed, it seems.
General Kayani, the army
chief, has given the country’s politicians a lesson in tactics. While
politicians often opt for knee-jerk responses to serious matters or follow
their staffers’ improvisations, the general has chosen to play by the
He was prompt in answering
the Supreme Court’s notice and thus distanced himself, in this case at
least, from the politicians who are getting flak for avoiding compliance
with the judiciary’s directives. He sent his statement to the Defence
Ministry, as per rules. If the ministry did not follow the procedure laid
down in the Rules of Business inscribed in a moth-eaten file of 1973, he
cannot be blamed. That makes the PM angry at a time when he needs to be
cooler than cucumber.
This display of tactics is
the result of more than six decades of training in the art of autonomous
management of an organisation that, unlike politicians, never stops widening
its knowledge base and regularly puts its theoretical formulations to
practical test. It is also the result of governments’ age-old policies of
allowing the military great freedom of operation and autonomy not only in
its own sphere but also beyond it.
Forget Asoka and
Nausherwan, who kept an eye on their governors through military commanders
(if they themselves were not governors) and on both through the intelligence
service, and the fact that it was the military establishment in post-1919
Germany that enabled Hitler to grab the Chancellor’s office. That is old
history. But in modern times we have at least a hundred-year old history of
civilian governments’ efforts to put the military on a higher pedestal
than any other institution of the state.
We may recall the noisy
quarrel between Lord Curzon, one of the most powerful viceroys colonial
India had, and the commander-in-chief of the army, Lord Kitchener. Kitchener
was an important member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council but he wanted
total autonomy in military matters. Curzon opposed him. The British
government devised a compromise formula which Curzon thought favoured
Kitchener, and he resigned.
Kitchener derived strength
from the nature of colonial rule. In a colony the requirements of an
efficient administration — and the British scored higher marks than the
other colonial powers — had to be given less importance than the task of
the military in keeping the natives subdued. It is no accident that some of
the most powerful heads of the Company/British administration in India were
military men — Clive, Cornwallis, Wellesley — and in the final phase
Britain chose military men — Wavell and Mountbatten — to deal with
politicians of the stature of Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru and Azad.
Further, the British
started protecting the special status of the military in constitutional
documents. Look at the Government of India Act of 1935. The hierarchy of
power is clearly drawn. Article 2 affirms His Majesty’s authority over the
colony, Article 3 deals with the appointment of the Governor-General, and
Article 4 mentions the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief of “His
Majesty’s forces in India”. (Emphasis added). And, this before Part II
of the Act opens with the structure of the federation. Further, in Part X,
the Services of the Crown in India, Defence Services are mentioned in a
separate chapter (Articles 232 to 239) and civil services are mentioned in
the following chapter.
The chapter exclusively
devoted to the armed forces (Articles 232 to 239) was deleted at the time of
Independence, vide Governor-General’s Order 22 of 1947. Perhaps this was
an indication of the end of the colonial model of the state. The Indians
interpreted the situation that way and made no special reference to the
armed forces in their constitution, maintaining all the time that armed
forces were part of state services. Thus, it was possible for a weak defence
minister to sack the naval chief.
Pakistan did not break
with the colonial model. The constitution of 1956 did not mention armed
forces in a separate chapter or along with other services, but it did refer
to them in the section on the President’s powers (Article 40). This
Supreme Command of the Armed Forces shall vest in the President and the
exercise thereof shall be regulated by law. (2)Until Parliament makes
provision in that behalf, the President shall have the power (a)to raise and
maintain the Naval, Military and Air Forces of Pakistan and the Reserves of
such Forces; (b)to grant commissions in such Forces; and (c)to appoint the
Commander-in-chief of the Army, Navy and Air Forces and determine their
salaries and allowances”.
The Ayub constitution of
1962 retained the provision reproduced above (Article 17 of the 1962 basic
law). One does not know the reasons that persuaded the authors of the 1973
constitution to devote a separate chapter to armed forces (chapter 2 of Part
XII) though they transferred the control and command of the armed forces
from the President to the Federal Government. In 1985, Gen Zia added a
clause (1-A) to the effect that the “Supreme Command of the Armed Forces
shall vest in the President,” that is, himself. The 18th Amendment has not
touched this article. Thus, the 1973 Constitution is a cross between
democratic federalism and the colonial state model.
Apart from the distinction
made in favour of the military in constitutional texts, there have been
significant changes through the years.
The Indian Muslims’
worship of military heroes of ancient past, the myth of a Muslim’s martial
superiority over all others, the emergence of the Kashmir issue, the
successive governments’ policy of putting the state security above the
people’s security, and the bartering away of sovereign rights under
defence pacts all created a mindset that allows the military more privileges
than other state organs and institutions.
The Finance Ministry lost
its authority to monitor defence expenditure around 1957 (See General
Mitha’s Unlikely Beginnings) and General Yahya allowed himself to become
extravagant. (See General Attiqur Rahman’s Back to the Pavilion).
The rise of military to
new heights has been documented by several scholars, especially Dr Hasan
Askari Rizvi. But to cut the discussion short, one may reproduce a few lines
from Dr Saeed Shafqat’s summing up of Zia’s role in promoting
military’s hold on political life:
“For managing domestic
opposition Zia began to rely increasingly on ISI. This led the military
elite to believe that they understood politics and national interest better
than the political leaders. They began to define who was the “enemy” of
the state and who were its supporters. In the process, they blurred the
distinction between government and state. Opposition and criticism of
Zia’s regime were equated with opposition to the state. This promoted
military hegemony and also helped ISI to expand its autonomy. Thus, under
Zia and in later years, the ISI became assertive in defining how politics
may be managed and controlled in Pakistan”. —Civil-Military Relations in
Pakistan, Page 207.
There is hardly a sphere
in which civilian politicians have not conceded the military more than
normal (in a democracy) powers and privileges. Even the question as to who
can declare war is not clear. The Quaid-i-Azam was defied by the army chief
and the war of 1948 (in Kashmir) was lost. The next two wars (1965 and 1971)
were declared by the military rulers themselves and as regards the Kargil
operation Nawaz Sharif, the PM then, knows the best.
One cannot say that the
politicians have not been aware of their loss of ground to the military.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto paved his way to the gallows by creating a parallel
security force. Benazir Bhutto appointed Air Marshal Zulfiqar Khan to do a
report on the intelligence agency and could not make his findings public
even. The present government got a negative mark by loosely hinting at
bringing the ISI under civilian control. Now Nawaz Sharif is criticising
this government for not seriously trying to assert the civilian authority.
Many will pray that Nawaz Sharif comes into power again and demonstrate his
ability to carry out what his rivals have failed to do.
Among the many matters
civil society organisations dabble in, without unfortunately pursuing their
efforts with due diligence, the question of imbalance in civil and military
relations figures prominently. While it may be possible to blame the
generals for assuming responsibilities that lie outside their professional
mandate, the politicians have to accept a greater blame for the straits they
have landed themselves in. They have yet to realize that the imbalance they
complain of cannot be corrected by tinkering with this office or that and
that the process is going to be long and arduous.
Two things are necessary.
First, it needs to be understood that nobody can trifle with the military
and its task of defending the country against external aggression. The
people must be proud of their sons who give their lives to secure their
freedom from external threats. But no good military gets involved with
politics, even with civil administration (Ayub Khan too called it the route
to corruption) because that will undermine the interests of the state and
the military both.
Anyone who goads the
military into intervening in politics is not its friend.
Secondly, the way to the
establishment of the people’s sovereignty lies in breaking the colonial
model to which the state is shackled. The state of Pakistan needs to be
re-structured in accordance with modern democratic models. Only then will
its organs, and institutions subservient to them, will be able to find their
Until these two conditions
are met the politicians will continue to be out-manoeuvred by men in khaki,
like that master of double-speak, Ziaul Haq, who destroyed the roots of
democracy while declaring all the time that Pakistan could survive only as a
The News on Sunday: In a seminar at Safma the
other day, you talked about the historical context of military’s supremacy
in Pakistan. Can you recount those historical structural constraints for our
Dr Mohammad Waseem: Pakistan had one serious
structural constraint to start with — that India was a successor state of
British India with its political centre in Delhi while Pakistan was a
seceding state with all its concomitant problems. There was a structural
continuity in India; there was a structural discontinuity in Pakistan. The
new region called Pakistan was never a state in history. It was only three
or four decades later that we started inventing the past, like for instance
the Indus Valley Civilisation, which made sense only after 1971 since it did
not include East Bengal. Unfortunately, all the Asian states like Iran and
India try to dig up the past; antiquity is a positive fact. We straightaway
lacked this resource; people in the world thought we were very artificial
and new. We were ruled separately; Sindh was ruled separately from Punjab
and Balochistan. So we had to establish a new political centre which we did
Muslims from all over India, at least 70-80
percent of the Muslim elite, came to a territory which was marginal to the
British empire and before that the Mughal empire. Pakistan was established
on the outlying areas of the empire. But the elite came from the heart of
the empire: the commercial hub Bombay and the political hub UP. They were
the people who heralded the Pakistan movement. It is ironical that Pakistan
movement matured and progressed outside what was to become Pakistan.
That created a certain problem. For example,
Pakistan’s first governor general and prime minister were both migrants. A
predominant part of the bureaucracy was migrant because, in education, UP
was far ahead than other Muslim majority provinces. Most part of the Muslim
League belonged to the middle class, particularly that section which Hamza
Alavi called the salariat. So there was a structural discontinuation with
the centre being in Sindh which was the peripheral province in British
TNS: You also talked about the migrant
political and business class and the migrant bureaucracy, none of which
believed in a strengthened parliament and local leadership.
MW: To begin with, Pakistan’s population
consisted of 10 percent migrants. In the Pakistan of today, they constitute
twenty percent of the population. Every fifth household is a migrant.
One-third of the migrant population comprises what is today called mohajir,
the Urdu speaking people. They were not all Urdu speaking; they spoke other
Indian languages but, in two generations, they have all now become Urdu
speaking. Two-thirds were Punjabi speaking migrants, exactly double the
number of what are today called mohajirs.
Of all the migrants from India, 73 percent
settled in Punjab and far less in Sindh and even fewer in Bengal. So Punjab
became a migrants’ hub, including one million Urdu speaking mohajirs that
did not go anywhere.
The dilemma of these migrants was — where to
get elected from? Liaquat Ali Khan’s constituency was in East Punjab and
UP, Quaid-e-Azam’s lay in Bombay. While these two could get elected from
anywhere in the country, for others there was a problem. Six of them,
including Liaquat Ali Khan who was not a member of the Constituent Assembly
of Pakistan, had to be brought in. So, six sitting members from Bengal were
made to resign. The underlying message to the ruling elite was — you hold
election and it’s your political death. They could not rule through the
parliament. The bureaucracy was migrant-dominated and so was the ruling
Mulsim League. Finally, it was a migrant ethos that dominated.
At the lower level, the refugees were
brutalised; they lost identity, history, families, their own kith and kin
who were brutally murdered and raped. A majority of migrants came to Punjab.
Punjabis were killed far more than any other ethnic community in partition
and they killed Hindus and Sikhs far more than any other community. The
Punjabis having passed through the river of blood hated India most. It’s
like the Arabic-speaking Jews, who had come from Arab lands in the Likud
party, that are the most anti-Arab.
So, migrants became a permanent lobby against
India and they ruled Pakistan by bypassing the parliament. Migrants in India
did not change politics in any substantial way.
TNS: Where did the army fit into this?
MW: The second major factor was the army. All
the elite groups were migrant; only one elite group was local and that was
the army. After 1857, the recruitment for the army shifted from all other
areas where there was rebellion. The British thought the Punjab area had the
least of rebellion. The soldiery was loyal and faithful; coming particularly
from the poor non-irrigated areas, rain-fed areas where there was poverty.
They recruited for the army from Northern Punjab for more than half a
century. The whole thing [the mutiny] had started from Meerut cantonement.
The idea [for the British] was that UP, Bengal, Bihar were not to be trusted
anymore [with recruitment].
Also the British empire was continuously
moving/ expanding towards the North West. In 1867, they took Balochistan;
they later went to war with Afghanistan on in the 1870s and then after the
turn of the century. All this meant that there was the Russian empire
expanding this way and there was the British empire expanding that way; this
area became militarily very significant and the British concentrated on
recruitment from Punjab.
By 1947 one half of the British army in India
had come from one province, Punjab alone, while all other provinces, states,
large regions throughout India contributed the other half.
So, Punjab was a quasi-military state, to use
the words of a scholar. Militarily, Punjab was a significant player
Second, when the franchise expanded before
after the WWI, there was a sort of preference for these people in the
process of allotment of the newly irrigated land in large canal colonies and
within their own areas they were given an extended right to vote. Military
service became a new criterion for eligibility to vote for the legislative
assemblies. At one time, one-third of the electorate in Punjab comprised the
soldiery. They were then somehow knit with the state structures.
Along with that, the leadership in the
countryside supported the government in the recruitment for the WWII. In the
WWI, there were people like Allama Iqbal writing poems in favour of
Tajir ka Zar ho Aur Sipahi ka
Ya Rab jahan main Sitwate
Shahi ka Zor ho
In the WWII, Hafiz Jullundhri was employed by
the All India Radio; he also was part of the recruitment campaign and he
wrote Main to Chorre ko Bharti kara ayee ray.
The army culture took roots in Pakistan rather
early, so early that in 1950 General Akbar and others rebelled against
Liaquat Ali Khan. They became upholders of an expansionist ideology —
saying that Kashmir is ours and why did you stop us from going into Kashmir.
Even though the Nehru government had started sending troops in Kashmir in
Oct 1947 and afterwards, and there was no chance they could take it
[Kashmir], they rebelled.
By 1954, there was an alliance between the army
leadership and the bureaucracy. Both of them hated the guts of the
parliamentarians and the political leadership whom they considered to be
inchoate, inexpressive, inarticulate, disloyal, faction-ridden and
exploitative of the masses.
TNS: At this point, the right-thinking people
or the progressives if you like, feel frustrated that somehow the state and
society have converged in articulating the national security discourse. You
seem to disagree and point at the middle classes and how this discourse did
not essentially represent people in the three provinces other than Punjab?
MW: The people who took charge of Pakistan in
the first decade were from the middle class. The educated middle classes
provided the catchment area for the bureaucracy. That took the initiative
away from the politicians.
In the colonial times, there was the
imperialist ruler, the landed elite as the collaborator and the cultivating
working class. The colonialists consolidated and ossified the landed elite.
They loved the nawabs, sardars, tumandars. But their education policies
created a new educated middle class. They wanted clerks for their empire;
people who could act as bridge between them and the locals, what they called
The middle class continued to expand in the
colonial times because of two contradictory policies — there were
Conservationists and the Utilitarians. The Utilitarians wanted to open up
the society, educate people along English lines, give them ideas of
democracy and law etc. The conservationists said they were destroying the
society; people had a right to live as they are. They tried to keep them
bound to their history, culture, customs, language etc. The utilitarians did
not visualise their policies were going to destabilise themselves in the
end. They were infused with the spirit of civilisation — the idea that God
had sent them to civilise the non-Christian world. But they hated their own
product. They didn’t like the middle class which soon started asking for
more concessions — they wanted to be recruited in the Covenanted service
which was opened up for locals after 1861.
By 1947, the middle classes among Muslims,
Hindus and Sikhs had ruled the empire for 90-100 years; recruited from lower
to upper ranks. They had become secretaries and joint secretaries. As for
the politicians, they became part of the ruling setup only after 1937 in a
visible capacity. But then too they were totally dependent on the
bureaucracy. In 1969, the Cornelius Report had noted that secretaries are
considered the brain of the minister. That started from the 1940s because
the ministers were considered the new arrivals — stupid, landed elite,
horse-riding, betting types. They were patronised by the bureaucracy.
Thus, from the very beginning, the five
provinces were up in arms against these educated bureaucrats. Politicians
were local and provincial while the bureaucrats were central. Officers in
all the fifteen services were recruited, trained, posted, promoted and
transferred by the centre. The centralist bureaucracy was dominated by the
Urdu-speaking mohajirs and Punjabis.
For over 60 years now, this state has been
considered to be the Mohajir-Punjabi state.
TNS: But what about the professional and
commercial middle classes?
MW: Professional middle classes — doctors,
engineers, architects, professors, journalists — and commercial middle
classes — from top to bottom — are all apolitical, anti-political, and
definitely anti-PPP. Both the commercial and the educational middle class
was migrant-dominated, This lent a certain ethos to it which is
conservative, preservative, guardian, like the British bureaucrat who was
called Mai Baap; he was a guardian against the local landlord, the provider
Like the colonialists, the middle classes are
paternalistic towards the masses. They are the true legatees of the British
rule. They want to educate people, modernise them a little; they believe in
the virtues of society but think the masses are illiterate, stupid and
superstitious. They hate the guts of democracy because that would mean these
people would rule over them when they can’t.
The middle class is socially progressive but
politically conservative. In the middle class, there is a relatively more
democratic family structure; for example the woman is given more freedom
than the landed elite. It’s the middle class that raises most hue and cry
over women being buried alive by the Baloch. But it is inherently
anti-democratic. If there is no petrol or gas or power, it will not talk of
bad governance on its own terms, it will say democracy is bad. The middle
class is the ultimate ruling class. It is the generals, the bureaucrats and
the foreign office that decide whether we want to be friends or enemies with
The opposite is true for the political elite.
It is socially extremely conservative. Being marginal to the state, it
continues to struggle to enter the state — through the election. It is
inherently progressive in a political way; it is a compulsion for it to
follow the electoral route and that makes it democratic.
TNS: The mullah-military alliance is being
played out in contradictory directions. On the one hand, we have military
fighting the Taliban in military operations and on the other hand we have
Yaum-e-Difaa-e-Pakistan rallies supporting the military’s point of view.
MW: I think, by now, it is clear that the
mullah-military alliance was born out of the dilemma faced by the Yahya
Khan’s government. He faced a Bengali ethnic movement in East Pakistan
which was challenging to take the political initiative out of his hand and
Bhutto’s opposition in West Pakistan with his slogan of socialism. There
was an ideologically planned movement at that time to put aside Ayub’s
TNS: In his book, Husain Haqqani traces the
roots of Islamism back to 1948 when our mujahids went into Kashmir.
MW: They used the name of Islam but the
institution remained secular. Because they [the military] had to fight 50
million Bengalis. They depended on Al Badr, Al Shams, on Jamaat-i-Islami
totally. They wanted to counter Bhutto’s leftism with Islam. Shaukat-e-Islam
Day was celebrated. In the 1946 election, only one scholar Maulana Shabbir
Ahmed Usmani was elected while in 1970 the number rose to 18 due to this
military support. We only notice that Bhutto was elected; we don’t see who
else was elected. Mufti Mahmood became the chief minister of then NWFP and
suddenly the NAP (ANP) realised they had only won three seats as opposed to
The army started depending on the mullah
through the election and, afterwards, and then through militancy or jihad,
first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir. That strengthened the ISI. From
that time onwards, its power has remained unchallenged. It simply makes and
breaks state structures by spending a lot of money; remember the Asghar Khan
case. From the time that Benazir Bhutto assumed power in 1988, the elected
politicians have had nothing to do with foreign policy, defence policy or
There are three uses of the mullah: one in
fighting ethnic wars — against ANP, baloch nationalists, Sindhis. The
three ethnic movements Sindhi, Baloch and Pathan were opposed to the army
and vice versa. Mullah believes in All Pakistan. This is the statist Islam.
TNS: Which is interesting considering that they
MW: Yes. The second use of mullah is that it is
an instrument of military’s foreign policy objectives both in Afghanistan
And the third way in which Mullah is used is in
the outcome of elections which is manipulated by favouring certain parties.
For example, Musharraf the liberal got MMA elected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
while he humiliated and insulted the mainstream and ethnic parties. Earlier
on, after the IJI was engineered, the Islamist voter of Jamaat Islami
started voting for Nawaz Sharif. So they have impacted the electoral scene
on the ground.
Along with these three uses, the mullahs have
Islamised economy, education and politics. Basically mullah is the
instrument of Islamisation of the state. Because the army believes in a
clash of civilizations — there is a mini-clash of civilisation in South
Asia and the army spearheads that clash (anti-Hindu) from Pakistan’s
perspective — for that mullah is the instrument.
TNS: Coming to more current events, the role of
judiciary and the composition of judiciary is also a question of academic
analysis. How do you look at it in Pakistan’s context?
MW: Among the middle classes, there are three
state apparatuses — the army, bureaucracy and judiciary. Judiciary has
over the years become extremely conservatised — through Islamisation of
law, establishment of shariah courts, teachings in judicial academy
overlapping with the ulema and the parallel judicial system of Islam. It is
more Islamic than other state institutions and other sections of the middle
class, generally speaking.
Second, judiciary has been an instrument of the
establishment — always, or mostly, saying yes to military coups. It takes
a middle class view of politics and democracy. The number one issue of
middle class is corruption. Corruption by the way is essentially and
ultimately a middle class issue. It is like a lash in their hands to beat
the politician. Mahbub ul Haq said forty years ago that the bureaucrats
whisked away 40 billion rupees annually but the point is that, unlike
politicians, they are not visible. Then the lower judiciary in Pakistan is
the most corrupt judiciary in the world, but no one talks about it. The
judiciary, when not an instrument of establishment, is a reflector and a
part of the conservative middle class — pro-status quo, anti-democratic,
in fact anti-political. Politics, it believes, is the art of the dirty, so
it is conservative both in the religious and moral sense.
This is what the Supreme Court has done in its
recent judgment. It has invoked a part of the constitution which was
initiated and inserted by Ziaul Haq, though later on accepted by the
politicians in the Eighth Amendment. But after that no political party has
ever had the power to take these insertions out.
TNS: You wrote an excellent piece in Dawn
analysing the phenomenon of television. How do you see the role of
electronic media as evolving in the coming years?
MW: First it has politicised the middle class,
the drawing room people, first time in Pakistan’s history. Middle class as
we noted is anti-political; it vote far less than other classes.
Second, in the talk shows, politicians are the
most vulnerable among the contenders of power. By pitching one set of
politicians against the other, electronic media has almost destroyed the
credibility of the political class. This is an unequal treatment. What is
worse, it has taken way 80 percent of prime time which was earlier used up
This kind of programming breeds a tendency of
fascist thinking because all the actors outside the state are being
discredited while the state is intact and becoming stronger. The media has
created a huge demand for ‘reform’ (with allegations of corruption all
around) and the Mosaic myth (Imran Khan as the saviour). And finally I would
say that civil society is not represented on the electronic media at all nor
are the real issues exposed.
TNS: How and when is the army going to retreat?
We seem stuck in a vicious circle?
MW: Politically, it looks like the army will
win as it has always done in our history. At the same time, I would say the
army is learning. After the debacle in Dhaka, it learnt; thereafter it
allowed the 1973 constitution, bicameral legislature and other things.
In the current situation, first of all, the
army is not directly coming in. It has not taken any action; it’s the
first time that it is depending on the judiciary directly. Earlier on, the
judiciary would act after the coup.
Then the media has been constantly saying that
Nawaz Sharif has been used by the army; again that is an allegation. I think
the army has found new ways of exercising power — it has power but no
responsibility; the politicians have responsibility but no power. It’s the
worst relation ever.
The imbalance in
civil-military relations in Pakistan definitely has a lot to do with the
mindset that creates the divide between them. The composition of the army,
in terms of manpower, ethnicities, races etc in various times, is an area
that needs to be studied at length. Does this represent the collective
behaviour of the institution is another question?
The report, titled ‘The
Changing Pakistan Army Officer Corps’, authored by Shuja Nawaz, Director
of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, Washington DC, USA, and C.
Christine Fair, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC,
is an interesting read as it looks at the history of army recruitment in
this part of the world. The study covers the pre-partition period, the
post-partition period till 2002 and from then onwards.
One finds references that
the feeling of being superior has led the Army comprising “martial
races” take control in difficult situations. The study states that the
notion of marital races has always dominated Army recruitment. These races
included Punjabis (from contemporary East and West Punjab, comprising Sikhs,
Hindus and Muslims), Pashtuns (from the formerly North West Frontier
Province and the tribal areas) as well as the Gurkhas of Nepal. “In
contrast, the British considered South Indians and Bengalis to be
‘non-martial’ and sought to exclude them from military service.”
These martial races were
important as “the British were motivated by a desire to build an effective
military to protect their interests throughout the empire rather than
develop an ethnically representative institution. They encouraged
recruitment of those martial races and discouraged the induction of
Besides, the British
recruited people from the NWFP (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) in particular for
geo-strategic reasons. As the region was the outer ring, separating the
British colonial sphere of influence from that of Russia, it was very
important for the former to have people from there.
The study adds the
composition has remained overwhelmingly the same even after the departure of
the British from Indo-Pak sub-continent. The less than desired presence of
Bengali officers in the army was noticed even in the times of Liaquat Ali
Khan who formed a commission to look into the causes of this trend. General
Ayub Khan also took an initiative in 1959 under which the qualification
standards were relaxed for Bangladeshis. The army, however, resisted further
expansion of Bengali representation, at least in part, because many within
the army leadership cadre harboured considerable “distaste for the quality
of Bengali officers and other ranks.”
A very important point
explained in the report is that the presence of an individual in an area
does not define his ethnicity or the race. For example, one cannot assume
that a recruit from Balochistan is in fact ethnically Baloch. Nonetheless, a
Punjabi, for example, who has lived and/or has been raised in Balochistan is
likely to have a very different worldview than one who has spent much or
most of his life in Punjab.
The race issue does
dominate when it comes to defining priority areas or security issues.
That’s why, less represented provinces and ethnicities have complained of
victimisation at the hands of the Punjabi-dominated Army interested in
colonising their areas. Political forces have opposed military operations
many a time which were launched by the Army against “rebels” and the
latter’s reluctance to disband them has also led to souring of relations
The same study also looks
at the continued practice of recruiting officers from these very areas and
quotes reasons. It says: “There are important downsides to including
within the army co-ethnics of rebels. Veterans of the armed forces may
return to the troubled areas and participate in the insurrection. They could
even provide training to the rebels. Units drawn from the local area may
also be unable or unwilling to act against combatant co-ethnics who may
include friends, relatives, or others affiliated through tribe or other
forms of allegiance. Former or retired service members may even sympathise
with the cause espoused by the militants and work to serve their cause
The study also discovers a
trend, based on the Army recruitment data of the last decade, that there is
no systematic evidence that conservative areas are producing more officers
than other areas as late as 2002, says C. Christine Fair in an email reply
This is important keeping
in view the nature of the institution where faith has served for long. Fair
believes the Army cultivates deep respect for the military value of jihad,
which is evident from its professional literature. Besides, she says, the
Army uses Islam to bolster its will to fight by debasing the enemy.
Understanding these dynamics is vital for the United States, but it’s
perhaps even more important for Pakistan and the Pakistanis who rely on
their military to protect their country, she adds.