Pakistan Army As Politically Disruptive Force In Nation-Building – OpEd


By Dr Subhash Kapila

Pakistan Army having ruled over Pakistan for nearly half its existence since 1947 has no credits to distinguish itself in terms of Pakistan’s nation-building; the contrary is true in that despite its pretentions of being the “Glue that Holds Pakistan Together”, Pakistan as a nation in 2017 is unstuck and dysfunctional.

Pakistan as the minor inheritor of British India along with much larger India with much larger challenges in nation-building could have emerged as an equally democratic, progressive and economically vibrant nation like India. But what picture does Pakistan project as the second decade of the 21st Century draws to a close?

Pakistan today projects a picture of a dysfunctional nation steeped and slipping into an abyss of medieval Islamic obscurantism—-sadly into the very opposite conception of Pakistan which its founder Jinnah had visualised. Pakistan’s liberalist sections and the educated middle class stands drowned by the Pakistan Army-Mullah nexus, both intent on keeping Pakistan as a nation state embracing 21st Century modernity.

Pakistan today presents sordid picture where the Pakistan Army as the main dominant force presiding over Pakistan’s political directions and so also its foreign policies has strongly and disruptively impeded Pakistan’s emergence as a moderate, democratic .and progressive Islamic State. A progressive and democratic Pakistan would be expected to clamp down on the Pakistan Army-Islamic Theocracy combine and also bring the Pakistan Army under firm civilian control.

The Pakistan Army has done so not due to any external or domestic pressures but by its own volition and its own compulsions to remain and sustain its privileged monopoly of State power and governance. The Pakistan Army could have achieved the same end as many other Armies of the world in similar situations have done without resorting to enlisting the support of Islamic Mullahs (clerics), Islamic Jihadi terrorist outfits and Islamic fundamentalists of the most medieval type as its mainstays to rule and stay in power in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Army misappropriates the lion’s share of Pakistan’s National Budget for empowering itself with nuclear weapons, nuclear-tipped long range ballistic missiles and advanced military hardware. All of this at great cost and at the expense of impoverished Pakistani masses. Good education and health services in Pakistan suffer on this account.

The Pakistan Army also spends large amounts of money other than that allotted in its lion’s share of the defence budget for subsidising Pakistan Army sponsored proxy war against India and Afghanistan by use of the various Islamic Jihadi terrorist groups affiliated and subsidised by it. Reports suggest that such money also is derived from illicit drugs money trade resorted to by Pakistan Army’s intelligence agency—the ISI.

Contextually therefore, in light of the above overview profile on the Pakistan Army, some pertinent questions that this Paper attempts to examine are as follows: (1) Is Pakistan Army really the glue which holds Pakistan together? (2) What are the salient dimensions of Pakistan Army’s politically disruptive activities that impede Pakistan’s nation-building? (3) How has the Pakistan Army been able to get away for decades without adverse domestic accountability costs in as a politically disruptive force in Pakistan’s national affairs? (4) How has the Pakistan Army been able to get away from its external accountability for ethnic genocides/ second Partition of Pakistan in 1971/nuclear weapons proliferation/and officially sponsored Islamic Jihadi terrorism not only against its immediate neighbours but also against the United States, namely the horrific 9/11bombings in New York and in Washington?

Pakistan Army has failed in promoting or adding to cohesion of the Pakistani State going by its demonstrated performance record. On the contrary, the Pakistan Army emerges as the main instrument of Pakistan’s breakup into two separate nations of the rump state of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan Army may soon repeat the same blunder in Balochistan and Gilgit regions. Pakistan Army continues to support its Sunni-predominant Islamist theocratic allies against the legitimate existence of Pakistan’s sectarian minorities—- the Shias and the Ahmediyas. Pakistan as a nation has selected a “strange type of glue” to hold Pakistan together. But then will the Pakistan Army ever allow the Pakistan citizenry to select the appropriate glue to hold Pakistan together?

Salient dimensions of Pakistan Army’s politically disruptive activities to impede Pakistan’s nation building and emergence as a progressive nation incorporate (1) Genuine democracy being prevented to strike roots by frequent military rule interventions whenever the Pakistan Army perceived that the balance of political power was getting shifted in favour of civilian governments (2) Towards this end, the Pakistan Army contrived critical law& order situations projecting imminent state-collapse due to civilian government mis governance. (3) Dividing Pakistan’s political parties through use of political surrogates and elections financed and manipulated by the ISI. (4) Not permitting civilian governments to complete their full five years tenure.

Pakistan Army has managed to get away from domestic accountability for its politically disruptive activities on the strength of its suppressive and coercive capacities of the ISI against any vocal opposition surfacing against it. Pakistan Army has never been held accountable for its loss of East Pakistan, its defeat in the 1965 and 1971 Wars that it launched against India, the Kargil military misadventure against India in 1999 and the complicity of the Pakistan Army hierarchy in facilitating United States Special Operations to strike deep in Pakistan’s heartland and in its major garrison town to liquidate Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan’s above referred military misadventures are quoted as politically disruptive activities as these impeded and interrupted Pakistan’s economic progress and also enabled Pakistan Army to divert domestic attention from its mis governance and corruption during long spells of military rule.

Pakistan Army has been adept at getting away from any external accountability for its ethnic genocides, proxy war sponsorship and use of Islamic Jihadi terrorism because of the permissiveness of its strategic patrons who exploited the rental Army instincts of the Pakistan Army military hierarchy for their own politically expedient strategic ends. Earlier the United States and now China have used the Pakistan Army as a willing accomplice for furthering their geopolitical ends in the region.

Both the United States and China preferred long spells of military rule in Pakistan so as to achieve their strategic objectives for which the Pakistan Army traded its strategic utility for silence of its external patrons on Pakistan’ Army’s hold on Pakistan’s political directions, foreign policy and to say the least Pakistan Army’s nuclear weapons technology proliferation. During the Cold War, the United Sates used the Pakistan Army to balance India’s non-alignment and now China uses Pakistan Army as its frontline state against India and the United States.

However, the Pakistan Army cannot endlessly get away with its perpetuation of controlling the destiny of Pakistan to suit neither its narrow vested corporate interests nor the vested interests of its new strategic patron China. With social media as a rising global phenomenon and its potential to open Pakistani masses windows to a wider globalised world of opportunities, especially economic, Pakistani masses cannot remain as mute spectators to the virtually colonial yoke of the Pakistan Army on Pakistan’s future and destiny. Winds of opposition to the Pakistan Army are visible in Pakistan’s civil society.

Observations made by me in the Paper above stand validated by the comments which I happened to come across as I was racing towards the Concluding Comments. Pakistan’s noted former distinguished diplomat Ashraf Jahangir Qazi in an article in DAWN today had some very scathing comments to make on the sordid state that Pakistan finds itself today.

The more notable excerpts from this scathing piece are appended below:

  • “Given the triumph of religious obscurantism, the politically motivated security establishment, and the utterly corrupt and cowardly governance, what can another election do?”
  • “Learned analyses of Pakistan’s political, security, economic, social and external challenges, and discussions about roadmaps and timelines for their possible resolution are all rendered irrelevant by the tragic state it has been reduced to by its rulers and guardians(read Pakistan Army)”
  • “Moreover, the country’s elites, who rule without conscience or pity, readily plead their inability to address the situation while doing everything to ensure that it remains unaddressed. They deliberately rob the people of faith in themselves.”

The Pakistan Army to perpetuate its role as arbiter of Pakistan’s destiny, security and holding Pakistan together has obsessively quoted the ‘India Threat within Pakistan to the Pakistani masses. The Pakistan Army has played this canard for far too long. This myth also stands shattered by Ambassador Qazi in his scathing piece quoted above with the remarks: “Why should India try to destroy Pakistan when the country’s rulers are destroying themselves.”

Concluding, I would like to assert that though the Pakistan Army and its Islamic Jihadi cohorts who perpetuate the existing unfortunate state of affairs as a politically disruptive force in Pakistan’s nation-building, must remember that while their faith may temporarily be numbed, they need to recall their resilient mass surge of 2007-09 when the Pakistan Army and its military ruler then, General Musharraf was forced to relent and leave office by Pakistani peoples power manifested on the streets of Islamabad and the march from Lahore to Islamabad. The people of Pakistan need to say “Yes, we can” and end the politically disruptive role of the Pakistan Army and propel 21sst Century Pakistan to a modern, moderate, democratic and economically vibrant future.


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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