Delhi born Gen Pervez Musharraf, the new ruler of Pakistan, has taken upon a much harder task of rescuing his country from "rock bottom" than that faced either by FM Ayub Khan in 1958 or Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1977. Ayub had taken over at the peak of the Cold War when the fight against Communism rather than the so-called crusade for democracy was the top priority with Pakistan neatly fitting into US strategy. Zia was a pariah until the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan fell like manna from heaven, allowing Pakistan to complete its nuclear bomb program. Now Pakistan’s economic position is desperate and US is more focused on fighting terrorists, who last year bombed its Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, led by the likes of Ben Laden, ensconced among Pak nurtured and backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, now detained Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif used his 2/3rd parliamentary majority to bully the President, bend the higher judiciary to his will and force Gen. Musharraf’s predecessor Gen Jahangir Karamat to resign a year ago, but this time around found the Armed Forces united against him. In mooting a decision making National Security Council (NSC) with a say for the Armed Forces, Gen Karamat was only stating a political reality, which might have avoided the recent unsavory confrontation and the ugly outcome.
The failure now of Sharif, a more representative leader than the professional feudal landlord types and of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto earlier, the two politicians who had the opportunity and political support to lay the foundations of democracy but instead chose despotic ways to steam-roller the check and balance institutions, highlights the inability of the Pakistani mind frame to accept the give and take of a democratic regime.
Gen Musharraf has made it quite clear that the generals are unlikely to let Sharif or Benazir Bhutto back in a hurry and it could be quite some time before another civilian gets a chance.
Gen. Musharraf, soon to visit Turkey, where he did his schooling, has publicly expressed admiration for Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, whom he would like to emulate. After the military take-over, the initial broad based choice of his team so far shows similarities with Turkey’s situation after the 1980 coup carried out by Gen Kenan Evren who was shrewd enough to give charge of economy to technocrat Turgut Ozal who turned around Turkey’s moribund economy utilizing its talented expatriates. Sooner or later the self-styled Chief Executive should move over to the Presidency as did Gen Evren (for 9 years) and then take a couple of years to sort out the mess and usher in a referendum approved new Constitution institutionalizing the role of the Armed Forces which cannot be questioned.
As members of Western Alliances Turkey and Pakistan have maintained close relations since 1950s and Pakistani military brass is well aware of the role of the Armed Forces in Turkey. Like Turkey in 1980 (and earlier in 1960) Gen Musharraf‘s first step was to create a National Security Council (and not a Revolutionary or Redemption Council).
However, proposals to create a NSC are not new and had been mooted in the past. President Gen. Zia ul Haq tried in the 1980s, it was opposed and hence dropped. Another by President Farooq Leghari on 6 January 1997 through a decree, inspired and patterned on the Turkish model, lapsed after the massive electoral victory of Nawaz Sharif. Therefore, Turkey’s experience of military in politics is likely to influence the latest way to "real democracy" in Pakistan and has been so acknowledged by Gen. Musharraf himself.
Article 118 of the 1982 Turkish Constitution provides for a ten member (5 from the military) NSC, chaired by the President and in his absence by the Prime Minister. In Turkish Protocol, the Armed Forces Chief of General Staff (CGS) comes next to the Prime Minister and the two along with the President form the triangle, which rules the country. The agenda of the Council meetings is proposed by the Prime Minister and the CGS and only matters of prime importance are discussed. Though not institutionalized like CGS, the position of the Army Chief in Pakistan, originally based on the British colonial pattern but modified by 52 years of experience since independence, half under military regimes, is not so different. In practice his position has remained decisive and certainly more arbitrary.
The Turkish Armed Forces, rooted in a mixture of Ottoman army traditions, modernized and westernized by French and German staff officers were forged into a nationalist fighting force during the War of Independence by Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk and later to uphold secularism and guard against any tilt either to the left or the right. But Ataturk had ensured that the military men gave up the uniform before joining civilian duties.
After Turkey joined NATO in early 1950s, its Armed Forces have been influenced by the Western practices. Following the first intervention in 1960 when the Prime Minister and two of his colleagues were hanged (as was Bhutto by Gen Zia), in 1971 the Military members of the NSC, egged on by radical junior officers, had forced Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel to resign. A National Govt to carry out radical reform was formed. By the time Army was forced to intervene in 1980, the country was at the edge of an abyss, with more than 1000 people having been killed in left right violence in the previous 6 months. The politicians had literally abdicated their responsibility by refusing to even elect a President of the Republic for months.
Gen Evren sent the discredited political leaders packing and had debarred them from politics, but almost all returned to politics by 1987. It is the general consensus that the Turkish Armed forces have interfered only when things have spun out of control in the Turkish experiment with democracy and after setting things right, have always gone back to the barracks; the Turkish masses also expect them to do so. The Armed Forces enjoy almost total autonomy in their affairs and even the Islamic PM Erbakan had to endure Army’s annual (1996) cleansing of officers with suspected religious linkages or proclivities.
Since the 1960 coup, the politicians have slowly worked out a modus vivendi with military leaders with incremental assertion of civilian supremacy. Barring President Celal Bayar, ousted in 1960, most Turkish Presidents had been retired Military chiefs, but first Ozal (1989 to 1993) and since then Demirel have strengthened civilian ascendancy by getting themselves elected Presidents, but have to take note of Military’s views in regular NSC meetings.
Unlike the secular Turkish Armed Forces, the Pak Military, though starting with British colonial traditions have become politicized and now Islamized specially at the level of junior officers (as was evident by the bearded soldiers manning the Govt buildings in Pakistan after the latest intervention) with its involvement with Afghan Mujahidin and terrorist groups and nurturing and bringing up of the Taliban organization. Many observers fear that instead of the Turkish model Pakistan might end up closer to the Sudanese model with a Turaibi like figure from Jamait-e Islami as an ideologue (Jamait leaders have already expressed their opposition to Musharraf’s liking for Kemalism).
Having stoked the fire of Islamic fundamentalism, with its fighters now active all over the world, Pakistan may find that the monster at home can now no longer be contained. In contrast Turkey perhaps closest to the Western perceptions of democracy in the Islamic world had had a long tradition and history of modernization and westernization, first during the last century and half of the Ottoman decline with constant interaction and rivalry with European powers, ideas and non-Muslim millets. And after the inception of the Republic in 1923 though forced reforms by Ataturk against tremendous odds and religious and conservative opposition. And certainly Muslim religion is an important determinant; for except for Turkey, democracy as understood in West and India has not really taken root in most Islamic countries.
Pakistanis may vehemently deny but the Hindu cultural influence over Pak Islam and psyche is undeniable, i.e. converts from Hindu castes continue to marry among themselves. With a dynamic and aggressive Punjabi (nearly 60 % of Pak population) core personality, in sibling like rivalry, Pakistanis believe that they can do anything better than the Indian Hindus across the border, even in having a democracy. How Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had crowed when Emergency was declared in India in 1975. This remains an important factor in Pak’s endeavor to bring back democracy, notwithstanding the fact that the movement for Pakistan and certainly the leadership of Pakistan has not emerged from the grassroots like India’s Lals and Yadavs. The oligarchy of feudal landlords, bureaucrats, army officers and businessmen still remains the ruling elite, for many massive drug trade profits provide a major source of income from opium grown in Afghanistan and the border provinces of Pakistan (a major chunk of world production).
A complicating factor for Gen. Musharraf is his Mohajir origin (Pakistanis born in what is now India and their descendants, now mostly confined to Karachi and Sindh, persecuted and treated as second class citizens) which coincidentally was a major reason why Sharif had picked him over others. Gen. Musharraf ‘s two brothers and son have opted for careers in USA and his own father, a former Pakistan diplomat, has become a naturalized US citizen.
Mohajirs in power must appear to be more loyal than the King. An anti-Indian stance if not an obsession, inborn with the creation of Pakistan itself, cultivated and encouraged during the Cold War, should therefore be expected. A silver lining perhaps is Musharraf’s greater acceptability by other nationalities of Pakistan, which have felt the heavy hand of Pathan leavened Punjabis.
But Gen Musharraf is no Ataturk, the Gallipoli hero of the First World War and the leader of War of Independence, who after expelling the Ottoman Sultan and abolishing the Caliphate, had concentrated on building a modern nation, totally eschewing all foreign adventures.