Anne Penketh: What's to be done? A military solution is not the answer

Share
Related Topics

There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when Pakistan may have teetered perilously close to a military coup. It came when thousands of demonstrators were heading to the capital on a "long march" to demand the reinstatement of sacked judges. There were fears that once the demonstrations reached Islamabad, they could become violent in the most serious political unrest facing the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari since he was elected last September.

Yet what did the army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, do with this litmus test for democracy? He pulled back from the brink and declined to send in the troops. President Zardari, under heavy pressure from the United States, caved in. He reinstated the judiciary led by chief judge Iftikhar Chaudhry and supported by Mr Zardari's nemesis, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

General Kiyani may not be so cautious next time. Yesterday's attack by gunmen on a police academy outside Lahore will only reinforce the impression among Pakistan's neighbours and Western allies that the weak government is being increasingly undermined by militants now striking at will across the country. That is presumably why US President Barack Obama intends to continue using drones in Pakistan's tribal areas against "high value" targets while paying lip service to Pakistani "sovereignty" – a decision that will only feed the rampant anti-American feelings in the country.

Pakistan has been ruled for more than half of its 62-year history by the military, which even when not holding the reins of power remains an influential political force. The military's strategy, based on past experience, appears to be: let the civilians screw up and then step in.

General Kiyani, a smooth operator who was in Washington and London earlier this month, understands that Pakistan's democratic institutions are in dire need of shoring up. But he also needs to build up morale in the army, which was at rock bottom when he took over and remains low. For now he is holding his cards close to his chest, although like other US protégés, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf, he may come to be persuaded that the country is ripe for a national saviour.

But such a course would be a disaster, according to Pakistan analyst Farzana Shaikh who has just completed a book entitled Making Sense of Pakistan. "In the short run, there is a desire for the iron grip of a military ruler," she said yesterday. "But anyone with the long view will tell you this iron grip over half of Pakistan's history has been responsible for the death of politics."

So what is to be done about Pakistan? First, the country's political elite needs to show signs of a maturity that has manifestly eluded it since the beginning of the year. Zardari, Sharif et al have been fiddling while Rome burns. And second, America needs to encourage the rebirth of politics, because until now, US backing for military coups has done more harm than good.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

My limerick response to Mike Read’s Ukip Calypso

Simon Kelner
The number of ring ouzels have seen a 30 per cent decline in the last 10 years  

How the sight of flocks of ring ouzels helps to turn autumn into the new spring

Michael McCarthy
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London