Developments in Pakistan II: Report of IPCS Seminar

17 Nov, 1999    ·   287

Sushil J. Aaron reports on the seminar addressed by Vivek Katju, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, India

Speaker: Mr. Vivek Katju



Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs



Date of Seminar: 12 November 99



Mr. Vivek Katju began by stating that the nature of the Pakistan Army needs to be considered when reflecting on its alarming frequency to intrude in the country’s public life. The Army, as an institution, is in a stage of recovery since the setback of the 1971 War. The Army strengthened its position during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime and consolidated its hold on the polity during the Zia years culminating in the enactment of the 8th Amendment. After Zia, a troika of power comprising of the President, the Prime Minister and the Army Chief came to the fore, with a significant role for the latter. The 1988-96 phase saw 4 Prime Ministers dismissed by the President at the Army’s behest, which clearly conveys that the Pak Army is the last resort for governance. The conundrum in Pakistan is why the army is considered part of the solution rather than part of the problem. 



He focused on Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s October 17th address to the nation and sensed that the promise of speedy justice will be pursued vigorously by prosecuting deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The regime can be expected to formally arrest him, move him to Karachi , and let the judicial process take its course. The courts that will try Sharif are known to deliver their judgments in 3-7 days time. 



The Army takeover proves that theories of rational expectations are useless as regards Pakistan . Its incursions into Pakistani governance bespeak a “top down” colonial approach to grassroots politics. Musharraf’s declared program is revolutionary in its sweep but the will to execute it is limited by international constraints and the unpleasant realities of Pakistani polity. Successful implementation of the agenda would be revolutionary. But successful revival of the economy also entails opening up trade with India , an idea that Musharraf is perhaps opposed to. 



The other domestic challenges include the process of Talibanization and the Shia-Sunni divide. The Army has, meanwhile, contributed to the irascible social forces that are destabilizing the country. Gen. Musharraf’s own understanding of Islam is relevant. On a visit to Turkey , Musharraf stated that Kamalism, with its accent on a secular policy is relevant for Turkey , while “Jinnahism” works best for Pakistan



Katju maintained that consistency is the hallmark of India ’s policy towards Pakistan and continually strives for peace while being vigilant. Lahore was a significant landmark in bilateral relations but Kargil was definitely a surprise. In the post-Kargil phase, India seeks dialogue, “but Pakistan has to facilitate that dialogue” by withdrawing its support to cross-border terrorism. The new Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar has a record of anti-Indianism and is a known critic of the Simla Accord, which he considers to be the dictat of a victorious nation. 



On the relationship between Sharif and Musharraf, Katju felt that the former had some knowledge without understanding the scale of the Kargil operations. In its aftermath, they realized the need to stand by each other. The October 12 coup was more of a counter-coup than a proactive coup; however, a contingency plan seemed to be place to be operationalized when the situation demanded. Musharraf is apparently resolute in his single-minded pursuit of Sharif. Part of the problem leading to the coup was not so much the dismissal of Musharraf as the manner in which Sharif chose to go about it. The scenario might have been altogether different had Sharif summoned Musharraf to a Cabinet meeting and informed him that he was being relieved of his duties. But to inform him of his dismissal in mid-flight and denying permission to land in Pakistan was uncalled for and that too soon after renewing Musharraf’s tenure 15 days prior to the coup. 



Comments and Questions



A participant felt that the failure in Kargil led to a situation where the Prime Minister and the Army Chief could not co-exist. The question to ponder over is whether the coup would have taken place if Kargil had not happened. 



On Indo-Pak relations, a participant wondered whether India would consider holding talks with Pakistan if it failed to meet its pre-conditions. He felt India has to deal with the regime since the Chief Executive is likely to be in power for a while.  A participant suggested that the National Security Council has been the bone of contention between Sharif and the Army. The performance of the Army through Pakistani history belies the confidence that its people seem to place in it. Accountability and corruption are as much an issue in the Pak Army as they are in the rest of the nation. Inefficiency and corruption is endemic in the Army whose elite’s consumption levels and standard of living are unimaginable for Indian Army officers. Commenting on Gen. Musharraf’s personality, he said that the General is known to be “not a two whisky man but a five whisky one.” Interestingly his graduating essay at the Royal College of Defence Studies was comparing the socio-economic developmental experiences of India and Pakistan .  He said that Musharraf is not a radical as he is made out to be. 



A participant argued that by insisting on preconditions before talks with Pakistan , India is creating a situation as what Pakistan attempts by insisting that bilateral dialogue should include the issue of Kashmir



Another compared the US reaction to the overthrow of Sharif with its reaction to the removal of Haitian leader Jean Bertrand Aristide. Unlike in the Haiti case, the Americans have not called for the reinstatement of the democratic government. The White House has desisted from imposing fresh sanctions, while the Pentagon conceded that Pakistan ’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands. The Americans, who had invited Musharraf in his capacity as Army chief to visit the CENTCOM in Florida , have not disinvited him yet. How India deals with Pakistan depends to a large extent on how the Americans choose to deal with Musharraf. 



A participant pointed out that this was the first Pakistani coup where India was the major factor. The coup, as a contingency plan, was probably conceived of during the meeting of the Corps Commanders in 23 and 24 September, when two Commanders were sacked for allegedly leaking the Musharraf-Lt. Gen. Aziz telephonic conversation. In the Pak Army mindset, Kashmir is not considered to be a bilateral problem. Instead, India is viewed as an implacable enemy and Kashmir is the consequence of that endemic enmity. He said India should take note of the Islamization of the Army, a section of which has close links with the militants. Hence, a clear division within the Army is not unimaginable; this will eventually determine Musharraf’s future. 



The Chairman, in response to Katju’s allusion about the mystique of the Pakistan Army, lamented the lack of academic expertise in India on Pakistan as compared to the high level of India-oriented scholarship in Pakistan . He urged that government funded research organizations like the Indian Council for Social Science Research should commission more research on Pakistan . He also maintained that the Weberian concept of cultural contacts influencing the institutions involved will affect the Pak Army by way of Islamic militants influencing the military elite, which is an aspect worthy of academic attention.



Speaker's Responses



He disagreed with suggestions to seek international mediation, wondering where mediation had led India in 1948. On the presumed goodwill of the Pakistan government, Katju pointed out that Musharraf is on record saying that even if the Kashmir problem is solved India and Pakistan cannot have peaceful relations. He dismissed the idea of rapid technological upgradation of the Pak Army following the coup on grounds that the country simply cannot afford it. Pakistan would do well to shore up its failing economy. It has virtually no information technology worth the name. India, on its part, has embarked on social engineering and fostered reform, however erratic it might be, while the dead weight of Pakistan’s feudal relations has seen little change since Independence — a fact that is evident in the unchanging social profile of its National Assembly.