July 2001 News

Identifying The Enemy

6 July 2001
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Military might or religious right General Pervez Mu-sharraf will be in New Delhi on July 14 to talk to the adversary. At home, the general’s willingness to accept the bilateral talks framework as spelled out in the Shimla Accord and the Lahore Declaration has put the political parties in a fix. The parties — most notably the PPP and the PML — should conceivably have supported his move to normalise with India. This is exactly what the PPP and the PML tried to do while in government but fell foul of the national security establishment. Yet, they seem to have changed tack on that. Now the ARD (Alliance for Restoration of Democracy), the opposition conglomeration that also includes the PPP and the PML, has refused the general’s invitation to discuss the issue with him. It seems the political parties’ fear of the general is greater than their desire to make peace with India. The religious parties, otherwise hard pressed to support the general on the issue of making peace with India for ideological and other reasons, decided nevertheless to accept his invitation. At least one among them, the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam, has also taken an amazingly liberal stance. But the fact is, these parties remain opposed to any peace with India that does not result in Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Also, the Right contains elements that do not have a political presence and are purely militant outfits. The theoretical construct here is based on two hypotheses. One, that the general is indeed interested in making peace with India whatever it takes and is also prepared to put down the spoilers. Two, the religious parties, so far an ally of the national security establishment, are likely to fall out with the military if the latter actually goes ahead and makes a peace based on pared down expectations. The dilemma of the political parties can be formulated thus: They want peace with India; they couldn’t clinch a deal because the military wouldn’t allow it; now the military wants it but the military is also the adversary at home. Should they support the adversary? Yet another dimension of the dilemma for the political parties relates to the religious Right. If they oppose the military because it is the political adversary at home, they would be lending strength to the religious parties that are opposed to making peace with India and also have reservations about the efficacy of western-style democracy. What options do the political parties have? Consider the question in terms of what Mao Tse-Tung described as the principal contradiction. He argued that while an issue can have several secondary and subordinate contradictions, its essence and movement depends upon the principal contradiction. This means that before the political parties take a decision on whether or not to support Musharraf, they have to determine what the principal contradiction is. There are three actors in Pakistan: political parties, religious parties and the military. While the political and religious parties represent civil society, though differently, the military stands as a separate, cohesive entity with its own interests that are in contradiction to the interests of the civil society. Given the military’s attitude towards politicians, political parties and the political process itself, the principal contradiction in this case is between the civil society and the military. However, within the conflictual framework of India-Pakistan relations, the principal contradiction between the civil society and the military is temporarily pushed back and replaced by the two opposing states. In this case, therefore, the contradiction between India and Pakistan becomes the principal contradiction. While one may determine the religious parties to represent civil society, it is a fact that the right-wing elements have increasingly allowed themselves to be co-opted by the national security establishment. One can argue, theoretically, that any parting of ways between a military that wants to make peace with India and the right-wing elements who want to remain at war with that country is likely to create a contradiction between the military and the right-wing. If the political parties that stand vis-a-vis the military in a principal-contradiction framework were to side with the military on the issue of making peace with India, that would sharpen the contradiction between the military and the right-wing and raise its profile to the level of the principal contradiction. One can therefore posit the question thus: Does the principal contradiction relate to the military, which vies with them for political space and has effectively upstaged them several times? Or does the principal contradiction relate to the religious parties that may only be put down by the military since the political parties cannot do that on their own? One can also argue that the national security establishment, if it genuinely wants to make peace with India, is today at its weakest. Should this not be reason enough for the political parties to ally with the national security establishment and consider the religious parties as the principal contradiction? Yet, by supporting General Musharraf and allowing him the room to negotiate with India, they may only end up strengthening his hands. And the general has already elevated himself as president and cocked a snook at them. From the statements so far it is clear that the ARD may not be prepared to sharpen the contradiction between the national security establishment and the religious right. The political parties know that their support to the military per se would not translate into greater political space for them at home. In fact, one can map out with a fair degree of accuracy what is likely to happen. If General Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee are serious in resolving the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, if they manage to do exactly that, and if the general manages also to put down the religious right — all of this being a theoretical construct — he (and the military) would still be the colossus in Pakistan’s political landscape. The contradiction between the civil society and the military would again come to the fore and become the principal contradiction. There would still be a National Security Council and the military would still go ahead with formal institutional arrangements to retain its voice in the political system. Peace with India will not a priori bring democracy back to Pakistan. It is a tough choice for the political parties. But it also affords them the opportunity to sharpen the contradiction between the national security establishment and its allies in the civil society. They should not allow this opportunity to slip by.


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