Monday, October 9, 2017
The road to peace in Yemen lies through a wide national dialogue and Russia will be prepared to promote a settlement of the conflict in that country, if need be, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a credentials presentation ceremony attended by newly-appointed foreign ambassadors in Russia, including Yemen’s Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi.
"We are certain that the road to peace and accord [in Yemen] lies through a wide national dialogue accommodating the opinion of all political forces. We will be prepared to promote the settlement process by all possible means, if need be," Putin said. Yemen has been a scene of armed confrontation between government forces and Houthi rebels since August 2014. The hostilities peaked with the intrusion of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in March 2015.
The United Nations has repeatedly voiced alarm over the looming disaster: according to the latest estimates about 20 million Yemenis - about 70% of the country’s population - need humanitarian assistance and the number of internally displaced persons has exceeded three million. Seven million people are on the brink of famine and two million children suffer from acute malnutrition.
Op-Ed The U.S. is enabling civil war and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Isn't it time Congress had a say in our involvement?
The ongoing civil war in Yemen was instigated by the region’s major powers, with Iran on one side and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Persian Gulf states on the other. The fighting — especially airstrikes by Saudi and United Arab Emirates pilots — has devastated Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest nations. It has created what three U.N. agencies call “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis”: Sixty percent of the Yemeni population is “food insecure”; 700,000 have been infected with cholera, a deadly disease spread by a lack of clean water and sanitation.
There are plenty of man-made catastrophes around the world today, but the conflict in Yemen is unique because the United States is not a bystander or neutral arbiter. We have gone along for the ride, providing indirect military assistance on the Saudi side.
Without congressional authorization — and without a peep from the leaders of either party — the Obama and Trump administrations made the U.S. a participant. Now a bipartisan group of House members is invoking the War Powers Act of 1973 and demanding that Congress either support our involvement in Yemen or direct the president to end it. Americans aren’t pulling triggers, but we are integral protagonists in the fight in Yemen. Since March 2015, when the Saudi coalition began bombing Houthi rebels in support of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, the U.S. Air Force has assisted — enabled — Riyadh and its allies in the air campaign. Americans aren’t pulling triggers, but we are integral protagonists in the fight.
Air Force intelligence identifies Houthi targets to hit and civilian facilities to avoid. At the U.N., in the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, Washington has protected Riyadh from censure, watering down resolutions and preventing war crimes inquiries. Most important, throughout the war, Saudi and Emirati jets have used U.S. midair refueling capabilities to keep up the pace of operations without having to return to a base.
According to Pentagon statistics, the Air Force has refueled Saudi aircraft more than 9,000 times. American pilots don’t have to traverse Yemeni airspace to reach coalition planes, which keeps us technically out of the fighting, but without this U.S. help, it is unlikely the Saudi side could maintain its participation in what regional analysts already call a quagmire.
Congress has had no say in U.S. involvement in the war. Out of cowardice, political concerns, general disinterest in Yemen or (unjustified) allegiance to Saudi Arabia, lawmakers have not debated — let alone voted on — whether U.S. national security interests are served by picking winners and losers in a proxy contest between rival Mideast factions. U.S. participation has been left to the president to decide, as if Congress had no responsibility in scrutinizing American foreign policy.
This is not what the Founders envisioned. The Constitution places no higher priority on the legislative branch than determining when the United States will send its servicemen and women into war. In this case, long before the military aid was offered, the American people, through their elected representatives, should have had a national debate about what, if any, U.S. objectives would be served by entering the Yemen conflict, what military support would be required, whether diplomatic conditions should be attached to military action and how aiding Riyadh’s bombing campaign could affect our other interests in the region. (In fact, the destruction of Yemen has strengthened Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and worked against our counterterrorism operations there.) On Sept. 27, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Torrance), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) stepped in to fill the void in congressional leadership. They introduced what’s called a concurrent resolution under the the War Powers Act, demanding an end to U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war in 30 days unless Congress votes otherwise. Under provisions in the act, such a resolution supposedly cannot be stalled or buried in committee. If the House Foreign Affairs Committee does not move the resolution forward within 15 days, it can be brought to the full House for debate and a vote anyway.
Supporters and opponents of U.S. policy in Yemen should make their case to the American people through Congress, just as the founders intended and the Constitution requires. Lawmakers have the power to make that happen, but that power is meaningless if they refuse to use it.
Every time the United Nations makes concessions that allow perpetrators of crimes under international law to evade criticism or justice, it emboldens others to commit violations that cause immense misery to people around the world.
The international community has caved in to political pressure again, underplaying the suffering of hundreds of Yemeni children, by watering down criticism of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s grave violations of international law in the UN Secretary General’s annual Children and armed conflict report (CAAC), said Amnesty International.
“Every time the United Nations makes concessions that allow perpetrators of crimes under international law to evade criticism or justice, it emboldens others to commit violations that cause immense misery to people around the world,” said Sherine Tadros, Head of UN office in New York for Amnesty International.
“While we welcome the overdue listing of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the CAAC report, it is a shame that the UN caved in to pressure and included it in a new category specifically designed to limit condemnation of the coalition.”
As a result of diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia, the report - which covers the year 2016 - contains a new category that acknowledges the efforts of the coalition to “put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children”.
Amnesty International has seen no evidence of such measures. In recent weeks, Amnesty International confirmed the use of a US-manufactured bomb by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition in an August attack that killed seven children.
According to the CAAC report, 683 children were killed or injured by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition in 2016.
“World powers should do everything possible to keep the pressure on states that blatantly disregard children’s lives. The USA and other states that supply arms for use by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen must stop doing so and the United Nations Security Council should impose an arms embargo to bring an end to such horrific abuses,” said Sherine Tadros.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia was included in the CAAC report but was later removed by then secretary general Ban Ki-moon following intense diplomatic pressure.
According to UNICEF’s latest Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) figures, between 26 March 2015 and 31 March 2017, at least 1,595 children were killed and 2,542 others injured in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the majority of these child casualties.
By Steven W. Hackel
After much debate, both the Los Angeles City Council and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently voted to replace the Columbus Day holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day, beginning no later than 2019. Although to many this change will seem long overdue, others wonder why our elected officials have ventured into this political thicket.
This week marks 525 years since Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas. Nobody questions the historical significance of that feat, but how we understand Columbus and his place in world history has changed dramatically over the centuries.
Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, civic leaders hailed Columbus as the man who brought culture and civilization to the Americas and in so doing planted the seeds that grew into the democratic republic of the United States. They honored this proto-Founding Father in innumerable proclamations, statues, monuments, street names and public plazas. All this adoration culminated in 1937, when, following massive Italian immigration to the U.S., the federal government proclaimed a national holiday in his honor. The city of Los Angeles followed suit that year.
Today, however, those who know most about the life of Columbus see him as more than a skilled mariner, expert promoter and courageous explorer. Increasingly they point to the other aspects of his character and life: his arrogance, his poor administration of his colonial ventures and his blinkered conscience, which was untroubled by the enslavement of Native Peoples, even when doing so went against the wishes of his royal backers.
That the colonization of the Americas made possible by Columbus was both cruel and tragic is not a matter of debate. The history is settled.
This is why, since 1992, municipalities large and small across the country have been stepping back from their public commemorations of Columbus. It’s why, in July 2015, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church “for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.” And it’s why the City Council and Board of Supervisors voted to change the holiday in his honor.
Even though California was among the last regions to be colonized by Spain, the shadow cast by Columbus reached all the way to our shores, and his namesake holiday is a particular affront to Californians whose ancestors suffered as a result.
Before Spanish colonization, the regions that make up modern California were home to the largest and most densely settled population of indigenous people north of the Valley of Mexico. Some 350,000 people lived here before Spanish missionaries and soldiers arrived in 1769. By the 1830s, the Franciscans had baptized more than 80,000 Natives, but 60,000 of them had died in the missions, and nearly 25,000 of the dead were children under 10. It’s fitting to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day because Natives from California, and indigenous people who immigrated here from other regions, played a crucial role in the early history of Los Angeles. The first indigenous settlers to arrive in the L.A. Basin, in the 1780s, had been displaced from Baja California and from the regions that are now the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa. Once here, these newcomers hired Gabrielino-Tongva villagers to work as farmhands. These indigenous newcomers built the pueblo that would become Los Angeles, establishing farms, ranches and commercial networks. Hundreds of Gabrielino-Tongva, who had weathered the storm of colonization, found work in the community. A newer indigenous L.A. grew up alongside the survival of an older one. But after the U.S. acquired California from Mexico in 1848, the Gold Rush drew a tidal wave of Anglo Americans from the U.S., who brought with them a murderous racism that worked to oppress indigenous people and render them all but invisible. Nevertheless, indigenous people — those native to California and those who had settled here — persisted in Southern California, and many more continued to move here from all corners of the Americas. In fact, according to recent census information, no county in the country has a higher percentage of indigenous people than L.A. County. Some trace their California ancestry back hundreds of generations, others are more recent arrivals, but all have played a crucial role in the history of this city. Indigenous Peoples Day correctly celebrates and honors their place in L.A.’s past, present and future.
On holiday to mark 15th-century explorer, protesters say ‘we should tell the truth about American history’ and call for statue’s removal from Columbus Circle.
As thousands of Italian Americans gathered to march down Fifth Avenue in New York City in celebration of Columbus Day, a small group of protesters gathered a few blocks away at Columbus Circle, where a statue celebrates the 15th-century explorer.
“If we’re going to remember him,” said Angello Medrano, 24, “we have to remember him as a murderer [and] a rapist who killed 90% of the native population.”
Medrano said he believed a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August and ensuing national controversy had helped focus attention on the symbolism of oppression and energized efforts to have statues of controversial historical figures removed from public spaces.
“We should replace Columbus with local Native American chief,” he said. His friend Alfredo Zubieta said even a statue of one of the Viking warriors who reached American soil before Columbus would be more appropriate.
The small protest drew a handful of political figures, among them the state assemblyman and activist Charles Barron. He announced a new bill to change the designation of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
“The land we are occupying now once belonged to indigenous people,” Barron said. “Columbus was a murderer, a rapist and a colonizer and he enslaved African people. We should not have a holiday named for an enslaver or for glorifying a murderer.” Calling on Italian Americans to rename their event the Italian American Day parade, Barron said Columbus was not the only historical figure in need of reconsideration.
“People will say, what about [George] Washington? What about the Dutch? What about all these other people that have enslaved people? Well, they shouldn’t be honored either. We should tell the truth about American history and stop feeding our children lies.”
Earlier, New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, addressed the sensitivity of calls to remove the explorer’s statue from Columbus Circle, a busy traffic junction at the south-west edge of Central Park, and another monument in the park itself.
“You can debate the historic figure of Christopher Columbus but you can’t debate the contributions of Italian Americans,” he told reporters before the start of the Fifth Avenue march.
In September, the statue of Columbus in Central Park was vandalised, its hands painted bright blood red and “Hate will not be tolerated” spray-painted on its base. In recent days, the Columbus Circle statue, which sits on top of a 60ft column, was guarded around the clock by police.
De Blasio recently convened a panel to evaluate monuments and statues in the city.
“No one is moving these statues … in the short term,” the mayor said on Monday. “We need to think beyond any one historic figure.” Nonetheless, at the ensuing parade, De Blasio – whose grandfather came from Sant’Agata de’Goti, a village near Naples – was booed. At Columbus Circle, Barron said he had received a letter from the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the group that hosts the Columbus Day parade, that called on elected officials to declare their position.
“They said, ‘If you don’t respond, we are going to tell millions of Italian Americans where you stand. These folks will remember you politically.’” Barron proceeded to tear up the letter, which he described as “threatening”.
In a statement published in August, Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, said: “Columbus Day and the Columbus monument have played a vital role in Italian American acceptance and the celebration of Italian culture. “As all nations do, we must continue to re-evaluate our history as Americans, and whom we choose to honor. That being said, we will not allow that reflection to come at the expense of a monument that has come to represent the many achievements that Italian Americans have accomplished.”
At Columbus Circle on Monday, Mark Gumbel, a member of the public who described himself as a quarter Italian, said: “The Indians were treated poorly, no question about it.
“But there’s no evidence Columbus landed [on the modern-day US mainland]. Then the Dutch came, the English, the French. So who’s to blame? Blame them all? Blame the French? Columbus just happened to be the first one. He’s an easy target, dead 400 years.” Others present insisted the moment was drawing closer for Columbus to be removed from the pantheon of American heroes.
“Time can create the right moment for us in history, but this is bigger than Charlottesville,” said Tyrick Washington, co-chair of Operation Power, a Brooklyn community group founded by Barron and his wife, Inez. “The statues in Charlottesville need to be removed, just like Columbus needs to be removed.”
The shooting came at a time when social hostilities involving religion were at a high point, both globally and in Pakistan. More recently, these hostilities in Pakistan have ebbed somewhat, though the country still faces many challenges in this area.
The type of attack carried out against Malala – along with other social hostilities involving religion – is captured in Pew Research Center’s annual coding of global religious restrictions. The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) is a 10-point index that measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society, with a score of 10 indicating the highest level of hostilities.
In 2012, the year Malala was shot, social hostilities involving religion hit a six-year high worldwide as well as in Pakistan, which scored a 9.8 that year. During this time, Pakistanis accused of blasphemy were killed, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom, and discrimination against the country’s religious minority groups, such as Shiite Muslims and Christians, remained prevalent.
In the years following the attack, social hostilities have declined somewhat in Pakistan. In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, Pakistan is still in the “very high” category, but the SHI score has decreased to 7.2.
Looking at overall restrictions on religion – which combines government restrictions (such as laws and official policies) with social hostilities – Pakistan had some of the highest scores among the world’s 25 most populous countries in 2012, along with Egypt, Indonesia, Russia and Burma (Myanmar). In 2015, Pakistan was still among the most restrictive overall, along with Russia, Egypt, India and Nigeria.
Malala recovered from her injuries and was eventually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at age 17 – becoming the youngest-ever recipient of the prize. She continues to advocate for education for girls.
Worldwide, women receive fewer average years of schooling than men. Women receive an average of 7.2 years of formal schooling while men average 8.3 years, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center global demographic study. In Pakistan, the education gender gap is wider, with men receiving 4.9 years of schooling, on average, compared with just 2.6 years for women.
BY MOHAMMAD TAQI
As a country where military dictators have ruled overtly for 36 of the 70 years of independence, while virtually none of the 17 prime ministers have completed a full term, Pakistan is no stranger to military spokespersons holding press conferences. The October 5 presser by Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), however, was exceptionally brazen not just for its tone and tenor but also because of the scope of issues discussed. If there was any doubt before about the army being the actual ruler of the country, the army spokesperson took even that fig leaf off himself.
A bunch of docile reporters lobbed one softball question after another, as if on cue, and the director general of the ISPR fielded it with an unabashed disregard for what is or isn’t the military’s domain. Curiously, the media persons had their questions neatly and conveniently pooled under four broad categories: Pakistan’s political, economic, diplomatic and security state of affairs. It might have been a coincidence but the way General Ghafoor had to say that a particular bunch of questions are political or economic, smacked of some backroom or spur-of-the-moment collating. The whole talk came across as a colonial governor general setting the agenda for his dominion or more recently the late chief martial law administrator General Zia-ul-Haq’s information secretary Lt. General Mujeeb-ur-Rehman listing the dos and don’ts for the media.
Clearly, the director general of ISPR was telling the domestic audience that the army is in charge. But he also appeared to be sending a message abroad that, notwithstanding his lip service to the military being constitutionally under the command and control of the civilian government, they are the ones calling the shots on both domestic and foreign policy fronts. For all practical purposes, it was an announcement that a de facto martial law is in place and the Pakistani civilian leadership has no control over the country’s domestic and foreign policies. What started with tripping the post-2008 democratic setup every step of the way, tacitly egging on judiciary to dismiss two duly elected prime ministers, coercing parliament to allow a parallel judicial system in the form of military courts, has culminated in the praetorian guards’ complete chokehold on all issues, whether they are security-related or not.
Condoning of religious vigilantism
It was disconcerting to see General Ghafoor comment on Pakistan’s economy that “if it isn’t terrible, it isn’t good either” or him not interrupting the reporters who insisted on derogating the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by calling him a “na-ahel wazir-e-azam (disqualified or incompetent PM)”. The most shocking part of the whole charade, however, was when the director general of ISPR took it upon himself to delve into complex religious doctrinal issues.
When asked about a recent change and repeal in an electoral law pertaining to affirmation of the finality of the Prophet Muhammad, instead of deferring the matter to the parliament where it was being discussed, he said: “Neither the armed forces have compromised on Namoos-e-Risalat (dignity of the Prophethood) (SAW), nor would they compromise on it in future [sic]”.
He added that the military and the Muslim Pakistanis are ready to die for the sake of Namoos-e-Risalat. In a country where blasphemy allegations have led to murder of even a sitting governor of the country’s most populous province Punjab, General Ghafoor’s comment was nothing short of legitimising the weaponised anti-blasphemy laws and a tacit condoning of religious vigilantism.
It also indicates that a supposedly professional army is willing to deploy religious dogma as a lethal weapon against its political opponents. The comment had come a day after some politicians considered close to the military smeared the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) for trying to remove the said clause from the election laws.
Support for jihadist outfits
Earlier this year the military is said to have abducted five bloggers running websites critical of the army and charged them with blasphemy. These bloggers were critical not just of the military but also the jihadist outfits it has sired. Ominously, he acknowledged on the record that a process is underway in Pakistan through which the jihadist outfits Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) et al are being formally inducted into the political process. Though he claimed that the (political) government was overseeing that process, the fact the JuD’s political front the Milli Muslim League was launched against the ruling party’s candidate and the former first lady, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, in a recent by-election, strongly indicates that it is not the current government’s project and the so-called mainstreaming of militants was pushed by the army.
What General Ghafoor’s remarks show clearly is that military is jihadised at the highest level, it has consistently used the street agitation by its religio-political quisling to pressurise successive elected governments over matters ranging from alliance with the US or peace overtures to India and is willing to use the blasphemy smear to stifle dissent.
Days earlier, the army’s paramilitary wing, the Pakistan Rangers, had stopped sitting government ministers from entering a court where Nawaz was to appear. The Rangers, de jure, are the interior ministry’s troops but ended up stopping the federal interior minister professor Ahsan Iqbal as well. When the melee resolved, it appeared the interior ministry or local commissioner had not requisitioned the Rangers’s presence for that particular day.
The interior minister went on to decry that the brigadier in-charge of the troops had gone into hiding and was not taking his calls and he would rather resign his ministry than tolerate a state within the state. Undercutting the interior minister, General Ghafoor complimented the soldiers who stopped him and came up with a bogus excuse that the troops could move without being specifically ordered to do so in every instance. Ironically, he stated that the Rangers, constitutionally, are the interior ministry’s troops but still did not refer the question to the said ministry. He took it upon himself to rationalise the unauthorised action of the paramilitary against their duly elected and appointed civilian boss. A day prior to the presser, the Rangers posted to guard the Pakistani parliament were mysteriously withdrawn from their picket as if to rub it in that army can and will get away with any excesses.
General Bajwa’s visit to Kabul
General Ghafoor dwelled quite a bit on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Kabul where he met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ostensibly to break the stalemate in the bilateral relations. General Ghafoor mentioned a host of topics that the COAS discussed with the Afghan leadership.
Interestingly, the army chief had neither consulted with the National Security Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi, nor bothered to take along an elected civilian official – including the minister of defence – on his dash to Kabul in which he promised, as per General Ghafoor, the sun and moon of defence cooperation to the Afghans. The Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar and career diplomats flanked the army chief in Kabul. An utter disregard for the norms of statecraft and diplomacy is not new for the Pakistan army and is its way of declaring to the neighbouring countries that they are the powers that be and no diplomatic breakthrough can be achieved over their heads. More importantly, it signals to the elected government that the Afghan and India policy remain an absolute no-go area for them.
In the aftermath of the COAS Bajwa’s Kabul visit and the Rangers fiasco, the Pakistan army’s corps commanders had convened a conference but curiously did not issue an official press release immediately afterwards. When asked about it, the director general of ISPR, like a B-grade novelist, pronounced that “(their) silence is also an expression”. He went on to proclaim that “saying that there is going be a martial law should not even be talked about. We are busy in doing our duty as stated in the constitution.” The irony was perhaps lost on General Ghafoor that usurping the foreign policy, trampling upon the domestic policy by flouting the federal interior minister, bypassing the prime minister, using highly-charged religious matters to settle scores with dissenters and politicians, passing adverse remarks about the country’s economy, harassing and abducting the dissenters and running a clandestine dirty war in Balochistan is anything but constitutional. If it is run a like a martial law, spoken for like a martial law and is as pervasive as a martial law, it is a martial law, whether or not a takeover at gunpoint has taken place. And frankly, when the army can have its cake and eat it too, it would be foolish to impose an overt military dictatorship. It has successfully dislodged the country’s foremost politician in a bloodless judicial coup, has muzzled the media and manufactured consent and co-opted opposition politicians, so why would it need to go the whole hog. The answer would depend upon the extent to which the ousted Nawaz is willing to go to undo his disqualification and make a comeback.
History of military rule
The army’s current quest is to regain the space it lost after General Pervez Musharraf was eased out of presidency which he has usurped. Generally, clear-cut political victories or convincing military defeats cut the adventurist armies and their ambitions to size. In Pakistan’s case, the first military ruler General Ayub Khan had massive protests against him but was not exactly toppled. When he handed the baton to General Yahya Khan, The Economist, London, cheekily titled its March 29, 1969 editorial ‘Tweedle Khan takes over’. The 1971 defeat of the army and the independence of Bangladesh buoyed the civilian fortunes in Pakistan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto consolidated his position vis-à-vis the army and removed the army chief. However, Bhutto revived the military’s fortunes through his own unbridled jingoism and deployment of the army to crush the secular Baloch movement for autonomy. And when Bhutto ended up in a deadlock with the opposition, the COAS Zia wasted no time in toppling and then hanging Bhutto on cooked-up murder charges.
While there was a consistent and rather robust pro-democracy movement against Zia’s dictatorship, it never did succeed in forcing him to relinquish power. An act of god or man took Zia in the clear blue skies, and eventually elections were held three months after his death. What followed was a quasi-democratic dispensation in which, to paraphrase the late PM Bhutto, the civilians were given the government but never the power to rule.
The army maintained an unconstitutional tutelary role and the civilians fell afoul whenever they attempted to question or challenge it. In the 11 years that ensued Zia’s death, military kept encroaching on the civilian space and eventually General Musharraf and his coterie launched an overt coup d’état in 1999. As Samuel Finer has discussed in The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics, a military putsch is generally function of and an interplay between an army’s disposition to intervene vis-à-vis the opportunity existing on the ground for such intervention. Pakistan’s history has shown that its army has always maintained a relentless disposition and readiness to intervene. It has capitalised on opportunity when one popped up or manufactured one if there was none on the ground.
All militaries are, however, uniquely ill-trained professionally and psychologically to rule the complex civilian societies, multi-ethnic states and modern governments and invariably fall back on collaborating and coopted civilians. We saw that in Pakistan in every single dictators’ case. After an initial rule purely by the junta, Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf all eventually brought in a coterie of pliant civilians to run the government. Discussing this design flaw in the militaries world over, Finer points out that “politically the armed forces suffer from two crippling weaknesses, which preclude them, save in exceptional cases and for brief periods of time, from running without civilian collaboration and openly in their own name … once weakness is the armed forces’ technical inability to administer any but the most primitive community. The second is their lack of legitimacy: that is to say their lack of moral title to rule”. Again, every single Pakistani dictator resorted to coercing and coopting superior judiciary and some mutation of a parliament to condone his rule.
The showdown between Nawaz and the army, with the latter attempting to clip the former’s political wings permanently, has come to a head. Whether the undeclared martial law will morph into a manifest military rule seems less likely at this stage. Army’s preference would be to keep Nawaz out of the parliament and, possibly politics, with the courts and several opposition politicians closing rank with the brass. If they are able to contain Nawaz and possibly even carve a chunk out of his PMLN party, the army would prefer to maintain the status quo where it rules through informal diktat.
On the other hand, if the army perceives that the former prime minister may be able to harness his mass support into an electoral victory in the 2018 elections, they could change tack and induce some form of an interim political setup approved by the judiciary to create a façade of legitimacy. As for Nawaz, he seems to know that without a formal political confrontation with the army, the civilians would never be able to gain the space that is constitutionally and rightfully theirs. Indications are that he still has enough fight left him for that but whether sections of his own party are ready for it is not that clear.