Pakistan Army a state within a state.
When two cultures collide, does one flee from the other, accommodate it, ignore it, absorb it, yield to it, or try to destroy itself? A question that requires serious discussion. And then the rhetoric that even resonates today. The staunchest advocates of the idea of Pakistan feel that their identity is wrapped up in the fate of Kashmir. For some Kashmir is also the key to unraveling India. If India gave up Kashmir, then Indian Muslims will also come to Pakistan, or would at least achieve a separate status within a restructured Indian confederation. This is how general public is led to perceives relations with India.
Pakistan’s politicians confront the basic problem: how do they come to power and hold on it given the army’s historic role as a ruler and power broker? Pakistan army practices a policy of divide and rule when it come to dealing with the political parties. The army routinely shifts its support among and between the “mainstream” and religious parties, and between the national parties and those whose power base is confined to one province. Thus even when it believes it has the army’s support, a party in power is insecure since this support can be withdrawn at a moment’s notice.
Here in lies the dilemma of Newaj Sharif. Given army’s deep distrust of the politicians, he is forced to pursue a survival strategy by attempting to accommodate the army, to divide it, and to supplant it. These dynamics of civil-military relationship remain central to Pakistan’s future.
Although many Pakistani civilians elites nominally favor democracy, they are uncomfortable with the idea of mass democratic politics. Pakistan democracy is still an avocation, more of a civic obligation than a career. To have a real democracy Pakistan must also have real political parties-not affinity groups of the rich and famous.
A full blown democracy, in which the armed forces come under firm civilian control, will be impossible until Pakistan’s strategic environment alters in such a way that the army retreats from its role as a guardian of the state. Domestic politics in Pakistan is hostage to India-Pakistan relations; normalization with India is necessary but insufficient condition for Pakistan’s re-democratization. Ironically, such a normalization process cannot be carried out by a civilian government alone.
If India and Pakistan should reach agreement on Kashmir and their larger conflict, then the army must be engaged to take a front role in peace negotiations.
Pakistan’s future depends in large part on its relations with its neighbor, especially India and Afghanistan. The conflict with India places disproportionately large shadow over Pakistan’s economy, politics, and society. Nevertheless, despite high defense spending for years and three wars, Pakistan is less secure today than it was 68 years ago. Any peace is replaced by narratives of nuclear holocaust, civilizational war, and terrorism.
PM Modi’s initiative reaching out to Newaj Sharif is a good start but has to be followed through with equal participation of Pakistan army in brokering any peace agreement.