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One-dimensional Viewpoint

Ajay Darshan Behera

By Ejaz Hussain
Samskriti, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 452, price not stated.


There are many accounts by now of the military’s role in politics in Pakistan. Ejaz Hussain’s volume is a welcome addition to that. The primary objective of the volume is to build a model of civil-military relations applicable to the case of Pakistan which should explain the causes and mode of military intervention as well as the nature of military rule. According to the author, there are many scholarly studies on the subject but none has managed to rigorously address the question why the military intervenes in politics in the first place.   The study highlights the theoretical as well as empirical weaknesses in the existing accounts on Pakistan’s civil-military relations. In critically reviewing the existing literature the author has placed it in six categories. First, the legitimist point of view which looks at the military as a modernizing force. Therefore, it was quite natural for the military to take over in an institutional vacuum. Military rule is legitimized on account of the country’s weak political institutions, incompetent politicians and external security threat. Second, the conspiracy theorists who posited that military coups could not have taken place without support from external actors specifically the US. This perspective is highly essentialist and demotes the value of agency, structure or context. Third, the generalist analyses which take into account multiple variables like domestic, regional and international without being able to pinpoint any particular variable that is critical to a coup. They are informative but lack theoretical as well as empirical rigour. Fourth, the instrumentalist accounts that look at the Pakistan military from the lenses of Washington’s geo-strategic interest in South Asia. Fifth, the structuralist accounts that focus on the socio-economic and political structures of the colonial state locate the problem in structures dominantly in classes. Sixth, the path dependent on the historical, institutionalist perspective that sees the institutionalization of insecurity in Pakistan in both its pre- and post-Partition period and the imperative of the military to step in to address that problem.   Quite contrary to the existing body of knowledge, the author’s argument is that it was the military’s agency which resulted in all the coups in Pakistan. The military used its political power as an instrument to maximize its economic interests as an independent actor. The study attempts to build its own model of civil-military relations grounded in the assumptions of agency theory and rational ...

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