A one swallow winter, a one soldier purge

There is resentment against Musharraf; and he is acting to counter it.

A Pakistani soldier was sentenced to death by a military court recently, and several more soldiers are likely to meet the same fate, according to an Asia Times report (via Robi Sen). That article is titled ‘Purging Pakistan’s jihadi legacy’. It would also be a good idea.

Reports of Musharraf ‘purging’ his army are not new — there was a purge in 2001, when he sacked a Taliban-friendly ISI chief just before the United States attacked Afghanistan, and in 2004, following assassination attempts and the army’s promotion exercise. But unlike the bloody purges of the Stalinist kind, ‘victims’ of Musharraf’s purges usually end up in the cushy gulags of pensions, privilege, establishment jobs and generous dollops of state land. And in the latest ‘purge’ people sentenced to death so far are among the lowest ranks in the Pakistani army — enlisted men and non-commissioned officers.

Two things are though, are certain: first, there is resentment in the ranks against Musharraf, and second, he is taking strong action against those who are opposed to him. Many of the army personnel who fought in Waziristan resented the fact that they were turning their weapons against their own countrymen in a wild-goose chase staged by Musharraf. Others were resentful of the manner in which he jettisoned the Islamist ideology that the army had been infused with since General Zia’s time. Still other, and this posed the greatest danger to Musharraf, were opposed to him for choking up the army’s promotion pipeline. Musharraf tackled this last one in October military ‘reshuffle’, as a result of which a majority of the senior army commanders owe their positions to Musharraf, who promoted them over the heads of their more senior counterparts.

So where Musharraf is buying off the loyalties of the higher ranks, the army’s decision to hand out death sentences to the rank-and-file conspirators is intended to set an example for the rest. It also serves as a good headline — a lot of people suspect that the Pakistani army has al-Qaeda sympathisers, moving to execute some (and dead men don’t testify in human courts) shows that Musharraf is on the right side of things.

7 thoughts on “A one swallow winter, a one soldier purge”

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  2. Nitin,

    After talking to you last night I came up with a test to determine if Mushie is doing this to curry favour or not. Basically in the last ‘purges’ there has been a press offensive, open court cases, and lots of leaks pushing Mushie’s view. If we see the same pattern then I think for sure you are correct. If we dont see much then I think there is some serious and aggressive realignment of the military which I dont think Musharraff wants the world to see.

  3. Robi,

    It is time to start keeping score. Not only what gets to the press, but also which journalist actually releases it.

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