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.