The Judge, the General, and Pakistan’s Evolving Balance of Power (Page 2 of 3)

Kayani fears that the prosecution of retired senior army officers could dent the institution’s morale as it fights multiple insurgencies and seeks to rehabilitate its image in the year since the bin Laden raid. During Kayani’s five years in office, the army chief has assiduously worked to restore public confidence in the army which had eroded after years of military rule and an unpopular alliance with the United States.

Kayani also seeks to preserve the army’s institutional autonomy and self-accorded privileges, including its vast economic holdings. The army opposes being held accountable by civilian forces. In September, the military announced that it would take over investigations of retired army officers in a million dollar corruption scandal that were being conducted by the civilian National Accountability Bureau.

The army has historically seen itself as the guardian of Pakistan’s stability and as a cleansing force in politics. The Supreme Court has in many ways usurped that role, for example, by holding politicians accountable for corruption and pressing the military to present secretly detained prisoners. Despite Kayani having given almost unprecedented space for the political process to operate, he is still the product of a military ingrained with a caste-like group identity and sense of responsibility and privileges. Its corporate culture will need to evolve with the power shift in Pakistan.

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Pakistan’s balance of power has been significantly altered in the past five years. During the 1990s, Pakistan was dominated by its two largest political parties — the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan Peoples Party — and the military-intelligence establishment, which generally had a pliant president in place. In 2007, two new forces entered onto the scene: an activist Supreme Court and a vigilant private media, including scores of television news channels. Together with civil society activists, they paved the way for the restoration of Chaudhry to the Supreme Court (he was deposed by military ruler President Pervez Musharraf twice in 2007), and for the eventual downfall of the once invincible Musharraf.

Following the 2008 elections, Pakistan’s parliament has been more proactive than ever. Bipartisan parliamentary committees have worked to produce three landmark constitutional amendments that have advanced political reform. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security produced a consensus-based roadmap on how to restore ties with the United States in the wake of last year’s deadly U.S. attack on a Pakistani military base. And with a hung parliament, smaller political parties have a disproportionate say in the political process given that they are essential coalition partners. The military no longer has its own man in the presidency.

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