A Nation Held Hostage by its Own Army?

Amidst the complex web of challenges facing pakistan, the nation grapples with a worn economy, volatile internal security, a faltering regional policy, and importantly, heightened political uncertainty. At the heart of this tumultuousness lies one institution: the pakistan Army.

Its persistent interference in the country’s political affairs and consequent dominance over all other institutions has largely inhibited the establishment of strong and stable civilian democratic institutions in Pakistan. While traditionally tasked with national defence, the pakistan army has, over the years, assumed a dual role as both a military and a political actor, exerting influence through its overt and covert involvement in the politics of the state. Despite occasional civilian efforts, it has proved difficult to undo or limit the influence of this deeply entrenched political role of the pakistan Army.

Several factors contribute to the complexity of addressing the pakistan Army’s entrenched role. These encompass its extensive economic interests, manifested in numerous commercial enterprises, the fragility of civilian institutions, and deliberate actions to maintain internal security instability. Moreover, it has positioned itself as Pakistan’s most reliable institution in the eyes of foreign powers like the united states and China, thereby securing influence over the nation’s foreign policy.

The pakistan Army’s intervention in politics dates back to the country’s formative years when it “was tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the nascent nation and ensuring internal security.” However, this constitutional duty has been historically exploited by the army to acquire a disproportionate share of national resources, a trend that continues to this day. For instance, when pakistan acquired $2 billion in financial aid from the united states in 1947, the armed forces received a significant share of $300 million. Similarly, despite Pakistan’s current economic challenges, the military establishment ensured a 13 per cent increase in the annual defence budget from PKR 1.5 trillion in 2022-23 to 1.8 trillion in the 2023-24 federal budget.

Through collusion with other state actors such as civil bureaucracy, judiciary, and various political and religious leaders, the pakistan Army’s political meddling has manifested in various forms. From orchestrating military coups to directly influencing the appointment of political leaders, it has consistently sought to shape Pakistan’s political landscape through direct and indirect means in accordance with its interests.

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