Whether Husain Haqqani gets justice or not, the Memogate debacle is a watershed moment for Pakistan’s Civil-Military balance and a historic opportunity for the proponents of democracy to seize control of the ‘real’ state.
But of course it is easier said than done! A minister of Tipu Sultan was quoted in Parliamentary Papers (1852-53) as saying: “we are not afraid of what we do see of the British power, but of what we do not see.” Replace ‘British’ with ‘GHQ’ and you have access to the mind of the PPP leadership. Ignoring the colonial traits of GHQ, proponents of a Praetorian model will argue that because the PPP government is ineffective, “the executive is unable to control the military.”
With foam coming from both sides of their mouths, many Pakistani analysts repeatedly declare that democracy has proved inadequate to handle the problems of corruption, the economy, and terrorism. Some explicitly call for the censure of elected government in the ‘national interest.’
Pro-GHQ analysts on TV and in mainstream print media argue that the military has simply done us a favor by stepping up to fill the institutional vacuum created by the inefficiencies of the civilian government. In reality these so-called analysts simply justify and legitimize the use of coercive authority over the social, economic, and political institutions of Pakistan.
If you analyze these commentators you will find patterns and repetitive messages that are not challenged by the anchors or editors of leading publications. It is a known fact that GHQ had colluded with or coopted the judiciary, resulting in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution to name only one troubling example of undermining democracy. The Military-Judiciary incestuous relationship is no secret but pro-establishment analysts invoke the power of the lordship of the all mighty Supreme Court to seek justice that weakens civilian institutions; case in point the Memogate scandal.
The media and judiciary both aid GHQ as they systematically and ruthlessly eliminate political opponents. Of course they still exploit the populist power of religion to solidify their hegemonic discourse.
Look closely and you will find that these proponents of GHQ inhabit a dark, conspiratorial world devoid of all social and natural realities. Peddling their pseudo-fascist theory of “national security” they argue that the Judeo-Christian-Hindu forces of the West –Israel-India have joined hands in a war against Islam. The enemy is anyone who thinks differently from them; so to save Pakistan, the military must wipe out all signs of dissent. To many of us their theory sounds paranoid, but it makes perfect sense to GHQ pushers who have bought into (or sold out to) this fascist narrative, and a conservative jihadi form of Islam. They also reflect Pakistan’s pervasive sense of isolation, which results in a grandiose view of Islamabad as occupying the world’s center stage.
Going back to the quote of Tipu Sultan’s minister: We know that GHQ has coopted the judiciary, media, mullahs and many political celebrities. These are what Slajov Zizek, contemporary political philosopher would call the ‘known-known’. We also know that there are unknowns (known-unknown) and we don’t know what we don’t know (unknown-unknown). But I would submit that what we ‘know’ but do not acknowledge or forget (known-unknown), is the key to rebalancing the civil-military relationship in Pakistan.
For example we know that there are nearly 190 million people in Pakistan. We know that there are nearly 58 million adult men and 54 million adult women –compare that to merely 1.4 million strong in the army and you begin to understand the potential power of the people. We know that 20th century social revolutions, for example in China (1949, and in Cuba in 1959, were caused by endemic military interventions in civil society. We also know for example that several countries in South and Latin America have successfully leashed their oppressive armies within the past twenty years.
But most importantly we know that GHQ realizes that direct rule of the Pakistani people, a la marshal law, is no longer possible, therefore, they are building human avatars to serve as their proxy.
Amos Perlmutter in his well publicized paper, “Toward a Taxonomy of Civil-Military Relations in Developing Polities,” writes “the army can take over the government with or without the consent of civilian politicians, on their behalf or against them, in order to eliminate one civilian group and establish another.”
The lesson learned from the Memogate debacle is that Pakistan’s civil society has matured and can counter dominant narratives even when they don’t have control of the mainstream media. Digital activists from Pakistan have provided breathing room for the PPP government and have encouraged Prime Minister Gillani and co-Chairman Bilawal Bhutto to take bold stands.
But this is no time to slow down. As I have written elsewhere abuses of power should put intelligence reform at the top of the agenda for change for PPP government. Before Pakistan can continue its democratic transition, these changes must be addressed.
Ignoring the need to establish supremacy over the intelligence community would be a grave mistake on the part of Pakistan’s civilian government. Reducing the role of the military in the intelligence sector will allow the government to consolidate itself domestically, so it should be a top priority. In addition, government control over military and intelligence will cast a positive light on the state of Pakistan’s emerging democracy, and will improve international opinions of Pakistan.
Although reform to intelligence agencies will be difficult, the good news is that with patience, resolve, and international situation in its favour, Pakistan’s government can indeed reassert civilian control over the intelligence community. Luckily for Pakistan, there are predecessors to take notes from. Indonesia and Chile have both undergone transformations in the intelligence arena and have plenty to offer Pakistan by way of example.
Intelligence agencies reform in Indonesia and Chile became a reality after the media began exposing the atrocities and, people had the courage to reject authoritarianism. Reform of the murky Indonesian intelligence service, Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN), were spurred by revelations that emerged in the trial of the alleged killer of the country’s top human right activist.
Munir Said Thalib, died from arsenic poisoning while on a flight on Garuda, Indonesia’s national airline, from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore on Sept. 7, 2004. Indonesian media exposed the hands behind Munir’s murder.
Extensive exposure by the mass media of the massive human rights violations and power abuse by the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), led to the abrupt breakdown in its public image. And, the abolition of “Dwifungsi ABRI” (the dual-function of the military) became a major demand of the pro-democracy movement.
In this same sense, the Pakistani media’s role is necessary to question the functioning of the ISI. I do not expect mainstream Pakistani media to question GHQ promoted narratives. But I am hopeful that Pakistan’s growing pro-democracy digital activists will utilize all tools available to challenge the dominant discourse.
I wrote this article for Viewpoint. http://www.viewpointonline.net/pak-army-and-internal-colonialism.html