Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War by C. Christine Fair

There is a famous saying about the Pakistan Army "Most countries have an Army but the Pakistan Army has a country". Right from Ayub Khan to Zia to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan has had multiple, able and strong military rulers. Pakistan's history is full of coups by the Army and weak civilian governments who are almost always backed up the military.

The Pakistan army is the most powerful and enduring organization in Pakistan. Even during civilian rule it is the army which has controlled its defense and foreign affairs policy. No civilian leader can become a success there without the tactical help and tacit approval of the army. Pakistan's over reliance on the army has led to disastrous consequences for its economy, International standing and human rights.

The author, Christine Fair, argues that the Pakistan Army is the chief propagator of the two nation theory, which was floated by the Muslim League before India's independence the theory states that India should be split into two based on religious lines Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus. Pakistan Army always lives in fear of India's hegemony whether real or imagined. Kashmir is a central issue in their policies and the Pak army feels that they were cheated, when India annexed a huge part of Kashmir including the capital Srinagar. After the partition Pakistan also got the NWFP as a responsibility from the British, perhaps the most unmanageable area in the world where Osama and his gang hid for years. Pakistan Army felt cheated that they got only a fraction of resources after the partition but had to take care of the majority of problems which includes a large hegemonic neighbor, unstable and non friendly Afghanistan and the NWFP.

The Author uses research papers published by the Pakistan Army itself as a source for her information, she goes into the past and explains how they fought four wars against India and lost all four wars i.e. 1947 Kashmir, 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil. All wars resulted in great economic loss to Pakistan and one even forced them to loose a large chunk of their territory which was erstwhile East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. According to Christine these might be losses in the conventional sense but for the Army of Pakistan these were victories as they see themselves as defenders of Muslims against an over bearing hegemonic Hindu nation.

Pakistan Army see themselves as defenders of the monotheist Islamic faith against the Polytheist Hindu Army of India. They see victory in defeat as anytime the Kashmir issue gets publicity and International attention it is a victory for them.

The author also touches on Pakistan Army's relation with the West, how both sides feel that the other has misused them. There is great anger and hate for America in Pakistan yet the two continue to be allies.

This book's message is a very depressing one especially for a pacifist like me, The author concludes that the army will continue to behave in the same manner as it has over the past  seven decades. A peace between the two neighbors would be a death knell to the control that is exercised by the army as it would loose it relevance. Thus it is in interest of the army to never accept the status quo and keep Pakistan a revisionist state. This they do by mostly supporting non state actors whether that is Kashmiri separatists, Khalistanis or the Taliban.

For the author, Pakistan Army is both fascinating and immoral at the same time. This is a greatly researched book, a bit boring at times but provides an in depth insight of the Pakistan Army, their history, strategy, motivation and future.

I rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5. Must read for all people interested in the military and south east Asia.


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