Pakistan's military faces calls for major shakeup after bin Laden failure
The Pakistan Army faces a rising domestic backlash, but the public relations disaster could provide a rare and overdue chance to mend broken civil-military relations, analysts say.
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On Thursday, in the wake of a growing backlash among Pakistan's citizens, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani chaired a high-level meeting of his commanders. The result was that the Army promised to investigate intelligence failures in detecting the world’s most wanted terrorist.Skip to next paragraph
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For many people, that wasn't enough.
If the military persists with their claim of ignorance, says postgraduate student Imran Khalid, echoing popular sentiment, “They will be seen by the general public as incompetent in terms of not being able to protect the borders and the nation's sovereignty…. People will begin to question whether it is worth maintaining a military, which is at sea both against terrorist outfits as well as foreign military operations.”
Civilian government's problems
But Pakistan’s civilian government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, has its own problems.
It has shown reluctance to tackle issues relating to defense or terrorism, and that is unlikely to change soon, says retired Brig. Shaukat Qadir. “In South Waziristan, the Army is, by all accounts, detaining 1,500 militants illegally, because the civilian government does not have the capacity to prosecute them. In Swat, the military has taken a lead in building a school to deprogram children brainwashed by terrorists,” he says.
The civilian government’s track record of poor governance could also scupper hope of clawing back territory from the Army, say analysts. Spiraling inflation, power outages, and fuel shortages have all contributed to its unpopularity.
“This is definitely an opening for change,” says Cyril Almeida, a columnist, “because the calumny being heaped on the military at the moment offers a window to civilians to take some leadership.” But, he adds, since assuming office, President Zardari has made little effort to push the military back into a more limited role, concentrating instead on keeping his government afloat.
“If the politicians were working effectively to govern better on other fronts – for example, if they had popular support on education, health, and financial management – the spillover effect would embolden them to wrest power from the Army," he cautions. "But as long as your core job is being performed abysmally, the possibility of pushing back is limited.”
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