A Security Apparatus Cannot Remain Unaffected By Processes Taking Place In Society

A Security Apparatus Cannot Remain Unaffected By Processes Taking Place In Society
The military establishment is considered the most dominant force in Pakistan. This is not just because of its sheer size, but due to its decisive role in foreign policy, security matters and managing internal problems. It has acquired the role of not just defender of frontiers and but also Pakistan’s ideology. Due to this dominance, it is the military aspect of security which has predominated strategic thinking, at the cost of non-military aspects. Many of the strategic difficulties facing Pakistan have to do with this.

Ethnic background is one factor to consider. Even before partition and independence, it was Punjabis who constituted a major part of the British Indian army. The trend has persisted since then and Punjab constitutes 53 percent of the military today. Though recently there is a decline of Punjabis, they still remain the biggest province in term of recruitment. The officers, in particular, are mostly Punjabi.

The partition legacy has shaped the military’s worldview and its development the most. On the west, there is Afghanistan which did not recognise Pakistan and claimed Pashtun territory. This neighbour justified its claims on the grounds that when the British left, all the agreements between Afghanistan and the British stood null and void. And on eastern border is India – towards whom there are accusations of deceit and unfair distribution of resources.

Most of the land which today constitutes Pakistan was in close range of India. It was this vulnerability which compelled Pakistan to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan. Some argue that this has now been accomplished, with the Taliban at the helm of affairs in Kabul.

Another partition legacy was Kashmir. It was a Muslim majority state, so Pakistan’s expectation that it be integrated into this country – basing its claim on the very grounds on which India was partitioned as a whole. There was standstill agreement between Pakistan and Kashmir, but it did not last as tribal raiders were sent to seize Kashmir. The tribal forces were defeated and the Maharaja of Kashmir announced to accede to India. Following accession, India sent it forces, defeated the tribal forces and occupied roughly two-thirds of the territory of Kashmir.

In its effort to counter-balance India, which critics have sometimes described as an obsession, Pakistan has sought the support of everyone from the Western powers to China, and especially the Islamic countries. While these counties have helped Pakistan to build up a strong army, it has had a cost too. With the military so powerful, there has been a relative weakening of other important institutions of the state.

The Islamisation of Zia’s regime further reinforced the religious orthodoxy and extremism – and this affected the military as it did the rest of society.

Since then, the social class of officer corps has changed considerably. The lower-middle-class proportion has increased significantly. A lot of recruitment comes from southern Punjab.

This is a region with powerful religious militant organisations too – which do not operate in isolation from the rest of society, including recruits to the security apparatus. Commentators have expressed concerns about the effects of increased Islamisation in security forces, given the overall trajectory of radicalisation in the country.

These are aspects of Pakistan's security challenges which no administration can afford to take lightly.