Per­ils of a ‘Gar­ri­son State’

Dr. Ish­tiaq’s book an­a­lyzes his­tor­i­cal records to show what ac­tu­ally ails this coun­try.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - Re­viewed by Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

Book Ti­tle: Pak­istan: The Gar­ri­son State: Ori­gins, Evo­lu­tion, Con­se­quences 1947-2011

Au­thor: Dr. Ish­tiaq Ahmed

Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, Pak­istan, 2013

Pages: 508, Hard­bound

Price: Rs.1295

ISBN-13: 978-0199066360

The ge­n­e­sis and evo­lu­tion of Pak­istan re­mains an enigma for his­to­ri­ans and po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists. Vo­lu­mi­nous work pro­duced on the sub­ject since the par­ti­tion of the In­dian Sub­con­ti­nent in 1947 seeks to ex­plain the in­ter­play of two in­ter­wo­ven and in­ter­linked fac­tors behind the tur­bu­lent state – re­li­gion and mil­i­tarism. The po­lit­i­cal use of ‘re­li­gion’ to de­mand a sep­a­rate home­land for the Mus­lims and its later abuse by the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment with the help of the clergy, to cap­ture power and es­tab­lish a ‘Gar­ri­son State’ is, in a nut­shell, the story of Pak­istan, revealed by renowned po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist, Dr. Ish­tiaq Ahmed in his book Pak­istan: The Gar­ri­son State: Ori­gins, Evo­lu­tion, Con­se­quences 1947-2011.

The book presents and an­a­lyzes his­tor­i­cal records – largely shrouded in mys­tery and dis­torted by vested in­ter­ests – to show what ac­tu­ally ails this coun­try, the sixth most pop­u­lous in the world, hav­ing a geostrate­gic lo­ca­tion that can’t be ig­nored by global and re­gional pow­ers.

An im­pres­sion, rather mis­con­cep­tion, em­anates from some pub­lished re­views that it is just

another work on the same pat­tern as pro­duced by Dr. Aye­sha Sid­diqa in 2007, namely, Mil­i­tary Inc. It ap­pears that the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple haven’t read the book and are mis­led by its ti­tle alone. Un­for­tu­nately, the in­tel­li­gentsia – if we re­ally have any in Pak­istan – has yet not ini­ti­ated the de­bate and di­a­logue that this sig­nif­i­cant work de­serves. This is the only ra­tio­nal and de­pend­able study so far which traces the his­tor­i­cal evo­lu­tion of Pak­istan and its pit­falls as ‘a fortress of Is­lam’, and also presents prac­ti­ca­ble so­lu­tions for mak­ing it a vi­able state.

The au­thor, in this metic­u­lously-re­searched and the­mat­i­cally fo­cused work, has ex­plored the evo­lu­tion of Pak­istan from a weak state to a self­pro­claimed “fortress of Is­lam” – a con­cept that proved fal­la­cious af­ter its dis­mem­ber­ment in 1971, yet still in­sisted upon by many. Dr. Ish­tiaq’s work is based on a con­cep­tual and the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work that com­bines the no­tion of a post-colo­nial state and Harold Lass­well’s con­cept of a Gar­ri­son State. In the very first chap­ter en­ti­tled, ‘The Fortress of Is­lam: A metaphor for a Gar­ri­son State’, the au­thor has shown how a state fam­ished at the time of its birth trans­formed

into a nu­clear power de­spite fac­ing mul­ti­ple crises – po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial and re­li­gious, etc.

This work is a so­phis­ti­cated study that ex­plains why Pak­istan emerged as a gar­ri­son state dur­ing the Cold War. It goes far beyond the po­lit­i­cal econ­omy of the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment about which Aye­sha Sid­diqa wrote. The the­ory has been elab­o­rated in great de­tail by Dr. Ish­tiaq. It talks about how the gar­ri­son state dom­i­nance over all other in­sti­tu­tions is vested with the army. The mil­i­tary hi­er­ar­chy, since the days of Ayub Khan, was, and still is, a “fa­vorite” of the United States and its al­lies. Its rise to this level of power is pro­pelled both by in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal fac­tors and his­tor­i­cal rea­sons in which the mil­i­tary in­ter­ests of the United States on the fall of the Bri­tish Em­pire in this re­gion played a vi­tal role. Brand­ing and mar­ket­ing of Pak­istan as a ‘front­line state’ by its found­ing fa­thers has been prop­erly doc­u­mented by the au­thor and has cre­ated a furor in cir­cles which never ac­cept the truth.

The his­tory of the gar­ri­son state, as nar­rated and an­a­lyzed by Dr. Ish­tiaq, ex­plodes many myths, un­veils many facts, de­picts the true events and

ex­poses many faces that ul­ti­mately ren­dered this “fortress of Is­lam” into a “CIA Head­quar­ter” dur­ing the so­called Afghan Ji­had, mak­ing it a “breed­ing ground of ter­ror­ism.” The al­lies and holy warriors of the past are now dan­ger­ously poised against the United States and its al­lies, neigh­bors and demo­cratic so­ci­eties, which are under threat from re­li­gious fa­nat­ics who ruth­lessly re­sort to vi­o­lent at­tacks.

In this com­pre­hen­sive study, the au­thor has skill­fully pre­sented the bizarre twists and turns of events in a straight­for­ward man­ner and has suc­cess­fully ex­posed the myth of this ‘fortress of Is­lam’. The les­son is very bit­ter: the per­pe­tra­tors of ter­ror­ism have ul­ti­mately fallen vic­tim to it. Dr. Ish­tiaq has re­mark­ably traced the jour­ney of the gar­ri­son state that started from fall­ing in the lap of the United States to armed con­flicts with In­dia, from mar­tial laws to the birth of Bangladesh, from fol­lies of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to the bru­tal “Is­lamiza­tion” of Zia and from the cor­rup­tion of elected gov­ern­ments to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ism. This, he rightly judges is the path of self-de­cep­tion and self­an­ni­hi­la­tion. He jus­ti­fi­ably de­plores the at­ti­tude of con­spir­acy-mon­gers who shift the blame to out­siders rather than ad­mit­ting their own mis­takes.

While suc­cinctly high­light­ing fu­ture chal­lenges af­ter the exit of the in­ter­na­tional forces from Afghanistan, and the grow­ing re­li­gious fa­nati­cism and ter­ror­ism in and around Pak­istan, Dr. Ish­tiaq re­al­is­ti­cally con­veys that noth­ing will change un­less the gar­ri­son state paves the way for a sec­u­lar and demo­cratic state. It is an in­con­tro­vert­ible fact that in Pak­istan, ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rectly, po­lit­i­cal power has al­ways been with the army. A hand­ful of gen­er­als de­cide what is in the “best in­ter­est” of the coun­try – Balochis­tan is a case in point. From the eco­nomic ma­trix to the for­eign pol­icy par­a­digm, they are the real de­ci­sion-

mak­ers. This is the real mal­ady of be­ing a gar­ri­son state. Dr. Ish­tiaq has painstak­ingly traced the roots and causes of this mal­ady in an ob­jec­tive and un­bi­ased way. Un­like many other writ­ers, he has not re­sorted to a blame game – fix­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity of the de­ba­cle on a par­tic­u­lar in­sti­tu­tion or a po­lit­i­cal party or a class. How­ever, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, facts show that it is a col­lec­tive fail­ure. No doubt, the rul­ing classes – con­trolled by the cus­to­di­ans of the gar­ri­son state – com­mit­ted blun­der af­ter blun­der and are mainly re­spon­si­ble for the present pa­thetic state of af­fairs.

The tragedy of the gar­ri­son state is that its de facto rulers and the cronies work­ing for them, do not care about the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple and have done noth­ing worth­while for the less priv­i­leged. This at­ti­tude leads to a sui­ci­dal path. To over­come this dilemma, the au­thor has reached the con­clu­sion: “It is, there­fore, im­per­a­tive that the stake­hold­ers in the Pak­istan power equa­tion – es­pe­cially the mil­i­tary – work out a long-term pol­icy and strat­egy that can cre­ate sta­bil­ity, peace and pros­per­ity within Pak­istan as well as help nor­mal­ize re­la­tions with its neigh­bors - pro­vided they, too, nur­ture sim­i­lar as­pi­ra­tions”.

No one would dis­agree with Dr. Ish­tiaq. His work holds hope for Pak­istan. What the coun­try needs is that the forces that mat­ter come out of their self-as­sumed no­tions like “cus­to­di­ans of ide­o­log­i­cal fronts” and “fortress of Is­lam”. This work should be an eye-opener for them. The stake­hold­ers, es­pe­cially the army, should ini­ti­ate a mean­ing­ful di­a­logue for con­vert­ing this gar­ri­son state into a mod­ern, demo­cratic coun­try. As es­tab­lished by Dr. Ish­tiaq, this is the only road to sal­va­tion.

The writer, a Supreme Court lawyer and well-known au­thor, is ad­junct fac­ulty at La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

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