Home Contact Us  

Pakistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4510, 13 June 2014

Book Review

Pakistan: A Hyper-national Security State
Rana Banerji
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS
E-mail: rbanerji49@gmail.com

'The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World' by TV Paul; 272 pages; Random House India, 2014
For over six decades, the Pakistani elite have pursued a `hyper-national security state’ geopolitical approach, stemming from an almost continuous and obsessive `search for power symmetry with India’, which has laid a “geo-strategic curse” on the country at the expense of any lasting political or economic reform. This has resulted in `domestic stagnation and even chaos’. Though seemingly successful in the short-term, or from a tactical point of view, they distorted the country’s development in the long run, imperilling its national security.

This is the central thesis of the construct offered in `The Warrior State – Pakistan in the Contemporary World’, a new book by Dr TV Paul, Professor, International Relations, McGill University, Canada. 

Pakistan had its `great power patrons’ – the US and China – both of whom it received massive military assistance from; but even their policies and patronage discouraged the adoption of `painful economic and social reforms necessary for rapid, equitable economic and political development’. Dr Paul tellingly brings out how ever since its founding in 1947, Pakistan remained at the center of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet Union rivalry; the conflict with India; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and most recently, the post-9/11 wars. Massive foreign aid kept pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defused any pressure on the political elites to launch far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions.

Pakistan’s elite – primarily the military leaders who repeatedly usurped power, abrogating constitution-making and the evolution of democratic processes – had, according to Dr Paul, `both the motive and opportunity to pursue such policies’. Their strategic ideas and ideological beliefs about statehood, development and power became major factors in determining strategies they followed. However, these ideas were `devoid of prudence and pragmatism’ and produced `unintended consequences, that were often negative’.

Citing the European experience to understand the relationship between war and state building in the Pakistani context, the book suggests that Pakistan has unfortunately tended to slide into the category of `weak’ or `failing states’ as its elites showed a proclivity to dabble `in other regional conflicts, proxy wars or promotion of insurgencies’, instead of devoting capacities for `the creation of public goods to its citizenry by way of education, healthcare, employment and high standard of living’.

Tracing causes of this political evolution through its turbulent history, Dr Paul concludes that Pakistan has `ended up as a garrison or praetorian state’; whenever the military ceded power to elected civilian governments, it did so only partially. This left the country as a ` hybrid democratic model’ with the military remaining ` a veto player’ in crucial decision making. 

An interesting chapter is devoted to comparing Pakistan’s internecine civil-military conflict with similar situations in other Muslim majority countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, and even with `non-Muslim National Security States’ such as South Korea and Taiwan. Though acknowledging some similarities relating to the `existential nature of threats faced’, Dr Paul finds Pakistan’s wars were `limited in nature’ and were `never utilised by the elite to transform the country’s economic policies’. The military’s dominance `was never tamed’ and `the co-operation of civil society groups’ was channelised `in the direction of geo-political projects’, instead of garnering support for policies of economic development. Religion was repeatedly utilised in the quest for Islamic legitimacy and as a crutch to justify the military’s abrogation of democratic politics, in the process leading to the `misuse of political Islam’; rise of sectarianism; and endemic ethnic cleavages – all characteristics of weak, insecurity-generating states.

The book examines how Pakistan is coping with `the trap of the Warrior State’ today and whether it will transform in the near future. Though some signs of change are discerned, through growing introspection among some sections of civil society, Dr Paul says Pakistan’s `ongoing war-making efforts have deeply affected its prospects for emerging as a tolerant, prosperous and unified nation-state. He believes `ironically, that Pakistan’s democratic elections and political transitions made things worse domestically’, leaving civil society much weaker and the middle class `increasingly sympathetic to extremism’. The army has recently taking on the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), though this seems a reluctant and limited strategy conditioned by calculations of calibrated response in the context of Afghanistan. It still has the `temptation’ to play `good Taliban’ and `bad Taliban’ while pursuing tactical or asymmetric objectives. Offering a rather dour prognosis, Dr Paul suggests that things could improve `only if ideas and assumptions of the elite change fundamentally’. The state could otherwise fall apart `if they (the elite) persist in “double games”’.

The State’s long term policies have neither focussed on economic development nor shown political cohesion. Despite the impact of the internet revolution, enabled by a reasonably free media, the younger generation has not been allowed to globalise or benefit from economic liberalisation. The education and science and technology sectors have languished or remained bound under old narratives of insecurity.

Emphasising `twin fears for the future in its immediate neighbourhood’ – the fear of India and the fear of losing primary influence over Afghanistan –  Pakistan’s military is shown to have assumed a protector’s role – so typical in    `Warrior States’ [Charles Tilly, in “War Making & State Making as Organised Crime,” ‘Bringing the State Back In’, 1985]. The army is called upon again and again to assume the protector’s role from threats it has itself created in the first place – thus showing how `a protector can become a protection racketeer’.

Soundness of theoretical premises notwithstanding, this is severe castigation indeed and may not go down well with audiences in Pakistan, coming as it does from an academic of Indian origin, albeit now ensconced in hallowed climes. It also reflects, perhaps, an inadequate and unduly pessimistic appreciation of complex social and political factors influencing responses of various players in Pakistan’s domestic arena.

After Musharraf’s last disruption of democracy in November 2007, the lawyers’ movement for restoration of the higher judiciary definitely reflected deep-seated changes in these relationships and a partial maturing of civil society in the country. Both former President Asif Ali Zardari and former Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani understood these changes and made interesting course corrections in typical behaviour patterns which determined civil-military interactions in the five-year interregnum (2008-2013). Thoughpolitical parties remained weak, the army too could not or did not voluntarily (sic!) exercise absolute power. The ignominy of the Abbottabad action by the US to eliminate Osama bin Laden was not lost either on a politically aware polity or among young officers in the Pakistani Defence Services, who were unhappy with their own impotence. Though berated by new found judicial activism, the civilian political leadership still sacked a retired General as Defence Secretary during the strained `Memogate’ phase, though having to dismiss their chosen Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, due to the army’s insistence. Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani nevertheless, lamented in a forceful speech in the National Assembly that no organ of the State could claim to be “a State within the State,” asserting that “decision-making is done only by Parliament” and “all institutions of the county remain answerable” to it.

Though civil society activism in Pakistan seems to have ebbed, real political power is today diffused and spread among several actors. The centre-right politicians who received an overwhelming popular mandate in the 2013 general elections have built their own patronage and connections with radical Islamic actors; and the latter too have emerged with increasing clout in civil society. 

The Pakistan People’s Party could not contest elections freely due to threats from the Taliban and suffered at the hustings due to anti-incumbency and mal-governance. However, it retains its mass base in Sindh, and could bounce back. As a national mainstream party, it extended solidarity to the ruling PML (N), when civil-military relations recently became strained. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-Altaf) has its own ethno-cultural clout, in the context of law and order management in Karachi. 

These factors place limits on the military’s ability to control things entirely, though the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) remains the key military institution for the manipulation of politics. This has been vividly demonstrated in the crisis after the attack on Geo compere, Hamid Mir, and the army-backed attempts to coerce or curb freedom of the press.

On the ensuing military interaction with TTP too, Dr Paul’s prognosis seems off the mark. With civilian political leaders still paying lip service to mediation and talks, how the army tackles what has been described as the newest `existentialist threat’ against the State perhaps needed to be explained beyond the parameters of `a warrior state’ construct.

That said, Dr Paul’s book offers a rich bibliographic canvas and is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on political dynamics in Pakistan.

Click here to read other reviews

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Election Year in Pakistan: Key Dynamics and Prospects

Pakistan: Census Complexities

Trump's Afghanistan Strategy

Pakistan: The Nawaz Ouster

The ISI and Kulbhushan Jadhav's Second ‚ÄúConfession‚ÄĚ

India-Pakistan: Three Years of Wasted Effort?

Pakistan and the Panama Papers Verdict

In Context: Pakistan's New Army Chief Gen Bajwa

Fragility in Pakistan

Book Review: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Pakistan: Kamalís Dramatic Return and the Fate of MQM-A

Has Peshawar Changed Pakistanís Approach to Tackle Terrorism?

Pakistan: MQM Under Siege

The Military Reshuffle in Pakistan: Is the Army Chief firming up his control?

Talks with the Taliban: Endgame for the Military

Pakistan 2013: Civil-Military Relations

Pakistan: The Military Shuffle and Consolidation under the New Chief

Pakistan: The Hakimullah Mehsud Killing

Intrusions along LoC/IB in J&K: Pakistanís Objectives

Pakistan: Who will be the next Army Chief?

Pakistan: Civil-Military Relations and the Instrumentalisation of Political Power

Pakistan: The Abbottabad Commission of Enquiry

B. Raman (1936-2013)

Special Commentary: The Military and Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan

Pakistan Elections 2013: Caretaker Prime Minister & the Election Scenario

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.