When General Musharraf made major changes in the Pakistan Army’s command structure he was merely following long established traditions in Pakistani political history. Lessons of institutional wisdom distilled down from Ranjit Singh to Mr. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali, Ayub, Z.A Bhutto, Zia and their lighter weight successors.
What are these principles? Goof Selection Syndrome discovered by the British once they kept a 50 % ranker quota in the intake of Indian Military Academy Dera Dun. Perfected by the military usurper Ayub once he selected the drill square sergeant type soldier Musa to lead Pakistan Army with disastrous results in 1965.Re-applied twice by Mr. Z.A Bhutto once once he selected Tikka and second time fatally once he selected Zia to head the army both under the premise that both would be meek docile and servile followers, thus presenting no Bonapartist threat to Mr. Z.A Bhuttos’ rule. A similar tradition was followed by Zia once he created the office of vice chief of army staff, having learnt from the self created field marshal usurper Ayub that leaving the army chiefs post is suicidal for a military ruler. Thus Zia’s selection of the ex ranker Sawar Khan as army chief, and subsequent succession of the short service commissioned non commander type staff officer K.M Arif. The same tradition was followed once Nawaz Sharif selected General Musharraf based on the faulty premise that Musharraf being from a minority ethnic group would not be a threat. This was Sharif’s fatal decision.
Once Musharraf elevates weak men to occupy high posts he is merely following a tradition established by Ranjit Singh when he selected Tejh Singh of Meerut to head the Khalsa. Goof selection syndrome remains the tragedy of the army of a relatively unstable state.
There is no doubt that armed forces of this part of the world have been traditionally highly disciplined. Marching loyally under British officers from Mardan to Delhi in 1857. Marching in three pincers under British officers in four Mysore Wars against Hyder Ali and Seringapatam. Marching from Kabul to Kandahar under Lord Roberts against the Afghans in the Second Afghan War. Fighting against Turks in the First World War. Staying loyal to the British at the height of Punjab Martial Law of 1919, Khilafat Movement down till 1947. Loyalty is a virtue and an asset. The navy showed some spine when it revolted against the British in 1946, but that was an exception.
It is an army’s command structure that all owe their position to the army chief. Hence all officers who retired recently or even after October 1999 owed their position to General Musharraf. Even the loudmouth Tariq Pervez was sacked by Musharraf once Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister. This is so because the military usurpers of Pakistan destroyed political leadership in Pakistan right from 1954, breeding PIA shaver type hybrid Murgh e Dast Amoz Prime ministers and politicians who were spineless or owed their success to military usurpers. The game started from 1954,perfected by Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf. Thus once Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif and started supposedly cleaning the Augean stables of Pakistan he was cleaning the dirt that had accumulated in Pakistan from 1954-58 thanks to the systematic manner in which docility, timidity and Mediocrity was instilled in Pakistani politicians by Pakistan’s military usurpers from 1958 to date. Nawaz after all was the gift of Pakistani military usurpers to Pakistan. Mr. Z.A Bhutto, although a great statesman was introduced to Pakistani politics and higher corridors of power by Major General Iskandar Mirza and the self-promoted field marshal Ayub.
Pakistan’s civilian rulers, politicians in waiting must understand that the office of vice chief was created by the military usurper Zia to ensure that the office of army chief and president are combined in one person. Musharraf is merely following the same tradition. The changes in army were introduced since the outgoing vice chief had completed his tenure. Ethnically no change was made since the previous vice chief belonged to the category culturally classified as Hindustani Muslim by the British and the present vice chief also belongs to the same category. Zia also followed the same tradition promoting two officers successively to the vice chief rank who belonged to Zia’s ethnic group i.e. Punjabi Muslims. A dear Sindhi friend of mine from the Intelligence Bureau states that Zia’s grandfather came from Saharanpur in UP to Jullundhur but by 1940 Zia was a plain Punjabi albeit educated at Saint Stephen College Delhi. So if Musharraf elevates two ethnic compatriots to vice chief rank he has merely followed a precedent.
It is interesting theoretical discussion to state that Musharraf vowed to take off his uniform in December 2004.In politics promises are made to be broken and Musharraf’s decision to retain the uniform is what political expediency demands.
The war against terror is an interesting political expedient much misused by Pakistani politicians. The question is that both PPP and PML are equally loyal to the Americans. They would gladly accept subservience to the USA. As the Punjab, Frontier and Sindhi feudal lords accepted British supremacy in 1843-49 and till 1947. The tragedy of the Pakistani nation is that they are led by leaders who are equally keen to be slaves of USA. All they want is power and patronage. Ideologically there is no difference between Musharraf, PPP and PML. The USA has a wide choice of lackeys and if they regard Musharraf as the best bet, they must be having their reasons. Pakistan has no shortage of job seekers and social climbers.
Now coming to the question of concentrating all power in one hand. This is the Pakistani political tradition. Mr. Jinnah wanted to have a presidential form of government and retained the right of governor general to dismiss assemblies in 1947. Liaquat Ali Khan wanted to rule without elections. Ayub Khan hated having a Prime Minister. Mr. Z.A Bhutto wanted one man rule. Zia wanted one man rule. Nawaz Sharif wanted to be Ameer-ul-Momineen. So if Musharraf wants the same what is the difference. The Pakistani political parties are too weak to overthrow him. The Pakistani common man is very much under the pressure of inflation and poverty to think about politics.
As far as the so called war on terror, all Pakistani politicians and generals would be equally keen to appease the USA and gain or retain power. The tradition of greed for Jangi Inams (War booty rewards) established once loyal and disciplined soldiers marched from Mardan to Delhi or Kabul to Kandahar or to Hejaz to fire bullets at Khana-e-Kaba (Mecca) is very much alive. All are panting to please the new US New World Order Commercial Company. It was the British viceroy in 1857; today it’s the US President. We are doomed led by collaborator par excellence. The rest is fiction.
December will be just another month and a dispassionate glance at Pakistan’s hopeless and dismal political history proves that Musharraf must not take off the uniform if he wants to survive. Power and loyalty in this unfortunate state are linked to office. Seven days after his retirement General Beg told this scribe that visitors who came to meet him disappeared as soon as he took off his uniform on that great date 17 August. Musharraf is a good student of history.
It is a fiction to think that the new breed of officers in Pakistan Army after December 2004 would be different from those of the so-called Afghan Jihad of 1979-89. The question is who fought the Afghan war. How many Pakistani officers died in it? Less than 2. The ones who fought it were the cannon fodder. The tradition established since 1792 is to support the best paymaster. In 1792 and 1857 it was the English East India Company, in 1954-65 this paymaster was the USA. Again from 1979 to 1989 it was the USA. Again since 2001 to date it is the USA. The army has retained its disciplined character. Jihad was only used as a convenient slogan to mobilize the Muslim masses. Like Islam was used as a convenient slogan from 1940 till 1947 by the same Muslim feudal lords who had recruited soldiers for the British in 1857, World War One and World War Two. The Indian feudal lords led by Muslim feudal lords from Punjab, UP and Frontier took the British for a ride playing on British fears about another rebellion after 1857. Since 1947 the Muslim elite has been playing on US fears of USSR initially and now Islamic fundamentalism. The losers in the whole game are the Muslim masses who are getting more and more alienated and every penny of US aid spent on aiding Muslim tin-pot dictators and kings/emirs are flowing into a bottom less gutter.
What major powers do not understand is that the Muslim elite uses the slogan "Islam is in danger" once their personal class interests are threatened as in 1940-47 or when US imposed sanctions on Pakistan from 1989 till 2001. This elite uses the slogan of Jihad once they hope to get US aid as in the Afghan War or once they have no hope of getting US aid and need cannon fodder for dying in Kashmir, Afghanistan or elsewhere. Son of a poor man dies in Jihad and the General and the feudal-industrialist’s son gets educated at Whatnot, Yale or at Cambridge landing in cozy bank jobs or in multi national companies.
The intelligence corps creation was one act of dynamism by the then Major General Hamid Gul. It was created so that intelligence is professionalized and removed from the whims of the army’s field commanders. Concentrated to serve Pakistan rather than a divisional or corps commander and this bifurcation has improved Pakistani intelligence community’s performance. Ideology unfortunately remains a weak factor and personal advancement is the leading life script of the vast bulk of the officer class, heavily drawn from the lower middle class and the opportunistic middle classes for which the army is a career like WAPDA. True that the more idealistic ones died at Kargil but the mainstream breed survived in the more plush command and staff assignments rarely exposing them to fire.
The new ISI man is another safe bet for Musharraf since traditionally this slot has been occupied by conformists and careerists less some relatively brighter officers like Hameed Gul. The 10 Corps is very important in Pakistan’s power equation by virtue of having its location in Islamabad-Rawalpindi but the Mardan to Delhi tradition ensures that 10 Corps Commanders are loyal and obedient soldiers. Loyalty pays and loyalty to the best paymaster is the best policy. That is why the Guides marched from Mardan to Delhi and the 1st and 3rd! Punjab Cavalry marched from Kabul to Kandahar. That is why a Frontier Force Regiment gunned down 400 Punjabis at Jallianwalla Bagh in 1919. That is why a regiment from Punjab group fired at Mecca. There were few exceptions like the Wazirs, Mahsuds and Tirah Afridis from 1849 till 1947 but they paid a heavy price and are paying it till to date. Perhaps some Ranghars who led the 1857 revolt or the 5th Light Infantry revolt at Singapore in 1915. These are however lone exceptions. There is no Von Stauffenbergs in this bastion of docility, meekness and opportunism. That requires breeding and centuries of tradition of soldiering. We are a race saved by the English East India Company’s Bengal Army from the Sikhs in 1849. Or by US military and economic aid from 1947 till to date.
There is another misconception to think that ethnicity makes a difference. A 10 Corps commander from any ethnicity will be equally disciplined and loyal since the whole military system rewards docility and conformity and punishes dynamism and adherence to strong convictions. The resultant breed regardless of ethnicity is the same. Lacking independent judgement, good followers, and good obedient sons.
The perception that Musharraf was favoring Urdu speaking officers has not been laid to rest. This was followed by Zia once he favored his own ethnic group and followed by Musharraf. This is a human failing and Musharraf is no exception. The key office of vice chief proves it. It was a Punjabi office in Zia’s time till Junejo brought Beg Sahib who was viewed by Zia as an anachronism.
There is also some misconception about the Joint Chiefs office. Once General Sharif was promoted to this office a subedar from his unit congratulated him sarcastically stating that Sir Mubarik Ho, Aap Pakistan Fauj kay Sadar Fazal Illahi ban gaye hain ( Sir! Congratulations, You have become President Fazal Illahi for Pakistan’s Army). This office is that of the harmless grandfather of the armed forces! This was what it was designed to be in any case at least after July 1977.
Alas, when people say knowledge is power. Pakistan’s history proves that power is the GHQ. The 10 Corps or the 111 Brigade. The rest is fiction.
I agree with some scribes once they say that Pakistan’s history is checkered. Checkered and an undoubted political failure. Ruled by usurpers motivated by the Mardan to Delhi tradition or by Murghe Dast Amoz premiers. Life goes on.