Review of Asian Studies

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Abstract: Pakistan’s military intervention in politics has become an inevitable feature of political life in this troubled nation. The military’s intervention has been remained both visible and invisible in Pakistani politics. Since Pakistan’s inception four Chief of the army staff ( COAS) have ruled the country directly and other COAS have been involved in influencing the political environment of the country through the political leadership, all of them strive to design their own political model/structure which suited them. Pakistan’s internal and external security has immensely been threatened under the both civil-military regimes. They were more authoritarian and did not recognize the people as political entity which eventually divided Pakistani nation. Their political structure deprived the people. Today, Pakistan is paying heavy price due to incompetent politicians. The military rule could not be effective or last long without political co-optation of the same elites who held public offices in the civilian governments. But their cooperation with the military government could never be possible without political fragmentation that the military regime and intelligence agencies under it caused. It was a conscious and well designed effort of military rulers to divide political forces by rewarding those who joined their rule and oppressing those who refused to render the political services they desired from them. An Impending political development played critical role in bringing the army in Pakistani politics.


There is in Pakistan a permanent threat of politicization and corruption of the military. Moreover, military officers have a morbid fear of the politicians interfering in military promotions and appointments as this could split the army .Whenever a civilian government starts trying to interfere in this institution, the army has to act in “self defense”.2This statement is justified by the military officers to justify their intervention in the political affairs. The first army ruler, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, had no fears from the civilian government. Zulfqar Ali Bhutto, an elected Prime Minister did not politicize the military institution. In 1970s, there was deep political chaos in Pakistan which should have been resolved through political means but the army chief, General Muhammad Zial-ul-Haq, imposed martial law in the country. Every military coup in Pakistan has therefore been carried out by the chief of the army staff, backed by a consensus of the corp. commanders.3Army chief does not need to control the country’s command if his interests are protected by the civilian governments. The three years COAS’ extension which will be discussed later in this paper, shows harmony between the government and army despite that the army establishment has been criticized by the civil prime minister,Yousaf Raza Gilani. The current government has failed to deliver and violates the democratic values, constitutional powers, and has provoked the army several times, but army General did not try to take over. This is an historical bench mark in Pakistan’s political history.

The Pakistan military has long been considered the one institution in the country that functions sufficiently well to deliver international objectives. It has consequently been the partner of choice for many states, not least the United States. Pakistan’s history, however, shows that successive military regimes have each led Pakistan to crises, to the detriment of partners’ interests; and far from guaranteeing the cohesion and stability of Pakistan, military rule has more often jeopardized it.

  Pakistan has suffered four coups in 63 disordered years as a nation. Even some Pakistanis, who believed in democracy but were opposed to Prime Minister Nawz Sharif, welcomed military intervention to change regime in 1999. But if a country is unruly, having generals rule is no solution. The truth is that politicians pave the way for the generals. We have encountered that in our past-- every time a politician has gone overboard on their styles of corruption for the country. But as these military generals seized power, martial law would be imposed or a dictatorship would arise in the country. Pakistan failed to establish a strong structure due to this military coup system. Going through the four generals regimes, we can see how Pakistan structure was jolted.

Pakistan’s military influence on Pakistani Politics has never been a benchmark as it was considered at the time of crisis. Few Pakistani Generals thought that they would liberate their people from authoritarian, despotic and undemocratic politicians who failed to facilitate and deliver to their people. It is true that Pakistani people always welcomed military man whenever he overthrew an elected prime minister. Some political parties supported them knowingly that a general has no knowledge to run the state institutions. Party leaders also seek their survival to support a man in uniform. Theoretically, all military Generals gave an impression that the state would be prosperous, secure, stable, progressive, democratic and modern. Moreover, all corrupt people would be held with iron hands.4 Empirically, their policies resembled a mirage. The State divided ethnically, when they centralized all powers in their own hands (few military Generals).Pakistan became more dependent instead of a self-sufficient state.

Indeed, Pakistan’s Army is well organized, professionally skilled, equipped and enjoying with modernity. This is the only organization in Pakistan which is fully trusted by the people. On the other hand, selected generals exploited their people’s aspirations, dreams and sentiments whenever they got chance to enjoy political power. They could not replace ‘shame democracy,’ but rather implemented their own agendas which protected their personal interests instead of the national interests.5 No doubt, the military institution is considered an integral part to protect Pakistan’s border/areas from internal and external forces, so it enjoys unique structural positions in Pakistan. In his book on the Pakistani military, Shuja Nawaz mentions how, when his brother General Asif Nawaz was chief of the army staff during Sarif’s first government in the 1990s, some of Sharif’s own ministers would come to see his brother to throw him out and replace him with someone else.6

All four Generals, Muhammad Ayub Khan, Muhammad Yahya Khan, Muhamad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Mushrraf, had dismissed or suspended the country’s constitution and treated their people as tyrants whenever their power was challenged by them. They did not spare their political rivals and controlled Pakistani society like their own troops (soldiers), those always took their command blindly. They, unfortunately, perceived that Pakistani people did not deserve a western democratic system. If the people wishes are ignored one after the other they always forced dictators to leave and this is what exactly happened with Pakistani Generals in politics who were going to change Pakistan according their own wishes. Why do people rebel? This depends on their level of frustration, anxiety and fear; and when they have lost human dignity, respect and hope and when the rulers are like robbers and hide their criminality with legal sugar-coating.7

Why have the military regimes not been achieved political stability, internal/external security and economic objectives? How Pakistan becomes more vulnerable internally? I will explore the answer of these questions. The influence of military establishment on Pakistan’s internal security has destabilized the state stability. This statement would be elaborated analytically rather critically. The main purpose of this paper is to explore the causes or the strains implemented by the military rulers and to illustrate the ideological and security challenges in Pakistan by determined of military regimes regarding federalism which caused ethno –national movement, and promoted religious extremism, it also enhances sectarian conflict and polarization in society.

A Theoretical Concept:

Military intervention in politics is hardly unique to Pakistan. Military intervention is seen commonly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and also in some Arab countries, though military rulers have been forced by the people with the help of external forces to leave their palaces.8 The recent example in Egypt is glorifying the democratic forces in other authoritarian Muslim states for instance Libya, and Morocco etc. The military rulers only can be ousted with massive support which is encouraged by the international or regional forces.9Indeed, military rulers come and survive with indigenous and external supporters. There are several factors which lead the army to come out from their barracks to command civilians. Edmund Burke once observed that "an armed, disciplined body is, in its essence, dangerous to liberty". Indeed, at first glance, the potential for conflict between democracy and the military seems all too obvious. If we define democracy as a political system which essentially promotes individual freedom, and the military as an organization based on the strict application of discipline and hierarchy, the contrasts are stark. Moreover, conflict between civilian elites and military leaders appears to be almost unavoidable when the former claims unrestrained supremacy over the latter.10As the dean of the sub-discipline of civil-military relations, Professor S. E. Finer, wrote in 1962: “ There is a common assumption, an unreflecting belief, that it is somehow `natural' for the armed forces to obey the civilian power . But no reason is adduced for showing that civilian control of the armed forces is, in fact, `natural'. Is it? Instead of asking why the military engage in politics, we ought surely to ask why they ever do otherwise. For at first sight the political advantages of the military vis-a-vis other and civilian groupings are overwhelming. The military possess vastly superior organization. And they possess arms .11 Finer also suggested four levels of intervention e.g. (1) influence, (2) blackmail,(3)displacement, and (4) supplement. Both the first and second levels, the military works upon and through the civil authorities and remain behind the scenes., the third level of displacement, refers to the removal of one particular set of civilians by another with ought throwing the civilian regime as such .The level of supplement which sweeps ways the civilian regime and establishes the military in its place.12Thus tangible and intangible features support to the military to intervene in politics in any week state. Many weak states have failed to sustain democratic civil-military relationship for long and independent states created after the WW11 have experienced direct or indirect military rule.

William Jesse defined civil-military relation; national decision will be made by politically responsible civilian officials and means of supporting these policies will be under the control of politically responsible civilian officials.13 If the balance between the civil-military relationship fails, it affects state’s domestic sovereignty, security and leads to military intervention. Pakistan’s international sovereignty has been threatened twice, in 1971, East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh) separated and security threatened again in 1973-77 when the Baloch nationalists took weapons against their own state( Balochistan). Political crisis provided an opportunity for the then chief of the army staff, General Zia-ul-Haq , to impose Martial law to curb the nationalist (separatist) movement in an important province in Pakistan. As Finer says, “armed forces have three massive advantages over civilian organizations: a marked superiority in organization, a highly emotional symbolic status, and a monopoly of arms”, 14

Pakistan provides an example of how the military has been able to govern the country as successfully as a civilian government. It has its own view of democracy, political stability and good governance. The Army feels it has a political role which stems from the national security paradigm of the state. 15In many parts of the world the military takes over and runs the so-called civilian administration permanently or periodically. The liberal democratic assumption that executive and their senior administrators control the military is simply invalid in many states. The military is involved to some extent in the politics of every country, 16it is not only Pakistan.

According to C.E.Welch, the civil-military relationship is determined as:

  1. Civilian Control: In the liberal democratic model the civilian government maintains the dominant position. The military acts like any other large Bureaucracy. It fights for personal and resources within the government. It has influence to the extent that it manages to convince the public, government, and politicians that it has the best case.

  2. Civilian Control and Military Participation: In wartime, for example, military power increases even in liberal democracy. It is not as just equal layer with other parts of the bureaucracy it can insist on having a dominant role in decision-making.

  3. Military Control and Civilian Participation: When the military takes over the government, it often keeps a degree of civilian participation either for practical or symbolic purposes. To mask the fact that the military is really pulling the strings behind the scene, civilian leaders may be put at the head of the government.

  4. Direct Military Control: In such system the military publically and unabashedly controls the government. It may employ civilian for tasks the bureaucracy but the military is Cleary the political authority17

The Military in Pakistan

The military has monopoly over most important decisions of the state. A part from being the guards in the external security of the nation, it is a well-accepted political institution.18 The Pakistani Army has the direct control over Pakistan’s nuclear program and foreign policy. The National Command Authority (NCA) was established by the former Chief of the Army Staff and President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, to assure the west that Pakistan’s nuclear weapon is safe.19

The Pakistani Army has unique characteristics. It has been called by the civil regimes in the time of crisis. It feels itself the true guardian of the country, in fact, it has proved it whenever the state faces internal security dilemma. The Pakistani military got such a strengthen position has its deep roots in history. Pakistan faced several crises after its inception 1947.It was the army which rescued the nation in times of true crisis. During the disaster of earthquake 2005and sad flooding situation the army had has always protected the people and has left immensely positive impacts on their minds and heart. In fact, Pakistani army has won the people’s mind and heart in their favor no matter what the circumstance is.

Pakistan is a multi-ethnic nation. Internal riots had weakened the civil regime in 1950s. East Pakistan and the West Pakistan, both Pakistani wings were being threatened by the ethno-nationalists. Army curbed the linguistic and ethnic movement when it rose in Sindh and Baluchistan in 1952-54. In 1953 the army assisted the civilian governments when the people stood up against Ahmadya in Lahore.20 One would be surprised to know that under the ‘operation service first’ the army also played its role in nation building process; army officers were granted magisterial and executive powers in 1956 to control the widespread hoarding, black-marketing and resulting food shortage in East Pakistan.21Earlier in 1951-52, the army conducted an “operation Jute “to stop smuggling of jute to India from East Pakistan. Pakistan was losing a considerable source of revenue. This operation was a healthy cooperation with the civil agencies.22Thus army’s role started to expand in civilian fields which could not be prevented.

Pakistan could not have the high quality of leadership after Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In the early 1950s, social chaos in Pakistan did make the political organizations weak and corrupt which promoted nepotism. The newly born ‘Islamic state’ was passing through the gravest situation. Landlords, strong politicians and bureaucrats were holding powers and influence over the public offices. The main stream forces ‘Political parties’ lost the people’s trust. Doubtful circumstances created by the politicians enhanced military’s power. Very often elections were avoided by the state elite and when conducted they led political turmoil. The weakness of the political forces is a sign of fragmentation and factionalism among civil society and the political class.23

A Worth mentioning fact is that Pakistan’s neighboring countries e.g. India and Afghanistan both created tension and trouble in Pakistan’s internal provinces such as NWFP (North Western Frontier Province), currently Khaiber Pakhtunkhawa and Baluchistan. The separatists and ethno movements had been supported either by Afghanistan or India to destabilize Pakistan. Unfortunately, the civil governments have always failed to control the situation. External forces and conflicting neighboring states also provided strong grip to the army over Pakistan’s week institutions. Army’s direct interaction and interference in public affairs had affected politicians’ credibility. Army’s cooperative image toward the people created trust deficit between the people and political leaders, which is still going on.

Usually, because politicians are considered responsible for inviting the army to share their burden during conflicting situation in the country, the military has legitimized its interference by the threat of state destabilization and doubted leadership, the political leadership was perceived as ‘security risk’ to stage the military coup. As mentioned earlier military rule could not be effective or last long without political co-optation of the same elites who held public offices in the civilian governments. But their cooperation with the military government could never be possible without political fragmentation that the military regime and intelligence agencies under it caused. It was a conscious and well designed effort of military rulers to divide political forces by rewarding those who joined their rule and oppressing those who refused to render the political services they desired from them.

Their regular intervention into the inner functioning of the political parties, elected assemblies, media and other institutions resulted into weakening the political institutions that are necessary for the parliamentary democracy. The tradition of the Generals of Pakistan accusing their political leaders has continued from the first army ruler to the last one.”The army meanwhile learned over time to establish patro-client relationships with the bureaucracy and with Islamist parties whom it used in its efforts to fight populist leaders in both East and West Pakistan and fuel the Kashmiri insurgency against Indian rule. Coup d’états in the history of Pakistan have been validated by the superior courts by the misinterpretation of Roman Law” that which otherwise is not lawful, necessity makes lawful”.24

Therefore, the Pakistan army pushed itself into direct control of governance through sidelining the weak political class. Martial Law was first imposed in 1958.Since then, the military has strengthened its position to become a dominant player in power politics. Over the 63 years of the state’s history, the army has experienced direct power four times, and learns to negotiate authority when not directly in control of the government.25

The state plays a central role, acting in the interest of other groups, which are; the landed-feudal class, the indigenous bourgeoisie and the metropolitan bourgeoisie. These three groups constitute the ruling power block that competes in the framework of peripheral capitalism.26

The First Military General :Ayub Khan’s role

Ayub Khan’s father was a RISALDAR in British-Indian army so he chose the title of ‘Field Marital’ for himself ,he wanted to be superior.27 Ayub Khan stands out as the first Muslim military ruler in South Asia who tried to put his country on the modern secular path without renouncing the fundamental principles of Islam.28 The first Prime Minister, Liaqut Ali Khan ,was assassinated on 16 October 1951.With that the politicians lost their hold on the government and the management of the affairs of the country passed into the hands of civil servants, three of whom rose to the top in less than four years. First, Ghulam Muhammad became the Governor- General immediately after Liaqut Ali’s assassination. Then came Iskander Mirza who made Ghulam Muhmmad abdicate in his favor and appointed Chaudhri Muhammad Ali as his Prime Minister.

Ayub Khan’s entry in power was made possible only due to the incompetence of the politicians. Altaf Gauhar states, it took Ayub quite some time to abandon the army tradition of “complete subordination to the civil authority.”29 Iskander Mirza, relied on the army, Mirza increasingly involved the military in the function of the state.30General Ayub perceived the people of Pakistan as being ignorant, innocent, and illiterate. They could not have the understanding about democracy; thus he ruled out direct participation of the people in politics.31

Mirza’s government extended Ayub’s tenure of service. Political unrest in the country provided Ayub Khan an opportunity to force Mirza to quit power who already had abrogated the Constitution on 7 October 1958 and appointed Ayub Khan as Chief Martial Law Administration.32 Mirza enjoyed political power till 28th October 1958 when he was forced to resign by Ayub’s loyal staff and finally sent Mirza and his wife to London.

Ayub was in undisputed command. There was not a ripple of protest or any sign of agitation. Miss Fatima Jinnah, the revered sister of Quaid-e- Azam, issued a statement, “The exit of Major-General Iskander Mirza from the political scene has brought sense of relief to the people of Pakistan. The armed forces have undertaken to root out the administrative malaise, and to create a sense of confidence and stability and to bring the country back to a state of normalcy”.33Ayub Khan was welcomed by the people of Pakistan made desperate by the previous government. Ayub Khan liberated them from insincere political leaders and promised with the people that he would bring economic prosperity, social justice and political stability in the country. The nation blindly trusted him. Ayub’s objective was to modernize Pakistan through industrialization and true democracy. He introduced reforms to provide the direct fruit to the public (common man).He took drastic action to implement the new reforms regarding land and Muslim family law. Under the land reforms action, land was distributed to deserving people in different areas of Pakistan. Pathan ( Pashtun community from NWFP) were settled in Sindh (Karachi) which hanged demographic map in Karachi which promoted ethnic conflict later.34 It was done to gain and maintained political power. The main objective of the land reforms was to reduce the political influence and power of the landlord feudal in Sindh, and Punjab particularly.

Ayub’s early rule was known modern, industrialized and economically prosperous. Economic policies resulted in massive economic growth and high GNP.Free administration and effective use of foreign exchange helped to Ayub’s regime to hold a strong control on the people’s nerves.

Despite the revolution of modernity, industrialization and economic recovery the lack of accountability and checks and balances weakened Pakistan. Economically, society was divided between the rich and poor. Politically, nation was divided between East Pakistan and West Pakistan.35Only the elite class, civil servants, businessmen and few land lords were enjoying. The first army ruler was failed to eradicate corruption, political and socio-politic deprivation. Despite the fact that he enforced Elected Body Disqualification Ordinance (EBDO), good governance was lacking in the two Pakistani wings.36 The factors of deprivation and sense of insecurity in East Pakistan strongly divided the nation ethnically between the West and East Pakistan. As far as literacy rate is concerned it was declined .During Ayub’s regime performance in education sector was worse in Asia in terms of percentage of national expenditure allocated to education.37
In 1960, Ayub held an indirect referendum of his term in power. People had to say yes/no to this statement;“Have you confidence in the President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, Hilal-i-Pakistan, and Hilal-i-Jurat”?38 Ayub’s plan to bring the grassroots democracy, Basic democratic system, (BDS),39 created an ever powerful president in Pakistan. The 1962 Constitution was designed to make Ayub’s office the more powerful, unchallengeable and centralized. Did Ayub have political awareness in framing the constitution of 1962? No, certainly not, they were his aides, assistant or politically ambitious few people those really wanted to enjoy political power with Army General Ayub Khan.

The 1964 elections combined the all opposition leaders against Ayub Khan. The parties nominated Miss Fatima Jinnah 40as a candidate for the Presidential elections. Many people wanted Miss Jinnah, and their enthusiasm towards Jinnah’s sitar alarmed the Ayub’s associates and Ayub Khan himself got puzzle. He was persuaded by his party to use the religious card against Miss Jinnah. A ‘ fatwa’ (religious decree) was obtained from some ulema (religious scholars) to the effect that a woman could not become the head of a Muslim State. Although the opposition organized an even larger set of ulema to produce an equally authoritative ‘ fatwa’ in support of Miss Jinnah. That a woman could become the ruler under exceptional circumstances. According to the opposition, Pakistan was going through exceptional circumstances”.41A state always has the potential to change the internal dynamics so Ayub’s regime used the state machinery. Ayub had come so close to defeat and his reforms and his constitution had been so comprehensively rejected by the people. The demand for democracy had been Miss Jinnah’s main source of popularity.42

The 1965 war against India, following the failure of operation ‘Gibraltar’s43 was a serious political set back to the military regime. People’s resentment increased when Ayub Khan signed Tashkent Declaration 1966.44Why did Ayub sign Tashkent Declaration? Pakistani people have no answer. But this historical declaration for peace between India and Pakistan immensely weakened Ayub’s government. Declaration was, deliberately, criticized by the offended political leaders particularly, Foreign Minster Bhutto, 45who had seen the changing environment in Pakistan, had propagated against the declaration. Strikes, political movement for the restoration of democracy, and agitation in the country had weakened Ayub’s control. The danger to the country was increased by demands from East Pakistan leaders for virtual autonomy. Ayub considered declaring martial law once more, but the army leaders refused to give him their support, believing that he had become a liability to them. Realizing that he was without support, Ayub resigned on March 25, 1969, stating that as he had lost control of the situation, he could not preside over the destruction of his country.46

The Second Pakistani Military Ruler:General Yahya Khan’s role

General Ayub resigned 25 March, 1969.He transferred power to another military General instead of considering any civilian leader in East- West Pakistan.Ayub’s end was swift.Yhayh Khan imposed martial law, this was the second Martial law in Pakistan’s 22-years history. As soon as the army took power, the agitation in the streets died out. The relief at Ayub’s exit was so great,” the Pakistan army has always fulfilled the will of the people of Pakistan and after doing so, it has always decided to stay”,47What was new for the people of Pakistan that “the constitution would be framed by the representative of the people”, as that was promised by the new military ruler, also he assured the people that the smooth transfer of power would be ensured to the elected representatives. Yahya’s government was serious to satisfy the people of East Pakistan demanding an autonomous province. Political turmoil was threatening Pakistan’s sovereignty and security. He took major decisions including the disbanding of the unpopular One Unit of West Pakistan that had played havoc with the interests of smaller provinces of Sindh, Baluchistan, and Frontier.48

The only political way to diminish the unrest in East-West Pakistan was to conduct the general elections. The first ever general elections were held in 1970 the fairest in Pakistan’s history. The Awami League led by Shaikh Mujib-u-Rehamn swept East Pakistan, while Bhutto’s PPP emerged in West Pakistan.49 Both leaders from East-West Pakistan disagreed on the transferring of political power. It was the Buhtto-Mujeeb’s political failures not to strike political deal and General took opportunity to exploit the politicians. After the elections the army’s role should have been ended but Yahya was more interested to stay in power. The lack of consensus between the two winning leaders and external support to the separatists in East Pakistan had broken the country in to two separate states. The result was civil war 1971 in East Pakistan which ended with the end of internal sovereignty.

East Pakistan declared complete separation and declared itself ‘Bangladesh’. General Yahya khan50 had no option except to hand over the power to the elected leader, Bhutto. Politically elected leader Bhutto assumed power on 20 December 1971.After this great tragedy, the military leadership lost credibility in the country for not handling the crisis in East Pakistan amicably which resulted bloody war with India. Although Yhaya’s regime was short but it had left everlasting impacts on Pakistan’s security. Prominent problems between the East-West Pakistan and lack of democracy hurt the harmony and stability of Pakistan. General Yahya Khan was known and popular for drink and women.51He was the most inefficient chief of the army staff in Pakistan’s army’s history.

The Third Army ruler:General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s role

Before mentioning the third military regime it is better to know the causes which brought another army ruler to rule Pakistan for another ten years (1977-1988). Pakistani nation was passing through the gravest time of its history after the separation of East Pakistan. Bhutto’s victory in Elections 1970 gave them a new hope that the political and democratic leader would change their fate and Pakistan, and also would restore the country’s image which lost after the disaster of 1971. Bhutto rebuilt the army and it’s moral. His mistake was that he tried to press the strength of the army and the army as an institution in to service to strengthen himself and his office.52 In fact Bhutto was a centralist, not a federalist. He believed that a country should have only one central figure as leader and all power should flow from him. It was a tragedy that a man with Bhutto’s intelligence, education and sense of history did not appreciate that Pakistan could only survive a federal state in the classical sense, with the units, or the provinces enjoying the maximum autonomy.53 After all, East Pakistan had seceded because the central government in the West wing was not willing to part with power and concede the amount of autonomy that the leaders and people of East Pakistan had demanded from the day Pakistan was born.54

Bhutto dismissed the two democratically provincial, but rival, governments from Quetta (Baluchistan) and Peshawar (Frontier) .He could not work with the opposition –run governments. Bhutto targeted his political rival. Ethno-national insurgency in Baluchistan challenged the state elite’s policies toward the federal unit. Bhutto sent the army to curb the Baluch movement which was a wrong decision. Almost all through Bhutto’s time in power, the army remained in a state of combat in that unfortunate province, Pakistan’s largest in term of size and poorest and most backward. Bhutto’s action gave the army psychological justification for one day moving against the man who professed democracy but was willing to deploy coercive state power.55

Zia-ul-Haq was chosen and trusted by Bhutto like Iskander Mirza had trust in Ayub Khan. Bhutto’s government was dismissed by the chief of the army staff, General Zia, on 5 July 1977, and he was hanged on the order of Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1979. Political rival of Zia’s are of the view that Bhutto was hanged by General Zia. In my view, the Prime Minster was not hanged by the army or army ruler it was the Judiciary’s verdict which took Bhutto’s life.

Zia’s policies were, comparatively, different than the previous military rulers. He promised that general elections would be held within three months which never fulfilled. However, after three months he announced the postponement of the electoral plan and decided to start an accountability of the politicians. Thus the “retribution first, elections later” policy was adopted. A disqualification Tribunal was established and 180 persons who had been members of Parliament were charged with malpractice and disqualified from participation in politics at any level for the next seven years.56 He had planned to stay in the President office by legitimizing the power through referendum. General Zia had suspended the Constitution of 1973 and amended it to expand his power. Religion was used to legitimize his rule. In fact, Ulema also supported him. He introduced Majles-e-Shoora (Advisory body) but without true legislature. Federal Sharia Court remained an effective source to interpret the Islamic laws. In 1984, he decided to hold elections but before handing over the power to the public representatives he wanted to secure his position as the head of the state.

He conducted referendum in December 1984 to stamped and support the Islamic policies which he wanted to implement in Pakistan. He also followed Ayub's methodology of ‘Democratic structure’ local government bodies. The Councilors’ were elected for four years. The purpose of that system was the people would be facilitated at grass-root level. The elections for Local Bodies were conducted on the bases of non-political parties. All constituencies were divided in union councils, sub district councils, and district councils were at the top. Metropolitan centers were connected with system of committees and municipal

corporations.57 “The elected councilors had to show their loyalty to General Zia and his policies. They were also kept eyes on Zia’s opponents and report to the central government.58 The martial law was imposed and General Zia-ul-Haq introduced another local government system in 1979,59 in a quest to legitimize his military regime (regime was legitimize through referendum, it was a policy to have a support from the political parties/influential people those joined him politically in 1985’s elections) in referendum people were asked "Whether the people of Pakistan endorse the process initiated by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, for bringing the laws of Pakistan in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and for the preservation of the Islamic ideology of Pakistan, for the continuation and consolidation of that process, and for the smooth and orderly transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people."60 Thus General Zia used Islam for his political objectives.

Zia promised to broaden its constituency from military to civilian base. He wanted to engage politicians in the local politics and to divert nation’s attention from the promises he furnished with the nation for the general elections.61The elections were held on adult franchise albeit on non-party basis. These local institutions were without teeth as the powers to maintain law and order and financial control rested with the bureaucracy.62He inserted clause 58-2(b) in the constitution 1973 which gave him power to dissolve the elected Prime Minister and provincial assemblies when he desired.

Zia-ul-Haq introduced Islamaization in Pakistan, denationalized the economy, withdrawal of army from Baluchistan and pardoned the Baluch nationalists. Zia was an Islamist military ruler. He was backed by the Ronald Reagan administration with military hardware and dollars during the US Soviet proxy war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and against communism in the region. The United Sates knew that Pakistan supporting Mujjahidin (religious soldiers), that strategic, political and human support led to internal security in the country. The wave of Afghan immigrants increased the social and economic problems. Pakistan received also the infiltration of drugs, lethal weapons, militants Islamic groups and Islamic extremists. Madrassas (religious schools)proliferation in the country was considered social and moral help in nation-building. In fact, Madrassas played/ play an important role to motivate and instigated the youth to join Afghan Mujjahidin against an evil empire (Soviet Union).

Whatever Pakistan faces today is the legacy of Zia’s regime. His policies left Pakistan to suffer forever because Afghans have scattered and settled in the country and are using Pakistan as safe haven. As far as ethnic issue is considered it was he introduced Altaf Hussian in politics who formed his own party in Karachi ‘Mohajar Qomi Movement’ (MQM).The major purpose to support MQM was to eliminate the Bhutto’s PPP which was a threat to Zia’s survival politically. Jihad culture, drug- culture (business), religious extremism, and militancy are directly hurting Pakistan’s internal and external security. The common perception in Pakistan is that these harmful factors are the consequences of the Zia’s policies to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and also pleased a special religious community in Pakistan.

The Fourth Army ruler: General Pervez Mushrraf’s role 

General Musharraf was the fourth general who dismissed an elected government on 12 October 1999 , and he would not be the last if the feudal mentality of the leaders and authoritarian style of governance does not change.63 On 17 October 1999, the Chief Executive, as he came to call himself, delivered a speech to the nation in which he said that it was indeed unfortunate that a few individual leaders in the last government were intriguing to destroy the last institution of stability left in Pakistan, the armed forces of Pakistan, by creating dissension in its ranks. “I salute all my officers and men for acting courageously in the supreme interest of the nation. Most of all I salute our people who stood solidly with their armed forces at that critical hour.”64

Surprisingly, the people of Pakistan did not protest against Nawaz’s dismissal despite his massive parliamentary mandate. General Musharraf promised to introduce true democracy in the country. He gave a seven-point agenda to replace what he called the “sham democracy” of Nawaz Sharif. However, he failed to implement his agenda even after eight years in power. A possible exception may have been a devolution plan for local government that could be called a partial success. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which he set up, was used for political purposes. Nawaz Sharif was thrown in jail, tried and convicted. In December 2000, he was exiled to Saudi Arabia for ten years. According to the Mushraff government, “he entered into a written agreement with a very eminent personality, a great friend of Pakistan and that personality had given him a message not to violate this agreement.”65

As President of Pakistan, Musharraf strengthened his position by issuing a Legal Framework Order (LFO) on 21 August 2001 ,66 legitimized his presidency, thanks to a spineless Supreme Court.  Elections were held to local bodies in August 2001 under the new local government ordinance. These bodies completed their 4-year tenure and new elections took place in 2005. Power was decentralized at the grassroots level, but the local administration did not facilitate the people. On the other hand, they were harassed and often victimized by the local Nazims (district governors). The Nazims interfered in the recruitment process, were said to be corrupt and believed to provide shelter to criminals. Not a single Nazim was dismissed or arrested in a corruption case because they were used to increase the vote bank for President Musharraf and the PML-Q,67 known as “the king’s party.”

On January 12, 2002 , Mushrraf gave a land mark speech against Islamic extremism. He unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism and pledged to combat Islamic extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan itself. Thus Mushrraf became well trusted ally in the eyes of western countries. Within country his power was questioned by the mainstream forces. Musharraf held a controversial national referendum on 30th April, 2002 , which extended his office term for 5 years. For the third time in 52 years, the people of Pakistan were asked to elect a military coup leader as their President in a nationwide referendum. General Musharraf used the name of the founding father, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to mount this fraud.”68 The text of referendum was emotional which hardly could be denied by the people;“for the survival of the local government system, establishment of democracy, continuity of reforms, end to sectarianism, and extremism, and to fulfill the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, would you like to elect President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan for five years?69

The judiciary in Pakistan unfortunately has not played its role in upholding democracy. Mushrraf’s referendum was upheld by the Supreme Court.  On 12 May, 2000 , the Supreme Court legitimized his action by ordering70 the government to hold general elections by October 2002. Thus the Doctrine of Necessity was used to provide legal protection to the LFO. As Musharraf said, “The Supreme Court allowed me to amend the Constitution. I will not remove my military uniform, nor would give a time in this regard. I understand uniform has to be removed, as it is not democratic”.71 But he did not quit his office as Chief of Army Staff till the confirmation of his next presidency. Some political parties, mainly the PML-Q, supported the referendum “in the interest of democracy”.72 Had this not been so, the PML-Q would not have been able to form its government. Musharraf wanted the Pakistan army to have a constitutional role. He said, “In Pakistan’s politics, the army had always played an important role. In the past, the head of the army had always been called to help when there were problems between the president and the prime minister. So why should we be so shy and not institutionalize this reconciling role?”73 On another occasion he said, “we are considering constitutional role for the army, and we are not ashamed of it. We are very realistic - I believe in realism, not in idealism, which leads to nothing.”74 Musharraf also created a National Security Council (NSC) in April 2004 as the supra-constitutional body that institutionalized the role of the army in the governance of the country. The creation of NSC has become an “albatross” around the neck of an elected Prime Minister as well as the National Assembly.

Musharraf failed to replace ‘shame democracy’ by failing to rid the country of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. In fact, landlords, incompetent politicians had joined his hands. The last three years of his regime remained tense and crucial which were determining his political fate. He lost his control after taking stern action against Baluch nationalists in Baluchistan in 2006, used force against clergy in Islamabad, and dismissed the Chief Justice of Pakistan in March 2007. The support he provided America on war on terror in the wake of 9/11/2001 put Pakistan’s security and sovereignty at risk. Taliban and Al-Qaeeda became foes of Pakistan and supported religious extremists to destabilize Pakistan internally. What Pakistan is paying today due to Musharraf’s policies; Balochi people are demanding independence instead of autonomy, society is facing the worst situation with in Pakistan, suicide bombing culture has destabilized Pakistan’s economy, law and order situation is not satisfactory, foreign agents are killing Pakistani national on Pakistan’s soil,75 and corruption is being legalized by the state elite. The worth mentioning is that deposed Chief Justice was restored by the Supreme Court by declaring “as illegal and unconstitutional the presidential reference and the order to send the chief justice on forced leave”.76

Post-Musharraf Military and Politics

“The National Assembly faces the challenging task of asserting its centrality by rejecting the domineering role of President Pervez Musharraf. Constitutionally, the prime minister heads the executive and the powers of the president are quite limited. However, Musharraf continued to rule firmly even after replacing military rule with constitutional rule. The prime ministers and the parliament (2002-2007) functioned as an appendage to the presidency and did not assert their powers because the prime ministers and cabinet members owed their jobs to Musharraf”77. Elections in 2008 led to the defeat of the pro-Musharraf party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q and brought a democratic government in Pakistan . It was assumed that transitional government would be free in policy/ decision making process. The first challenge which tested the elected rulers’ nerves was to restore the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chouhdry as mentioned earlier that Musharraf had dismissed him. The Lawyers Movement had reshaped the new culture in Pakistani politics. All political parties committed to bring him back including the present government ( PPP),but Asif Ali Zardari ( party Chairman) was reluctant78.Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League ( PML-N) took initiative to restore the Chief Justice. The ground was ready for another military coup when the long march headed by Nawaz Sharif threatened the government.79General Asfhfaq Kayani , Chief of the Army Staff, played pivotal role during political crisis, he met several times with president and Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister made an address to the nation early in the morning and announced that “ousted Chief Justice is being restored”. Aitzaz Ahssan later had a secret meeting with the Army Chief . A late night call by the Chief of the Army Staff to Mr. Ahssan had given the impression that the army had forced the government to restore the judges.80 Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan was informed of the government’s decision at around 12:30 am while he was part of the historic long march and was travelling with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.81In same year America passed Kerry-Lugar bill and offered economic assistance with harsh conditions and the main objective of these conditions was to diminish the military’s influence.

The Pakistani media criticized Kerry-Lugar bill and American Policies toward Pakistan, and finally the government refused to accept conditional aid. Wikileaks released Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s opposition led to the conflict on the Kerry-Lugar Bill as it was going to result in greater civilian control on the military, according to the released documents, General Kayani has learnt from the mistakes made by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. He is using the parliament and the government while staying in the background.82

General’s Kayani’s extension and Impact on Politics:

The civil government has been facing internal and external crisis .Without the military support the government could not curb with terrorism, extremism and radicalization in Pakistan. In July 2010 General Kayani succeeded to get three years extension by the present government and directly influence the government decisions regarding internal and external security. Prime Minister Gilani justified the Army Chief’s extension. He said, “ the extension of COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s tenure had put all stakeholders in the power game – the president, the prime minister, the chief justice and the military chief – in a secure position till 2013. All four key players of Pakistan’s beleaguered politics are set to complete their terms at different times during the year 2013.”83 Trust between civil-military institutions had been strengthening during the last three years.

The American raid to kill Osama bin Ladin on May 2, 2011 brought more closely the both military and government. In fact, government of Pakistan protected the army’s interest. The SEAL’s84action in fact increased the people’s resentment toward the army. NATO’s attack on Pakistani security check post on 26 November 2011 brought the government and army further on the same page. American airbase was closed on Pakistan’s soil. NATO’s supply and American’s trainers’ termination significantly had shown the trust between the army and the government.

The trust deficit between the government and army developed when the ‘memo gate’ was critically highlighted by the opposition leaders. Pakistani ambassador, Husain Haqani, was considered behind this memo which was delivered to Admiral Mike Mullen by an American Pakistani businessman, Mansoor Ejaz85.Four parties which include the architectures of the memogate, the federal government, COAS and the director General of ISI were asked by the supreme court to explain their position on this issue. Prime Minister,Yousaf Raza Gilani criticized the army stance in the supreme court as’ unconstitutional’ ,Gilani’s statement infuriated the military high command who issued a stem press release that” there can be no allegation more serious than what the honorable prime minister has levelled. This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country”, 86

Since 2008, this was the first reflection to political change in Pakistan. Military’s displeasure87 over prime minister’s statement forced the prime minister to take back his statement which he gave in an interview to international media. Gilani’s refusal was direct confrontation with the military institution and he paid the price for his wrong words and action.88In the mean time the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a contempt of court notice to the Prime Minister Gialni.89 The entire nation was surprised when the elected prime minister backtracked and said, “Army’s filling in the supreme court about memo gate was not wrong”90once again the upper hand of Pakistani army prevailed on Pakistani politics. In fact, prime minister had lost his credibility and trust in the country and when he was convicted by the Court he did not accept the Court’s verdict and legitimized his office through the Speaker of National Assembly .91 Pakistani people were not happy with Gilani and his Cabinet because his government had failed to deliver in four and half years. People felt a sigh of relief ,even people from his own constituency were happy over his removal.92


The military rule could not be effective or last long without political co-optation of the same elites who held public offices in the civilian governments. But their cooperation with the military government could never be possible without political fragmentation that the military regime and intelligence agencies under it caused. It was a conscious and well designed effort of military rulers to divide political forces by rewarding those who joined their rule and oppressing those who refused to render the political services they desired from them. Their regular intervention into the inner functioning of the political parties, elected assemblies, media and other institutions resulted into weakening the political institutions that are necessary for the parliamentary democracy.

For 61 years the Pakistani few Generals have justified their interventions by depicting civilians as incompetent and corrupt and insisting that only they have the capacity and ability of managing the country and its polarized people. The people of Pakistan have welcomed the new government because they have hope that rogue politicians will be punished, corruption wiped out and true democracy introduced. The fear of the Generals therefore is not just to lose power, but also control over huge industry and a lot of resources.

 If the record of military rule in Pakistan has not been a good one the civil regime also disappointed the Pakistani people by not delivering properly and elected governments have also been destabilized the state institutions. The present government has promoted undemocratic political culture. Both military and civilian establishments introduce their own political model in the name of ‘national/democratic interests’. The current political environment in Pakistan has providing an opportunity to the army by provoking or violating the constitutional powers. This time army has decided not take over rather it would be the people of Pakistan, they would decide the fate of their politicians in the next elections. Unfortunately, the process of accountability is not fair in Pakistan and the rule of law has always been mocked. No doubt, external powers also have grave affects on Pakistani politics. Only one general is considered patriotic and loyal to Pakistan that was General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. 93 It is important to note that all four generals were supported by the United States , militarily, economically and politically. Moreover, not a single general punished by the Court. The last general ruler Musharraf could be punished by the court and parliament but civilian rulers ,president Asif Zardari and Prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani both were interested to retain their offices. Musharraf has settled in UK but left Pakistan with his shameful legacy.

1 The author is an Assistant Professor, currently teaching in the department of Politics and International Relations in International Islamic University Islamabad, Pakistan.

2 . Anatol Lieven, Pakistan : A Hard Country, (UK:Penguin Publisher 2011), pp.162-163

3 . Ibid.

4 .Four military rulers ( General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Mushrraf) made their first speeches to gain the people’s support and trust. But their stern policies implemented only when their own political interest were at stake.

5 . In Pakistan,” national interest” is always defined by military not by the civil government.

6 .Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the War Within , ) Oxford University Press: Oxford 2008),pp446-58

7 . Rasul Bakhsh Rais, “When People Matters” The Express Tribune, February 21-02-2011.

8 . Saddam Husain was forced by the internal had political support by the external forces.

9 . President Hosni Mubarak was forced to quit after 30 years. The opposition leaders and the people of Egypt were having an international support from the United States particularly. See detail at Accessed on 02-02-2011.

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