Weird situation

One of the weird things about 1999 was that the government had a strange policy of alternately appeasing and then suddenly confronting (in really irrational and unlikely to succeed ways) the military. Like for example, in January 1999 the government handed over WAPDA and a whole bunch of other areas of civilian governance over to the army

ISLAMABAD, JAN 15: Bypassing parliament, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has handed over whole chunks of civilian administrative functions to the Pakistan army.

The army’s new jobs include collecting electricity and water dues, running the country’s much tom-tommed autobahn from the capital city Islamabad to Lahore, Sharif’s hometown, and administering rough-and-ready justice.

In Karachi, the army has been given judicial powers to try civilian criminal offences and deliver a verdict in a maximum of eight days. Its first victim, a man charged with killing a policeman, was executed on December 31.

But the biggest peace-time mobilisation of the army has been to run the country’s largest public sector utility, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Army personnel on duty will receive an additional 50 percent of their basic salary as wages.

Even under military governments — Pakistan has been ruled by the army for 25 of its 51 years — army personnel have never been so widely involved incivilian affairs as they are now, political observers say.

At the same time the second-tier leadership of the PML-N was seen to be getting increasingly close to the military – Gohar Ayub Khan, Mushahid Hussain, Khurshid Kasuri.

You can see the same sort of thing happening right now. The government has surrendered even symbolic role in foreign and security policy. Nusrat Javed, the other day, said that there’s no point considering anything Zardari says about security policy as anything but a ‘parrot’ speaking its designated lines. Just in the last two days Kayani has been on a “short visit” to UAE where met the following:

During the visit, the COAS will meet General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.

Today, he’s in Kabul where he’s been meeting Karzai and will then attend the tripartite commission of senior military officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US.

Then you have the 2nd tier leadership of PPP moving increasingly closer to the army. Apart from the obvious moves by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, you have Hussain Haqqani becoming closer to the army and defending the army on the Charlie Rose show, you have Sherry Rehman (who is a member of the Parliament’s National Security Committee) writing justifications of the army’s hands off policy in North Waziristan, etc.

Finally you have the party leader in both cases making crazy and irrational moves which come across as desperate acts of rebellion achieving nothing. Zardari going ahead with the Birmingham rally, Nawaz Sharif trying to appoint Gen. Ziauddin Butt as COAS while Musharraf was in Sri Lanka.

So what’s the connection between the pissed off second tier leadership and kamikaze act of the person at the top? I guess it’s a sort of vicious cycle – in the case of Nawaz Sharif, the more he tried to empower himself, the more he seemed to have pissed off his own parliamentarians. Khurshid Kasuri (along with 30 PML MNAs) famously revolted against the fifteenth amendment in late 1998. Hawkish Gohar Ayub Khan was replaced as foreign minister when Nawaz Sharif was attempting to normalize relations, Shahbaz Sharif made statements like “Only a general can manage WAPDA”, etc. There’s also the case that in times of political crisis and impending collapse of the government it makes sense for the second-tier leadership to make overtures to the establishment. That’s clearly what’s happening in the case of the current Foreign Minister but it’s also clear that they are being alienated by the weird decisions of the party leader.

I guess the big difference between Nawaz Sharif and Zardari is that in 1999 Nawaz Sharif was focused on amassing power for himself whereas Zardari has done the opposite. But as both of their government’s get weaker, they both did some some really strange and suicidal things.

Interestingly, this scenario is also paralleled by Musharraf and his alienation of his own base in the army from 2006 onwards.

Is it simply because the imperatives of the very highest position are unique from every other member within the ruling party? Or is it because there is a lot of pressure to split the base from the top? Or is it because the person at the top ends up being the only one interested in maintaining the status quo? Not sure. Any ideas?

Anyway, apologies if this post doesn’t make too much sense – I don’t really remember 1999 that well.

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6 responses to “Weird situation

  1. takhalus

    The militralisation of the country was part of a two pronged approach by the sharifs one was teh employment of technocrats to turn around ailing banks and the CBR (FBR now) the army was used in WAPDA and in doing a survey of ghost schools as well as aiding the census. The former was actually very successful and created a name for people lile Mian Soomro, Shaukat Tarin

    Parallel to this the Sharifs tried to create their own force within and separate to the Army to sort out trouble makers..they set up the ehtesab bureau under Saifur Rahman and appointed Ziauddin as head of the ISI. This was followed by a targetting of the media as well as taking over balochistan and sindh without having a mandate. These events mirror ZABs creation of the FSF, targetting the media and using the army ..what is common is that both tried to control the Army while empowering it at the same time..forgetting that despite everything the Armys loyalty is ultimately to its own..so while the Army was ok with Sharif and ZAB targetting everything else in the formers case it reactively hit back and in the latters case proactively hit back when it found opportunity to re-establish its pre eminence. The reason for the difference in how each was treated was because ZAB was a populist sindhi and hence more dangerous while NS they largely agreed and liked but had overstepped with dismissing Karamat and appointing Ziauddin

  2. IZ

    Agree with takhulas – firstly Nawaz and PML-N’s background as a political party was that of a handmaiden to military rule. They had good relations with the military and the PML generally thought of the army as an efficient, all-important organisation etc. Thus Nawaz would have been ideologically primed to turn to the army in an effort to “clean-up” industries notorious for unionism in order to sell them. The idea of the military being involved in additional govt. roles would not be an alien one to them. Also Nawaz Sharif was also trying to build up his own constituency in the upper ranks of the military.

    The PPP case is different and seems to be more a result of the collapse of PPP authority in the govt and a power vacuum at the top. One gets the feeling that Zardari was insistent on proceeding with his trip because he wanted to assert his independence of the military and possibly because he saw it as vital for launching Bilalwal’s political career. Publicly the PPP is toeing the military’s line on national security because the Americans have pretty much realised all the talk of democrization was a pipe dream and now deal with Kayani. The FM knows that the only way to avoid irrelevance is to fall in line.

  3. “I don’t really remember 1999 that well.”

    It was when Jennifer Lopez introduced herself to adolescent and teenaged boys. And when we threw the WC final. That’s all I remember about it.

  4. stuka

    Takhalus Saab

    If I remember correctly, NS’s firing of Jahangir Karamat had also led to some heartburn. But that time NS’s political mandate was too strong for the Army to do anything but react sullenly and accept the situation. In hindsight, one can trace NS’s overconfidence about Army dealings to the Karamat firing. I agree that the follow up to that was an attempt to create his own power base in the Army. That move may have backfired but one must remember that right up till Kargil, NS was operating from a position of strength. Had he promoted Lt Gen Ali Quli Khan, history of democracy in Pakistan may well have been different.

  5. takhalus

    @Ahsan were you still Ahsan(Jenny) from the block? Who woulda thought the use of combo names “Bennifer” would be the invention of JLO

    @Stuka very true! I remember an interview with Aslam beg saying “the army doesn’t forgive an insult” in reference to JKs dismissal. If anything the manner of JKs dismissal made the senior leadership wary of Nawaz and perhaps led to the creation of a plan of what to do if he tried it again. The point to emphasise is what IZ said ..

    JK was dismissed after arguing for the formation of a National Security Council(http://www.lib.virginia.edu/area-studies/SouthAsia/SAserials/Dawn/1998/10Oct98.html#kara) in the Turkish model (something Musharraf setup soon after taking power) the Army did not intervene in favour of the judiciary or the president in 1997 nor did it show particular interest in the attacks on the media. The Sharifs had also given them a taste of judicial power by setting up military tribunals in karachi, all this military empowerment created the experience the faujis needed to run the country when they took over.

    What was lacking was any motivation to take over, after all they had a leader who shared their ideological views and had genuaine support in the lower ranks (unlike anyone with the name Bhutto), but once Kargil and the dismissal occurred that issue solved itself..

  6. Shahid

    JK was already under investigation for corruption in the T-80UD and Range Rover cases. That should not be forgotten as having been part of his decision to surrender his resignation albeit forcefully.

    NS did not learn his lesson with Kakar. He just had to act like a nutter, please Musharraf with the CJCSC post and then suddenly go bezerk. What a moron.

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