|A Soldier's Diary||
Sunday, November 7, 1999
developing situation in Pakistan will require very
THE latest military coup in Pakistan on October 12 should not come as a surprise. Ever since February, 1997 when Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister with a massive mandate from the people, he has been busy trying to dismantle the ruling troika of which the army was the most powerful centre. After downgrading the judiciary and repealing the Eighth Amendment, which made the President powerless, he had been trying to make the generals subservient. In October,1998, he virtually sacked Gen Jehangir Karamat and launched manoeuvres to undermine the cohesion of the corps commanders and the Army Chief. He plugged Lt Gen Zia-ud-din to succeed Gen Karamat but the corps commander wanted Lt Gen Ali Quli Khan, the next in line. A compromise brought up Lt Gen Pervez Musharraf as the Chief and Zia-ud-din became the head of the ISI. The resignation of the superseded Ali Quli Khan added to the grievances of the all-powerful generals. Peace parleys with India and the talk of a possibility of converting the Line of Control in Kashmir into an international border had further alarmed the generals. Gen Musharraf with the full backing of the corps commanders became the architect of the strategically brilliant intrusion into Kargil to sabotage the Lahore accord. Notwithstanding the tactical success of India, the generals and much of the army considered the order to withdraw from Kargil as the ultimate humiliation. Sharifs attempts to blame the army for this debacle had further deepened the resentment inside the army. A tension had built up between the civil government and the army ruling structure.
Pakistans shaky foundation on an untenable two-nation theory has been rocked from the very inception by its failure to develop a stable political structure. The opening of a military confrontation with India in Kashmir within two months of its inauguration had created the genesis of legitimacy for the military to gradually become the arbiter of the countrys governance. Over the years, the soldiers have become symbols of national unity, patriotism and stability. The army had acquired a unique focus in the ideology of nation- building as well its survival and integrity. To question the dominance of the army on the affairs of state had become risky. From August 14, 1947 to October 1958, when the first military coup took place, seven politically-led governments had transited through Islamabad without any one of them completing their full term. In the initial years of military rule, the discipline and order imposed by soldier-rulers created a measure of stability in the country. Into this scenario, the injection of massive doses of military and economic aid from the western counties led by the USA as well as support from some of the oil-rich Arab countries helped foster a sense of national well-being. As a consequence, any initiatives to develop a self-reliant national economy were pushed onto the back- burner. It also led to military expansion far beyond the real needs for the security of the state. Moreover, the army, in order to safeguard its bloated size and dominant status, had also acquired a vested interest to keep alive an active hostility with India, of which Kashmir became an easily exploited emotional focus. In the next 13 years, when the country remained under the jackboot, the arrogant military rulers precipitated two disastrous wars against India. A decisive military defeat in December 1971, led to the separation of the eastern wing into an independent Bangladesh. While the generals went into purdah to escape the stigma of failure, a government led by Z.A. Bhutto failed to establish a democracy which could satisfy the expectations of the people. Back came the jackboot and 11 years of military rule followed. Hostility with India and the Kashmir case acquired a more intense focus. Gen Zia failed to fully grasp that with the winding down of the Cold War, the strategic value of Pakistan had declined. External patronage and economic aid had also significantly dwindled.
Decades of neglect of the domestic economy and development had created considerable disaffection against military rule. General elections in November,1988 installed an elected government. Following it, five governments were sacked by the President and one was dismissed by the Supreme Court. By the time Sharif came to power in February 1997, mismanagement and monumental corruption had depleted the economy. As much as 30 per cent of the budget was committed to defence, 36 per cent to debt servicing and 30 per cent was reserved for maintenance of the government establishment. It left only 4 per cent for education, health, social welfare and development. Pakistan had, in fact, been virtually pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.
In May 1998, under domestic compulsions, nuclear tests to match those conducted by India invited sanctions which pushed the economy further into bankruptcy. It was equally apparent that Pakistan could not expect to be bailed out by global financial institutions without accepting stringent conditions to reduce non-developmental expenditure, one of which would inevitably be the outlay on defence. With a low industrial and export base, there was hardly any room for manoeuvre in the economy. Nawaz Sharif was well aware of the imperative to reduce tensions with India so that the defence expenditure could be made more manageable as also mutually beneficial trade links promoted. For instance, Pakistan was importing much-needed goods manufactured in India through the West Asian ports at three times the cost as compared to a direct trade. There was also an inclination to consider acceptance of the Line of Control in Kashmir as a border. These measures would have in the long run led to reduction in the defence establishment and significantly lower the clout of the army which was not to the liking of the generals. To effectively sabotage the peace process launched at Lahore, the Kargil intrusions were planned and launched. Though India was initially taken by surprise, the Pakistan military establishment had not counted upon the decisive Indian response and the unequivocal global condemnation. Apart from the tactical defeat inflicted by India, Pakistans economy was on the brink of disaster and could not survive without regular inputs of loans and financial accommodation from international financial institutions. Nawaz Sharif had little choice but to agree to order the withdrawal of Pakistan forces from Kargil. The military felt betrayed and humiliated. However, a large cross-section of people in Pakistan felt that after their defeat in 1971, Musharraf, the author of Kargil, was the only Pakistani general who had put the Indians on the defensive. His prestige and standing had gone up which helped in creating a part of the legitimacy for the October 12 coup.
In accepting Musharraf as the successor to Karamat, Sharif had apparently calculated that Musharraf, being a mohajir amongst a largely Punjabi and Pathan higher command structure of the army, would be easier to handle. By the time he realised that he had miscalculated, the resentment generated by the order to withdraw from Kargil had made the generals close ranks and their cohesion had been strengthened. It is reported that after July this year, Sharif made a number of unsuccessful attempts to secure the resignation of Musharraf. After weeks of mutual suspicion, Sharif had finally decided to sack Musharraf. In the mean time, the army, too, was alive to this possibility and had decided to defend its turf. According to the Pakistani daily, The News, the all-powerful corps commanders met on September 18 and put into place a contingency plan to frustrate Sharifs design to sack Musharraf. On September 24, this plan was approved by the chiefs of the three services. Commanders of X Corps, stationed at Chaklala, who had orchestrated the Kargil operation, and IV Corps at Lahore were the key players in this plan. Lt Gen Abdul Aziz, the Chief of the General Staff, was the coordinating link. The 111 Brigade, located at Rawalpindi, was charged with the takeover at Islamabad. It is reported that this brigade even carried out a well- disguised rehearsal of its task some time in the first week of October. On the other hand, Sharif was overconfident with his majority in Parliament. He may have also felt that the warning given by the US Administration against any attempt to change the government by force would keep the generals in check. Eventually his actions were divorced from an awareness of the ground realities and were amateurish and inept. He seems to have relied totally on the assurance of Zia-ud-din, his choice to succeed Musharraf, that he would be able to contain any adverse reaction from the army top brass. No indepth study of the possible reaction from the army seems to have been made. Neither any contingency plans were prepared, nor any preventive measures launched. No attempt was made to ensure the cooperation of the crucial X and IV Corps. The omnipotent ISI also seems to have failed to gauge the mood in the army hierarchy and to accordingly warn Sharif. Even though on October 12 the decision to sack Musharraf that very day while he was out side the country had become known to the army early in the morning, the actual announcement was made only at 4 p.m. In hindsight it appears that an open invitation was held out to the generals to walk in to power without any hindrance.
What are the implications of the coup internally to Pakistan and to India ? Undoubtedly, Sharifs autocratic rule and the poor economic and law and order conditions in the country have once again created the legitimacy for intervention by the army. Humiliation of the army by the order of withdrawal from Kargil has also created antipathy to Sharif and sympathy for the army. Therefore, there would generally be an acceptance of the army rule. How long would it last would depend on how much and how soon the basics of life for the common man are improved. The army rule may succeed in showing some immediate results, especially in recovery of loans, in putting a lid on blatant corruption and in the performance of some of the public utilities. Global experience has shown that the turnaround of the economies so deeply afflicted is generally beyond the capabilities of rather rigid military rulers to manage. Moreover, some very tough decisions regarding running down governmental expenditure, a large chunk of which is committed to defence and the establishment, are needed. An essential prerequisite for achieving these goals is to improve relations with India. It is very doubtful if the Pakistans military establishment, or any civilian facade manipulated by it, has the selfless commitment and the will to take these tough decisions which would run counter to the army interests. Besides, the heavy inputs from international financial institutions, including rescheduling of the existing foreign debt of $ 32 billion, would largely depend on the attitude of USA and its allies which is at present condemnatory of military rule.
In the light of these
contradictory pulls, it is highly likely that the vicious
cycle of military domination under its own rule, or
that manipulated by it, would continue. There is a
genuine fear that armed wings of fundamental
organisations and the Taliban with which the army has had
a close nexus may acquire a greater presence in the
country. India should expect a stepping up of the proxy
violence in Kashmir as also a greater penetration to
cause disaffection amongst the Indian Muslims. The
developing situation will require India to be very
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