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Milbus Syndrome


C. Uday Bhaskar


By Ayesha Siddiqa
Pluto Press, 2007, pp. 292, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The Pakistani military—or the ‘fauj’ as it is better-known in Urdu—has a very distinctive place in the 60 year old tragedy- scarred history of that nation and alas, this institution has contributed in no small measure to this trajectory. There are many wry quips about the Pak military as exemplified by the largest service—the Army—and while one has it that most countries have an army at their command, the Pak Army has commandeered the whole country in a very effective ‘tail wag dog’ syndrome! The other is that three As have shaped the destiny of Pakistan—namely Allah, (Pak) Army and America—and this is as valid today when Islamabad, with General Musharraf at the helm is trying to grapple with many complex contestations wherein the Army is trying its best to maximize its leverages with Islam and Uncle Sam to retain the primacy it has acquired in the domestic politico-power calculus.   The book under review thus has immense temporal relevance including the 60th anniversary ruminations and the current Nawaz Sharief-Benazir Bhutto determination to oust or tame General Musharraf. Pakistani public opinion is increasingly disillusioned with its ‘fauj’ and Siddiqa’s pioneering effort reveals the many tentacles of the Pak military—apart from the gun and the jackboot—and the ground covered is both vast and virgin. At the outset, it must be conceded that this book will remain the most definitive work by a Pakistani scholar on understanding the ethos and the motivation of the Pak ‘fauj’ for a long time. Rigorously researched, albeit repetitive to a fault in many places, the 252 pages of the main body of the book delineates the genesis and rapid growth of the Pakistani Military Inc.—the imposing economic and commercial entity of the ‘fauj’ and how this has enabled the Pak military to be the most dominant player in the power grid of the country.   As the author succinctly observes: ‘The spread of the military fraternity in all important segments of the state, society and economy represents more than just a belief in the greater capacity of the armed forces. The military as a group has visibly graduated to become a class, and its serving and retired members are benefiting themselves from the organization’s immense power in relation to other domestic players.’ This pervasive spread of influence has been facilitated by what Siddiqa refers to as the nurturing of ...


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