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PAKISTAN OF THE ARMY GENERALS

Facts speak. Fictions do not. Hence one’s focus is on ground reality: the hot and hostile terrain faced by the Indian defence personnel — rather than on the high table of diplomatic posturing. It is time to analyse the psyche of Pakistan’s army in the light of the recent provocation on the Indo-Pak border, euphemistically referred to as the line of control.

On a rough calculation of the last 1,000 years, India has had at least 40 major foreign invasions through the western and north-western frontiers. Hence, the culture of the gun is deeply ingrained in the people there. What constituted access to India (through passes like the Makran, Bolan, Gomal, Khyber, Zoji la and Karakorum) in the past were far away from the heartland of Hindustan. The epicentre of violence shifted nearer home post-1947 as the border of India began from the checkposts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

Understandably the soldiers of Pakistan’s army (who are recruited from certain traditional areas) consider themselves to be members of the ‘martial races’. Men from the Potohar plateau and the Punjab plains initially joined the British Indian army in large numbers. Potohar plateau, which was traditionally under the influence of the Gakkhar tribe, today has one of its natives, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as the chief of the Pakistan army since October 2007.

Unfortunately, Kayani, the 14th army chief of Pakistan, carries the mantle of a unique training doctrine vis a vis India: “One Pakistani soldier is equal to ten or more Indians” — as reported by Stephen P. Cohen, the American scholar of South Asia. Accordingly, “Pakistan adopted it as a way of demonstrating to foreigners... that a small amount of assistance to Pakistan could offset the Indian behemoth. If one Pakistani equalled ten or twenty Hindu Indian soldiers, then Pakistan could overcome the disadvantages of its apparent size and resources, and, if necessary, the Pakistani army could challenge India.”

This mythology of the ‘martial races’ theory intoxicated the Islamabad army so much that from the beginning, Pakistani generals held the civilian bosses in utter contempt. With frequent coups and ceaseless Goebbels-like propaganda, disinformation/misinformation campaigns and psychological war, successive dictators raised the people’s expectations to absurd heights only to fall from grace.

Although the state of Pakistan has not been under direct military rule for the last five years owing to the ‘inability’ or ‘reluctance’ of the army chief, Kayani, to take charge of the State, no decision of ‘national importance’ can be initiated or initialled by the civil administration of Islamabad even today.

Let us now look into the civil-military ruler ratio in Pakistan and compare it with its eastern neighbour. In 64-and-a-half years of existence, Pakistan did not have a prime minister for almost 27 years as the post stood abolished by the ruling military dictator five times. However, in the next 38 years, 25 prime ministers adorned the government of Pakistan, thereby marking up an average shelf life of 1.52 years per person in that office. In comparison, twelve army chiefs (the first two British chiefs are not being counted) in 63 years makes an average of 5.25 years per army general. Clearly, therefore, the chair of the chief of Pakistani army is more stable and durable than the office of the prime minister.

The abolition of post aside, what must have been most humiliating for the civilian establishment was the fact that more often than not, successive prime ministers had to serve first under the extended tenure of the same army chief and subsequently face the ignominy of dismissal without any reason or warning.

Thus, ‘under’ Pervez Musharraf, four prime ministers — Zafarullah Khan Jamali (19 months, five days); Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (51 days); Shaukat Aziz ( 38 months and 27 days) and Muhammad Mian Soomro (four months, nine days) came and went without a whimper.

Even under civilian administration, while the present army chief has been in place for the last five years and three months, the Pakistan government has already seen two prime ministers during those corresponding years. In reality, successive prime ministers have been treated like dirt ever since 1947. After Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, was assassinated, after having been in office for four years, one month and 26 days, Khwaja Nazimuddin (one year and six months) and Muhammad Ali Bogra (two years and four months) were the only durable heads of the Pakistan government. Chaudhry Muhammad Ali (one year and one month), Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar (two months) and Feroze Khan Noon (10 months) completed the ritual of their respective tenures quickly.

In sharp contrast to the Pakistani army’s dominance stands the apolitical professionalism of the Indian army, which plays a sensible and supporting role in the national scene. Thus Jawaharlal Nehru as the prime minister had the privilege of appointing six professional army chiefs who never ever acted unprofessionally. After the brief interlude of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s tenure that saw the 1965 war with Pakistan, eight army chiefs served under Indira Gandhi with the credit of the war victory of 1971 going to Indira Gandhi and General Sam Manekshaw. Even during politically turbulent times there never have been any irregularities displayed by the armed forces of India. India’s chaotic and high-decibel democratic political system encompassing 1.2 billion people and the discipline and dedication of the 1.2 million-strong army could be a study in sharp contrast if seen against the background of a shattered polity of Pakistan and the arrogant army generals there. The tradition of the Indian army’s role continues unchanged. After Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, now Manmohan Singh has also had the last say in appointing the chief of the army staff.

Why is the Pakistan army showing its fangs in its eastern front although there is turbulence in its western frontier? The fact is, Kayani is the longest serving “peace time, non-dictator, non-president” chief of the Pakistani army. Kayani has blocked the promotion of his junior colleagues no doubt; but since Kayani, unlike Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf, has not given the extension to himself, he can take cover under the “civil administration decision”.

Given the fact that at least five senior generals (including Kayani) will retire in 2013, coupled with the overall enhanced anxiety, chaos, confusion, violence, ethnic strife, the Afghan cauldron and the internal politics of Pakistan, the cool and calculating Kayani (the ace Inter-Services Intelligence chief of yesteryear) is inducting more ISI hands into the army’s operational theatre. And that speaks for itself. India should prepare for, and visualize, the psyche of the army-ISI duo through the prism of the advertisement that says, “Ye dil maange more”. The thirsty heart of the army-ISI duo wants more violence.