End of military coups?
By Rana Fawad
Posted: August 21, 2008
WASHINGTON: I’m quite willing to bet that Musharraf’s coup was the last coup in Pakistan because the military wants to be an institution supported by the people.
This optimistic observation was made by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani during a discussion “Managing Pakistan’s Transition” organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday (August 20). The other two discussants included Ambassador Teresita C. Schaffer Director, South Asia Program, CSIS and Frederick Barton Director, Post Conflict Reconstruction Project, CSIS.
Referring to Pakistan’s current situation after President Musharraf’s resignation, the Pakistani Ambassador commented that as a result of a long thought process, Pakistan has reached a stage where the army left the power without any coup d’état.
He told the audience that it was General Ayub Khan who had created this notion that the army was the final arbiter in governance. He added that the history proved governance was a political matter.
As for the misgivings about the political parties and corruption of the politicians, Ambassador Haqqani was of the view that there was no flawless political party Ambassador Teresita C. Schaffer (left) and Ambassador Haqqani anywhere. He emphasized that without a process, the system won’t work and added that US President Nixon, his impeachment and the aftermath was a whole process.
Looking at the bright side of the coalition government in Pakistan, Haqqani remarked that there is a
broad national consensus on democracy and the army is fully supportive of it. He urged the analysts to set aside the old paradigm of ‘Allah, Army, and America’ about Pakistan. He told the audience that this time the army avoided any covert or overt role in Pakistan’s politics.
The Ambassador acknowledged that the transition from military rule to a democratic one was a challenge and the coalition partners know that they have to work together through ‘give and take’ policy.
He noted that Pervez Musharraf’s departure is not a loss but an opportunity to build a stable order in Pakistan. He also said that several military chiefs in Pakistan did not took over power but those who did were not necessarily supported by the army as an institution.
Explaining the coalition government’s policy on war on terrorism, Ambassador Haqqani said the coalition partners had consensus on fighting terrorism for the country’s sake as compared to Pervez Musharraf’s policy of using it in order to seek approval for his rule.
He added that there is consensus in Pakistan that militancy, terrorism, non-state actors are not in the country’s interests. He commented that the parties favorable to the Taliban could secure only less than five percent votes in general elections whereas the Pakistan People’s Party won the majority of votes though it was opposed to the Taliban.
Discussing the policy of reining in the militants, the Ambassador commented that the coercive force could be used only through a methodical process and only against incorrigible elements. He mentioned that the democratic government was better able to garner support from the people against war on terrorism. He assured the gathering that this time it will be a legitimate effort as compared to what was being done in the past.
He reminded the US audience that the saying ‘all politics is local’ should also apply to other countries’ process of engagement instead of expecting from them to fall in line right away.
Referring to the country’s economy, Haqqani commented that the government inherited a lot of economic challenges from the previous regime and specific measures will be taken to bring it back on track.
Responding to questions about the controversy over the deposed judges, the Pakistani Ambassador remarked that this and other issues will be resolved through the democratic process.
He also commented that the judges’ issue was not a personal problem for the party leadership but a genuine concern to avoid having two Supreme Courts.
Replying to another question about the insurgency in the tribal areas and its effects on Afghanistan, he said the US, NATO and Pakistan all needed to do more. He mentioned that there are problems on both sides of the border and the elected government is taking steps to work with the Afghan government and the recent tripartite meeting held in Kabul and attended by Pakistan’s army chief was a major step in this direction.
To a question on relations with India, Haqqani said that all Pakistani leaders had attempted to improve ties with its neighbor and added that India also needed to reassure Pakistan that there won’t be any ill will.
When asked about the future of madrasahs in Pakistan, he said those religious schools existed as an institution in that region for more than a hundred years. He pointed out that lack of schools was a problem in the country but the Biden-Lugar legislation will help Pakistan to invest in that sector. He added that madrasahs will definitely be an important component of reform effort.
Responding to a question about the Article 295-C of the Pakistani Constitution that deals with the blasphemy law, Haqqani explained that many amendments introduced by General Zia and Pervez Musharraf could only be removed through a complicated process and with the help of the two-thirds majority. He added that he was not sure about the future of such amendments but assured that the application of those laws will be a priority so that they are not misused.
Ambassador Haqqani rejected the notion that the insurgency was popular saying that if the insurgents had recruited people does not imply the movement was popular.
As for the cynicism in the US towards Pakistan, the Ambassador commented that the foundations on which cynicism rests have to be changed. He said that openness and tolerance within Pakistan would project a positive image abroad.