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Army real problem in Pakistan: Report

Threat of Islamic militancy is a myth created by Pakistani army.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 16:03 IST

The threat of Islamic militancy is a myth created by the Pakistani army to consolidate its hold on power, according to a study by the Carnegie Endowment that advocates "demilitarisation" of Pakistan's political life.

Western governments should focus on the army which is manipulating the religious fundamentalists, says Frederic Grare, a South Asia expert at the think tank in Washington.

"By focusing on only Islamist militancy, Western governments confuse the consequence and the cause: The army is the problem," he writes in a new Carnegie policy brief, Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril, released on Tuesday.

Last week, sectarian violence on the Shia holy day of Ashura killed at least 31 people in Pakistan's North-West Frontier province.

The news reported the tensions between the Shia minority and a Sunni majority with jihadist political faction ties as the spark for the conflict, notes the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP).

The Pakistani military had to be called in to control the violence.

"If one were to believe the headlines, Pakistan is seemingly susceptible to an Islamic take over at any point and the Pakistani army provides the ultimate protection," says the CEIP, adding that it is a misreading of the reality.

Grare argues that the risk of an Islamist takeover in Pakistan is a myth invented by the Pakistani military to consolidate its hold on power.

"No Islamic organisation has ever been in a position to politically or militarily challenge the role of the one and only centre of power in Pakistan - the army," says Grare in the brief.

"On the contrary, the Pakistani Army has used Islamic organisations for its purposes, both at home and abroad."

In fact, Grare contends, the Islamic parties have had limited appeal.

"The religious parties' low mass appeal makes them less threatening to the military establishment than the more popular Pakistan People's Party (PPP)," he maintains.

The PPP is the party of ousted Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Grare says Western governments should pressure President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on militants in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The study also implies that the arms sales to Pakistan only increase the army's leverage and block major internal reforms and is an implicitly endorses military policies.

The US and other nations should actively promote the demilitarisation of Pakistan's political life through a mix of political pressure and capacity building, Grare recommends.

Grare is a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment and a French expert on South Asia.

He was most recently in the French embassy in Pakistan. Between 1999 and 2003 he was in India as director of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities.

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 13:01 IST