Pakistan’s hard-won democracy won in 2007 after eight years of military regime of General Musharraf seems to be endangered once again by the Pakistan Army, this time maybe not by a direct military coup by the Pakistan Army but by a very subtly contrived machination by it to impress upon the United States that but for the Pakistani civilian government, the Pakistan Army on its own would have liquidated the creeping Talibanization of Pakistan. That this sort of Pakistan Army contrived campaign is making headway is evidenced by the public dissatisfaction expressed by President Obama and other top US officials on Pakistan’s civilian Government. This in turn has generated strong reactions from Pakistan’s civil society and media which feel that once again United States tactical expediencies in relation to the new US AF-PAK Strategy would place Pakistan’s democracy on the backburner and bring to the fore the Pakistan Army.
The United States seemingly seems to overlook the fact that even with the return of democracy to Pakistan the Pakistan Army and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, who are the architects and sponsors of the Taliban, are still not in control of Pakistan’s elected civilian Government. Furthermore, to the credit of Pakistan’s civilian Government it needs to be highlighted that when Prime Minister Gilani issued orders to place the ISI under the Ministry of Interior, he was made to retract the order under pressure by General Kayani, the Western publicized so-called apolitical Pakistan Army Chief.
Further, the present civilian Government in Pakistan came into existence with the approval and political nod from the United States which in 2007 belatedly came to the rightful conclusion that democracy in Pakistan could no longer be postponed. This US decision was right in 2007 and its validity in 2009 is even decidedly stronger.
The United States needs to recognize that if the Pakistan Army double-timed the United States on the issue of Taliban and Al Qaeda for eight years of military rule by General Musharraf what makes it so sure that General Kayani would do better. On the contrary the indicators seemed to be stacked otherwise against the United States.
It also needs to dawn on the United States policy establishment that if eight years of Pakistan Army rule could not turn around the strategic situation in favor of the United States, is it not unfair for the United States to expect results from a civilian Government which has been hardly in power for a year.
The United States needs to be more patient and exercise restraint in its criticism of the civilian Government because by doing so it encourages Pakistan Army-allied right-wingers in Pakistan to the detriment of US strategies in the region and over-all American national security interests.
The Pakistan Army is not only the bane of Pakistan’s existence but also a bane for the United States strategic interests in South Asia and also in the successful prosecution of America’s war to liquidate the Taliban and Al Qaeda menace.
The Pakistan Army is emboldened to disregard United States strategic sensitivities in the region despite existing on American doles and this can only arise if Pakistan Army is sure that others can bail out the Pakistan Army from any retributions arising from the United States Who are these other parties on which the Pakistan Army is counting on? The United States needs to decipher the answer to this question.
Overall, one needs to emphasize that whatever be the strategic priorities of the United States in the region, but when it comes to Pakistan the top-most American priority should be to ensure that democracy in Pakistan stays at all costs.