Pakistan And The Aaa. Past And Present Relationship Dynamics
No it is not about an AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor's, but the three AAA’s, Allah, Army and America which is the guiding force of Pakistan. When Pakistan was created in 1947 by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, his dream was to create a secular state, where there would be separation of Church and State. But this idea was thrown out of the window the moment he died. Pakistan became an Islamic state or the idea of a state of Islam became a reality and in 1956. Jinnah wanted democracy in Pakistan but the idea never really took roots and the feudalistic ideals steeped in fear of change never really crossed over towards democracy. In all this turmoil the guiding power of Pakistan fell into three categories or most commonly known as AAA. Allah, Army and America. Islam became the bedrock of Pakistan, the Army its protective shield and America its provider of weapons and other aid.
First let us see the role of the Army in the history of Pakistan and why it had to take over from civilian control over and over in the last 6 decades. The army first took control when Iskander Mirza became the first president of Pakistan in 1956 and declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic, but the democratic system was hindered after President Mirza removed four Prime Ministers in two years and imposed the Martial Law in 1958 and appointed General Ayub Khan as its enforcer. Three weeks later, President Mirza was ousted by Ayub Khan and was exiled. The rule of the Army saw a lot of progress especially the economic prosperity and in general supporters dubbed it the “decade of Progress”. However the ill-advised war with India in 1965 saw the decline of Ayub Khan and in 1969 the power was handed over to general Yahya Khan, who again imposed Martial Law for the second time in the young History of Pakistan.
After the 1971 war which saw the separation of East Pakistan and a new nation of Bangladesh was born, democracy made a comeback and Zulfikar Ali Bhotto became the Prime Minister and the long road towards democracy started again. But this came to an macabre end in 1977 when General Zia ul Haq deposed Prime Minister Bhotto and immediately declared Martial law. 1979 the democratically elected Bhotto was Hanged. This period saw the total Islamisation of Pakistan society and it’s Military. After the death of General Zia in a plane crash, election were held and democracy again made a comeback but in 1999 the administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was over thrown and General Parvez Musharraf became President and Chief of Staff of the Army for the next ten years. This is a brief description of the role of Pakistan Army, but there is lot more to discuss.
Ever since the inception of Pakistan as a nation on 1947, America has played a pivotal role and has been a major supporter. The most powerful place in Pakistan after the Headquarters of the Army Chief of Staff was the American Embassy and the American who lived there Ambassador. Pakistan received a lot of aid from America in the form of economic stimulus and Military hardware. But the true intent was to keep a close eye on the Soviet Union and China and the only way possible was to give any and every level of assistance to Pakistan. Support for Pakistan was necessitated because of Geo politics and the strategic geography of Pakistan.
This prompted America to ask Pakistan to Join the US-led military alliances South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and CentralTreaty Organization (CENTO). In 1954 the United States signed a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with Pakistan. After signing this agreement, Pakistan enjoyed a strong and close relationship with the United States. Pakistan had aligned itself with the United States during the Cold War, as opposed to the Soviet Union. America also received a secret military base in Pakistan to conduct clandestine activity, mainly U2 spy plane to check the positioning of Soviet ballistic missiles. Further help was given during the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979. In the interest of maintaining a relationship with Pakistan, America always turned a blind eye even when democracy was openly challenged and overthrown which only means the blessings from America was there.
Finial and presumably the most important pillar of Pakistan is the dogma of the religion of Islam. Pakistan was created because of a misguided ideology and paranoia to provide a safe haven to Muslims from a Hindu dominated Indian subcontinent. It is understandable to be fearful of an impending domination by a different religion since Islam was the dominant force for nearly thousand years before the advent of the British. The British never failed to use the policy of divide and rule, but this policy took to deep rooted suspicion and paranoia among the Muslim leaders and the Muslim Populace in general and when Pakistan was created, just within few years the Islamisation of Pakistan started taking roots and the rule of Zia ul Haq consolidated it. He radicalized a secular Military and the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviets sealed it.
Whenever a war cry is made in a country in the name of religion, the thinking and the approach of military changes and also it affects the society in general. When the Hudood Ordinance was passed in 1979, suddenly the power came into the hands of the clergy and the fabric of Pakistan was changed forever. Though it was the dream of Mohammad Ali Jinnah for Pakistan to be a secular democratic nation, but when a state adopts a particular religion the very Idea of democracy becomes Null and Void.
The new “A” Abstract
So what role does the Army, America and Allah have in present Pakistan because the relationship between Army and Allah has become very close and the relationship with America is now abstract, existing only in the mind; separated from embodiment. Almost all major domestic policies are signed off by the Army and the civilian leadership has absolutely no say over foreign policy. Plus, it is known facts the civilian government have no control over launch and control of nuclear missiles protocols which became clear during the 1999 Kargil conflict when Nawaz Sharif had to rush to America for help because the Army had fielded operational Nukes. This is a grave matter when the launch code could possibly be with a field commander, which is a sensitive issue for many governments because of lack of checks and balance.
Also the Clergy has now enough power to intimidate any politician which became evident with the killing of Salman Taseer a Liberal politician who opposed the blasphemy laws. The Clergy Practically control many parts of Pakistan, so where does it leave America, because ever since the 9/11 attacks over American soil, Pakistan had no choice but to side and comply with America and kill their own brethren. After the invasion the relationship was never the same as it was few decades back when the American and Pakistani partnership was strong as concrete. But cracks started to appear in the relationship due to Pakistan involvement in Nuclear Proliferation and support of Islamic terrorist organisation like Lashkar-e-Taiba and its political/NGO wing Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
America knows that support for Taliban comes from within Pakistan and Osama Bin Laden was found just 2 miles away from the Pakistani Military Academy and more seriously the Pakistan Inter Service Intelligence, arguably one of the best and well funded intelligence organizations in the world will not miss any chance to support Al Qaeda.
But is Pakistan still in a relationship with America? Yes, but it can be called misogynist relationship, where one partner i.e. America knows that they are suffering abuse and being lied to everyday, but still decide to continue the relationship. What prompts such reaction every time is, whenever America decides to take action against Pakistan by cutting aid and military supply, Pakistan would immediately threaten with suicide, which means the hardliners will take over and everything would implode. But America must also realize that Pakistan can no longer be subject to U.S bullying because China is Pakistan all weather partner and number one supplier of weapons. Pakistani Military no longer has to depend upon American military hardware and alas the American Embassy is no longer the most important building to influence major policy change. The kind of relationship US and Pakistan had changed after the end of Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of cold war in general. But the new relationship forged after the lifting of sanctions was not of trust but the need for logistical support for NATO.
It is a well understood theory and practice that one cannot have myopic foreign policy which is apparent with Pakistan America relationship. But one thing is clear it must be exhausting to be in a relationship which has more drama then a soap opera.