FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Pakistan, a state within a state — I — By Taj Hashmi
Posted:Jul 15, 2013
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Book Review: Pakistan The Garrison State: Origins, Evolutions, Consequences, 1947-2011

Author: Ishtiaq Ahmed

Publisher: Oxford University Press, Karachi; 2013

Ishtiaq Ahmed’s latest book is another outstanding piece of scholarship by an erudite scholar. This intellectually stimulating work is an important addition to the corpus of writings on modern and contemporary Pakistan, which by design and default has emerged as a ‘Garrison State’. While Farzana Shaikh’s Making Sense of Pakistan helps us understand why political Islam has become the most powerful political ideology and symbol of national identity in Pakistan, the volume under review makes us understand why the military is so preponderant, powerful and influential in the country, so much so that ‘Garrison State’ has become the right expression to describe the country. This well-written book is complementary to several recent publications on Pakistan, especially Husain Haqqani’s Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military; Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc.; Ahmed Rashid’s Pakistan on the Brink; Imtiaz Gul’s The Most Dangerous Place; and last but not least, Anatol Lieven’s Pakistan: A Hard Country.

Ishtiaq Ahmed has quite convincingly proved his thesis that Pakistan’s armed forces have virtually become the state, and the main custodian and proponent of political Islam, including ones championed by the Jamaat-e-Islami, Deobandi clerics, the Taliban and other Islamist extremists. The author reveals that thanks to the growing influence of army officers recruited during the Zia regime (1977-1988) — the so-called ‘Zia bhartis’ (Zia recruits — so far as the Pakistan Army is concerned, the so-called “folk-Islam” or liberal Sufi Islam of the Barelvi school of ulema has receded into the background. This informative and analytical work elucidates the following features of the Garrison State: a) how the Pakistani armed forces, especially the army, have established themselves not only as the defenders of the nation’s borders (albeit purportedly, as they were instrumental in the disintegration of the country in 1971) but also of Islam, the state ideology, which seems to be in a constant state of ‘danger’ since 1947;

and b) from time to time ever since the first military takeover in 1958, the armed forces invent new philosophies and policies that have been moulding the nation into a pre-modern civil-military oligarchy.

The author has rightly traced the roots of the Garrison State to the British occupation of the Punjab in 1849, and their subsequent reliance on the province as the ‘sword arm’ of the Empire till the end of the Raj. One finds beautiful narration and critical appraisal of the post-independence history of Pakistan in this volume with regard to the further entrenchment of the military in the body politic of the country. The author has shed new light on the old story as to how and why the bulk of Pakistanis often legitimise military rule, and consider the military the custodians of their freedom, dignity, and most importantly, of Islam.

We find Pakistan is the only nuclear-armed “Islamic nation” tied to the belief that the “enemies of Islam’ within and beyond the region are hell-bent on destroying Islam and Muslims to subjugate them forever “in the eternal conflict between Dar-ul-Islam and Dar-ul-Harb” or between the “House of Islam” and the “House of War”. The author’s illustration of the indoctrination process of the Pakistani masses by their leaders is fascinating. How elite manipulation and cultural hegemony work in neutralising the so-called autonomous domain of mass consciousness (through “false consciousness”) is crucial. As the author demonstrates, contrary to what we find in neo-Marxist Subaltern historiography, elite manipulation has programmed the Pakistani masses into believers of the “evil triumvirate” of the Hanud-Yahud-Nasara (Hindus-Jews-Christians) as the main enemy of Islam, and their country (that even the self-styled “enlightened moderate” General Pervez Musharraf considers) “Islam ka qila” or the “fortress of Islam”.

Thanks to the promotion of the siege mentality, and the consequential popularity of the threat perception, the average Pakistani favours strong armed forces and nuclear weapons.

The book has written 18 well-written chapters. The author has competently used historical, economic, sociological and contemporary data and methods in preparing this significant work on the Garrison State of Pakistan, which academics, analysts, policymakers and security practitioners within and outside Pakistan will find very useful. This volume is a departure from all the previously written — traditional and modern — works on contemporary Pakistan, its armed forces, Islamic militancy and the immediate and long-term future of the country.

I find chapter one, “The Fortress of Islam: A Metaphor for a Garrison State” the most well-written and important chapter of the work. Other chapters are on the British, American and Soviet attitudes towards Pakistan in its formative phase; the colonial roots of its army; the First Kashmir War of 1947-1948; the First Military Takeover; the 1965 War; the growing disenchantment of East Pakistan; the 1971 War and the separation of Bangladesh; the Bhutto and Zia regimes; Islamisation of the polity; the Afghan jihad and other security and governance issues in Pakistan under General Musharraf, and the subsequent civilian government in relation to Islamist militancy, India, the US and the world at large.

The concluding appraisal of the state of affairs in Pakistan is not promising but very important to reflect on by Pakistani elites, policymakers, security analysts and the country’s old and new friends and donors like the US, China and Saudi Arabia:

“The state seems to have lost control in the internal domain as fanatics have been able to hit targets almost at will. Pakistan’s reputation as the epicenter of global terrorism and a rogue state is there to stay for quite some time. Another major terrorist attack outside Pakistan can create a dangerous situation for the security and existence of Pakistan. It is, therefore, imperative that the stakeholders in the Pakistan power equation — especially the military — work out a long-term policy and strategy that can create stability, peace, and prosperity within Pakistan as well as help normalise relations with its neighbours — provided they, too, nurture similar aspirations” [p.470].

(To be continued)

The writer is a professor of Security Studies at the Austin Peay State University, Tennessee, USA

Daily Times

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
India's successful launch of putting a record 104 satellites into orbit is a wake-up call for China's commercial space industry which has a lot to learn from New Delhi's frugal space programme, a Chinese government mouthpiece that publishes in English said in one of its rare editorials in which it commended an Indian action
 
read-more
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Israel later this year – a first by an Indian head of the government that comes 25 years after the two countries established full diplomatic ties. The visit, a long awaited one.
 
read-more
spotlight image For a Dongria child, the schooling process not only displaces him of the community and the land but also displaces him from his own way of seeking truth i.e through nature, writes Rajaraman Sundaresan for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by Dr.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research on Asia: Hope for the Future or Prisoner of the Past?    ...
 
read-more
US President Donald Trump’s first few days in office have witnessed a profusion of apocalyptic predictions for the world economy.  His unabashed move to encourage protectionism in the world economy does not augur well for the future of the trading regime
 
read-more
It is high time that Taiwan differentiated its position from Beijing’s claim on South China Sea, writes Namrata Hasija for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State
 
read-more
Sometime in later half of last year when Indo-Pak tensions peaked, military operation heads in J&K received unusual calls on their landlines. Sometime in later half of last year when Indo-Pak tensions peaked, military operation heads in J&K received unusual calls on their landlines.
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive