The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

The History of Military Intervention in Democratic Governments: The Case of Pakistan.

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The concept of military intervention in bourgeois democratic setups is not a new one. It is a problem which has existed for thousands of years – ever since the inception of the concept of the military itself. The question is: How do you stop a monolithic organization with a monopoly on the means of violence from exercising that violence upon its own people in order to gain power?

This very same question was raised by Plato over 2500 years ago. In his document ‘The Republic’ Plato states:

”But when the cobbler or any other man whom nature designed to be a trader, having his heart lifted up by wealth or strength or the number of his followers, or any like advantage, attempts to force his way into the class of warriors, or a warrior into that of legislators and guardians, for which he is unfitted, and either to take the implements or the duties of the other; or when one man is trader, legislator, and warrior all in one, then I think you will agree with me in saying that this interchange and this meddling of one with another is the ruin of the State.” (The Republic – Book IV, Plato, 360 BCE)

Since the military, numerically speaking, can only be a small part of the whole i.e the society that gives rise to it, feeds it and needs its protection – it would not be out of order to claim the forced and unrepresentative rule of the military upon the greater populace a form of oligarchy – indeed history has seen that this is, by far, its worst, most violent and oppressive form.

Forced Military intervention is a phenomenon [the application of] which can be traced as far back as Ancient China and Persia. An example of this is that Darius the Great who ruled Persia from 522-486 BCE came to power as a result of a military Coup d’état in September 522 BCE whereby he seized the throne from it’s the rightful (according to the statuettes of monarchy) heirs ( )

Let us begin by closely examining the phenomenon itself. A Coup d’état has been defined as:

“a the sudden overthrow of a government, often through illegal means by a part of the state establishment — mostly replacing just the high-level figures. It is also an example of political engineering. It may or may not be violent in nature” (Wikipedia)

Having established that a coup is the act of overthrowing the Government by an arm of the State (which has historically been seen to be, almost exclusively, the military) it is evident how this is different from the forceful removal of a legitimate government of a country or sovereign state by foreign-invaders. Therefore, there should be no confusion over the fact that a coup is an intra-state affair (although that is not to say that other states would not have vested interests or offer indirect support to the one party or the other).

Now let us examine the role of the military in a government which is running according to the democratic model. The military is one of the pillars of the State which has or at least should have an almost exclusive access to instruments of violence. In doing so the military becomes the tool of the society whereby the society can implement its will in either defensive or expansionist endeavors. Here we must make a distinction between the two competing schools of thought which maintain that a military set up should or should not be limited to the concept of a ‘standing army’. The first school of thought maintains that a standing army is both faster, more agile, more efficient and better equipped and trained than a normal citizen – in this way the professional soldier is much more suited to the tasks, of defense of offense, that are entrusted to him.

The other school maintains that the use of professional soldiers is a luxury that society simply cannot afford – given the historical role that most militaries have played in their politics of their own Patron States. They maintain that the ‘standing’ army should be replaced by the ‘people’s’ army – which is, qualitatively speaking, very different from our conventional conception of the military. This is an army which is literally created when the need appears. It is usually an issue-oriented army i.e it deals with the issue it was created for and then disburses. Now the question becomes, where does this army appear from and disappear to?
It is the people themselves i.e the citizens of the State who volunteer their services for the creation of this army and serve their society and themselves directly and once a threat has been dealt with the people return to their normal day to day lives.

The casual critic would say that this exposes the citizens to ‘undue violence’. The most pertinent reply to this would be that while, admittedly, the citizens would be exposed to the potential for violence against their person – it would also serve to give them a first hand perspective and reason to weigh the reason for their combat against their ‘will’ for contention. If the people find that the reason for their fight is not as important to them as the fear of death or harm they would simply disband. Therefore, the direct will of the people would be exerted in all affairs of the State especially the military which has always maintained itself as a separate monolithic entity.

Furthermore, a very important drawback of the standing army is its role during times of peace. It is seen that discontent, perhaps even boredom, among people who are trained to ‘conquer’ entices them to conquer their own people – so to speak. So if there was no standing army – there would, consequently, be no peacetime standing army and therefore the threat of the disruption of the democratic process from them.

Let us take the example of some Sovereign States where Military Coups have resulted in the ousting of democratically elected representative governments and the installation of military dictators.

The most important example, for a Pakistani, would be Pakistan itself. The formation of Pakistan’s military was one of the most important priorities at the time of the Birth of Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah’s formation of the Pakistani military followed the advised method of keeping the part of the divided United Indian Army (under the British Raj) and keeping the personnel which belonged to the geographical regions which constituted East and West Pakistan.

This is a very important fact that is mostly and purposely under-emphasized in our History books. The reason for its importance is that the Pakistani military retained the Raj-mentality i.e the mentality which let them operate against their own people if ordered to. This mentality had its roots in the training that was imparted to the United Indian Army by the British Raj – rulers who frequently sent contingents of the United Indian army against their own brethren in efforts to quell and uproot dissension during the independence-war years.

An important implication of this is that the personnel of Pakistani Army, under orders from the British Raj, were directly responsible for many atrocities committed against the future people of Pakistan – the very people they later professed to protect. How then is this role different from an army of mercenaries?

As if this trait within the very genes of the army wasn’t enough, one of the first tasks they were entrusted with was the suppression of their own brethren, again. They were sent against Mir Ahmed Yar Khan who was the Khan of Kalat who had refused to cede his territory over to Pakistan. This military exercise was undertaken in April 1948 commissioned by the Central Government of Pakistan at the time – a government undoubtedly headed by Mr. Jinnah himself.
( )

It was this same army that stormed Kalat in 1955 under orders from Mr. Iskandar Mirza and arrested the Khan of Kalat who had rebelled against the forced and illegal inclusion of Kalat in Pakistan. Although the last Khan of Kalat was removed in 1955 his descendants continue to embrace this, now, token title.
( )

As is clearly visible, the very seeds of military sown at the time of independence were tainted by the blood of the very people the Pakistani military claimed to defend.

This criticism is not just limited to the Pakistani Army but also to the Indian army (from the time of partition extending up till 1970s) however, these tendencies within the Indian army has been (relatively) curbed due to the existence of a solid democratic history.

Pakistan has gone through 3 military dictatorships and is under the fourth and perhaps most corrupt military dictatorship where elected representatives have been ousted, kidnapped, imprisoned, exiled and murdered. Mr. Issa Shivzi says in his article The struggle for Democracy:

“[In the modern era]Behind virtually every coup was the hand of one or the other imperial power, and, more often than not, the US. Overthrowing nationalist regimes and installing tyrannical dictatorships was, then, a “fair game” for today’s champions of democracy and “good governance””

It is the history of modern military coups d’état that it has done nothing but serve US Imperialism in the era of US Hegemony. Mr. Musharraf’s list of crimes and his services to US Imperialism include

1) The manner in which genocide is being committed against the Balochis to ensure compliance with the larger interests of the military and external powers.
2) Forced, through physical coercion, the privatization of PTCL by ordering a military action against the PTCL Unions and Workers gathered there to protest as was their just right.
3) The criminally inept manner in which the Sale of Pakistan Steel took place for a fraction of its actual worth.
4) The manner in which Pakistani citizens were handed over to the US Government without due extradition process because our neighbourhood “friendly” Super-power asked us nicely.
5) The manner in which Mukhtaraan Mai and all women who have gone through her tragedy were insulted by Mr. Aqil’s favorite dictator on a public platform.
6) The manner in which Musharraf denied calling Mukhtaraan Mai one of the “attention seeking” individuals.
7) The manner in which an interview in his own voice was aired by the Washington Post. ( dyn/content/audio/2005/09/23/AU2005092301253.html)
8) The manner in which a late response was seen by the government in giving aid to Earth Quake victims who had to sit in the freezing cold and rain for three days (ATLEAST) before adequate government and private response made a trickle of basic necessities available to them.
9) The manner in which expenditures on Education as a percentage of GDP have been lessened.
10) The manner in which the number of Undernourished individuals, as a percentage of the total population of Pakistan, has gone up from 18.6 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2001.
11) The Chief Justice Fiasco and the attack on a fair and free judicial system
12) The attack on private and objective media sources to force intellectuals and common folk to consume government-controlled and censored propaganda.

Another role of the military, that Che Guevera commented on, was the role of the US military in destabilizing Latin America. Che Guevara says,

“It is the United States that intervenes. It has done so historically in Latin America. Since the end of the last century Cuba has experienced this truth; but it has been experienced, too, by Venezuela, Nicaragua, Central America in general, Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In recent years, apart from our people, Panama has experienced direct aggression, where the marines in the Canal Zone opened fire in cold blood against the defenseless people; the Dominican Republic, whose coast was violated by the Yankee fleet to avoid an outbreak of the just fury of the people after the death of Trujillo; and Colombia, whose capital was taken by assault as a result of a rebellion provoked by the assassination of Gaitán.[18] Covert interventions are carried out through military missions that participate in internal repression, organizing forces designed for that purpose in many countries, and also in coups d’état, which have been repeated so frequently on the Latin American continent during recent years. Concretely, U.S. forces intervened in the repression of the peoples of Venezuela, Colombia and Guatemala, who fought with weapons for their freedom.” (Address infront of the United Nations, December 11, 1964, 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.)

The very basis institute of the military, in its current form, is controversial. It raises questions of the need, organization, will and interests. It is exactly problems like these that have led Pakistan to the very brink of failure as a State. Pakistan, today, is at its most vulnerable position with the military flexing its muscle yet again in an effort to secure more and more power for itself. The disregard for popular opinion could not be more evident. The manner in which ministers and government officials come on the media and lie through their teeth is not just despicable but also the dictator’s last ditch effort at maintaining some semblance of control through misinforming the masses. It is an effort that backfires day after day. Bangladesh stands at the threshold of disaster today with their own military ousting elected representatives under pretense of various charges. Perhaps the Bangladeshi people should take heed of the lessons learnt by Pakistanis – heed the results of inaction and complacency that have wrought our own ruin.

“[Modern militarism] wants neither more nor less than the squaring of the circle; it arms the people against the people itself; it is insolent enough to force the workers . . . to become oppressors, enemies and murderers of their own class comrades and friends, of their parents, brothers, sisters and children, murderers of their own past and future. It wants to be at the same time democratic and despotic, enlightened and machine-like, at the same time to serve the nation and to be its enemy.” (KARL LIEBKNECHT, Militarism & Anti-Militarism with special regard to the International Young Socialist Movement )


Written by redtribution

August 20, 2007 at 7:59 pm

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