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Archive for December, 1998

The army in civvies

The GOLKAR concept of rule is not unique to Indonesia, it has been applied by the military in various regions of the world in different forms. During the nineteenth century the world belonged to the military-industrial complexes, Krupp was a household word in Europe. There was an enduring relationship between men in uniform and businessmen. It is only in the last 20th century when businessmen have started entering politics that the power nexus has changed character. Military dictators held sway in the first half of the twentieth century, civilization of the Army was used to perpetuate their own rule to keep key persons in the military hierarchy profitably engaged. Suharto perfected it to such finesse in Indonesia that today, having been “overthrown” he is still very much a power to contend with. President Habibie is a product of the military-industrial-business complex Suharto set up as a political party, GOLKAR. Habibie was his closest advisor and aide, a man he called his own son. Throughout the third world, military men have moved into key civilian positions during their service careers, many more do so after retirement. During the early 80s, the two parts of what was once one Pakistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, were ruled by benign dictators who moved men in uniform and out of uniform into government posts, government and semi-government corporations. WAPDA and Pakistan Steel Mills were significant examples of this in Pakistan, in Bangladesh a host of posts included even the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, the Petroleum Corporation, the Export Processing Zone, etc. In Pakistan other than the military welfare organisations like Fauji Foundation, which has done very well, and the Army Welfare Trust, which has not done as well, a corporate creation was (and is) the National Logistics Cell (NLC), very much needed in the late 70s and early 80s when there was a virtual logjam at Karachi port and transportation of vital commodities upcountry had become a dire necessity. On the other hand, using the elite SSG as air guards on PIA on a permanent basis in the wake of the spate of early 80s air-jacking was a disaster of the greatest magnitude for the SSG itself as the men lost their special edge which made them different.

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Rule in Sindh – The First Few Weeks

A cross section of the citizens of the city were invited by the Governor to get their reaction as to (1) the promulgation of Governor’s Rule and (2) how to make it effective. All the 20 odd or so people assembled in that room spoke for the imposition of Governor’s Rule, they lauded the Federal Government.

The other day the Governor Sindh, Lt Gen (Retd) Moinuddin Haider, invited at short notice Government for taking the bold step and “saving the city”. As regards making the rule effective, a few did counsel focussing on macro issues but the majority were more concerned with micro issues. The Governor cannot do everything, he has to conserve his energies and authority. This is possible by concentrating on the macro factors in order to re-build the institutions that have been destroyed over the past several years, at least to the level of their original potential.

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The PM’s US visit – Perception versus reality

The media portrayed the PM’s visit a disaster, reality in fact was quite different. Perception was acquired from the two ceremonial swords presented to him by US Defence Secretary Senator Cohen during his visit to the Pentagon in contrast to the flood of war material in the 80s at the height of the Afghan war. The message seemed to be that the swords were all the military aid we were going to get. But the fact is that because of the PM’s visit the contentious saga of the F-16s will come to an end on Dec 31, 1998, moreover the US seems to recognise our legitimate conventional defence needs in more or less the same manner as they once did. With respect to economic aid, there is now good reason to believe that the world is not keen on seeing us as a basket-case because Pakistan in turmoil would destabilize the region. There was evidence that the White House was arm-twisting the IMF to come through with a bail-out but the media seemed to suggest that this enthusiasm seemed to become soft when the IMF Board Meeting became scheduled for January 1999. However the reality is that this was just a procedural matter, not a signal delay. To underscore our media-predicament, because of default on US export credit under PL-480, credit meant for wheat was temporarily suspended but then immediately restored on removal of default. But then wheat exports under easy credit are more important to farmers in the US heartland than to Pakistan and as everyone knows the US mid-west has a very influential lobby in the US Congress. Despite dire predictions on the diplomatic front, the PM seemed to hold his ground, compromised to an extent by bad media vibes, unleashed by forces that care two hoots about the national interest when compared to their own crass personal motivations.

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Promises, commitment

As the Cold War dissipated in the 80s and the Soviet Union became another footnote in history, Pakistan found itself in the cross-hairs of a substantial shift in US policy. From being one of the cornerstones of US interests in being a frontline state in the fight against communism, Pakistan became overnight one of America’s major concerns. As the emphasis shifted from nuclear missile confrontation between the Superpowers to the awesome responsibilities on the US of being the only strongman on the block, its major worries became, in order of priority, viz (1) nuclear non-proliferation (2) terrorism and (3) drug trafficking. Unfortunately in all three, Pakistan was on the wrong side of the dividing line, escaping in 1992 by the skin of the teeth from being declared as a “terrorist” state, a drastic comedown in US esteem. With the application of the Pressler Amendment, Pakistan found itself squeezed in a double-vise as both US economic and military aid dried up, the Afghan War in the meantime went on and on. To add insult to injury, US froze the F-16 deal for which payments had already been made and the aircraft are now gathering dust in the Mojave Desert in the State of Nevada. Since 1990 Pakistan has been on the receiving end of almost all adverse propaganda that could possibly afflict us. We had more or less the same troops as had Egypt in Saudi Arabia in Operation “Desert Storm”. Egypt got all its loans waived, economic and military, we got the threat of a default. Matters started to get worse in May 1998 after the Indian nuclear blasts as the West, led by the US, alternately threatened and wooed us, to stop us from reacting. Within days, in the face of massive Indian bellicosity and threats, even sane heads who had counselled caution, were resigned to Pakistani retaliatory blasts. While the US imposed sanctions mandated by the US Congress, it was clear that they recognised that we were the “underdogs” and therefore the sanctions were imposed were done without any great enthusiasm when we actually carried out our series of nuclear blasts on May 28. The last Thursday of May 1998 changed a lot of things for Pakistan. For starters it stopped the drumroll of Indian threats being hurled by every tin-pot Indian politician. Next it brought us on an even keel as far as respect is concerned in a region that only recognises power. And most of all, among other factors, it shored up the sagging morale of the populace, specially the Armed Forces. However, in one punitive strike on ourselves the financial credibility of the country was destroyed by the act of freezing the Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs). With the single prop of inward expatriate remittances dwindling to almost zero count, we were in serious economic trouble and if it had not been for our various uncles ranging from China to Saudi Arabia, etc chipping in with an odd hundred million or two here and there, we would have defaulted months ago.

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