Emergency Rule In Pakistan Puts Military Under The Gun




 
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Emergency Rule In Pakistan Puts Military Under The Gun
 
November 5th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Emergency Rule In Pakistan Puts Military Under The Gun


Emergency Rule In Pakistan Puts Military Under The Gun
Wall Street Journal
November 5, 2007
Pg. 1

Strains Seen as Army, Its Popularity Waning, Steps Up Its Civil Role
By Peter Wonacott
LAHORE, Pakistan -- By imposing emergency rule, Gen. Pervez Musharraf broke sharply with his pledge to reduce the army's role in national life.
In sweeping actions Saturday, Gen. Musharraf, Pakistan's president and head of the army, consolidated his grip on the courts, media and political opposition by blackening private domestic and international television channels, replacing several Supreme Court justices, and detaining about 500 political opponents and human-rights activists.
In doing so, he also boosted the authority of the military at a time when the institution is facing unprecedented scrutiny both for its inability to contain Islamist violence and for its presence in almost every crevice of Pakistan's civil administration. A fresh period of military-enforced rule risks exacerbating those tensions in a way that reverberates far beyond this nation of 170 million. Pakistan's lawless tribal belt, bordering Afghanistan, is the suspected home of senior al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.
Many in Pakistan have bristled at the army's failures to stem a wave of suicide attacks, which in recent months have erupted in the country's biggest cities. Those failures contrast with the success of retired and active soldiers in scoring plum government positions, highlighting for some a military that appears more interested in the benefits of running the country than in defending it.
Taken together, those trends have led to a change in the perception of the army, long one of the most respected institutions in Pakistan, from a source of stability to a potential liability. Gen. Musharraf had embarked on a program to start reducing the role of the army in public life. But the state of emergency, which Gen. Musharraf proclaimed in his role as army chief, may now make the military a larger target for extremist attacks and for public criticism. Already, army officers have been instructed to avoid public places in uniform.
"It's become an army that's not well liked," said retired Brig. Gen. Shaukat Qadir, founder and former official of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, an Islamabad think tank. He added: "This government has been unprecedented in its invasion of the civilian sector by retired officers -- you open any door and you see a soldier sitting there."
Gen. Musharraf, a former commando who seized power in a 1999 military coup, said in an address on state-run television just before midnight Saturday that he imposed emergency rule because "Pakistan has reached a dangerous point, and is undergoing an internal crisis." He added: "I fear that if timely action is not taken, then God forbid there is a threat to Pakistan's sovereignty."
The emergency-rule order doesn't dissolve Parliament, and Gen. Musharraf, 64 years old, said he was still committed to holding parliamentary elections that had been part of a transition in the nation from military rule to civilian government.
The elections, which would install a new prime minister, were originally slated for January. Under emergency rule, however, the life of the current parliament -- stacked with supporters of Gen. Musharraf -- can be extended for one year from Nov. 15. The government appears almost certain to curtail sharply any campaigning and will likely postpone elections. Yesterday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz provided no clear timetable for emergency rule, saying it would be in place for as long as needed.
Gen. Musharraf's emergency order was a major setback for U.S. foreign policy and prompted unusually strong criticism from the Bush administration. Gen. Musharraf is a key U.S. ally in fighting Islamic extremism and Pakistan has received almost $11 billion in U.S. assistance since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But senior U.S. officials had been encouraging him to smooth the path for a transition to democracy and as recently as late last week had publicly discouraged him from taking any emergency measures.
Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said, "The government of the United States is gravely concerned about orders by the government of Pakistan to suppress the news media and to detain lawyers, politicians, human-rights activists, and others during the proclamation of emergency. Such extreme and unreasonable measures are clearly not in Pakistan's best interest, and contradict the progress Pakistan has made toward becoming a fully democratic society."
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been expected to play an integral role in the transition. She and Gen. Musharraf recently brokered an agreement that paved her return from self-imposed exile and dropped corruption charges against her. In return, she agreed to work with him toward the January elections, and was seen as a front-runner for prime minister in a new civilian government with Gen. Musharraf as president.
Those ties are now being tested. On Saturday, upon returning from a short trip to Dubai, Ms. Bhutto said she planned to discuss with other political leaders a plan to reverse Gen. Musharraf's suspension of the constitution.
"I agree with him that we are facing a political crisis, but I believe the problem is dictatorship. I don't believe the solution is dictatorship" she told the British television broadcaster Sky News. Ms. Bhutto remains free from house arrest.
Another former prime minister now in exile, Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to return as well. (In his first attempt in September, he was swiftly deported back to exile in Saudi Arabia.) Mr. Sharif, who was overthrown by Gen. Musharraf's military, has called for the political opposition to rise up and challenge his foe.
So far, though, there have been few signs of civilian unrest or mass protests against Gen. Musharraf's action: With thousands of police and paramilitary troops on the streets, the major cities such as Islamabad and Karachi saw few disturbances yesterday.
The state of emergency was declared just days before Pakistan's Supreme Court was expected to rule on the validity of an election by national and state legislators early last month that granted Gen. Musharraf another five-year term as president on the understanding he would step down as army chief this month. The Supreme Court hadn't validated the result because of challenges to his re-election to a civilian post while in a military uniform.
With the state of emergency, Gen. Musharraf has improved his chances of a favorable decision. A new panel of Supreme Court judges -- excluding seven who resigned or were dismissed -- is expected to reconvene for hearings today, according to Muhammad Ali Saif, a member of Gen. Musharraf's legal team. Mr. Saif said some of the dismissed judges were involved in ordering the release of persons held in secret detention, who are now suspected of carrying out recent terrorist attacks.
"One can't put all the blame on the president," he said. "One has to understand the situation that's been created in Pakistan."
Authorities have rounded up several prominent human-rights activists who had been sharply critical of Gen. Musharraf and had pushed the Supreme Court to take cases involving people secretly detained without trial. A person identifying herself as a member of the Lahore police answered the mobile phone of Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and said the veteran activist had been placed under house arrest. Yesterday, police broke up a meeting of activists and arrested several of them, including I.A. Rehman, the commission's director, according to his son, Asha'ar Rehman.
November 5th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 
In an email sent to journalists and others yesterday, Ms. Jahangir wrote, "We believe that Musharraf has to be taken out of the equation and a government of national reconciliation put in place. It must be backed by the military. Short of this there are no realistic solutions, although there are no guarantees that this may work."
Security forces have been struggling to suppress an Islamic militancy that has killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers in recent months. The battle appears to have generated fissures within the military. Last week, paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan surrendered, saying Friday they didn't want to fight their Muslim brothers. A few months ago, more than 200 soldiers were taken hostage without firing a shot. An official in the army spokesman's office said yesterday that 211 have been freed following the earlier release of about two dozen troops.
A series of suicide bombings targeting army bases and convoys have underscored the ability of militants to penetrate even the most heavily guarded positions. The threat has stretched beyond the tribal regions into areas that had been relatively stable.
Gen. Musharraf's order imposing emergency rule cited a "visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks."
The current woes and waning popularity of Pakistan's army mark a sharp reversal for an institution that has run the country for most of the 60 years since it gained independence from Britain in 1947. And when it hasn't, civilian leaders have sought to stay in its good graces. In clashes for power, the military almost always has won, helping solidify its position as the nation's center of political gravity.
In 1973, Ms. Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, went from being a martial-law administrator under a military ruler to prime minister of a civilian government. Four years later, he turned to the military to quell civil unrest. His army chief, Gen. Zia ul-Haq, overthrew Mr. Bhutto amid allegations of vote rigging. In 1979, Mr. Bhutto was convicted of conspiring to murder a political opponent, and hanged.
As the country's president and army chief, Gen. Zia introduced a quota of 10% for military in civilian jobs and pressured the head of the civil service to absorb more of his men. After Gen. Zia died in a 1988 plane crash, Pakistan's subsequent civilian leaders did little to roll back the military's involvement in government.
Under Gen. Musharraf, former officers now run universities, state-owned ports, telecommunication and fertilizer companies, as well as key parts of the government. What is more, retired generals head training institutes and the commission that screens bureaucrats for new job assignments, giving them great sway over the nation's civil administration.
Estimates from Pakistani newspapers, citing government lists, range into the high hundreds of active and retired soldiers serving in the civil administration. The government, through the Ministry of Information, didn't respond to questions seeking comment on these figures. The numbers represent a tiny fraction of the total of more than 400,000 civil-service staff, but most of the appointments have come at the top ranks of the central government.
In an interview last month before emergency rule was imposed, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said the military fully supports strong civil institutions and has stepped in only in times of government paralysis.
Reached yesterday evening, Gen. Arshad said the military hadn't assumed extra administrative duties under emergency rule. "The government is still functioning. The military is doing its own job -- battling extremists," he said.
But critics say the army's pervasive presence in the administration has undermined Pakistan's democratic prospects and heightened political volatility.
"If we don't have autonomous civil institutions, we will never have stable democracy in this country," said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, the author of the book "Military, State and Society in Pakistan."
Before the state of emergency was declared, the government was adopting steps to reduce the army's role in civilian life to help counter the mounting public criticism.
For 95 key government institutions, it approved search committees to draw upon a deeper pool of talent to find chief executives. The government also established criteria for university heads, such as doctorate degrees, that should disqualify many military men -- including those currently holding the jobs. As contracts expire, it planned to ease out those who don't meet the criteria , according to Ishrat Hussain, chairman of Pakistan's National Commission for Government Reforms.
Retired officers in civil posts say they are well aware of the public resentment against the military under Gen. Musharraf -- resentment that may now grow if reform efforts are put on the back burner with the imposition of emergency rule. But some also say the military has injected professionalism and vitality into key government institutions, such as the civil service.
Lt. Gen. Javed Hassan, for instance, was serving as commandant of Pakistan's National Defense College when he was tapped in 2004 by Gen. Musharraf to run the newly created National School of Public Policy, an umbrella group of schools for civil servants.
He was a commander of Pakistani forces during an ill-fated incursion into Indian territory in 1999, known as the Kargil conflict. At his new post, the recently retired general quickly brought in a passel of other former generals on two-year contracts to run the different training institutes. For his own staff, Mr. Hassan recruited a retired brigadier general and a seconded army captain.
Some veteran civil servants likened his arrival to an incursion behind enemy lines. But dressed in a grey suit, red tie and brightly polished black shoes at a recent interview, he said the civil servants sent to his institutes had lax ideas about training -- they thought they could come to class late or run businesses on the side. Not anymore. "The question became how to enforce discipline," said Mr. Hassan.
Mr. Hassan said he has been trying to reduce the military's presence at his school by not renewing the contracts of some of the generals who came with him in 2004.
But he hasn't found his own successor yet. And to advance their careers, students must continue to make a good impression on the former soldiers. When Mr. Hassan and his staff critique students, the evaluations are forwarded to the Federal Public Service Commission to match up civil servants with new job assignments. Like Mr. Hassan, the commission's chairman is a retired lieutenant general.
--Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.
 


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