The latest issue of The Friday Times has two commentaries on the situation in Pakistan that are worth passing on. Najam Sethi is the editor and because he has been willing to face abuse by the government for his views so I take him seriously. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, author of the second article, is a long time observer, a respected academic and politically astute observer. What he has to say also should be given a careful hearing. Because The Friday Times is only available by subscription [but a mere $25 / year] many people don’t have access to it, so we digest it here for the benefit of readers. But it is worth the minimal amount to pay the subscription fee.
Bringing them in to keep them out?
“Given General Pervez Musharraf’s rising unpopularity, many people want to know when the army high command will ask him to quit and hand over power to the civilians. But few have paused to ask if this is at all possible”
“Indeed, the opposite may well be true – that … General Musharraf is so comfortable with the corps commanders and they with him that they jointly do not countenance any reduction in his clout even after he quits as army chief and becomes a civilian president.”
“General Musharraf’s insistence that he will quit as army chief after he becomes president even before the general elections are held [as] significant. If he were weak or tottering, surely he would cling to his uniform instead of voluntarily taking it off”
“as a civilian president he expects to retain the support of the Pakistan army. What is the source of his confidence?”
“the current army high command, for the first time in history, is deeply apprehensive of the internal -security dangers faced by the Pakistani state rather than the external ones which they have been trained to confront. These include the seizure of large swathes of Pakistani territory by Talibanised elements,insurgency in Balochistan, Al-Qaida inspired Islamist terrorism, simmering jihadism and the presence of American-Coalition troops in Afghanistan”
“In this unprecedented ‘failing state’ syndrome, the army as state-guarantor is not inclined to brook too many ‘democratic’ or“civilian” solutions in view of two factors: the dismal performance of the civilians in the past, and the certainty of divisive, fractured and ineffectual politics in the future.”
“This analysis suggests that attempts to find an ‘exit strategy’ for General Musharraf via an internal military or judicial coup against him in the expectation that it will pave the way to a functioning civilian democracy may not bear immediate fruit.”
The state of the state in Pakistan
Rasul Bakhsh Rais
“Judging the Pakistani state on the democratic-authoritarian spectrum is not difficult now that the veneer of democratic transition has disappeared and a fifth martial law is upon us”
“State and nation-building have failed to take into account the question of ethnic diversity. There is hardly any normative legal framework to move diverse populations toward one political direction with an inherent stake in the state. The pragmatic state formation process has been substituted by idealistic notions of nationalism that are not grounded in political reality. To provide a solid basis for a nation-state would have required three important ingredients – autonomy, representation and empowerment.”
“The ideology of the state, at least in the economic sphere, follows neo-liberalism with blind faith, and without any consideration given to the nature of Pakistani society where the gap between the rich and the poor is too wide. There has been economic growth but the largest share of that has been concentrated in the upper classes, leaving the majority at the mercy of market forces, which are more manipulated than free.”
“The issue of the state’s capacity to govern effectively provokes anger in the ruling establishment. This happens when ruling elites lose touch with reality. The whole world is genuinely interested in seeing … the state and its institutions to be effective. But this will require not coercive means, which under some conditions have to be applied, but also popular legitimacy and social approval, which the power-obsessed ruling elites are not willing to work for.”
“There are only two ways to move out of the clear and present dangers that face us. First, the ruling group has to admit its mistake in imposing what is effectively martial law and further damaging the state. Recent steps taken after the imposition of emergency rule need to be retracted and the pre-Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) status restored … Second, the social movement … needs to mature into a social revolution. This may or may not happen, but the social mobilisation that is taking place … is a sign that some changes may soon come about in the character of the Pakistani state.”