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Militarised formula

November 10, 2012

THE words of Hamid Saeed, the retired brigadier who executed the orders of the military high command to rig the 1990 elections while posted with the Military Intelligence in Karachi, are only a footnote in the Mehrangate scandal. But as laid out in pages 12-14 of the detailed judgment of the Supreme Court released on Thursday, Mr Saeed’s words provide an eye-opening account of the framework in which the army-led security establishment judges domestic politics and the unshakeable certainty that the militarised worldview is what is best for the national interest.

To begin with, Mr Saeed refers to the fallout between the MQM and PPP before the collapse of Benazir Bhutto’s first government, and quickly connects the dots between the violence in southern, urban Sindh and Indian designs. This, for Mr Saeed, was ostensibly proved because the PPP’s alleged policy of “revenge” against the MQM had led to statements by the MQM leadership that Mohajirs needed to look to India for the protection of their rights which led to unnamed Indian leaders vowing to protect “India’s ex-citizens” against “state terrorism and genocide”. Mr Saeed concludes: “Such statements reminded one of the Indian interventions in former East Pakistan which finally resulted in the dismemberment of our country.” The sleight of hand is unmistakable: domestic political matters — in which the army’s role was already known to be significant but which Mr Saeed conveniently ignores — were creating the space for Enemy No 1 to hurt Pakistan. Then the retired brigadier continues with a litany of charges against the PPP and Ms Bhutto: the alleged criticism that Pakistan’s uranium-enrichment programme, under the military’s control, had crossed a threshold that was “not acceptable to big powers”; alleged endorsement of the Indian state’s attempt to crush the Khalistan movement, the continuation of which presumably suited the military here; the induction of Al Zulfikar activists into public-sector enterprises here, activists who had been trained by India in espionage and warfare; and having the temerity to allegedly criticise the army for ordering training exercises in Sindh without the prime minister’s approval.

Publicly, then, the army-led security establishment accused Ms Bhutto’s government of corruption and bad governance, when in private the real reasons for seeking her ouster was because she was seen as a threat to the India-centric security paradigm that viewed domestic politics as merely yet another weakness for India to exploit. When the military both defines the threat and determines the response, the national interest becomes a cudgel against anyone who disagrees with its militarised formulation. That was the problem in 1990, and it still is the problem today.