Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Post-Musharraf Pakistan - Some Comments.

The Daily Times has quoted the Economist Business Asia Intelligence Unit report and listed the range of options for a post-Musharraf Pakistan.

I don't read the Economist, I feel it all too often suffers from the bias of its reputed observers. In short I think they are idiots when it comes to India and Pakistan.

The prevalent western bias when talking about India and Pakistan is that the symptoms of discord are mistaken for the cause of discord.

For example, someone like Naom Chomsky talks about the Kashmir issue as if it is a "cause" of substantial discord between India and Pakistan. He does not grasp that Kashmir is the symptom of a greater failing in India-Pakistan relations. Kashmir is merely a way of Pakistan articulating its hostility towards India, there is nothing specific to Kashmir and the Pakistanis could as easily choose a number of other topics to articulate their hostility.

The core of Pakistani hostility lies in their fear of Indian dominance.

This fear of dominance is the result of a peculiar national philosophy, which stressed that a "Hindu" India was trying to undermine a "Muslim" Pakistan. In order to defeat this evil "Hindu" scheme, "Muslim" Pakistan was to project its leadership of Muslims in the subcontinent. Kashmir is simply *a* way to project Pakistan's leadership of the subcontinent's muslims, and tragically for the Pakistanis, it is a way that is not working too well for them.

The fear of Indian dominance actually reflects a deeper crisis in Pakistani nationalism, the inability to articulate a workable vision of a nation. The absence of a visible icon of nationhood, the Pakistani search for a national vision intensifies.

The removal of Musharraf can only occur if the SSG units guarding him switch loyalty. This is in the nature of the praetorian state.

Such an act will demonstrate two things: firstly the "Unity of Command" no longer works reliably, and secondly the moral leadership of the Army will now be tightly bound to the dictates of the Mullahs.

These two things will diminish the dominance of the Army on Pakistani national affairs. Thanks to the Pakistan Army, no structure of power, and no logic of power other than the language of violence survives in Pakistan today. The Pakistan Army legitimised the use of violence of political ends and after their removal from a position of dominance, all forces in the Pakistani polity will act to seek leadership of Pakistan through violence and the Pakistani Army will not be able to stop them. This is a slipperly slope which will eventually lead to the Pakistan Army losing its place at the apex of Pakistani society.

What does this mean for India?

I do not wish to comment on the implications in the nuclear arena. On more general matters I can say the following.

We in India have relied on the Pakistani Army to ensure that violence inspired by Pakistani interest follows a somewhat predictable pattern. By controlling access of groups to arms and money, the Pakistani Army has been able to imprint its will on violent acts inside India's borders. If the Pakistan Army loses its dominance inside Pakistan, its control over the arms trade could weaken. The violence within our borders would become less predictable as it would not be correlated to the political health of some Pakistan Army supported government.

A rise in the levels of violence in Pakistan will most certainly consume some of the arms stockpiled in Pakistan. Additionally if the Pakistan Army falls into factions, then the control over the arms dumps will be a source of strife. Maintaining control over these dumps will also require trained and reliable manpower. Such manpower is easily found in most Jihadi groups in Pakistan. With Jihadis running around in Pakistan desperate to protect their homeworlds, the outflow of Jihadis from Pakistan will largely ebb.

As things currently stand in Pakistan, certain groups control the flow of narcotics in Pakistan and the banking of economic gains from such trade. It is possible that sufficient unrest in Pakistan could disturb this pattern and disrupt the flow of heroin into India. Street prices of heroin could rise as a result of such disruptions. Higher prices would ensure that local underworld faction compete aggressively for control over the trade and that could ensure more violence on India's streets.

There are likely to be other political problems as well. A number of political groups in India have attempted in the recent past to build bridges to Pakistan by agreeing to be Pakistan's proxies in India. The loss of their political partners will cause them to act erratically as they will assume that their adversaries will soon move to eliminate them.


At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think that the label of a praetorian guard, in the old Roman sense of the word, is best applied to the Pakistani Army as a whole instead of any specific unit within it.

Given its history in such things and it corporate like nature at the higher ranks, I feel it is far more likely that Musharaff will loose power when all the Corps Commanders along with the DG-ISI together tell him to go.

No middle rank officer in command of Musharaff's SSG bodyguard will be able to successfully start a coup or stop one that is started from higher up.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I think in 1998 I would have applied the term praetorian guard to the Corps Commanders.

In 1999 the term would be best applied to the COAS, a subset of the Corps Commanders i.e. the 10 Corps Commander, the head of the ISI and the V Corps commander. This was a consequence of the nuclear tests, power now had a very well established currency.

Today after the policy shift of 2001, there has been so much friction that Musharraf is completely shielded from the Army by a coterie of "loyal" officers. The "loyalty" of these officers is ensured by Musharraf's personal SSG bodyguard which retains the power to go and shoot anyone they deem a risk to Musharraf's personal security. This includes the corps commanders and the DG-ISI who have been handpicked by Musharraf, so they have no powerbase independent of him and all their contact with foreigners is strictly controlled. Musharraf holds the nuclear trigger himself, he shares that with no one.

So in my opinion, the praetorian guard is now quite literally the praetorian guard, the SSG unit that protects Musharraf.

A good trick to spotting the guard is looking at news coverage in a controlled media. The media is only allowed to cover things that are least likely to actually cause damage. So there is extensive coverage of the military's economic groups, there is coverage of the corps commanders, coverage of the DG ISI and every promotion is scrutinized. The only thing where there is no camera angle is the SSG, a thick fog of security covers all transactions within this sphere and no one dares write an article about the SSG's leaders. You may recall the manner in which Alvi was fired with no reasons given to the media?... then you see what I mean.

There may be factions within the Pakistan Army, perhaps very entrenched ones, but the shift of power will happen only when the SSG agrees to pry the nuclear trigger from Musharraf's cold dead hands and give it to someone of their choosing.

That in my opinion makes the SSG the real power in Pakistan.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If that is the case, then Musharaff has to have absolute trust in the officers of his SSG bodyguard and that kind of trust can only be developed personally over a period of years. No amount of vetting and background checks will work here.

All the people that Musharaff must have personally known from his days in the SSG must either be senior ranks or retired by now. How can he trust the junior and middle ranks that command his praetorian guard?

Then there is another matter: If the strains being put on the chain of command right now go past a certain tipping point and there is an attempt to forcibly remove him from within the Army, then how is Musharaff's guard supposed to hold off the entire 111 Bde in Rawalpindi? I guesstimate that his guard is no bigger than two or so companies at the most. Will his guard be able to summon sufficient reinforcements in time to prevent such a forced removal. Note that this is an entirely far fetched and hypothetical scenario. I do not think things will go this far.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

The guard will have the choice of either letting the 111 Bde commander have his way with Musharraf or being a royal pain about it.

I imagine if the Americans mount an airstrike on 111 Bde comnmander after recieving a report of his mutiny from the SSG people.... well then they won't have to hold off the 111 Bde for long.


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