Turbulence in Pakistan
The dramatic events one is witnessing in Pakistan these days were not unexpected, yet the virulence and the counter-productive moves by the Musharraf government are surprising. Beside the US, the events are disturbing to Pakistan's neighbours who want a stable Pakistan and a peaceful region to bring success to the socio-economic plans of Saarc.
Turbulence in Pakistan, naturally, would slow down the process. Presumably, the state of emergency was imposed due to judicial activism that was considered as impinging upon the authority of the executive and also impairing the fight against the growing militancy in the northern areas of the country.
Stephen Cohen, perhaps the most preeminent analyst the US has on South Asia, has described it thus: "Musharraf's recent coup against his own government and the coup was what it was in good part a result of American pressure on him to hold free and fair elections as well as actions of the Supreme Court that suddenly began to challenge the military's dominant position and a dramatic increase in terrorist violence against the Pakistani military itself."
Political theorists could describe the moves as "autogolpe" or self-inflicted presidential coup d'etat that the world had seen in Peru, Guatemala, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The task of democratic theorists from Thomas Hobbes to Rousseau to Jurgen Habermas and John Rawls, write scholars from Carleton University (in Canada), has been to show how political freedom achieved by the reconciliation of consent and obligation among citizens of a polity through the institutions and practices of democratic rule. Incidents in Pakistan -- if political turbulence can be termed as such -- go against the grain of minimalist theory of democracy (i.e. electoral democracy) and certainly against the maximalist versions that would include both deliberative and liberal democracy.
One can take comfort in the fact that for most of the political life of independent Pakistan since 1947 the country has been ruled either directly or indirectly by the military. But such an argument would be facile when in the 21st century the global leaders have banded together to provide a definition of sovereignty that is significantly different from the one the world has been accustomed to since the Treaty of Westphalia and written down in the UN Charter.
Sovereignty can now be enjoyed by ensuring the fundamental rights of the citizens and cannot be dictated by a Stephen Cohen's description of Pakistani rulers as "moderate oligarchy" consisting of chosen elites from the military, industrialists, bureaucrats, and judiciary.
The diktats handed down by the oligarchs may have given some infrastructural developments to its economy, but as Cohen told the US Foreign Relations Committee in July this year: "In recent years virtually all segments of Pakistani opinion have turned anti-American. President Musharraf has not moved towards restoring real democracy, Pakistan has been the worst proliferator of advanced nuclear and missile technology, and the country continues to harbour -- partially involuntarily -- extremists and terrorists whose dedicated mission is to attack the United States and Pakistan's neighbours."
Unfortunately, Pakistan's domestic politics remains shaped by its security and foreign policy concerns. Despite the liberation of Bangladesh that threw cold water on the two nation theory (i.e. Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist as one entity) Pakistan continues to be driven by a pathological fear of being attacked by a Hindu India notwithstanding Indian reassurance time and again that such a thing will not come to pass. Thankfully, I might add, as a segment of Indian society may still harbour the dream of Akhand Bharat, and, given Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, it would amount to committing hara-kiri by India.
Besides, in the 21st century, barring driving out the Talibans from Afghanistan with the approval of the UNSC and regime change in Iraq at considerable political and economic cost to the US, physical conquest of territories even by interventionists with firm belief in the responsibility to prevent and the responsibility to protect is a far cry in realpolitik.
However much the Indian menace is trumpeted it is Pakistan's fractured polity that has brought the military to the forefront of governance again and again. Very recently a scholar from the Brookings Institution concluded that at the moment there was virtually no support for a massive operation against Taliban sympathisers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Pushtuns -- an overwhelming majority in NWFP -- view any military action against their ethnic kin as solely a function of the American influence rather than an internal security necessity. It is also believed that some members of the Pakistani army and its intelligence wing still maintain ties with militant groups, including Talibans, as a hedge against abandonment by the US.
How else would one explain the Red Mosque episode in the middle of the capital so soon after the judiciary crisis triggered by President Musharraf's first sacking of Chief Justice Ifthikar Ahmed Choudhury and so close to the intelligence headquarters? The incident demonstrates incompetence of the Musharraf government and/or deliberate attempt to divert public attention from more pressing issues.
Some people believe that the military is a fact of life in Pakistan and there can be no durable government without its backing. Apparently Benazir Bhutto believes that power sharing with the military is the only way to bring back civilian rule in the country. But the declaration of emergency, though modified by governmental assurances that elections will be held, is likely to unite all forces against the military.
Besides, the military's coherence is being questioned. Eighteen per cent of the Pakistan army are of Pushtun origin; add this to the dislike of Punjabi domination by the three provinces and FATA. Ultimately, complete civilian rule with the total consent of the people, along with devolution of power, may bring back Pakistan to an even keel. A disturbed Pakistan will not serve the interest of peace and tranquility in the region and beyond.
Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and Ambassador.