Outgoing Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Bajwa has claimed that the 1971 war was lost not by the military but the politicians. This is, of course, yet another attempt to perpetuate the myth of the Pakistan Army being an ‘invincible’ force. It is this belief that has kept the ordinary Pakistani going in an otherwise increasingly bleak world. History has been twisted, from text books to popular narrative, to present the wars against India as victories in the field that the miserable politicians managed to turn into defeats. All of which was manipulated by the treacherous US and the United Nations.
It is necessary for the Army to keep this fiction going because it cannot allow the people to become aware of the reality. It is by keeping the bogey of India seeking to undo partition that has kept the oversized Army in clover. In General Bajwa’s case, itself, facts are emerging about how many billions he and his family have made during his six year stint in office. That Pakistan is not a country with an Army, but an Army with a country is a saying oft quoted by the realists – unfortunately too few to make a change.
The only good thing that can be said – thus far – about Bajwa’s tenure is that he did not carry out a coup, as his predecessors had done (although he did give occasional reminders to the politicians on where the power actually lies). To that extent, Pakistan’s ‘democracy’ has progressed, although it is presently going through a painful upheaval. Much depends on how the newly appointed Army Chief Asim Munir chooses to do his job. His having headed the dirty tricks departments, ISI and MI, will certainly influence his approach on political management and relations with India.
Despite all the make believe, the reality of the growing power mismatch with India is dawning on, both, the establishment and the public. With the dreams of military victories receding, and the economic situation worsening, there is no choice but to focus on fixing things internally. The greater understanding of the reality, the more the military will lose its importance. There is the grim possibility that faced with this challenge the new Chief may choose to exploit the present political churning to execute another coup. That, however, would make it even more difficult to obtain international assistance for economic recovery. Even ‘permanent friend’ China would not be able to deliver. Hopefully, wiser counsel will prevail and the crisis left to the politicians to sort out. The world, and India, will be watching but not quite holding its breath.