Establishment: A misconstrued term

I would be very unequivocal in talking about the English prowess of my politicians. They don’t know English, but the way they to try to speak in public gatherings, makes us all laugh. There fluency in English is a disgrace. However, there is one word which is spoken with a spot-on pronunciation. The word is “Establishment”; indeed, every Tom Dick and Harry uses this word in the normal discourse. Nawaz Sharif and his cohort are using this term way too frequently in reference to Imran Khan’s popularity as a political force; the media uses it all the time without any proof. What is meant by this term? This paper will explore two things; the meaning of establishment and its role in Pakistan. However, its role in other third world countries will also be discussed.

Establishment refers to organizations that are permanent powerhouses in the country; they wield power incessantly. However, in the strictest sense it is the administrative machinery of the government. Powerful outfits, to include the civilian-bureaucracy and military high- command form part of the establishment. The establishment is deemed of as the force behind many decisions, ranging from issues of national security to foreign policy. The establishment play the cards from behind the scenes; owing to the influence, the establishment wields their weight on important issues. One can say that, the establishment is a dominant group which has perpetual power.

In the United States of America, not only the President’s administration, but also the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Pentagon and homeland security among other organizations forms part of the establishment. I believe that, all these organizations had a say in American policies such as entering the Korean, Vietnam or the Afghan War for that matter. The impending drawdown of forces from Afghanistan is being vehemently being resisted by defence minister, Leon Panetta and CIA chief, General David Patreaus; these two people are part of the American establishment. In the United Kingdom, the establishment includes all senior politicians and civil-servants. Even industrialists, financiers and the governors of BBC are deemed as part of the establishment.

Groups that are preponderant in the country, to include the bureaucracy, Military and even the media make up the establishment however, in some countries such as India; the military does not make up integral part of the establishment. The strings that, the civilian setup imposed on the military are well documented in the book:  “Arming without Aiming” by Stephen P.Cohen and Sumit Ganguly. Yet, the Indian military has exerted its influence on multifarious issues; in fact, the military has always been recalcitrant on the Siachen issue.

Next, it is pertinent to mention the role of the establishment in different countries; I would hesitate to use the word third world for countries like Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. These countries were ruled by military establishment till very recently. Egypt and Libya will be dwelt in this paper.

Normally the political scaffold is subverted by the military, so Egypt is a very good example to cite in this paper. The country was under British occupation since 1882; the British were ousted by a revolution in 1952 along with King Farouk. The revolution was orchestrated by the “Free Officers Movement” led by General Naguib and Gamal Abdul Nasser. The former was sworn in as the first president of Egypt. However, fissures arose with Nasser, which ultimately led to the latter’s ascendency to presidency. Nasser ruled the country till 1970; a man who once claimed to be the guardian of national interest became the ruler. Then, the country was ruled by Anwar Sadaat from 1970 to 1981; he was assassinated by the soldiers under Lieutenant Khalid. This brought Mr Hosni Mubarak to glory. This man dictated his terms for 30 years. His epoch was grotesquely repressive to say the least; the state officials were rife with corruption, but eventually he was ousted by the 2011’s revolution. Hence, we can see an overt role of the military establishment in Egypt.

Libya is another country which was dominated by the establishment. Libya gained its independence on 24th December, 1951 under the first and only monarch, King Idris. The monarch gave Libya a constitution, which happened to be the first piece of legislation to indemnify the rights of the Libyans. However, after a lapse of 18 years, the monarchy was dismembered by a 27 years old officer, Colonel Gaddafi. This was the start of the 42 years long tenure of the colonel. He was quick to consolidate his position and vowed to purge the country by protecting the revolution. His rule was typified with repression; he like Napoleon established a surveillance system. It was believed that 10 to 20 percent of Libyans worked in surveillance; dissidents were summarily executed. He was a monstrous dictator with sweeping powers; the establishment was nothing, but him alone. He created organizations to perpetuate his tenure, to include the General People’s Committee as a farce body, which ostensibly controlled Libya.

So far, I have delved on the meaning of establishment and a bit about its role in Egypt and Libya, for these countries witnessed all-out dictatorship. It was the military establishment which usurped power in Egypt and Libya. Now, I will shed light on the main part of the paper, which pertains to the role of the establishment in Pakistan. However, in a quest to discuss the role, one needs to define establishment in the country of the 65 years old country.

Establishment is used interchangeably with the military in Pakistan. You name any erudite worldwide, he or she would use this word with reference to dominant military in the country. To me, it is a very grotesque term used by sapient scholars such as Cohen, Reidel and many others. They feel that the military-establishment takes key decisions, ranging from foreign policy to those of national security. So when Nawaz Sharif, an ex blue-eyed boy of the establishment, talks about the establishment, he basically inkles towards the military.

Although, the Pakistani establishment is not entirely akin to army, but still I would most use this term with regards to the army because of the following reasons:

1)      The Inter services Intelligence (ISI), which is the eye and ear of the country should not be considered as separate from the army; intelligence is only taught in military institutions, to include Intelligence schools; Staff colleges and others, not anywhere else. Considering it a civilian organization is hogwash.

2)      The civilian-bureaucracy is just concerned about securing the perks; they see the wind and support the government of the time; they are a crutch to any government. I cannot delve on concocted stories.

So, the subsequent paragraphs would deal with the role of the establishment in the polity of Pakistan. Pakistan was created on the 14th of August, 1947 after a long and somewhat concerted struggle under the tutelage of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. However, the new was beleaguered with multifarious problems; going into all of those is impertinent with this paper. The impediments that made the role of the establishments were:

The loss of the Quaid was a death-knell for a newly-born country as there was a great void of calibrated leaders. Certainly, Jinnah was the sole spokesman; this is the title of Ayesha Jalal’s book too. The death of Jinnah resulted in mayhem and ruckus; the country could not agree upon a constitution due to bickering and the death of Liaqat Ali Khan was the last nail in the coffin.

The lack of administrative dexterity meant that there was a need to heavily rely upon bureaucrats, who used this to muster power. Ghulam Muhammad soon, ousted Khawaja Nazimuddin and then played havoc with the country’s political scaffold. When Justice Munir gave an infamous verdict on the Tamizuddin case, the establishment got emboldened in the name of doctrine of necessity.

As far as the army is concerned, its role was very imperative from the very outset, owing to a host of factors. The chaos of the partition which led to atrocities galore was dealt with only by the army, who despite being ill-equipped, emerged as an organized force to deal with problems. The way the army rstored law and order in Lahore in 1953 during the anti Ahmediyya movement impressed the populace and probably would have aroused some sentiments of grabbing power, though it is a sweeping statement. I would question the sagacity of Ghulam Muhammad in inducting a serving Commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Ayub and Major General Iskander in the federal cabinet. This helped them taste political power, which led to further openings. The geostrategic conditions really pronounced the role of the military; we had to fend off India over the Kashmir issue, which led to wars with the nemesis. The heroism of the army earned them veneration in the society. As Carey Schofield says in her book “Inside the Pakistan Army” that “army is the only thing that works in Pakistan”. Furthermore, the role of the military was not only pronounced because of India or Afghanistan, but also due to the incompetence of the politicians from the period of 1947-58; prime ministers coming and going; law and order problems and economic downturn.

Hence, Ayub Khan along with Iskander Mirza orchestrated the first martial law of many to come. However, after exactly 20 days, the latter was ousted by the latter; thereby, started-off his 11 years epoch (1958-69). The military dictator led Pakistan in perhaps the golden period; he purged the country by taking punitive actions against licentious politicians and bureaucrats through PODO and EBDO. In fact, he was averse to the role of politicians. He was pushed about the competence of the people at the helm.Ayub supplanted a shaky democracy with a controlled one; he introduced the presidential form of government in the 1962’s constitution. He viewed parliamentary democracy as inept for a country like Pakistan. He embarked on a process of reformation; he vowed to eradicate corruption; smuggling and develop the country’s economy. To be honest, he was successful in all of his aspirations; the economy was vibrant. We were called the “Asian Tiger”. Ayub used bureaucrats for running the machinery, for he deemed them as experts.

However, after the war with India in 1965, Ayub’s popularity was on the decline due to economic downturn; a disenchanted labour force and the rise of his erstwhile supporter Z A Bhutto, who had formed the PPP. The dwindling popularity led him to abdicate in favour of General Yahya Khan in 1969, 25th March to be very precise.

People have a fallacy about the role, intentions and capabilities of General Yahya; they blame him for the East Pakistan debacle, but that is highly exacerbated and it will require another paper from my side to explain the imbroglio of East Pakistan. Still, I would like to mention a few things. He abolished the One Unit Scheme; promulgated the   legal framework order and to add to that, organized the first free and fair elections in the country. He should have been eulogized for it, but then there are people who blame General Ghulam Umar of dispersing funds to anti-Awami league elements without any proof. The inability of the military to prevent a breakup was ignominious, to say the least. The establishment was and perhaps still is heavily censured for the debacle, but reality is a bit different and impertinent for this paper. After the breakup, a man who came to power on behest of the military, Z Bhutto came to power. He made many follies which strengthened the role of the establishment. We are oblivious of the fact that he was a vociferous advocate of the Balochistan operation of 1973; he forced General Tikka to induct the contentious 2de in the army act, which gave , army the  authority to try and punish civilians. He made the political wing of the ISI and gave the crown to a junior, General Zia. The ruckus that ensued after the 1977 elections gave Zia the opportunity to intervene; on 5th July, 1977 he staged a coup to oust Bhutto. Zia made promises to hold elections; he was resolute to go back in the barracks. However, he ruled the country for a good part of 11 years. He used the judiciary to good effect to hang Bhutto on the 4th of April, 1979; this was a grave episode, one that cannot be justified.

Thereafter Zia became all-powerful; he curtailed the powers of the courts; restricted the press and wrested controlled the bureaucracy by inducting military personnel in the administrative setup. The country was under a fully fledged martial law. He appointed CMLA’s across the country. General Sawar, General Rahimuddin, General Jahanzeb and General Iqbal were some of the martial law administrators. The Afghan war turned Zia, from a pariah to a champion of the free world. He allied with the US and fought a proxy war till 1988. He used the slogan of Islam to perpetuate his rule and espoused the Afghan Jihad. This meant that the ISI had an ever-increasing role to play, both in the Jihad and also in the politics. The military establishment, in connivance with the civilian establishment launched independent candidates on the scene, for instance Nawaz Sharif who remained finance and chief minister of Punjab and was a strong proponent of military rule/ Zia made narrow institutions such as the Majlis e Shura; organized farce election and used Islam as a political strategy. I would not go further to unfold Zia’s era, for it is impertinent, to say the least.

 After his death, the country was under grotesque democracy, driven by incompetent leaders, namely, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif. The establishment was a silent spectator however; the creation of the IJI and the Mehran Bank scandal speaks volumes of the role of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan. In fact, the army had the final say in issues pertaining to India, nuclear and Afghanistan. To be candid, the politicians were uncouth to handle these errands. Once, Benon Sevon came to meet Nawaz Sharif over the Afghan imbroglio, but Nawaz was oblivious of the happenings in Afghanistan. Thus, the establishment continued to put their weight on issues of national security and foreign policy.

The coup of 1999 is a well-known case in history, therefore, one should not delve into that, but a bit a General Musharraf would serve the paper well.

Musharaf ousted a feeble government and put the country on track for greater things. He ushered in an era of development with the help of dexterous technocrats; barring the operation Parakram , relations with India were improving; the media was free and the economy was booming. However, his support for the Afghan war; a facade democracy; the chief Justice’s and Lal Masjid’s  incident proved to be death-knell for him. After he relinquished the throne, the country has seen the worst of times under a PPP- headed coalition government.

I do not believe in stories that are not backed up with corroborations. I vehemently repudiate the statement of the “Crime Minister” Yousuf Raza with regards to the military being a state within a state. The military establishment is callous now; they have left these politicians free. Yet, scholars say that the military is playing the cards without much concrete evidence.

Yes, the army has played a vital role in these four years. It was the military which restored the CJ to his deserved position by forcing Asif Zardari to do so.

I would like to unfold an incident, which will never be highlighted in the media. After the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, India, via Mike Mullen conveyed our president to get ready for surgical strikes in Muridke and Azad Kashmir; Zardari did not castigate them and remained quiet, but the Army chief reprimanded Mullen and India of grievous consequences and assured them of a full scale reply. Then, the army put their foot down on the Karry-Lugar bill.

The army is fully focused on counterinsurgency operations in FATA; they carried out stupendous operations in Swat, South Waziristan and other areas. They are not concerned about politics. The strategic planners in the military establishment are bent upon countering India’s Cold Start doctrine instead of political gimmicks, same goes for the ISI.

Thus, I urge erudite scholars   like Christine Fair, Bruce rediel and others not to base their pieces on concocted stories. The bogey of establishment is used by politicians to camouflage their misdeeds. One needs to explore the reasons of the preponderant role of the military establishment; I am focusing on military because the civilian establishment, for the protection of their interest, hobnobs with all governments. If people say that the military intervened wrongly in the setup, then I would rebuke them squarely by telling them about the subverted democracy.

Musharraf rule ushered in economic development; the average growth rate meandered around 6 %; the tax to GDP ratio was much better than today.

Who will curtail the dominance of the establishment? The answer is simple; sincere, committed and competent people at the helm will block them. If they ameliorate the system and make it bereft of loopholes then, no establishment can poke their nose. If our military is involved in national security and foreign policy decision making then, so be it. My civilian politicians don’t have the wherewithal to take this decision. The military is perhaps the greatest stakeholder in foreign and defence policy, thereby; they ought to be involved. I believe that, the US army has the greatest say in making all of the above-mentioned policies.

I would like to conclude this paper by a few suggestions. First, the duty of the military establishment is to defend the territorial sovereignty of a country; the job of the bureaucracy is to carry-out the policies of the state on to provide policy options and certainly they are not supposed to rule the country. This is what our Quaid stated firmly in many of his speeches. However, there are certain responsibilities upon the shoulders of the leaders. Seemingly, as of now, the military is serving the country meritoriously by giving sacrifices galore; but what is the government doing?

Our government is rife with venal personalities, who are way too busy in mustering wealth; they have thrown the country to dogs; the element that peeves me is that, they have no qualms about their follies. I would request my anchors to stop saying this:

“A sordid democracy is better than a brilliant dictatorship”. This statement pesters me to the extremity. Last, but not the least, the establishment is roped in to rule the country, which is not their job.

I am proud of my military/


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