Preserver and destroyer

I think Anatol Lieven is pretty much the best Western writer about Pakistan. Here is a great article by him from November 2002 :

The Army’s role is rather like that of the Hindu god Shiva: it is both preserver and destroyer of Pakistan. Preserver, because without it, Pakistan would probably have disintegrated long ago, and because the discipline, order and patriotism of the Army provide a foundation for the possible future development of the state. Bennett Jones has this to say of the developments leading to Pakistan’s first military coup, in 1958:

As the politicians and bureaucrats bickered and quarrelled, the military became increasingly involved in political decisions. This was partly a result of the civilians’ failure to govern effectively: the military was frequently called upon to fulfil functions that should have been performed by the police. Indeed, the Army soon became the only organisation capable of keeping order on the streets . . . By asking the Army to manage a political crisis, the civilians had undermined their own authority. When Ayub Khan took over in 1958, few were surprised, and many were relieved, that the failed democratic experiment was over.

And destroyer, because the Army’s obsession with the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir from India, and the grossly unequal arms race to which this leads, are helping to wreck Pakistan’s finances and cripple its economic development. Combined with all the other factors limiting economic growth, this could lead ultimately to state failure.

Much of the Pakistani civilian elite, and even the more intelligent generals, now recognise this. But as Bennett Jones shows, the Army has profited so massively from five and a half decades of near-war, half-war, phoney war and occasional full-scale war with India, and its privileges are so dependent on continued fear of India, that it is questionable whether it could ever seek peace.


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