Military remains Pakistan’s dominant political institution: Expert

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Washington | Published: September 9, 2016 10:41:37 AM

Despite two rounds of democratic elections in Pakistan, it is the military that wields the real power in the country, particularly on core matters of defence.

Despite two rounds of democratic elections in Pakistan, it is the military that wields the real power in the country, particularly on core matters of defence, national security and foreign policy, a top American think-tank expert has said.

“Despite two rounds of democratic elections and eight years of civilian government, the military remains Pakistan’s most dominant national political institution, the primary decision-maker on core matters of defence and foreign policy, and the chief steward of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal,” Daniel Markey from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing.

“Decisions about how to manage the state’s relationships with violent extremist organisations depend on Pakistan’’s military, and within it, the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI),” he said.

In addition, the military has jealously guarded its perks and resources that insulate uniformed personnel from many of the economic hardships suffered by their countrymen, he said.

“If Pakistan is ever to enjoy a more effective, consolidated democratic rule, the generals will need to loosen their hold and submit to civilian authority,” he added.

Observing that Pakistan is a high-stakes game for the US, Markey said Washington would be wise to steer clear of risky policy moves, including threats to curtail assistance and reimbursements, unless they hold the realistic promise of significant gains.

“This is not an unqualified argument against cutting Pakistan’s aid, but only for thinking carefully and acting with purpose. Pakistan is a frustrating partner, but that does not reduce the value of its partnership to zero,” he said.

“Pakistan permits and at times has enabled the US to wage a counterterror drone campaign over parts of its territory and, even at times of deep bilateral discord, to continue flying personnel and arms across Pakistani airspace into Afghanistan. Neither side has been eager to publicise these areas of cooperation, but even American skeptics must admit their utility,” he said.

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