Pakistan News Service

Friday Sep 29, 2023, Rabi-al-awwal 14, 1445 Hijri

Militarism and Extremism

23 August, 2007

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu

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The concerned Pakistanis believe that the army has become a state within the state.  The fact of the matter is that the army has moved almost to the final stage. It became a state within the state during General Ayub’s rule. It moved a step further during General Yahya’s martial law, and turned the state into an army state.  Since the Bengalis were capable of undoing the army’s newly acquired status, they were forced to seek separation. During General Zia’s martial law, the army entered into big business related to the wars, warlords and social ills. It acquired whatever it could with the help of the Americans and the Arabs i.e. the militants, and the arms and ammunition, and sold it wherever it could (even within Pakistan). The taste of business turned it gradually into a corporation, similar to the ones whose emergence and existence is possible only in a militarised environment. As of today it has become the biggest stakeholder in the country’s wealth. The combination of military power and economic stakes has helped it complete its journey. It has elevated itself from a state within the state to the status of a nation.  The present day reality is that there are two nations in one country, the army and the people.   


What our corporate army has been doing is fatal for the country, but it is not a unique phenomenon. In the past the armies determined the territorial boundaries and the working of the state at many places in the world. Even the businesses have been doing the same.

The entrepreneurs, companies and corporations intending to start or expand their businesses, need the support of the state/governing system. When they succeed in raising their businesses to an extraordinary level, they act or tend to act like states. If the state is weak, they either dominate the working of the state or become a state into themselves. In this regard, the East India Company is a befitting reference. In case of strong states, the businessmen do get the support of the states, but they cannot even think about challenging the state. The US and the Western states stand fully behind their businessmen, but monitor their activities too. In the developing countries strong states act similarly. The Indian and Chinese states are the important examples.

In a weak state where bureaucracy is incompetent, politics and the rule of law are non-existent, and corruption is eulogised, if the army is also weak and involves itself into businesses and becomes a major stakeholder, it first defies the writ of the state, then acting as a parallel nation creates its own super and separate state to formulate policies, laws and strategies for itself and against peoples’ interest. In doing so it exploits all social weaknesses and instruments, ethnicity, tribalism, feudalism, greed, religion etc.  Many areas in present day Africa are facing this terrible situation. At some places the situation has worsened because of split within the weak armies too; and that has led to emergence of various mini states and even parallel nations within one country. This is how the warlords and mercenaries dominate the destiny of a country.

Our situation is different as well as similar in many ways.  The difference is that our army is not weak; it is rather much more powerful than it should have been. That is why it does not need a separate state. Our state is by all means is an army state. This difference, the strong army, has on one hand delayed our downfall, but on the other hand it has been adding to the reasons for our ultimate and even irreversible collapse. The army's overstretched and excessive muscles and its business empire make it naturally act like a separate nation. That is why our country has to have the similarities with the hells that some African countries have become. In this respect please read the various reports that have placed us in almost all aspects at par with such African nations that have either been ruined, or do not count, or are on the brink.

Two nations in one country cannot stay in peace. The stronger one, the military in our case, will keep on creating reasons, basically destructive, to strengthen its elevated but abnormal status. The wars of 1965, 1971, and 1999 did not happen haphazardly. After each of these wars the army became stronger. Similarly the Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and the creation of the Taliban and the continuing extremism enhanced its strength. That these wars, Jihads and extremism broke the backbone of the people is the terrible side of the story.

Notwithstanding the similarities between our country and the doomed African countries, we still have an advantage; we are in the grip of a chaos and not anarchy. The people be it the Punjabis, Pukhtoons, Baloch or Sindhis still have great resilience. For national and noble causes they can stand up and fight together. Their support to the lawyers’ movement is the recent example.  What is needed is that the army too should understand that if we have to survive as one dignified entity, and not in pieces, all of us will have to take ourselves as various parts of one modern nation?  A modern nation does not allow its army to become a corporation, state and a nation. A modern nation spends most on social sector development, and only a reasonable amount on the defence. A modern nation is most touchy about its future, its children. An interesting story explains it all. It reads: Hillary Duff told Hollywood Life magazine: “I remember when all that stuff came out about her (Britney Spears) not strapping her baby in the car seat right. I was just like; ‘Leave her alone.’ My mom said to me; ‘Do you know how many times I dropped you on your head or let you fall off something accidentally?’ It just happens.”  Look at the depth of the sensitivity that the Americans have for their children. The example from showbiz was picked because the people here are so busy that it becomes difficult for them to have time for their families; yet in the US they do it

In contrast where do we stand? Look at the man, our Prime Minister, who has come all the way from the US to tell us that the Darul Illam for the destitute is the solution to the madrassas. Look at the man who is our President and Chief of Army Staff and is telling the world that the madrassas are the biggest and the best NGOs in the world.

It is time to sit and analyse that where would 17, 000 plus madrassas — a joint venture of the Americans, Arabs, our army and our affluent groups — lead us; and where would the millions of madrassa-qualified students go? A few thousand would find a place in the madrassas as teachers or in the mosques as Imams. A few hundred would join politics, contest elections and would work and vote for the army chosen system. A few thousand would fight against the enemy, chosen either by the army, or the Arabs or the Americans. A few thousands would seek an early departure to the hereafter taking many more along with them. The remaining millions would not find a mosque, a madrassa, an enemy, and even an urge for an early departure to heaven. Neither would they find a commonly known job. They would survive as beggars, outcasts, outlaws, and even as untouchables as long as they would live. This would happen even if the madrassa reforms are implemented. So, why should not our state treat these children as the modern states do? Why should not the madrassa going children go to the government schools? Why should not the madrassas be nationalised?

Here, the same questions that have been arising since our inception would arise again: Since we are a nation that spends least on education, from where the funds would come for opening up of modern schools for the discriminated children; and from where would we bring finances to run these schools?  From where would we secure jobs for the students who would attain their education, because we do not have jobs even for those who have attained highest honours?  Answer to these questions does not lie in dividing the nation into two nations or into pieces; it lies in turning to participatory economy through participatory politics. We need money for schools, health care and housing, and also for economy’s expansion. Initially it will only come from one source: through a cut in the army’s huge share in the budget. The budgetary allocation above 1.5 per cent of the GDP for the defence is our real and fatal problem. Agreeing to a reasonable ratio will not be possible unless the army acts as people’s army, and that is almost an impossible proposition. ‘Nationalisation of the army’ is a terminology not known in social sciences.  Given our situation, let us not only accept this terminology, but also implement it.

Who will do it, the courts, the lawyers or the politicians? The politicians make the A-team of the army. The lawyers have already returned to their usual jobs. The courts cannot do it. The most the courts can do is to help us steadily recover our constitution. If it happens it will be a step towards much needed great transformation; from two nations to one modern nation; and from an army state to modern state; and from a security state to a welfare state. But, it is not an easy task.  The Chief Justice’s case should have been decided within a week. Aitzaz Ahsan’s early request to the honourable Judges to stage a coup was Freudian slip. So was Justice Ramday’s comment, on the last day of hearing, that, ‘We are not a trade union.’ All of us are full of frustration. There is no early outlet, despite our newly found pride and energy in our judicial system and in our people. 


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