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'Pakistan an army with a nation'

Pakistan is an army with a nation, rather than the usual nation with an army. It has a history of military coups and never really managed to get a constitution or democratic government going. That is not all, President Musharraf leads a country, which is said to be ruled by the three A's, Allah, Army and Amrika (America), writes Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta in An International Diary.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2004 13:07 IST
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta

There is a definite pattern of news stories emerging about Pakistan and, on their own, they are interesting, but when put together, add up to a rather worrisome situation.

A state racked by internal dissension, crawling with zealous jehadi's, possessing a full range of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons program with missile delivery capability, political instability and more, is troubling to the world.

Samuel Huntington, of "Clash of Civilisation" fame, wrote a seminal book way back in 1957, called as "Soldier and the State", a required reading for anybody who is interested in understanding civil military relations.

One of the key things he mentions for a professional military is subordination to the civilian authority to maintain a professional army. Like Prussia of yore and Myanmar of now, Pakistan is an army with a nation, rather than the usual nation with an army. It has a history of military coups and never really managed to get a constitution or democratic government going.

The country is mostly defined on the basis of national security and almost all its national energies are oriented towards satisfying this need for national security. Defence expenditure, like India, is rarely investigated by the public bodies; corruption is endemic and is a sacred cow to boot.

That is not all, President Musharraf leads a country, which is said to be ruled by the three A's, Allah, Army and Amrika (America).

"Pakistan is an army with a nation, rather than the usual nation with an army."

After having deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, President Musharraf had to deal with the fall-out of 9/11 and handle the transition to a civilian government, governed under the auspices of a constitution, which has been mangled beyond belief. 9/11 took away one of the two legs of Pakistan's military strategy and left it teetering.

After being forced to withdraw all its support to the Taliban government, it was put on notice. Following several verbal gymnastics, to justify its withdrawal from Afghanistan, military and diplomatic pressure increased from the Indian side, for Pakistan to stop its "moral and diplomatic" support to the Kashmiri insurgents.

The international community was not pleased either and there was a steady succession of leaders, who told Pakistan to "back off". This created a tremor in the other leg, with the umpteen jehadi's and Islamic leaders furiously bellowing about treason and betrayal. So much so, that President Musharraf is currently rated to be one of the most heavily protected leaders in the world.

Some newspaper reports claim that there have already been more than 6 assassination attempts on him and I am sure President Musharraf is looking at Charles De Gaulle's record of 31 attempted assassinations with a decidedly jaundiced eye.

General Hamid Gul, the retired head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, has stated "we have the nuclear capability that can destroy Madras; surely the same missile can do the same to Tel Aviv.

Washington cannot stop Muslim suicidal attacks. Taliban are still alive and along with "friends" they will continue the holy jihad against the US.

America will destroy Iraq and possibly later on, repeat the same act of war against Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia". Not only that, members of the MMA, which govern two of the four Pakistani provinces, have been making bellicose threats.

One of its leaders and newly elected senators, Sami ul-Haq had declared: "If the US attacks Iraq, the MMA alliance and all their supporters will attack Washington and Tel Aviv". Qazi Hussain Ahmed, head of Jamat-e-Islamai, one of the most powerful and disciplined Islamic parties in Pakistan, chipped in with a warning to President Bush that he "will suffer the horrible punishment of God". No doubt God will work in mysterious ways!

It is also reported that many officers and generals in the Pakistani Army, which used to be reasonably secular, are having a decided Islamists lean these days. So we have Allah and the Army both being upset with President Musharraf. What about Amrika?

As the Washington Post reported late last year, the fact that Pakistan is exchanging nuclear technology for North Korean missile technology is disquieting news at best. US Secretary of State Colin Powell was pretty blunt (as much as a diplomat can be) in saying that if Pakistan keeps on transferring nuclear technology to North Korea, there will be "consequences".

Nuclear weapons and missile technology proliferation between two states with severe economic and political problems is of serious concern to the international community. Recently, it seems that Colin Powell's warning came true and a mild shot across the bow was fired by enforcing sanctions on a government run nuclear laboratory.

The Washington Post also mentions that Powell has urged Musharraf to regain control of the laboratory, a most distressing fact, as it indicates that the army is not in complete control of its nuclear facilities. Amrika is upset, but not yet showing it, as the Afghanistan chapter has not been closed and a rather bigger chapter in Iraq has just been opened.

It is said, President Musharraf leads a country, which is said to be ruled by the three A's, Allah, Army and Amrika (America).

It takes nuclear facilities as well as the scientists to make a nuclear program. The scientists are another worry. Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood and Chaudri Abdul Majeed, two senior Pakistani nuclear scientists were detained under the suspicion of helping Al-Qaeda with its attempts to acquire, procure or develop nuclear and chemical weapons. Two more nuclear scientists, Suleiman Asad and Mohammed Ali Mukhtar were wanted for questioning, but the Pakistani authorities reported that they were sent to (guess where) Myanmar and were unavailable for questioning. Of course, Myanmar is such a hot-spot of nuclear research.

While the Pakistani economy is getting better with good foreign exchange reserves, it has a long way to go. Hordes of unemployed young men, irrigation problems (the Indus River no longer reaches the sea), tribal warfare in Baluchistan with gas pipelines blown up, the MMA starting to enforce Sharia law in NWFP bordering Afghanistan, the Taliban hiding in the tribal areas and the urban jungle of Karachi, American law enforcement and military personnel physically present inside the country raising the hackles of the Islamists, and so on, render the situation "not ideal" to say the least.

In Angkor Wat, one can see huge trees growing on the sides of the stone temples, squeezing and cracking the stone slabs, suffocating the stones in its grip. The Pakistani Army became such a tree for Pakistan's temple or rather mosques. The Army's previous military adventures have nearly always ended badly, its history of genocide and repression tarnishing Pakistan's image. But as it is the sole remaining bastion (tattered and crumbling as it may be) in the way of the jehadi's getting their sweaty little hands on some rather long range nuclear missiles, USA is not pressing Pakistan too hard.

That does not mean that USA has taken its eye off Pakistan. President Bush's National Security Policy document is a very interesting read and if that is the strategy that USA is following (which it looks like), Pakistan is definitely on the schedule.

Pakistan is a very difficult nut to crack, even worse than North Korea. North Korea is rather un-susceptible to international pressure with the remote exception of Chinese pressure and could potentially be controlled with a judicious application of economic pressure, international diplomacy and at the worst case scenario, with limited military action. If one applies these techniques to Pakistan, the downsides will be more painful, but there are no alternatives really. The world simply cannot live with the current state of affairs in Pakistan.

Before the world does get around to it, there is a strong chance that India and/or Israel may take forceful action against Pakistan. This can very well result in a nuclear war. Worse would be the very real danger of Pakistan imploding and unleashing an unholy mixture of howling jehadi's, uncontrolled nuclear materials and missiles. This will not only affect the 147 million Pakistanis, but will have a ripple affect further on in the Central / South Asian / Middle East tinderbox. Then the carefully laid plans of mice, men and Americans will simply fall apart.

All this to be taken with a grain of salt!

(Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, currently working ona doctorate at Kings College in International Relations and Terrorism, also holds a Doctorate in Finance and Artificial Intelligence from Manchester Business School. He works in the City of London in various capacities in the Banking Sector. He also lectures at several British Universities.)

First Published: Jan 09, 2004 13:07 IST