An Extension for General Bajwa

Commentary by Dr Hamid Hussain

30 August 2019
I fully understand limitations of retired senior officers.  We used to have some eccentric ones who would not care about consequences when advocating for the professionalism of their own institution.  Now, the silence is deafening.   Bless the British who instilled a sense of professionalism in officer corps that has taken a big hit in successor Indian and Pakistani armies. The most scathing criticism came from Lieutenant General Nathu Singh of Indian army who said, “I have not known a British officer who placed his own interests before his country’s, and I have hardly known any Indian officer who did not”.
It is left to some of us to bring mirror into the room; indeed, a heavy burden.  When I heard the announcement of General Bajwa’s extension, I recalled two couplets of Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz (for those who understand Urdu);
Ghurur-e-ja’an ko merey ya’ar baich detey hein​ (My friends sell the honor of their beloved)​
Qaba ki hirs mein dastar baich detey hein​ (​Just the way to get themselves a fancy dress, they wold sell their honor too)
Ye loog kiya hein, jo do cha’ar kwahishoon key liye​ 
Tama’am umar ka pindar baich detey hein
(After all who are these people​, who sell their life’s pride for a few crumbs)
Hamid

Extension Business

By Hamid Hussain

‘Power lies in the hands of those who control the means of violence.  It lies in the barrel of a gun, fired or silent’. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced three years extension of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.  This has nothing to do with national security.  Army Chief using the power of his institution to favor one political group to come to power and Imran Khan paying back the favor.  My view about extension has been very clear that it is very bad for the army as well as the country.  Maneuvers about extension usually start quite early and few months ago many interested in Pakistan army asked me this question.  I gave my view in the following paragraph written about two months ago:

“2019 looks more like 2007.  General Pervez Mussharraf had come under criticism from different quarters of society and in the process army’s reputation was sullied.  Change of command provided an exit.  General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani slowly consolidated his command by sidelining old guard and then convincing all players that army has turned a page.  The possible exit for army is change of command in November 2019.  However, personal interests of three key players; Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief General Bajwa and DGISI Faiz Hamid now converge where extension of General Bajwa is being seriously considered.  1-3 year extension will serve all three parties. Bajwa to enjoy few more years of private jet and being the master gamekeeper at the national park.  Imran Khan will be seriously thinking about giving him an extension to make sure that an unknown factor does not come into equation.  Imran is faced with enormous challenges.  However, he has not been able to put his house in order.  Rising economic woes and diverse opposition groups coming closer can cause many headaches.  Having army brass in his corner is important to weather any storm.  He would prefer to continue with known entity than venture into unchartered territory.  In case of three years extension, Faiz will be among top contenders in 2022.  After 18-24 months as DGISI, Bajwa can appoint him Corps Commander to make him eligible for the top slot.  I’m not in favor of any extension but especially in case of Bajwa, negative fallout for army is manifold.  Army is seen no more as a neutral body and extreme polarization of Pakistani polity is now directly affecting army as institution.” 

General Bajwa did not just walk into Prime Minister’s office to demand an extension of his tenure.  This is done in a way where circumstances are created and messages from briefings and body language are conveyed.  It is not a secret that army brass has made a strategic decision to give two terms to Imran Khan and General Bajwa is a fan of Imran Khan.  It was not in Imran Khan’s interest to inject an unknown factor in the game by appointing a new army chief.  General Bajwa had put his own ducks in a row for this outcome by using promotions and postings of senior officers.  In his interactions with British and American interlocuters, Bajwa conveyed the point that he is the man for the hour.  The buzz word was ‘continuity’.  The promise to British was continued quite along the Line of Control (LOC) and to Americans full support to Doha process for the snake pit of Afghanistan.  These are policies of the institution and the right course in current circumstances, but a Chief can present it in a way where he can carve out something for himself (General Kayani in his more than a dozen bonhomie meetings with American Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and General Raheel actively working on his own post-retirement lucrative package are two recent examples).  There was possibility that former army chief General (R) Raheel Sharif would complete his three years of assignment in Saudi Arabia and General Bajwa could follow him with a very lucrative post-retirement contract.  This door was closed when Prince Muhammad Bin Salman gave Raheel a three years extension as we are in extension season.  Now the only option for ‘indispensible’ officer was extension. Continue reading “An Extension for General Bajwa”

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Forbidden Fruit. Military in Politics in Pakistan

From Dr Hamid Hussain. An old article (from 2003).

Forbidden Fruit – Military & Politics

Hamid Hussain

2003

Introduction

Politics and profession of soldiering has nothing in common. They are totally different but essential elements of any society. Politicians and soldiers have an interesting relationship in all societies. In societies where civilians are in control, military officers act in accepted boundaries though ready to defend their turf against civilian encroachment. In societies where political institutions are weak and there is lack of consensus on legitimate course of succession, soldiers gradually expand their area of influence. They gradually restrict the role of civilians in various areas and sometimes directly take over the state replacing the civilians. This generally accepted model does not mean that military as an institution has no relevance to the important policy decisions. Even in countries where the tradition of civilian supremacy is well established, military has a political role relating to national security, albeit a different one. One commentator has correctly pointed that “the military’s political role is a question not of whether but of how much and what kind”. [1]

This article will evaluate soldier’s attitude towards political activity and how it develops. This will be followed by the details of Pakistani experience of politicization of officer’s corps and how repeated and prolonged military rules have militarized the politics. In the end, the complex relationship between soldiers and politicians will be summarized.

Soldiers & Politics

Soldier’s disdain for politics and politicians is universal. Soldiers by nature of their training and job requirement place high value on discipline, recognized chain of command and espirit de corps. These values are essential for any professional army. Soldiers generalize these values and attitudes to the whole society without appreciating the difficulties and various conflicting demands by interest groups in a modern nation state. In under-developed countries, the problems are compounded by host of other negative social and economic factors. Discussion, debate and arguments about different points of view are essential ingredients of politics in every society. The nature of political activity is more chaotic on surface. Soldier’s concept of political order is based on the model of discipline, which he has learned in his barracks and daily life. “Institutions that permit disorder are condemned. The men who purposefully encourage disorder, as well as those whose inactions inadvertently allow for disorder, are dangerous”.[2] This is how soldier sees the political activity of his society. Political activity is seen as undermining of the discipline of society and politicians as opportunists and self-seeking demagogues. This thought process is at the root of how a military first withdraws respect and later support of any civilian government which is followed by kicking the quarrelling politicians out of the corridors of power. The chaos and instability caused by the weak civilian institutions is blamed for paving the way for military to take over the state. This is the universal justification used by all military rulers. Once the politicians are condemned as useless bunch, the question arises then who is competent to run the state? Now the self-righteous attitude of officer corps comes into play. In under-developed countries, military sees itself as the most modern institution of the society. In addition, being a member of a well organized and disciplined force and overdose of patriotic and nationalistic symbols reinforces the notion that soldiers are more competent than civilians. In countries where military is the dominant institution, the military leadership considers itself as ‘final arbiters of political process, final judges as to whether a particular turn of events is acceptable from their standpoint as the guardians of national integrity’. [3] Continue reading “Forbidden Fruit. Military in Politics in Pakistan”

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Political Engineering in Pakistan Part II

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

June 12, 2018

Following piece is mainly the result of questions form non-Pakistanis to explain the context.  It may not be very interesting for Pakistanis as they are already well informed and it seems lengthy and a bit boring.  The noise is at a very high pitch making reasonable discourse very hard.  Reminds me tenth century Arab poet Mutanabbi’s words, “With so much noise, you need ten fingers to plug your ears”.   

 Summary could be single sentence quotes;

Political Leaders: Reminds me Liddelhart’s words “The prophets must be stoned; That is their lot, and the test of their fulfillment.  But a leader who is stoned may merely prove that he has failed in his function through a deficiency of wisdom, or through confusing his function with that of a prophet”.

Generals: The Times, April 6, 1961 issue statement that “it is difficult to envisage some thirty or forty generals and a smaller number of admirals and air force commanders appointed solely by Providence to be the sole judges of what the nation needs”.

Judiciary: Jorge Ubico of Guatemala’s words that “My justice is God’s”.

Enjoy.

Hamid

Political Engineering – Modus Operandi

Hamid Hussain

“The establishments in the US, Pakistan and India are usually working for their own good rather than for the good of their public.  Shaking them might not be a bad idea”.  Former Director General of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (R) Asad Durrani quoted in Spy Chronicles

Pakistanis will be voting for general elections on 25 July 2018.  Events of the last one year have raised many questions about the process. The gulf between important institutions is widening by the day.  Attitudes have hardened and everyone is rallying behind their respective wagons.  Pakistan’s power stool is three-legged and at one time known as ‘troika’.  In the past, President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army of Staff were the three legs of this stool.  Change of President to a ceremonial role by taking most of his powers removed this leg. In due course, this leg was replaced by Judiciary. The three legs are uneven with executive as shortest, followed in size by Judiciary and then army.  There is an inherent element of instability in this arrangement.   Continue reading “Political Engineering in Pakistan Part II”

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