Contemporay Pakistani scholars including Ambassador Hussain Haqqani (Between Mosque and Military) have argued that a shady alliance between army and Mullahs has led to the current abysmal condition of democracy in Pakistan. Another one of my favorite Pakistani scholar Hassan Abbas in his book “Pakistan’s Drift Into Extremism: Allah, then Army, and America’s War Terror” has made similar arguments.
Many others, including this humble scribe, have pleaded that America yields tremendous amount of influence on Pakistan army and therefore, has the wherewithal to steer the country on the track of civilian rule.
I have come to conclusion that this hypothesis is flawed for two reasons: i) American influence in Pakistan is limited ii) it is not in American interest to alienate Pakistan army.
When Obama administration decided to align itself with the civil society and announced $7.5 billion in aid through Kerry-Lugar bill, a handful but very loud Pakistani journalists raised so much hell that General David Petraeus had to go to Pakistan and dress down the country’s Chief of Army Staff General Kayani.
Gen. Patreause and Sen. Kerry were sent to Pakistan after US President Barack Obama signed a record 7.5 billion dollar package tripling non-military aid to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation to boost its campaign against a virulent Islamist insurgency. Although the Zaradari government defended the package, Pakistan’s powerful military sparked a domestic showdown, expressing grave reservations about conditions that hinge some of the funds on efforts to battle Islamist extremism.
United States Central Command chief Gen David Petraeus and Chairman Senate Foreign Affairs committee Senator John Kerry on October 19th last year held separate meetings with the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashraf Kayani and the outcome of those meetings were an immediate yanking of the anti-KLB campaign from Pakistani private TV channels. When Central Command chief Gen David Petraeus went to the GHQ he categorically told Gen Kayani to halt anti-KLB campaign. “Gen. Kayani was told in absolutely clear terms that the Obama administration will not tolerate another Honduras,” said a source very close to this conversation.
In Pakistan, Zardari administration was portrayed by the media as too deferential to the United States. Pakistani journalists who unconditionally support their Army started the campaign against KLB and coalesced anti-Western politicians, and Muslim fundamentalists — implausibly claiming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined and the country could end up as a U.S. neo-colony. Some of it is untrue!
To begin with, Pakistan has been an American neo-colony for last six decades and most of that time it was under a military dictatorship. And, most importantly Pakistan has been an American satellite state because of it’s army.
Pakistan’s military operates on the U.S. financial and technological assistance and it will receive even more support in the near future as it targets Taliban strongholds. Therefore conditions placed by the U.S. Congress on $7.5 billion in economic aid to Pakistan over the next five years should not have been of major consequence to Pakistani generals.
It is undoubtedly true that Pakistani government is too deferential to the Americans. Not that I condone it but this is not new. Bone of contention here was the ‘non-military’ aid. KLB was historic because it earmarked monies for health, education, infrastructure and civil society.
Pakistan army felt left-out. Although Pakistan army has backed out of KLB but democratic government is still hanging on the balance. NRO, food security, energy crisis all loom over Zardari’s head.
From trafficking heroin to grabbing precious land; from taking kick-back on purchase of equipment (sub-marines included) Pakistan army has looted everything we have ever had. Why then, I wonder, Pakistanis only discuss civilian corruption? Managing PR fiasco was easy for the Obama administration. They had to remind the source of opposition of an old proverb: you can’t bite the hand that feeds you. Pakistani Generals understood and complied.
But Americans also understood and acknowledged that Pakistan army truly represents Pakistan. Army is back on the table-and part of every session of strategic dialogue in Washington DC this week.
There are clear indications that Pakistan Army and America are strategizing how to engage Allah (represented by Taliban) to create veneer of peace in the region.
To my contemporary political analysts who have waited for Americans to change the course in Pakistan, I respectfully submit: change only comes from within. Pakistan army will rule as long as Pakistani people are ready to tolerate it’s reign.