In a report that may appear to be particularly disturbing for the present political elite in India, Stratfor – the leading international platform of geopolitical intelligence – has observed that the Pakistani military will continue to heavily influence the government in Islamabad even in the foreseeable future.
Also, in spite of the Indian government’s heightened attempts to isolate Pakistan, particularly after the Uri attack, the international community, fearing the consequences of a nuclear state’s collapse, will continue to come to Islamabad’s help.
Stratfor provides strategic geopolitical intelligence and analyses to some of the most powerful heads of governments and business corporations in the world.
The report predicted that Pakistani military will stick to its strategy of targeting some jihadist groups while backing others. It will ensure that national security remains the country’s top priority. As a result, much-needed reforms will be neglected, preventing Pakistan’s economy from realizing its potential.
A Role Rooted in History
Explaining why the military has historically remained the dominant power in Pakistan’s civilian government-military relationship, Stratfor recalled that during the time of independence in 1947, though Pakistan inherited only 18 percent of the former territory’s revenue, it obtained 33 percent of the British Indian military, giving its armed forces a distinct advantage over the nascent civilian administration.
Though the country’s founder and first governor-general, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, initially preferred a more democratic arrangement, the Indian threat looming on Pakistan’s eastern border persuaded him to forgo popular rule in favor of a more centralized state, which could better protect the country’s national security interests.
“Jinnah, like many of Pakistan’s early leaders, feared that a representative government would undermine national unity by empowering regional movements for greater autonomy, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Unsurprisingly, the military did everything it could to encourage its civilian partners focus on national security, at times to the detriment of political and economic progress,” Stratfor said in its report.
Help by foreign patrons
The United States, in pursuit of its own foreign policy objectives in South Asia, easily found an eager partner in Pakistan. In 1954 the US government formed an alliance with Pakistan as it sought to block the spread of communism throughout Asia. India, meanwhile, aligned more closely with Soviet Union. Because of its ties to the United States, Pakistan joined the Western-leaning Southeast Asian Treaty Organization and Central Treaty Organization. Islamabad also allowed Washington to station its U-2 spy planes at Pakistani air bases as it conducted surveillance on its Soviet enemies.
“When the United States entered a proxy war in Afghanistan with the Soviets two decades later, Pakistan again became an important partner. Washington quieted its criticisms of Pakistani human rights abuses and channeled more than $3 billion to Islamabad over the following decade. In exchange, the mujahideen backed by Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan under the CIA-sponsored Operation Cyclone,” Stratfor observed.
The United States revived its relationship with Pakistan for a third time as it invaded Afghanistan in 2001, looking to uproot the Taliban forces harboring Osama bin Laden. To secure Pakistan’s support in the offensive, Washington doled out an average of $2 billion each year in defense and economic spending to Islamabad, of which a full three-quarter was funneled to the military.
The Pakistani government nurtured the Taliban to increase its own strategic depth in Afghanistan and many Taliban fighters took refuge in Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas lining the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Meanwhile, development initiatives in areas such as education, health care and literacy fell by the wayside. It is no coincidence that Pakistan, despite having fairly advanced defense and security capabilities, consistently ranks in the bottom tier of the U.N. Human Development Index. Last year, it was 147th out of 188 countries, Stratfor observed in its report.
Status quo unlikely to change
Pakistan’s status quo is unlikely to change as long as the army retains its pull in Pakistani politics. After all, the military stands to lose the most should the United States lose interest in its partnership with Pakistan. In an effort to protect its position, the military will continue to place the nation’s security needs ahead of its economic growth and development.
The international community, aware of the dangers of allowing a nuclear state such as Pakistan to collapse, will almost certainly continue to provide a financial safety net for Islamabad. The United States will likely do the same, especially with no real end in sight to the war in Afghanistan. Though the USA has begun to gradually reduce the amount of money it sends to Pakistan, Islamabad could try to use its clout in the Afghan peace process to exact more.