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When Martial Law = Democracy

October 15, 2009

What happens when a majority of one country’s citizens opt for martial law but the democratically elected government in power including judicial, executive and legislative branches are against a military takeover? It’s quite the political conundrum because either side offers legitimate democratic authority, but they’re diametrically opposed. A rational answer is to let the democratically elected government fulfill it’s term and allow citizens to elect politicians to office who will support martial law in the next term. That might work in a fully functional democracy backed by institutions that can uphold legitimacy and granted the state is sufficiently secure. However, in light of decreasing security, severe economic downturns and age old skepticism of U.S. actions in Pakistan, ever so gradually the country shifts it’s gaze toward the military.

Decreasing Security :: To offer partial explanation in a nutshell: Since 2001, terrorists fleeing Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, spilled over into Pakistan at the nebulous northern border areas which are historically autonomous from federal regulation. The fact that Pakistan already housed one of the worlds largest refugee populations allowed this spillover a massive and destitute demographic from which to exploit support. As a result, we now see unprecedented terrorism in Pakistan where Al Qaeda and the Taliban had no significant presence prior to 9/11.

Skepticism of U.S.’s Role in Pakistan :: Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947, bilateral realations with the United States have been defined by cooperation wherein Pakistan served as a proxy for U.S. Containment throughout the Cold War (i.e. security pacts like SEATO, CENTCOM, then aiding our Afghan led defense against Soviet incursions in the 1980’s). In exchange, Pakistan’s military with U.S. support, bolstered itself as the strongest, most efficient and stable institution in Pakistan. Some argue civilian governments and democratic institutions were thus never given an opportunity to compete with such a well funded, strongly backed military. And therein we find multifaceted dimensions that help explain the controversy over current U.S. support of Pakistan. Former Pakistan to U.S. ambassador Maleeha Lodhi describes the Kerry Lugar bill:

“the offending part of the legislation sets up the country as hired help and puts the military in the dock, presumed guilty on many counts and having to prove its innocence to Washington”

Pakistan is “hired help”, that’s the crux of  skepticism on the Kerry-Lugar bill. Concern is rooted in a long history of cooperation with the United States that some argue  created a behemoth military institution costing them a fair chance at democracy. In attempt to address that very concern, the Kerry Lugar bill mentions no military aid in exchange for cooperation on the War on Terror, unlike previous assistance packages from the Cold War. Ironically, bleak affairs in Pakistan now which are partially a result of pervious cooperation, particularly during the Soviet Afhgan war, prompt arguments that the military is exactly what needs support right now. Thus, the Lugar Bill receives not only skepticism from Pakistan’s strongest institution, but increasingly the public.

Although Secretary Clinton and Senators Kerry and Lugar have made no indication of altering the bill, to avoid  future skepticism and potential resentment of U.S. involvement in Pakistan it could be wise to make changes so as to not sideline the military at this critical period in our War on Terror. Unlike previous Republican presidencies, the Obama administration is committed to dealing with civilian governments in Pakistan. It’s a noble idea and even though i don’t suspect that as the military gains legitimacy the civilian government will collapse soon, we should think twice before riling such concern over a bill that has just a 5 year life span. Central and South Asia are critical regions for our interests and we may need to engage strategically positioned Pakistan in more years to come. So a backlash by the most powerful institution in that country is something we should anticipate, and work actively against.

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12 comments

  1. Since the olden days, our region has always welcomed and embraced warriors and military men! Army must have to play its indispensable role in politics and this is a proven fact.One important reason behind this fact is that the western style of democracy can never prevail in Pakistan. For that a society has to exist and survive with a firm ideology and unique social fabric. Unfortunately, both are absent in Pakistan. There are confusions and conflicts and no democratic regime have been able to define the theory proposed by Pakistan’s founder and key leaders.

    Another issue is religion! For democracy to prevail, Pakistan has to transform into a secular society like her neighbor, India. There is extremism which needs to combated.One good reason is because the ruling regimes have been abusing religion and using it as a political tool to justify and strengthen their rule. Politicians have to stop monkeying around with Islam and clerics must have to play their role constructively and proactively.Islam believes in the system of “SHURA” and talks about “KHILAFAH”.Religious sectarianism is another problem among religious factions and groups which needs to be overcome.Taliban are a great threat to Islam and putting this country in a great danger.They are continuously perverting Islam and paving the way for foreign troops to justify their presence and intervention.Rule of majority can never be accepted when the major part of the population is illiterate and uneducated.The masses are living below the poverty level and deprived of the basic rights and amenities of life. Islam emphasizes upon providing these to the masses.

    The bottom line is that both, Military and Religion have to play their constructive part in politics in Pakistan.Otherwise the political institutions will be threatened and this country will cease to exit and be taken over by others.Democracy is an alien system of rule in this land and has repeatedly failed due to obvious reasons. And thus, it is not the solution to Pakistan’s problems.

    To learn more about “KHILAFAH”, visit http://www.khilafah.com/

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    • a balanced idea Maxood. Military and religion seem like inevitable players in Pakistan. It’s a matter of constructing a balance that enhances, rather than stifles liberty and development.

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  2. […] Affairs, U.S. Politics, Religion, and sometimes Economics (if I'm up to it) « When Martial Law = Democracy Post 9/11 Pakistan October 18, […]

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  3. […] The Kerry Lugar bill is a fair attempt at  addressing this issue, but fails to realize that in Pakistan, the military has historically and relative to civilian governments, been fairly efficient at achieving development in tandem with security. So while Democrats and Republicans debate the time frame for our engagement in the Af-Pak war, I think Obama’s administration should begin a U.S. strategy from the premise of uprooting terrorism. It’s no longer just about retributive justice of  ”smoking them out” as Former President Bush put it. This war is expanding internationally at the expense of innocent civilians who increasingly fear, rather than welcome American assistance . Our strategy should aim to remove terrorists for the long haul, ensuring allies like Pakistan are comprised with prosperous, welcoming citizens. […]

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  4. […] provocative insight came during Q&A session when someone asked about the IMF’s role on Kerry-Lugar legislation to Pakistan. Without delving specifically  into the detailed process of IMF policies which […]

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  5. […] provocative insight came during Q&A session when someone asked about the IMF’s role on Kerry-Lugar legislationto Pakistan. Without delving specifically  into the detailed process of IMF policies which disperse […]

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  6. […] development, the question really is how to pay for it. I’ve mentioned before that the Kerry Lugar bill is a fair, but insufficient attempt at doing this, and ultimately, Pakistan itself must uproot […]

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  7. […] development, the question really is how to pay for it. I’ve mentioned before that the Kerry Lugar bill is a fair, but insufficient attempt at doing this, and ultimately, Pakistan itself must uproot […]

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  8. Pakistan has misreably failed to produce any political leader worth the salt in 60 years.
    every single political leader is greedy, wants to make a fast buck and transfer it to dubai and accumulate as much wealth as he/she can in a short span of time and say good-bye to Pakistan for few yeasrs and return to reap the harvest in the guise of democratic leader. what our politicians have done so far for Paksitan ? they have not missed a single opportunity to extract what ever they could lay their hands on without any remorse and do nothing for teeming millions who have no access to basic education, healthcasre or jobs. they live in well protected palatial P/M house and Presidency and feel eveything is just fine. they have no idea how a common man and a student travels everyday in junky buses to reach shcool or college or to his office. for women it is impossible to travel in public transport safely and comfortably without facing comments and fggggggghhhhhh

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    • It’s a fair point Mitha and becoming rapidly apparent on an international level.

      It seems history is coming around from a variety of angles to haunt Pakistan ….

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  9. […] fact, since our invasion of Afghanistan, not only have targeted countries deteriorated, so has neighboring Pakistan. But Friedman maintains incomplete rationale for war: “Have no doubt: we punched a fist into […]

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  10. […] fact, since our invasion of Afghanistan, not only have targeted countries deteriorated, so has neighboring Pakistan. But Friedman maintains incomplete rationale for war: “Have no doubt: we punched a fist into […]

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