A good parasite does not kill its host. But it remains deeply embedded inside the parasite, proliferates itself to ensure its own survival and prosperity while consuming as much of the host’s resources as it can without actually killing the host. And it takes measures to spread beyond its current host.
The Pakistan army claims that it is the only institution that stands between Pakistan and implosion. To ensure the Army’s continued survival a Pakistan is necessary. So it has deeply embedded itself within the socio-economic and political fabric of the country, while Zia ul Haq tried to push the envelope to cover religion too. As he called himself Amir ul Momineen, – the leader of the faithful – he embarked on an exercise which gave a Islamic fundamentalist ethos to the Army. That the army controls the lever of political power is well known. But its role extends into the civil service, education, sports and media. Organisations linked to the Army control much of Pakistani business. Consistently huge defence budgets over the course of Pakistan’s existence have meant that the Army has enjoyed a lion’s share of national income at the cost of national development.
Expansion into Afghanistan and Kashmir via the jehadi route is also in line with the parasitic virtue. As Lt Gen Javed Nasir of the ISI has pointed out during his court appearance some months ago, Pakistan has supplied jehadis and materiel to Bosnia, Chechnya, South East Asia and Xinjiang.
So well has the Army pulled wool over the minds of Pakistanis that they think it was democracy and the politicians that ran them to the ground. But things are changing – starting from the most unexpected quarters. Asia Times interviewed a failed jehadi who blames the Army for living it up while using the civilian jehadis as cannon fodder in Kashmir. Opposition leader Javed Hashmi is likely to spend a long time behind bars. The ISI is trying to curb the spread of such thought but may not succeed. Its chickens are coming home to roost.
The Commonwealth has sensibly denied Pakistan a return to grace. Musharraf’s military regime is gaining wide acceptability thanks to Bush’s myopia and the Commonwealth’s move signals that it is still a parasitic military that holds sway in Pakistan. The world may help; but ultimately it is the Pakistanis themselves who need to rid themselves of this parasite.