Pakistan Milbus

I just finished Ayesha Siddiqa’s important book, “Military Inc.” I’ll say a few words about it – I hope to write something more extensive for ZNet in the coming days or weeks as well. But more from Dawn, first.

The situation in Pakistan hasn’t stabilized and there is still some pressure on the regime to lift the emergency and, hopefully, back off even further. The regime has released some of its opponents from house arrest – though, as in other dictatorships (Haiti’s comes to mind) the high-profile detainees always do far better than the no-profile ones.


I just finished Ayesha Siddiqa’s important book, “Military Inc.” I’ll say a few words about it – I hope to write something more extensive for ZNet in the coming days or weeks as well. But more from Dawn, first.

The situation in Pakistan hasn’t stabilized and there is still some pressure on the regime to lift the emergency and, hopefully, back off even further. The regime has released some of its opponents from house arrest – though, as in other dictatorships (Haiti’s comes to mind) the high-profile detainees always do far better than the no-profile ones.

The army is also actively fighting in the border with Afghanistan, and it looks to be mounting major operations. The Americans are looking for alternate routes into Afghanistan for supply of their occupation of that country.

From Tarek Fatah’s list, I got a piece by Benazir Bhutto’s niece, Fatima Bhutto, writing in the LA Times a few days ago, where she basically said Benazir was not the answer for the country: “By supporting Ms. Bhutto, who talks of democracy while asking to be brought to power by a military dictator, the only thing that will be accomplished is the death of the nascent secular democratic movement in my country. Democratization will forever be de-legitimized, and our progress in enacting true reforms will be quashed. We Pakistanis are certain of this.”

The key point for me in this is that there is a nascent democratic movement in the country. That is what a lot of this agitation shows. And after reading this, it seems to me that Benazir would be a vehicle for co-opting it and dismantling it – if Musharraf can’t crush it first. In other words, for the movement, dealing with Benazir and co-optation isn’t the immediate problem, it seems to me, but rather seeing Musharraf off and surviving repression. And it seems to me that the latter requires a different approach for outsiders as well.

Back to Siddiqa’s book for a moment. There is a great deal in it, lots of detail on the workings of the Pakistani economy and the military’s control of it, and important history of how that came to be. One important argument is that the military came to power because civilian elites were always eager to use it, against the people and against each other. So long as they wouldn’t shrink from using the military for their own ends, they were empowering it to the point that it eventually subordinated them. That is a very interesting thought and a cautionary one for any force-loving political class. The other interesting point, one she leaves for readers and others to develop, is the idea that where military rule closes off political space, multiparty systems and political and economic options, religious politics is strengthened. That’s what happened in Pakistan, she says, and that’s what happened in Turkey. It’s a hypothesis she is trying to put forward about military rule empowering religious politics. An interesting thought, that one. Worth pursuing.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

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