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  • Author’s Response:Military Influence and the Reality of Politics in Pakistan
  • Aqil Shah (bio)
Aqil Shah’s The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014 ISBN: 978-0-67-472893-6 (hardcover)
T.V. Paul’s The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 ISBN: 978-0-19-932223-7 (hardcover)
C. Christine Fair’s Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 ISBN: 978-0-19-989270-9 (hardcover)

I am thankful to all the reviewers for their incisive and helpful comments on my book The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Most have raised intriguing questions and issues for me to ponder in future research on the topic. Let me respond to some important points raised by the reviewers.

In their thoughtful reviews, Christine Fair and Marvin Weinbaum illuminate the theoretical, empirical, and policy angles of my research. On the policy front, I second Fair’s conclusion that the United States would do well to consistently support a democratic transition in Pakistan rather than putting all of its eggs in the basket of the military, which has been the default and misguided U.S. policy since the early 1950s. By enabling and empowering the generals vis-à-vis the political parties and civil society, this policy has had negative consequences (to put it mildly) both for Pakistan’s internal politics and, as Fair ably documents in her book, for regional and international security.

Weinbaum points to an important omission in my work that is also common to the other two books under review: namely the lack of discussion of the interaction between the military and extremists and of its consequences for shaping the ideological beliefs that may underlie Pakistan’s national security policies toward India, Afghanistan, and the United States. In defense, I would like to note that the primary focus of my book is the domestic political impact of the military’s tutelary organizational beliefs, even though these are linked to and often rationalized in the context of perceived external insecurity.

In his review, John Gill suggests that my book does not pay sufficient attention to the role of “civilian” actors in civil-military relations. He correctly notes that politicians share the blame for the military’s intervention in politics because of their incompetence, corruption, or complicity. I also accept his point that Pakistan’s chances of breaking out of its authoritarian trap are contingent on both civilian and military choices. However, in [End Page 168] my humble opinion, analyzing the weakness of democratic institutions, norms, and practices in Pakistan as a product of politicians’ ostensible venality is an equally inadequate approach because it fails to account for the real possibility that these nonmilitary factors are endogenous to military influence. Moreover, I wrote my book precisely with the goal of understanding the role of the military in politics from the perspective of the officer corps, an aspect largely ignored in the literature on civil-military relations in Pakistan and even beyond (with a few notable exceptions).1 To be convincing, any story of military politics has to take into account the military’s characteristic institutional features that shape its responses to specific political and security stimuli. In particular, its members’ shared interpretations of their appropriate role in the polity do this by making some choices appear more plausible than others in a given situation.

Gill also suggests that I am too critical of the army’s relationship with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government. He cites two examples to prove civilian dereliction of duty: the PPP leadership’s alleged inability to provide General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani with “strategic advice” and civilian failure in taking over the reins of administration from the army once it had cleared Swat of militants. For one, I find it hard to believe that Kayani ever seriously solicited the PPP leadership’s advice on strategic issues, given that he and his fellow generals believed that civilian politicians were ill-educated, that they had the “wrong attitude,” that they “had not read basic defense policy documents,” that they lacked a “reading culture,” and...


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pp. 168-172
Launched on MUSE
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