Army: The Be-All or End-All of Pakistan Politics?

Priyanka Singh is Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • May 2015
    Review Essay

    Witness to three fully fledged coups, Pakistan’s beleaguered political history has been consistently punctured with prolonged stints of military rule. Although a democratic state in principle, it is the episodic rule by the military that has inflicted Pakistan’s political destiny and shaped its political culture and practices. In May 2013, there was a rather peaceful transition—the first of its kind—from one popularly elected incumbent government to another. Notwithstanding the frequent upheavals, the constant pulls and pressures that bear upon the civilian set-up underscore the prominence and inevitability of the army in Pakistan’s political discourse.

    Against this backdrop, this review essay deliberates on the role of the military in Pakistan’s strategic and political landscape, juxtaposes democracy against military dictatorship and in the process encapsulates the struggle for power in Pakistan between the two diametrically opposed realms—the civil and the military. The essay is a collation of emergent ideas and assertions on the intrinsic role of the army in Pakistan as depicted in three books published in 2014: The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan, by Aqil Shah, prescribes civilian supremacy against the ills of military authoritarianism; Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, by C. Christine Fair, is a lash-out at the army’s unwarranted predominance in controlling the state of affairs; and The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, by T.V. Paul, ascribes the constant war mode as a drain on resources stunting all prospects of growth and stability.