Army as victim? – An analysis of Musharraf’s concerns

Ex-President and General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf said on Monday that “there is a global conspiracy to malign the armed forces and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in an attempt to weaken Pakistan”. He was responding to allegations levelled in a new book published in the US that the drone attacks were allowed by Washington after phone-tapping proved that some Pakistani generals were in league with the Taliban. Mr Musharraf’s concern was expressed in the following words: “The allegations being levelled against the armed forces and the ISI will lead to defeat in the war on terror”.

First, positing the linkage of the army and the ISI with the survival of Pakistan in this way is both erroneous and simplistic. It is true that military is the ultimate tool of a state’s protection against aggression. But it is not the only one. All states calculate their prospects of survival but none actually rests the future of the country exclusively on the army and the intelligence services. There are other very important and well known indices that ensure a country’s survival. In that perspective, it is the survival of the army which is subordinated to other functions of the state. We know that General Musharraf has always put “defence” ahead of the “economy”, but this time he has reached a dangerous limit.

Phone-tapping is nothing new. General Musharraf was himself tapped in 1999 when he marched on Kargil, an operation that did not “strengthen” Pakistan. As for the allegation that General Musharraf was himself playing a “double game” by allowing the Taliban safe havens in Pakistan while pretending to fight the war against terror, it is not only the Bush Administration who let it be known to the PPP government last year; the ANP ruling in Peshawar has said it many times while explaining why the Taliban are undefeatable in the current circumstances. A retired major-general was killed in Islamabad recently after he made a similar allegation in a letter.

The irony is that most of those who condemn General Musharraf are convinced that he was “sincere” in his loyalty to the Americans and that, far from allowing the Taliban safe havens he hunted them ruthlessly to please the Americans. History proves that in times of peace an army is a state’s instrument of legitimate defence. Its strength lies in its subordination to the state and not its dominance. (Daily Times)