fbpx

Why the Army Wants to Shape Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

The army should also recognise that its meddling in matters of foreign policy has not brought us good results as our present US dependency is a product of decisions taken by army due to Indian fear factor. The army must evolve a new concept of security as our present day challenges are not posed by some external aggression but have arisen from within due to unequal development, poverty and illiteracy. This new concept of national security should focus on development rather than on external threat.

Pakistan is among one of those ill-fated post-colonial countries plagued by military takeovers. The roots of this phenomenon can be traced back in the colonial Indian army whose major proportion consisted of Punjabis and according to the Government of India Act, 1935, when much of the powers were devolved to the newly-formed Indian government, the authority of the army remained in the hands of the British, which meant that at least the Indian army used to be above the supposed Indian civil administration. This mindset of superiority, that the army is above the politicians or civil administration, was the legacy which the newly born country inherited along with a bleak political and civil administrative structure. Apart from this historical legacy the reasons for army’s interference into Pakistan’s foreign policy matters can be categorised into following themes:

Pakistan’s unique geostrategic position and the resulting Indian fear factor

As Pakistan was carved out of the Indian subcontinent which was a new experiment at least in the recent history of this region, it had to face new unique problems and a unique geostrategic situation. At the western border was the hostile Afghanistan which didn’t even voted for Pakistan in the UN and started a new dispute by claiming its western borders, i.e. the Durand Line as disputed. While on the eastern side, it was hostile India who’s some of the leaders, e.g. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel were already giving statements claiming the annihilation of the country. Then, the Kashmir issue, canal water dispute, dispute over the division of assets further aggravated the hostility between the two countries. As a result, the defence or the security of the country particularly against India became the priority of the ruling elite of the country.  Consequently, army and its world view in policy matters were given much more importance and army afterwards developed a tradition of meddling in foreign policy matters not only in terms of giving its consent but in terms of imposing it. This practice, because of frequent military takeovers, has become so strong, that army finds it necessary to impose its world view and opinion on the political administration.

Also, as the security of the infant state became the ruling elite’s priority, big amount of funds were pumped into the army to organise it into a more powerful and efficient institution at the cost of investing in civilian institutions for development. Gradually, the army gained strength compared to other institutions and in the competing power struggle very soon it started to interfere in matters beyond its constitutional role which became a norm rather than exception.

Army’s perception of itself as the vanguard of ideological and geographical frontiers of Pakistan

Soon after the army established itself as a strong national institution it developed its own strategic culture and its distinctive world view about national security. Army perceives itself as the sole vanguard of the national interest and the national security. They think that since politicians are busy in political bickering so it is they who have to safeguard the security and interests of this state. The army as an institution was disgruntled from politicians and considered itself as the saviour of Pakistan after the Kashmir war in 1948. The first martial law in Lahore after anti-Ahmadi riots in 1953 further strengthened the conviction of the Pakistan army that it was them rather than the politicians who were the saviours of the country.

Islam has also been an important factor in shaping the army’s world view and in convincing them they have to protect this state. Since the Islamist rhetoric was used to form the new state and the Objectives Resolution added as a preamble to the constitution, coupled with traditional mindset of the majority of the army officers; Islam and Pakistan became unanimous with the result that defending Pakistan meant defending Islam and those who were considered un-Islamic in the view of army were considered a security threat to Pakistan. Same was the case with the Benazir when she was elected as the first female prime minister of Pakistan.

Army’s perception of politicians as inefficient and unaware of international chessboard

Army is the only institution which ‘was and to some extent, is publicly perceived as clean and efficient. This gives them legitimacy to rule in the eyes of the masses. The political vendetta of politicians against each other and the issues arising under an elected government such as lawlessness, corruption, poor governance and economic mismanagement gives sufficient reason to the army to intervene in the civilian affairs. Secondly, the politicians prove themselves as inefficient when they call army for help in the form of ‘aid to civil administration’ be it for eliminating ghost schools, for restoring law and order or running any government civil institution. Thirdly, army considers majority of the politicians as illiterate and unaware of international strategic games so army already meddling in national affairs and considering itself as the vanguard of Pakistan, considers it sufficient reason to take foreign policy matters in its own hand in order to save the country according to their paradigm of thought. Thus, given the preponderance of the army’s role even in the civilian sphere, it extends to the exertion of a greater influence in decision-making and foreign policy as a norm rather than an exception.

Army’s political economy of defence

Being a strong institution army has its own vested interests. The army developed its own MILBUS, i.e. military business, as termed by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa whose protection became crucial for the army. Now, like any other strong institution, the army does not want to return backs its perks and privileges and thus, resists any efforts aimed at foreign policy which could possible reduce its power; and consequently wants to keep the foreign policy decisions in its own hand. Many analysts say that the army does not want to solve the Kashmir issue because then, the strategic security paradigm would experience a dramatic shift as their will be no need to keep security concerns at foremost and consequently, there will be no need for such a big army. So, the army’s perks and privileges would be automatically cut off. And, it is one of the main reasons due to which army wants to retain the key issues of foreign policy in its hand.

The way forward

Apart from the stark reality that military is still the main architect of Pakistan’s foreign policy, there is still a way forward to gradually push the military out of the realm of foreign policy. First of all, the politicians should establish their credibility by eliminating corruption, promoting good governance and attaining highest possible economic growth rates so that people’s perception is turned towards military autocracy. If politicians succeed in doing so then the military would not be left with any legitimised reason to take over the elected government. Secondly, the politicians should eliminate the reasons for Indian fear factor by resolving disputes with India which would eliminate the need for maintaining such a big army. When army’s size and importance would be reduced, its influence in foreign policy matters would also be automatically reduced.

On the other hand, the army should also recognise that its meddling in matters of foreign policy has not brought us good results as our present US dependency is a product of decisions taken by army due to Indian fear factor. The army must evolve a new concept of security as our present day challenges are not posed by some external aggression but have arisen from within due to unequal development, poverty and illiteracy. This new concept of national security should focus on development rather than on external threat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *