Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Stability, Stability, Where Fore Art Thou Stability?

Ahmed Rashid in the Washington Post on how the coup actually makes Pakistan less stable, not more.

Part of the reason Musharaf took his drastic step was to attempt to boost morale and confidence within the army. The interests of the army are always paramount in the minds of the officer corps and the fact that the army has been hit hard in recent months has become more and more apparent. The need to appear decisive and in-charge and put the harping civilians back in line (Pakistani officers are traditionally full of contempt for civilians and believe they have no business in trying to run the affairs of the state) needs to be taken into account as a major motivation for Musharaf's move. In fact, Musharaf alluded to this in his address to the nation. Here is a rough translation. I found this part particularly enlightening as to his state of mind and the pressure he was under:

Under great duress, based on all these reasons, the whole nation is depressed and uncertain. I am getting phone calls from everywhere ... my own acquaintances, private, from outside the country, from inside the country, asking, "What is going on?" I am being taunted, "What are you doing?" They are taunting me that I was the decision maker, "What happened to you now? Why can't you decide now?" I have listened to these taunts in silence, and watched in disbelief what has been happening to Pakistan, in Pakistan. I had hoped that the judiciary and the government establishment will deal with these challenges ... and in that hope I sat silently and watched ... for improvements. But in my opinion this didn't happen. And the situation was getting worse by the day. And Pakistan was going rapidly into a negative direction.

This section eloquently summarizes the feelings of helplessness in the army as they witness their own ineffectiveness in the fighting against the militants, in their loss of control over the Pakistani street, in the increasing ascendancy of raucous politicians and truculent judges. And like all those who have exercised authority through intimidation, in a questioning of their authority, they perceive "taunts" and personal humiliation. It was not so much the nation that was "under duress", "depressed" and "uncertain", as Mr. Musharaf himself.

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