THE USE AND ABUSE OF ARMY IN PAKISTAN
By Akhtar Malik – 5 Aug 2013
“If you want to destroy a nation, just deprive them of two assets- their ideology and their armed forces”. Akhtar Malik
Ideology and the armed forces are vital for the survival of any nation. Ideology inspires will to survive and the armed forces thwart any external (and at times internal) aggression against the integrity of nation. Both these facets complement each other and one cannot survive without the other.
Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 our enemies had been curiously working on the agenda to finish Pakistan. India had never accepted the partitioning of subcontinent and had always worked to dismember Pakistan. Nehru is on the record to have said that newly created state Pakistan will not survive for many years and will soon revert back to its ‘mother land’. The Indian-sponsored movements like Bengali nationalism, Sindhu-desh, Pakhtunistan and Azad Baluchistan were all meant to achieve the same aim.
Apart from attacks on the ideology of Pakistan there have been many lethal assaults on the armed forces of Pakistan, both from inside and outside the country. The analysts around the world had believed that the center of gravity of Pakistan lies in its armed forces, and no substantial gains against Pakistan can be acquired without damaging this prestigious institution of the country.
ZA BHUTTO CAMPAIGN TO HUMILIATE ARMY
The first ever well planned attack to undermine the armed forces of Pakistan was launched not by any foreigner but by one of our own political leaders- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Being a young minister in the cabinet of President Ayub Khan he knew that he cannot achieve his aim of ruling Pakistan without decimating the Army. In 1964 Bhutto was instrumental in creating situation that led to India- Pakistan war of 1965. Bhutto was sure that Pakistan Army will not be able to endure a war with an enemy which was six times bigger and stronger. However Bhutto was baffled when Pakistan Army successfully beat back Indian attack on international border and emerged as the most respectable institution in the country. India was compelled to sign the Tashkent Declaration with Pakistan. The legendary tales of heroic deeds of armed forces have become the part of our folk songs and literature.
Duly frustrated by the failure of his scheme Bhutto quit the government, formed Pakistan People’s Party and launched a movement against President Ayub Khan. He told the nation that the President had sold the interests of Pakistan to India in Tashkent Declaration and that he will soon reveal the secret behind this deal- a promise which he never fulfilled.
General elections of 1970 gave another opportunity to ZA Bhutto to materialize his dream. The sweeping victory of Sh. Mujeeb ul Rehman from East Pakistan thwarted the ambitions of Bhutto to rule the country. He therefore acted in a very discordant manner by not accepting the mandate of Bengalis and prompted President Gen Yahya Khan to initiate military action against the ‘traitor’ Sh. Mujeeb and his party. The logical result of such action was the Indian military intervention and subsequent dismemberment of East Pakistan on 16 December 1971 and paved the way for Bhutto to rule the remaining part of the country. Pakistan Army was made to surrender in East Pakistan due to none of its fault, and the country was humiliated. The individual gallantry actions of our officers and soldiers who were made to fight a war under worst ever conditions will be written in golden words.
But Bhutto was as satisfied as ever. His body language and behavior would never show any resentment or dismay which a leader should display whose half of the country was lost. ZA Bhutto also took some other initiatives to molest the Army. He violated all the rules of merit and made Gen Ziaul Haq as Army Chief by superseding six general who were senior to him. Bhutto also opened a political cell in Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) thus paving the way for military interference in civilian politics- a practice that cost the nation heavily in times to come.
Bhutto committed rigging in elections 1977 in order to secure his rule. A mass agitation started against him. Bhutto refused to undo his mistakes and behaved in an arrogant manner. There is no doubt that Martial Law of Gen Ziaul Haq was an outcome of Bhutto’s apathy, lack of sensitivity fro people’s feeling and ineptness of his part to resolve crisis at national level. The result was that Pakistani nation had to bear with military rule for 11 years.
MISUSE OF ARMY DURING 1988-99
The period from 1988 to 1999 saw a musical chair play between Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. As and when one party would assume power the opposition would start a campaign to overthrow the government through conspiracies. Both of them used the Army to destabilize the sitting government. A popular stance of the opposition would be to ask Chief of the Army Staff to interfere and play his role as the country was at the brink of destruction. The politicians in opposition would conduct secret meetings with COAS and try to convince him to topple the government. All the four civilian governments were terminated either by the President or by direct intervention of Army. This was a severe blow to democracy due to ineptness of the politicians but at the end whole blame was placed on Army who allegedly did not allow democracy to prosper.
During his 2nd tenure in late 1990’s Nawaz Sharif also committed the same mistake. He made Gen Pervez Musharaf as Army Chief by superseding many senior and more capable generals and thus set the stage for his own downfall. The ‘Kargil Operation’ was the turning point in his relations with Gen Pervez Musharaf and the Army. I am not a supporter of Kargil operation and feel that it was an unnecessary adventure but I am also against any apologetic attitude of Pakistanis once this even had taken place.
THE KARGIL OPERATION AND ARMY BASHING
Our analysts say that Kargil was an uncalled for and unjustified intrusion in India. I ask how many ‘uncalled for’ and ‘unjustified’ intrusions have India launched against Pakistan in the past? Was Indian intrusion in East Pakistan in 1971 justified? Was unilateral occupation of Siachen Glacier by India in 1984 justified? So once Pakistan Army had achieved a tactical advantage in Kargil over its arch enemy, it should be seen in the backdrop of the peculiar relations between the two countries since 1947.
While bashing Pakistan Army on Kargil issue our intellectuals forget to mention factors which led to this event. No one goes into the depth of reasons which forced the whole episode. No one talks of the Indian intentions and placing of Indian 70 Bde in Mashkoh Valley contrary to its usual deployment in Srinagar Valley during winters and our preemptive move. No one highlights the absence of move of our strategic forces which encouraged the Indians to move all assets up and achieve the 15:1 parity. The role of Indian Artillery and Indian Air Force is totally over bloated. It can be gauged from the facts that a total of only 12 individuals sustained injuries on gun positions on the entire front of 400 Km and the IAF could knock out only 16 individuals and some stores through over 1500 sorties. One can have long sessions on this issue, I’ll leave it at that. My heart goes out to all those brave men and officers who roughed it out in those trying conditions. It’s easy to criticize and in hindsight everyone becomes a thinker. We never lost although suffered few casualties in withdrawal. Indians have accepted their casualties as 587 in this Conflict and very heavy losses of equipment and ammo. The Indians were short of 155 mm ammunition and they purchased from South Africa.
As I remember, Kargil area was occupied by India in 1971. This was no violation from Pakistan but a reply at a suitable time. Even if we are convinced that Kargil operation was a mistake this mistake should have been owned by Pakistan and justified at political and diplomatic level. We should have told the world community in 1998 that this ‘violation’ is similar to that committed by India in Siachen. And if India wants us to vacate Kargil they should also vacate Siachen simultaneously. That was not a difficult option. Recall the event when Indian Prime Minister Rajev Gandhi during visit to Pakistan in 1990’s committed with Ms. Benazir Bhutto that India will withdraw from Siachen. But when Rajev went back he telephoned Benazir and regretted his commitment on the plea that his Army Chief was not agreeing to withdraw from Siachen. When Indian PM could give that much weight to his Army Chief why couldn’t our PM? It was a total political and diplomatic failure on the part of our civilian government of that time who could not handle the situation with courage and dexterity.
On assuming power in 1999 Gen Pervez Musharaf visited India. A brief interview was conducted by a female host of ND TV of India with Musharraf where she asked him, ”Do you have any regrets about Kargil, now that you are such a welcome visitor in India?” Gen Musharraf smilingly gave her a very apt reply, ”Do you expect me to ever say that ‘Yes, I regret it’ ? If somebody was to ask Indian Prime Minister ‘Do you regret having divided Pakistan and made Bangla Desh?’, would he say ‘yes, we are very sorry’? How would you expect that I would regret?” Leaving aside all criticism of his policies I like the way Gen Musharaf rebuts such questions of our arch enemy.
THE MUSHARAF RULE AND DEFAMATION OF ARMY
The era of Musharaf rule saw the worst kind of criticism being unleashed against Pak Army and ISI, mostly due to wrong policies of the ruler. During this period the war on terror was brought on our soil which has so far resulted in over 40,000 Pakistanis losing their lives, including 5000 troops. The country suffered heavy financial loss and was set decades beyond in terms of economic development. The war and the loss still go on unabated. Pakistan Army became unsafe on its own soil. Though the fateful events of 9/11 had placed Pervez Musharaf at a sheer disadvantage but we feel that he could still have saved the country from the colossal loss with little better diplomacy and strategy.
DEMOCRATIC ERA AND ARMY BASHING
When Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power, he also became a so-called ‘anti establishment’ leader. During his exile to Saudi Arabia and as an opposition leader after the Elections 2008, Nawaz Sharif always remained at dagger drawn with the Army. He could not distinguish between the armed forces as a state institution and an over ambitious Army Chief, who topples the civilian government and enforces martial law. He equated both of them in one bracket.
After Elections 2008 the dignity and respect of the Army was rescued to certain extent by Gen Kiyani as Army Chief when he disengaged the institution from politics. Though the Army virtually got itself detached from civil affairs but the criticisam against it continued with full force.
The PPP government under Zardari was no exception to this Army-bashing. Though Mr. Zardari apparently maintained good working relationship with Army, mostly with an aim to prolong his stay in power, he was no less an evil as far as damaging this institution is concerned. Whenever he felt that his grip was becoming loose on state affairs due to his inept governance, he would usually divert the attention of the people by saying that ‘There is a conspiracy of pen (judiciary) and bayonet (Army) cooking up against his government”. The notorious Memo-gate Scandal and behavior of Zardari after Abbottabad Operation of the US against Osama bin Laden, are clear indicators as to how the highest functionaries of the state, including the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces have been conspiring to decimate the defensive strength and capability of Pakistan.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com