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Journal of Democracy, Volume 14, Number 4, October 2003, pp. 26-40 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/jod.2003.0088
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PAKISTAN’S “ARMORED” DEMOCRACY
Aqil Shah is an independent political and security analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. A former Rhodes Scholar trained at Oxford University, he focuses on national security, democratization, and civil-military relations in South Asia and Afghanistan. His essay “Democracy on Hold in Pakistan” appeared in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Democracy. He will be a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. from October 2003 to July 2004.
The events leading up to and flowing out of the Pakistani general
elections of 10 October 2002 shed light on the curious and dangerous nature of the hybridized authoritarianism that grips Pakistan today. To begin with, there is the election date itself. October 2002 was the time set for polling because it marked three years from the bloodless military coup in which General Pervez Musharraf, the army chief of staff, toppled elected premier Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and appointed himself president. The Supreme Court retroactively approved the coup in May 2000, citing the doctrine of “state necessity”; the October 2002 election deadline was the Court’s idea. Then there is the play of illusion and reality that characterizes the electoral process in this large (nearly 150 million–strong and growing), poor (per capita GDP equals US $420), nuclear-armed, and strategically located country on the northwest side of India, the southern edge of Afghanistan, and the eastern flank of the Middle East. For Musharraf, elections are events of great instrumental significance. The self-proclaimed president has always known that he cannot hope to rely indefinitely on the “entrance legitimacy” that he had when he first took over, and needs some sort of popular consent to rule. As a hedge against a “wrong” outcome in the parliamentary voting, he staged a fraudulent referendum in April 2002 with the goal of gaining approval for a five-year extension of his presidential term. Rivers of cash flowed from state coffers to rent crowds for his public rallies and for hauling voters to polling stations. The thorJournal of Democracy Volume 14, Number 4 October 2003
oughly unsurprising result was a 97.5 percent vote in favor of keeping the general in the president’s seat for another five years. While the ostensible goal of all the voting that Musharraf has been sponsoring may be the restoration of “real” democracy, the reality is starkly different. In fact, the elections—which were most noted overseas because of the alarmingly strong showing made by Pakistan’s loud and highly organized Islamist movements—were part of a military “exit strategy” from politics that involves a lot of strategy and not much exit, at least if one means by that word the actual withdrawal of the military from the exercise of political power. Pakistan today is at best a hybrid regime, where elections are not completely without meaning, but where the principles of civilian rule and constitutionalism are honored far more in the breach than in the observance. Despite Musharraf’s repeated promises of a free and fair election, external as well as domestic observers joined opposition political parties in noting widespread irregularities. The European Union Election Observation Mission to Pakistan censured the run-up to and actual conduct of the voting as “deeply flawed,” raising serious questions about whether the military regime really ever meant to hand power back to civilians.1 The military’s pervasive “pre-poll rigging” also prompted local and international human rights groups to condemn the whole electoral process as “seriously flawed.”2 The military’s plan had been to bootstrap its own favored political faction—a rump of the Muslim League known as the PML-Q to distinguish it from the PML-N faction affiliated with Nawaz Sharif—into a majority in the 342-seat lower house of the national assembly. In the event, however, the PML-Q managed to win only 77 seats.3 This left it with more seats than any other single party, but still far short of a majority. Exiled former premier Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)—traditionally the main center-left contender—came in second with 60 seats, though it also managed to win the largest share of the popular vote. More notably still, the United Action Forum (MMA), an alliance of six Islamist parties formed after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, secured the third-largest seat tally (53) while also scoring local sweeps in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as well as in predominantly Pushtun-speaking areas of Baluchistan province. Independent legislators numbered 30, a high tally given Musharraf’s decree just two days before the election that independents would have three days to affiliate with a party or face possible disqualification. In November 2002, a coalition government led by the PML-Q’s Zafarullah Khan Jamali took office with a razor-thin majority. Musharraf could thus claim that he had transferred full executive powers to an elected prime minister and restored the 1973 Constitution, even as the general was arranging for Senate elections to be delayed until February
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2003 so that the military could do more horse-trading and arm-twisting in order to ensure a PML-Q victory in the upper-house races. The military’s manipulations of the electoral process aimed at three goals. The first was to undermine the civilian opposition, meaning principally the PPP and the PML-N. The second was to ensure the success of the PML-Q and its Grand National Alliance, a military-backed coalition of mainly center-right parties. 4 And last but by no means least, the third goal was to devise a more lasting institutional basis for military control over politics. A series of executive orders issued from June to August 2002 effectively barred former premiers Sharif and Bhutto (both by this time exiled) from again holding office, and also increased the government’s control over the inner workings of political parties. In addition, all candidates for both the national and provincial assemblies were required to have a bachelor’s degree—a move which, according to the EU observers, denied 96 percent of all voters their right to run for office. In August 2002, Musharraf introduced 29 sweeping constitutional amendments under the heading of the Legal Framework Order (LFO). The most striking of these measures seeks to institutionalize the military’s role in politics by creating a Turkish-style National Security Council (NSC) through which senior uniformed officers can oversee the civilian government. Another revived amendment allows the president, acting in conjunction with the NSC, to dismiss an elected government and dissolve parliament.5 Presidential powers of appointment expand, as do the grounds on which individuals can be disqualified from holding a seat in parliament (offenses warranting the “red card” now include failure to pay one’s utility bills). Legislative seats go from 217 to 342 in the lower house and 87 to 100 in the Senate. Non-Muslims and women are guaranteed seats, and the voting age drops from 21 to 18. In addition to its legal and constitutional machinations, the regime’s steps on behalf of the PML-Q have included gerrymandering, using state resources for partisan electioneering, and threatening opposition and independent candidates with prosecution for corruption if they refuse to switch loyalties. As a result, opposition political parties have barely managed to stay in the electoral arena. For instance, the PPP has had to rename itself the “PPP-Parliamentarians” to avoid disqualification following a ban on the holding of any party office by Benazir Bhutto. Moderate parties’ campaigns also suffered badly from severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly—restrictions that were less rigorously enforced and less effective in the case of the Islamist parties. Musharraf had banned political activities in the wake of his 1999 coup, and lifted the prohibition on 1 September 2002, less than forty days before polling day. Even then, processions and rallies remained subject to official approval and could only be held in predesignated places. When the PML-Q fell short of expectations and had to enter coali-
tion talks with the PPP and the MMA, Musharraf’s lieutenants resorted to high-pressure tactics, facilitated by the suspension of the constitutional ban on floor-crossing, to gather enough votes to form a government. Within a month, several senior PPP leaders had cast “votes of conscience” for the PML-Q and were handed key ministries including interior, defense, and petroleum. Similar bribe-and-threat tactics caused defections from the PPP and the PML-N in the Punjab, the most populous of Pakistan’s four provinces, while in Sindh, where the PPP won the highest number of seats, military maneuverings barred it from being able to form the government.
How the West Was Won?
The rise of the MMA represents a new and ominous turn in Pakistani politics. Formed in January 2002 and spearheaded by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the largest and best-organized Islamist party, and the Jamiat Ulama Islam–Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F), the MMA notched unprecedented gains, especially in the NWFP (plus the adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA]) and Baluchistan. While no one could have predicted the scale of the MMA’s electoral victories, I warned in these pages in January 2002 that the military’s systematic targeting of moderate political parties, plus public anger at the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, could work to the Islamists’ benefit.6 The politicized Muslim clerics of the MMA adroitly deployed a mixture of vitriolic attacks on the United States, allegations of high civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and promises of an Islamic welfare state to woo voters frustrated with the traditional political elites and the mainstream parties. Continually urging Pakistanis to “save Pakistan” from the dangers posed by “American troops on our soil,” “the U.S.-Jewish conspiracy to take out our Islamic bomb,” and so on, the clerics turned fear and frustration into an electoral windfall. While religious parties have often used anti-Americanism for political gain in Pakistan, the strategy has never really paid off until now (and still has not paid off in Sindh or the Punjab, where voters continue to prefer mainstream parties). In the early 1990s, for instance, Islamist parties waved the bloody shirt of the first Gulf War and yet never made any serious headway unless they could form a coalition with one of the mainstream, secular political groups. Among the reasons for the new strength of the Islamist appeals, one cannot discount the widespread anger in the NWFP (and Pushtun-speaking areas of Baluchistan) over U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. The 2002 voting also saw the virtual elimination in the two western provinces of the center-left Awami National Party (ANP) and other Pushtun-nationalist forces—the clerical parties’ traditional rivals, which had split further with the clerics over the Taliban’s ouster. Also helping the MMA in NWFP was a military-generated PPP spinoff
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that siphoned away a share of that party’s voter base. With help like this from the khaki corner, the Islamists took 53 of the 99 seats in the provincial assembly and 29 of the NWFP’s 35 seats in the national assembly. In the adjoining FATA—where a curious mixture of tribal and state law rules and where religious conservatism is strong—nominally “independent” candidates who made no secret of their loyalty to the MMA (their names appeared on the ballot under its symbol) bagged 7 of the 12 allotted national assembly seats. The 14 provincial assembly seats that the MMA won in the mostly Pushtun areas of Baluchistan left that Islamist formation almost even with the PML-Q, which won 15 elsewhere in the province. Even in Sindh (whose major city is Karachi, Pakistan’s premier seaport), Islamist parties managed to pick up 6 national and 8 provincial assembly seats, thereby partly regaining ground lost over the last decade or so. For the first time, moreover, an MMA candidate from the JI won a national assembly seat from Islamabad. In January 2003 national assembly by-elections, the MMA exploited anti-Americanism in order to retain a pair of NWFP seats and win one in Rawalpindi, a northern city long dominated by the two traditional major parties. Islamists reacted to U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan by holding massive protest rallies in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar. Clearly, the military’s relentless undermining of the moderate opposition parties, particularly the PPP and PML-N, handed the Islamists a golden opportunity. The MMA also inadvertently benefited from General Musharraf’s constitutional engineering. His bachelor’s-degree requirement, for instance, disqualified nearly half of all those who had held national and provincial legislative seats at the time of the 1999 coup, yet the Islamists stood unscathed as the Election Commission of Pakistan swiftly ruled that their madrassah (religious school) degrees would count as B.A. equivalents.7 Official bans on political activity meant little to Islamist parties long accustomed to using mosques and madrassahs as platforms for mobilization. Even so, the regime did little to interfere with public rallies by religious factions even as it ruthlessly suppressed secular opposition gatherings. In June 2002, for instance, baton-wielding policemen assailed and arrested several senior PML-N leaders before a public rally in Rawalpindi. Just two days earlier in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, 20,000 Islamists—including members of extremist groups nominally banned by Musharraf—had congregated unhindered to hear speakers castigate the general for “selling out” Afghanistan and Kashmir in return for favors from Washington. Islamist parties have formed into ballot coalitions before, but always with secular parties in the mix. Not so the MMA: It is an exclusively and aggressively Islamist formation, albeit one cobbled together across various sectarian and doctrinal cleavages that in the past had never proved bridgeable.8 In interviews that I conducted with senior MMA leaders in
early 2003, some insisted that their alliance flowed from their acute shared awareness of how counterproductive it was for their respective parties to be competing against one another.9 Critics charge that the military engineered the creation of the MMA as part of an overall move against the PPP and PML-N. The regime appears to have calculated that the lion’s share of the right-of-center vote (which is always reliably anti-PPP) could be diverted to the military-sponsored PML-Q, with the MMA picking up the rest and thereby squeezing out the PML-N. Indications are that the military’s political managers had conceived the idea of such a religious-party coalition even before 9/11, the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan, and the formation of the Pak-Afghan Defense Council (the body that morphed into the MMA after the Taliban fell). There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that the Pakistani army has long been active in arranging alliances at the rightward end of the political spectrum. For instance, knowledgeable observers agree that the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI)—which functions as a wing of the military, commanded by a serving general and staffed by activeduty officers who rotate through its billets as part of their regular career trajectory—did precisely this before the 1988, 1990, and 1993 elections, in each case putting forward an “Islamic front” under one name or another to compete for the votes of the religious right.
The Military-Islamist Complex
The military and the religious right share a set of illiberal attitudes, a deep hostility to India, and an aversion to political moderation. They have been closet political allies since the 1970s. In 1971, the JI strongly backed the army’s brutal effort to prevent the secession of East Pakistan (as today’s Bangladesh was then called). The JI’s student wing provided most of the recruits for army-sponsored counterinsurgency operations in that strife-torn province. The JI also did the army’s bidding by leading the agitation against Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir’s father, executed in 1979) for signing the 1972 Simla Agreement with India and recognizing Bangladesh. Under military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who ruled from 1977 until his plane exploded mysteriously in midair in 1988, the military expanded its stable of Islamist allies. During the decade of fighting that followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistani religious parties received ample military training and funding, strengthening their ties to the army and broadening their support within and outside the government. The green-and-khaki nexus of mullahs and officers may well have survived the sudden U-turn on Afghan policy that Musharraf announced after 9/11. How else can one explain cases like that of Maulana Azam Tariq, head of a banned anti-Shi’ite group known as the Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions, who was released from the jail where he was
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awaiting trial for murder and allowed to run for parliament at a time when moderate-party candidates were being disqualified for misdemeanors? And why else would the military regime instruct provincial authorities to drop criminal cases against several MMA leaders and party workers just weeks before the election? Religious parties are also important to the military’s external agenda. Belying his putative distaste for religious extremism, Musharraf has often praised militant groups as Pakistan’s “first line of defense” in any war with India. The military prizes fundamentalist parties and their jihadi militias as sources of both public support and “officially deniable” manpower for the religiously charged low-intensity war that the army runs across the Line of Control in Indian Kashmir. At the same time, such largely covert ties leave the military free to play the other side of its double game by pointing publicly to the existence of a large and noisy homegrown Islamist movement when the soldiers want to angle for diplomatic and economic support from an international community that fears the prospect of a “Talibanized” Pakistan run by “atomic mullahs.” Some observers now fear that, thanks in good part to the military’s divide-and-rule machinations, the Islamists have gained enough momentum to escape the military’s orbit, and may be heading off on a trajectory all their own.10 For now, at least, these fears are exaggerated. nay not The MMA may not like like either either the the role role that that Musharraf Musharraf has has committed committed Pakistan to play in the global war on terror or all his constitutional changes, but the Islamist leaders know that they have little to gain at present from antagonizing the generals and are focusing instead on extending their newfound clout beyond the NWFP and Baluchistan. So the MMA leaders too play a double game, staging “million-man marches” to denounce Musharraf as George W. Bush’s lackey while tacitly assuring the military that the MMA will stick to noisy rhetoric while steering clear of any serious campaign to destabilize the PML-Q government. Knowing the immediate context for the MMA’s rise is important, but so is understanding the deeper historical roots of Islamist influence. Throughout Pakistan’s troubled history, various figures and factions in its ruling elite have exploited religion to push certain agendas and divert attention away from this or that set of ethnic, linguistic, regional, and sectarian cleavages. Is it any wonder, then, that Islamic symbols can be wielded with such manipulative power in Pakistani politics? To make matters worse, long interruptions of democracy—Pakistan has had four military coups in less than 60 years of independence—have combined with the state’s ambivalent or even supportive attitude toward Islamist groups to make extremist politics attractive. Where functioning democratic institutions and secular political parties should be, there stands a vacuum that radical religious movements are now threatening to fill. In a country whose constitution bans the enactment of laws incompatible with shari’a and mandates that only a Muslim can be prime
minister or president, it is little surprise that the religious right has gradually risen to political prominence.11 Since independence in 1947, the Pakistani state and political elites generally—not just the military—have sought to accommodate and manipulate Islamists. Yet just who has been Since independence in using whom has not always been clear: 1947, the Pakistani state and political elites The Islamists’ reaction, by and large, generally have sought to has been to press their demands ever more boldly and violently while mostly accommodate and refusing to abide by the rule of law. In manipulate Islamists. 1974, the elder Bhutto’s PPP government declared members of the Ahmadi sect non-Muslims in order to placate the JI. This was in keeping with other steps that Bhutto took to coopt his aggressive Islamist opposition through a policy of preemptive surrender: He was the “liberal” premier who banned alcohol and gambling. The mullahs, of course, were not satisfied with some shuttered nightclubs, and pressed Bhutto, by now desperate to stay in power, to begin formally Islamizing the state. This he pliantly did, though it availed him little when the “nonpolitical” General Zia toppled him and sent him to the gallows. Zia himself fed the Islamist tiger amply and well before meeting his own murky and untimely end amid the detonative éclat of a doomed C-130. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif too played their own games of capitulation and cooptation with the mullahs. Both these former premiers now find themselves banned from politics and banished from Pakistani soil, while the mullahs have their own provincial government and a big bloc of seats in the national assembly. What hope is there of moderating this kind of state-cultivated extremism? The democratic political process remains the best bet, though the odds are not great in the NWFP, where the MMA government has a virtual free hand. Since coming to power there, the MMA has cracked down on the media and aired plans to enforce shari’a through a Saudistyle ministry for “virtue promotion and vice prevention.” As if this were not worrisome enough, the MMA has also signaled a desire to end coeducation, segregate women in public places, and Islamize publicschool curricula. As a sop to Islamabad’s Western allies and funders, MMA leaders say they want “gradual” Islamization of society. Federal legislation can override provincial laws, but no Pakistani government has ever stood up to the religious parties in this way, and Musharraf appears willing to keep turning a blind eye as long as the MMA supports the PML-Q governments in Baluchistan and Islamabad. There are limits to this alliance of expediency, though, for Musharraf remains wary of international concerns about “Talibanization.” On the eve of his June 2003 visit to Washington, for instance, Musharraf publicly
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criticized the MMA’s Islamization campaign in NWFP as “narrowminded.” Against the backdrop of the continuing governmentopposition deadlock over the LFO, Musharraf’s verbal sally was meant both to assure the West of the military’s moderation and to warn the MMA to drop its complaints against the LFO’s sweeping constitutional changes and “get with the program.” 12 In the likely event that the mullahs and the generals reach an agreement on the LFO, the military will then probably cite the MMA’s “democratic” mandate in the NWFP (and even Baluchistan) in order to overlook the minor inconvenience of that party’s provincial-level Islamization campaigns—suitably moderated for international consumption, of course.
Military Rule and Party Politics
Whenever a military regime comes to power in Pakistan, its first goal is to neutralize any political parties that might oppose it. The logic is cynically simple: Weaken and scatter your adversaries, and you can enjoy a longer and easier stay in power. Divide-and-rule tactics are a favorite. Their tools are new-founded and purpose-built “king’s parties” designed to provide civilian cover plus nonpartisan local bodies to depoliticize governance and take pressure off the center, where the generals sit. The suppression of partisan loyalties brings tribal, ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian affiliations to the fore. Party politics gives way, at least temporarily, to the easier-to-manage, personality-driven politics of patronage. General Muhammad Ayub (1958–69) disqualified hundreds of politicians, created a “Basic Democracy” system to circumvent popular aspirations for real democratic rule, and started the Conventional Muslim League, a breakaway faction of the Muslim League, to broaden his base beyond the military. General Zia banned political parties, coopted the religious right and anti-PPP forces into his government, and created a new political elite through his local-bodies system. These budding politicians would later form the core of Zia’s rubber-stamp parliament. During the decade of flawed democracy between Zia’s death in 1988 and Musharraf’s coup in 1999, power had gone back and forth between Bhutto’s center-left PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s center-right PML-N. Whatever may have been the shortcomings of both these parties and their respective leaders, the nature of their competition was coming to reflect a gradual structuring of political affiliations into fairly stable pro- and anti-PPP camps, with minor variations along regional, ethnic, and religious lines. Since assuming power, Musharraf has used the old strategy of divide and rule to reshape the country’s political landscape. He cobbled together the PML-Q with PML-N leaders who resented Sharif, who could not withstand intimidation, or who were simply willing to do the military’s bidding in return for power. He carved away some PPP leaders with similar tactics, jailed several others on trumped-up corrup-
tion charges, and used discriminatory legislation to ban Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari from contesting elections. Like his predecessors, Musharraf quickly seized upon the idea of local government. Within a month of his coup, he had set up a National Reconstruction Bureau under a retired general to develop a schema for devolution. Drafted with technical assistance from the UN Development Program, “Local Government Plan 2000” called for the reestablishment of elected councils at the subdistrict and district levels. Sweeping as it looked, the new system’s telltale detail was its mandate that local elections be partyless. Local governments proved key instruments in the military’s politicalmanipulation schemes. District nazims (mayors) used public monies and other state resources to stage rallies backing Musharraf’s April 2002 presidential referendum and the PML-Q’s parliamentary candidates that autumn. Musharraf’s political and constitutional distortions have failed to cripple the mass appeal of his principal political adversaries, the PPP and PML-N. Election results confirm the continued popularity of these civilian opponents, belying Musharraf’s tireless claims that there is no place for “corrupt” politicians (an obvious reference to Sharif and Bhutto). The PPP, after all, actually polled more votes than the PML-Q, even though the latter won more parliamentary seats thanks to armymandated gerrymandering. The PPP also bagged 51 out of 130 seats in the Sindhi provincial assembly, a traditional stronghold. There is little doubt that Musharraf’s anticorruption campaign against his civilian opponents has done more to damage his credibility than theirs. This is not to say that the military’s systematic suppression of the moderate parties has done no damage. In fact, these parties are weakened, marginalized, and hard-pressed to retain their traditional support bases and whatever shreds of programmatic and organizational coherence they can salvage. With the military still using bribes and threats to splinter the parties, their ability to “structure democratic compromise or mediate political conflict” is bound to suffer serious damage. 13 The PPP, its cadres frustrated and its leader exiled, wanders in the wilderness. Sharif’s PML-N, once Pakistan’s most popular party, is now in utter disarray. The PML-Q spinoff is less an organized political force than a collection of opportunists. Only the Islamist parties of the MMA seem to have come out ahead. Arguably, the MMA’s electoral clout is still a political aberration. On a level playing field, the secular parties might still be a match for the forces of politicized Islam. If the military continues to patronize the religious parties, however, liberal-democratic sections of civil and political society are likely to become casualties. The 1973 Constitution stipulates that any amendment requires the two-thirds vote of an elected parliament. Before he lifted martial law in 1985, General Zia crafted the Eighth Amendment to indemnify all his actions through a rubber-stamp parliament. General Musharraf, lacking the required majority, has refused to seek parliamentary ratification for
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the LFO. Declaring his amendments irreversible, Musharraf has publicly claimed that he introduced the military-dominated NSC and other constitutional innovations in order to erect a system of “checks and balances” that will ensure democratic stability. Or as he puts it, “If you want to keep the army out, bring them in.”14 In empowering Musharraf to amend the constitution, the Supreme Court’s May 2000 decision had declared off-limits such salient features of democratic governance as judicial independence, federalism, and parliamentarism. Critics say that the LFO has gone far beyond the bounds that the Court envisioned (by allowing the president to dissolve an elected legislature at will, for instance) and turned parliament into a joke. The NSC, moreover, effectively subordinates civilian to military authority. Musharraf’s insistence on retaining the illegitimate powers claimed through the LFO has galvanized a rare confluence of opposition alliances—the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (or ARD, which comprises the PPP and PML-N) and the MMA. The lines, it seems, are being drawn for what could become the decisive battle over the future of state authority in Pakistan. “If we don’t oppose [the LFO], the very existence of the federal parliamentary system is at stake,” argues PPP parliamentarian Shah Mehmood Qureshi.15 The combined opposition argues that the LFO is a set of proposed—not actual—constitutional amendments, and as such needs the approval of two-thirds of parliament as the 1973 Constitution stipulates. Opposition politicians mainly object to three clauses of the LFO—presidential power to dissolve parliament; Musharraf’s unelected, uniformed presidency; and a military-dominated NSC—and they reject these as intrinsically antithetical to parliamentarism. The PML-Q counters that the LFO is already part of the constitution and the opposition can amend it, if it so wishes, with a two-thirds vote. Defending the LFO before a divisional bench of the Lahore High Court, Attorney General Makhdum Ali Khan recently noted that the current parliament itself was chosen under the LFO, so if the LFO is not in force, then neither can parliament be.16 As of this writing in late August 2003, parliament remains deadlocked. The continuing impasse has generated fears that Musharraf might declare parliament dissolved.17 As long as the opposition sticks to peaceful protest, however, the general will be hard-pressed to find a pretext for such a move. Nor will outright martial law be an easy sell at home or abroad, and the legal and constitutional questions it would raise would be thornier even than today’s quandaries. The biggest imponderable is whether the high command will go along with Musharraf’s determination to throw his weight around publicly when the army’s institutional interests can be so readily protected from behind the scenes. Is Musharraf’s vaunted “unity of command” so strong that the whole military will abandon its parliamentary cover for his sake? The general’s constitutional and political maneuvers have placed
immense pressure on Pakistan’s fragile polity. Centralization, denial of provincial autonomy, and the absence of effective political institutions fuel intense resentment, especially in the smaller provinces, against the Punjabi-dominated officer corps. But there is as yet no sign of discord between Musharraf and his most important constituency, the nine army corps commanders. 18 The army is cohesive enough as an organization to justify considerable skepticism toward analyses which claim that a split in its upper ranks is nigh. Given the slenderness of any prospect that the officer corps will initiate a withdrawal from politics, what can be hoped for from the civilian side? Here the picture may be brighter. The refusal by many civilian politicians to accept a uniformed officer’s claims to extraconstitutional authority may reflect the gradual maturation of a democratic consensus among the political elite. And yet here again, the MMA seems to be shaping up as a disturbing exception. The clout that this Islamist group now wields in NWFP and Baluchistan is a bad sign, as is its willingness—suggested by talks that it held with representatives of the federal government in the summer of 2003—to angle for its own “separate peace” with Musharraf behind a screen of oppositionist rhetoric.
Democracy and Governance: Perils and Prospects
Pakistan is a living laboratory of the chronic instability wrought by a politically autonomous and overbearing military—that much is sure. But any “pacted” transition or other solution based on an elite settlement will have to pass the test of “performance legitimacy.” For this, there will need to be credible economic policies and effective management of political conflict. Otherwise, democracy will never be consolidated, and the lurch from one crisis to the next will be the best for which one can hope.19 One part of this difficult equation that outside actors can hope to influence is the conflict with India over Kashmir. A settlement of this problem, the end of the low-intensity war, and a general thaw in IndoPak relations would rob the Pakistani military of its favorite pretext for consuming so much of the national budget and being so ready to intervene in politics in the name of “national security.” Many observers agree that the active presence of an “honest broker” third party such as the United States offers the best hope of finding a way to stanch the bleeding from this running wound. And a settlement might also allay anti-U.S. resentment and thus make terrorist recruitment more difficult. Alternatively, if Kashmir is not pacified, the United States will remain an easy target for demonization, while Pakistan will at best continue to reap the bitter fruits of a distorted civil-military configuration and all that aggravates it, or is aggravated by it: unsustainably high military expenditures, endemic corruption, rampant poverty, an inefficient pub-
Journal of Democracy
lic sector, an organizationally weak civil society, and violent sectarian strife. Contrary to their reformist rhetoric, authoritarian regimes have proved poor at instituting sustainable structural reforms. Reforms require the building of consensus and coalitions in order to create credible political, constitutional, and legislative guarantees that will safeguard reform in the long run. Representative, constitutional government thus offers the best hope for the consolidation of democratic governance in Pakistan. Otherwise, the MMA’s utopian rhetoric about an Islamic welfare state is likely to become more and more enticing. For now, soldiers, entrenched in key structures of governmental power, retain a de facto veto over key policy actions of elected officials. Even after the election of a civilian government, General Musharraf continues to rule by decree. In 2002 alone, he promulgated 150 ordinances and orders. In this praetorian situation, the critical question is not whether the military will stage a coup, but whether the civilian political elite can prevent or preempt direct or indirect interventions. Given the international consensus on democracy as the most preferable form of government, even in these days of fighting terror, the Pakistani military clearly sees that it can best serve its own interests by going through the motions of formally transferring power to a civilian government that the generals can claim is democratically elected, even as the soldiers retain their iron grip on the levers of state power. Cagey about the importance of keeping up electoral appearances in the post– Cold War world, the generals have fobbed off the thankless task of day-to-day governance on elected officials who must stand naked in their responsibility and relative powerlessness, even as the true (military) rulers cloak themselves in the prudish vestments of “formal respectability and democratic compliance.”20 Absent a full restructuring of civil-military relations, democratic transition will never stick in Pakistan. The 1973 Constitution makes civilian authorities nominally supreme over the military, but this has never been sufficient to stop the generals from derailing the political process. Democratization and its consolidation will require in the first instance civilian control over the insulated realm of defense and national security policies, traditionally excluded from the purview of elected officials. For too long, elected leaders have dealt with civil-military relations on an ad hoc basis, conveniently accepting limited powers in foreign and security matters while leaving the military a free hand. Successive prime ministers, finding themselves thus boxed in by the top brass, have often tried to extend subjective civilian control by politicizing the appointments of senior military officers—a trick that has almost always backfired. Once out of power, political leaders have never hesitated to cut a power-sharing deal with the military, even if that has meant legitimating its institutionalized political role. This brand of expedient politicking, senior opposition leaders claim, is changing.
“Political maturity is gradually seeping in,” asserts the PPP’s Qureshi, “and with it the realization that an interventionist military is at the heart of Pakistan’s democratic failure.”21 Whether this realization will lead the political elite to confront the military is an open question. On the one hand, democratization will require that opposition parties deny General Musharraf the constitutional legitimacy he needs to institutionalize military tutelage over national political life. On the other hand, a persistent legacy of authoritarianism and the lack of a firmly institutionalized party system make the political regime vulnerable to dissolution by the military. If the opposition parties can sustain their anti-LFO campaign within and outside parliament, they might force a compromise that could scale back the military’s tutelary powers and its ability, if not its desire, to intervene in politics. But this is easier said than done. For the time being, at least, Musharraf can count on international backing and the military’s coercive power to prolong the political status quo. The resurgent alliance between mullahs and generals also bodes ill for any future institutionalization of civilian supremacy. And if the MMA (or any other opposition group) were to strike yet another untenable power-sharing arrangement with the generals that lets them keep their veto over civilian politics, democratic hopes are sure to be swiftly dashed.
1. The EU Observer Mission’s final report is available at www.eueom.org.pk/ finalreport.asp. 2. Human Rights Watch Background Briefing, “Pakistan: Entire Election Process Deeply Flawed,” 9 October 2002, www.hrw.org/press/2002/10/pakistan-1009.htm. See also Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, “Pre-Poll Rigging,” at www.hrcpweb.org. 3. After all the postelectoral dealings were completed, the final lower-house seat tally was: PML-Q (117), PPP (80), and MMA (60). 4. The Grand National Alliance includes the National Alliance and the Sindh Democratic Alliance as well as the PML-Q. 5. General Zia introduced Article 58(2)B into the 1973 Constitution. The PMLN government repealed this clause in 1997. 6. See Aqil Shah, “Democracy on Hold in Pakistan,” Journal of Democracy 13 (January 2002): 67–75. 7. State TV coverage of the election campaign also tilted in favor of the PMLQ and the MMA, each of which received more air time than the PPP. The PPP also received negative coverage. See “Media Monitoring: Elections 2002,” Pakistan Liberal Forum, Islamabad, October 2002. 8. In addition to the JI, a religious revivalist movement that follows a distinct
Journal of Democracy
philosophy traceable to the writings of Maulana Maududi (1903–79), a nationalistturned-Islamist intellectual, the MMA contains one large and four smaller parties. The most prominent and electorally the most successful is JUI-F, a spinoff from the Jamiat Ulama Islam (JUI). The JUI-S or Samiul Haq group is the smaller faction of the JUI. Both follow the teachings of the Deobandi sect, a nineteenth-century Sunni-militant movement. The Jamiat Ulama Pakistan (JUP) represents the Barelvi sect, a Sunni movement that draws inspiration from Sufi saints. (Deoband and Bareli are towns in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where these movements originated.) The smaller Islami Tehreek claims to represent the minority Shi’ite community. The other small party, the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith (Followers of the Prophet’s Tradition) is inspired by the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia—a country which, according to one source, may be spending more than US $1 billion per year to fund madrassahs and other vehicles of Islamist militancy in Pakistan. See Alex Alexiev, “The Pakistani Time Bomb,” Commentary, March 2003, 46–52. 9. Background interviews with author, January 2003, Islamabad. In the 1970 elections, for instance, the JI, JUI and JUP all did poorly in both East and West Pakistan partly because they had run separately and thus split the Islamist vote. See Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jamaat e Islami of Pakistan (London: I.B. Tauris, 1994), 168. 10. Mohammad Waseem, “Turning the Wheels,” Dawn (Karachi), 16 October 2002. 11. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution. 12. Musharrraf’s verbal assault came backed by pressure tactics that included the removal of top provincial administration officials, mass resignations by proMusharraf NWFP nazims (mayors), and legal efforts to strip MMA legislators of their seats. 13. See Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, “Toward Consolidated Democracies,” Journal of Democracy 7 (1996): 14–33. 14. Faraz Hashmi, “Amendments Irreversible: Musharraf,” Dawn (Karachi), 22 August 2002. 15. Interview with author, Islamabad, 12 March 2003. 16. “Turmoil if LFO Is Struck Down, Says AG” Dawn (Karachi), 28 March 2003. 17. Aziz Malik, “If LFO Goes, So Does Parliament, says Musharraf,” Dawn (Karachi), 27 August 2003 18. Ihteshamul Haq, “Commanders Back COAS [Musharraf] on Uniform,” Dawn (Karachi), 8 August 2003. 19. Larry Diamond et al., eds., Politics in Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences with Democracy (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1990), 9. 20. Kees Koonings and Derk Kruijt, eds., “Introduction” in Political Armies: The Military and Nation Building in the Age of Democracy (London: Zed, 2002), 32. 21. Interview with author, Islamabad, 12 March 2003.
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