As Publius noted, the news out of Pakistan is not good at all:
"The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency on Saturday night, suspending the country’s Constitution, firing the chief justice of the Supreme Court and filling the streets of this capital city with police officers.
The move appeared to be an effort by General Musharraf to reassert his fading power in the face of growing opposition from the country’s Supreme Court, political parties and hard-line Islamists. Pakistan’s Supreme Court had been expected to rule within days on the legality of General Musharraf’s re-election last month as the country’s president. (...)
After a day of rumors in the Pakistani news media than an emergency declaration would come, the first proof came just after 5 p.m., when independent and international television news stations abruptly went blank in Islamabad and other major cities. Soon after, dozens of police officers surrounded the Supreme Court building, with some justices still inside.
Under the emergency declaration, the justices were ordered to take an oath to abide by a “provisional constitutional order” that replaces the country’s existing Constitution. Those who failed to do so would be dismissed.
Seven of the court’s 11 justices gathered inside the court rejected the order, according to an aide to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Issuing their own legal order, the justices called General Musharraf’s declaration unlawful and urged military officials to not abide by it.
By 9 p.m., Chief Justice Chaudhry and the other justices had gone to their homes, which were surrounded by police officers. The police blocked journalists from entering the area, disconnected telephone lines and jammed cellphones in the area."
""There have been 400 to 500 preventative arrests in the country," Aziz told a news conference in Islamabad.
Media and police sources say 1,500 opposition figures from Pakistan's military, judiciary and political sectors have been detained.
In the wake of Saturday's declaration, the government also issued new rules forbidding newspapers and broadcasters from expressing opinions prejudicial to "the ideology of Pakistan or integrity of Pakistan"."
In addition, "all non-state TV stations and some radio channels, including international services such as BBC World TV, have been taken off air"; and elections scheduled for January have been postponed indefinitely.
Along with a lot of other people, I think one of the best pieces of background is Joshua Hammer's After Musharraf. Barnett Rubin is covering the situation at Informed Comment: Global Affairs, and here are links to bloggers from Karachi and Lahore. (Their blogrolls have links to other Pakistani bloggers.) The text of Musharraf's emergency declaration is here.
My take below the fold.
Manan Ahmed is absolutely right when he says: "Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March." It did indeed. It needed, in particular, some of the diplomacy to which this administration is apparently allergic.
But there are a couple more things that we could have done, things that would have made a big difference, and that were moreover so obviously in our own interests, quite independent of Pakistan, that our failure to do them is inexplicable. First, we could have used our own troops to capture bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership at Tora Bora; and second, we could have done Afghanistan right, rather than diverting our attention and our resources to Iraq when they were needed in Afghanistan.
This would have made an enormous difference. Had we captured bin Laden and significant chunks of the al Qaeda leadership, we would not have had to spend nearly as much time or capital pressuring Musharraf to hunt them down in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. And had we done Afghanistan right, in all likelihood the parts of Pakistan that border Afghanistan would not now be the staging area for a war.
As things are, we have had to lean on Musharraf to do a lot of work for our benefit in the Tribal Areas, and elsewhere along the Afghan border. One way to look at this, common in this country, is to think: Musharraf owes us. We have, after all given him $10billion, and by our lights he is not doing nearly enough. But there's another way to look at it: to think: Musharraf is an American puppet who orders his army to kill his own people at the behest of the Americans, in exchange for the wherewithal to stay in power. The task of deciding which view is more popular in Pakistan, and how this has affected Musharraf's standing among his people, is left as an exercise for the reader. As a hint, here are a few quotes from the Christian Science Monitor:
"In late August, for instance, some 250 Pakistani soldiers, including officers, surrendered to a smaller group of militants without firing a shot. Since then only 30 have been released. Meanwhile, conservative estimates suggest that 1,000 of the 90,000 soldiers deployed in the three-month operation have been killed.
For a military revered as Pakistan's proudest institution, such a disgrace at the hands of ragtag rebels is symptomatic of a broader malaise. The offensive is almost universally perceived to be an American war contracted out to its Pakistani ally. In the past, perhaps, the Army was willing to play this role – most notably when it bred and supported resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s.
But now, an Army built to counter the massive threat of the Indian military is being asked to fight its own citizens in an unpopular counterinsurgency campaign that it has neither the will nor the skill-set to fight.
"The Army officers have started realizing that this battle is not worth the cost," says Hassan Abbas, a Pakistan expert at Harvard University. "It has had a huge impact on the psychology of the Army." (...)
From this perspective, Pakistan's Muslims are being asked to kill Muslims at America's behest. In a recent speech in Washington, a Pakistani diplomat spoke of these frustrations.
"When we hear people in Washington or London say that Pakistan needs to do more, the question is: Do you understand what you're asking us to do?" asked Zamir Akram, a Pakistani foreign-policy adviser, in an address to the Middle East Institute. "Would you go into Texas or wherever on the border areas and actually kill Americans?"
For this reason, many experts do not expect the current offensive to continue. If it does, the Army "will get divided vertically," with officers remaining loyal to headquarters and the rank and file becoming increasingly alienated, says Ayesha Siddiqa, author "Military Inc.," a book about the Pakistani Army. "Cracks are appearing," she adds."
And from After Musharraf:
"Khan recounted for me a telling conversation he’d had after his lecture at the training center. He was approached by an army major in his 30s who was confused about a Pakistani bombing raid in South Waziristan that had killed dozens of local Pashtun tribesmen who were fighting for the Taliban. The officer perceived the tribesmen not as terrorists but as Pashtun nationalists, whose targets were the Western occupiers and who had no quarrel with the Pakistani government. “He said, ‘I am ashamed of what has been done there,’” Khan told me. The military has no love for al-Qaeda, Khan continued, at least as long as al-Qaeda can be defined as “‘the Arabs,’ as ‘the other.’” But “when Musharraf claims that he has attacked these insurgents, and the media insist that dead bodies are those of tribesmen,” Khan said, “it becomes a different story.”
Near the end of my stay in Pakistan, a journalist friend in Islamabad introduced me to an old friend of his: a 35-year-old major in the Pakistani army, who had agreed to talk to me as long as I didn’t use his name or identify his unit. (...) “I’ve met people of all ranks, in the line of fire, and nobody is happy with this way of solving the problem in Waziristan,” he told me. “The terrain is hard. It’s difficult to hold the ground. The insurgents know every inch of the area.” Major Khaled told me he resented the implication, which he felt the U.S. government had fostered, that Pakistan was serving as the main refuge for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. “The terrain around Kabul is similar, so why do they say that the only hideouts are in Waziristan?” he said. “Why is Pakistan singled out? Pakistan has suffered a lot. I’ve lost colleagues in ambushes, to time bombs, to improvised explosive devices. The Pakistan army is bleeding for you people.” I asked Khaled if his doubts about the mission had ever caused him to disobey the commands of higher-ups. He shook his head. “I’m not a policy maker. We just have to follow the orders, but people down below don’t go into battle from their hearts. There could have been other options. This is not our battle. This is your battle, and we’re paying the price.”"
The crucial point is: while we would undoubtedly have had to ask Pakistan for help capturing terrorists, the main reason we need to constantly press them so relentlessly to send their troops into their own territory, and to carry out engagements in which their own people are killed, is because we screwed up. Had we not done so, we could have used our influence to pursue other goals, like democratization; Musharraf would have looked a lot less like an American puppet, and many, many problems might have been a lot more tractable.
The quotes above bring up another very serious problem: the effects that the deployment of the military into parts of Pakistan is having on morale in the military. To understand this, you need to understand the role of the military in Pakistan. While it has problems with corruption, and is obviously too heavily involved in politics, it has historically been one of the few genuinely functional national organizations. Moreover, it plays a role in the economic life of the country that is truly huge. After Musharraf again:
"The army has dramatically increased its role in the public sector since Musharraf took over. “Thousands of officers are now employed in civil jobs; they have the best of everything,” says retired General Aslam Beg, who served as chief of army staff under Benazir Bhutto from 1988 to 1991. One parliamentary opposition leader recently charged that 56,000 civil-service jobs had come into the hands of army personnel (other sources put this figure lower). Retired generals and brigadiers have taken over as chancellors and vice chancellors at Pakistani universities; they also run the post office, the tax authority, the housing authority, and the education department. Retired generals serve as the governors of two of Pakistan’s four provinces.
The armed forces also control more than a hundred private-sector companies and have placed retired officers in the upper reaches of Pakistan’s major businesses and industries. Rao Khalid Mehmood, former defense correspondent for the Nation newspaper in Islamabad and now the Islamabad bureau chief at a startup Pakistani television news channel, told me that at present, the military is the gateway to private-sector employment. Many people believe that “the only way to get a job is to know someone in the army,” he says.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known analyst in Islamabad and the author of Military Inc.: Inside the Pakistani Military Economy, says that the armed forces are major players in real estate, agribusiness, and several other industries. The empire includes banks, cable-TV companies, insurance agencies, sugar refineries, private security firms, schools, airlines, cargo services, and textile factories. The Fauji Foundation, for instance, is a “welfare trust” that is run by the defense ministry and spans 15 business enterprises. It provides cushy jobs for hundreds of retired officers (many retire in their late 40s), pays few taxes, and channels profits into a fund that is intended to benefit retired military personnel. And it is just one of several giant military-run foundations and companies that were set up decades ago and have grown steadily ever since.
The military’s intrusion into commerce is quite visible in Islamabad, if you know what to look for. The logos of the Fauji Foundation and other military-run conglomerates appear on trucks, boxes, and buildings throughout the city. As Hood bhoy told me, “They own gas companies. They make fertilizer, cement, soap, bottled water. They even make cereals, so when I have breakfast, I can’t get away from them.”
Midway through my stay in Pakistan, I attended a small dinner party in Islamabad. The guests included a handful of daily-newspaper reporters, a management consultant, and a young female member of parliament from Musharraf’s party. All of them—even the president’s own party loyalist—were openly resentful of the military and its stranglehold on political and economic life. As we sat in a cramped dining room, eating biryanis and drinking tea, the group exchanged stories about military privilege. The consultant had recently returned after five years in the U.S., and he had landed a project at an army-run conglomerate that operates 41 companies and employs 15,000 people. He described his discovery that the corporation’s top jobs, as well as those across many of the 41 companies, all were taken by retired officers with no formal business training and little understanding of basic economics. “Finance was managed by a colonel,” he said. “Administration, risk management, human resources—these were jobs given as perks to retired officers.” After several years of underperformance, the conglomerate had requested a bailout of nearly $100 million from the government. His firm had been hired to turn the business around. Speaking of the armed forces’ role in Pakistan’s economy, he said, “They have the power, and they can do whatever they want.”
The parliamentarian added that the army was steadily helping itself to Islamabad’s best land, often reselling it at a significant profit. The main vehicle for the landgrab, she told me, was the Defense Housing Authority, which purchases properties from private parties, for development and distribution to the officer corps. As a rule, she explained, the market value of the development escalates sharply once the military buys the property, because it is immediately regarded as prestigious and highly secure. “The corps commander gets a kickback from the real-estate developer,” she said, and then “distributes the plots to lower-ranking officers [at government-subsidized prices], and sells what’s left to civilians at a huge profit.”"
It's striking how many cities in Pakistan have a very upscale neighborhood -- in Karachi, at least, it's more like a borough -- called 'Defense'. Before I went, I wondered: why Defense? Why not Treasury, State, or Justice on the one hand, or Offense or Logistical Support on the other? The answer, of course, is that the areas in question are controlled by the Defense Housing Authority.
Given, on the one hand, the unbelievably large role that the military plays in the economic life of the country, and on the other the fact that it is one of the few functional organizations in the country, the fact that it seems to be under a lot of strain is a real problem. Via Barnett Rubin, the Times of India:
"The Pakistani Army is "bleeding", and quite profusely at that, in its ongoing bloody skirmishes with extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with a "high" casualty rate as well as "unprecedented" levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications. (...)
"As per our intelligence inputs, Pakistani officers are jostling with low morale among their troops. The abductions and killings of soldiers by militants have only added to the disenchantment among troops, which is being reflected in a large number of desertions, suicides and AWOL (absent without leave) cases," he added.
With the heavy operational commitment adversely affecting Pakistani Army's rotation schedule, the majority of such cases are being reported from FATA and NWFP. Between just October 11 and 16, for instance, 160 desertion cases were reported from these areas.
In fact, reports of soldiers even refusing to obey orders have begun to emerge from Waziristan now, in what is being seen as a blow to the otherwise well-disciplined Pakistani Army."
And the BBC:
"But just as much as the political imbroglio, it was the growing loss of morale in Pakistan's armed forces which was a source of concern.
Pakistan's army, deployed throughout the country's tribal regions to combat pro-Taleban militants, was losing ground to them.
The last straw, in this regard, came when at least 300 army troops surrendered to militants in South Waziristan.
Since then, the government and its security troops have all but lost control to the militants in the tribal areas."
Moreover, the army does not seem to be winning::
"Taliban and al-Qaida were pushed back after the U.S. and its Afghan allies toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001. Today, residents say Arabs, Uzbeks and Tajiks have rejoined the ranks of the local radicals, mostly Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.
“The Pakistanis, and by extension the United States, have almost no control of events” in the northern, ethnically Pashtun regions, said Milt Bearden, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan.
“I don’t think anyone in Washington really gets it,” he said. “Losing Swat is shocking.”
Pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah has set up a virtual mini-state in Swat, a province of 4,000 square miles. He uses an FM radio station to help spread fundamentalist Islam in an area once known to tourists as the “Switzerland of Asia” for its stunning, snow-covered mountains."
This is a very big deal. If the army is under serious strain, then that means that one of Pakistan's main pillars is weakened, and weakened at the exact moment when Musharraf has taken aim at the judiciary and the forms of constitutional government. Moreover, there are not a lot of other institutions that could take the place of the judiciary or the military: in particular, no political party is, at the moment, exactly inspiring. And while this is a problem that has existed for most of Pakistan's history, I agree (once again) with Joshua Hammer:
"while the military aims to do the opposite, it is slowly destabilizing Pakistan. Eight years of usurpation of power by Musharraf have weakened secular parties, corrupted the judiciary, and implanted army men in every facet of civilian life. Pakistan’s population is now doubling every 38 years, creating severe social pressures. If the political process remains stunted, the Islamists may continue to gather strength until the country reaches a tipping point. “We are not going to collapse if Musharraf goes tomorrow; Pakistan will go on, insha’allah,” I was told by Mohammed Enver Baig, a senator with the Pakistan People’s Party. “But the 2007 elections could be a turning point for all of us. If the elections are not fair, don’t be surprised if next time—after five years—you come and see me, I might have a long beard myself.”
America may best serve its interests, then, by pulling off a balancing act: reinforcing ties to the existing power structure in Pakistan (the armed forces) while at the same time pushing hard for democracy. These two ends are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In August 1988, immediately after the death of the military dictator Zia ul-Haq, the vice chief of army staff, General Aslam Beg, summoned his naval and air chiefs, the head of the ISI, and the army judge advocate general to headquarters in Rawalpindi and informed them that he was turning over power to the chairman of the senate, a civilian, as Pakistan’s constitution requires. There was no resistance, Beg recalls, and the new civilian president immediately called for multiparty elections. Those elections were among the freest and fairest in Pakistani history, and they ushered in 11 years of vibrant—if corrupt—civilian rule, ending only with Musharraf’s coup. Given the prizes the army has since won under Musharraf, a quick and complete withdrawal from politics appears unlikely this time around—and therefore even a civilian democracy would find itself greatly constrained by military interests. But with careful management by Pakistan’s politicians, and strong encouragement by the international community, the army might slowly disengage. (...)
Restoring democracy in Pakistan is no guarantee of stability, or of a friendly attitude toward the United States. But a viable multiparty system could defuse the power of the Islamists and impose some checks on a military that controls every aspect of policy. And it would leave the United States less dependent upon the whims of a post-Musharraf general answerable only to the clique at headquarters. “I want restoration of political freedoms,” Hoodbhoy told me. “Let people organize, hold political rallies; let there be trade unions, student unions, even if these unions would be ones you and I wouldn’t like. Because when we have mobilization of society, we can have a Pakistan, down the line, where people matter. If I were an American president, I would make my support for Musharraf conditional on that.”"