Why the Pakistan army is here to stay: prospects for civilian governance



    1. Assistant Professor in the Peace and Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.
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    • A version of this article was presented at a conference organized and convened by Dr Stephen P. Cohen (Brookings Institution) on ‘The future of Pakistan’ at the Rockefeller Center, Bellagio, Italy, May 2010. The author thanks Dr Cohen and all the participants at the conference who provided comments on an earlier draft. The author also thanks Hasan Askari Rizvi for his helpful comments as well as those of the anonymous reviewers. All remaining errors of fact and interpretation are the author's alone.


This article explores the prospects for civilian governance over Pakistan's military in the policy-relevant future. After reviewing the Pakistan army's past interference in the country's judicial and political affairs, it turns to the ongoing political maneuvering of the current Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, despite Pakistan's ostensible democratic dispensation. The article dilates on the impact of US engagement on the robustness of the Pakistan army's dominance and questions the newfound US commitment to promoting democratization and civilian control. The article argues that while conventional wisdom places the onus disproportionately upon the military's penchant for interventionism, the army has intervened only with the active assistance of civilian institutions, which are subsequently further eroded with every military takeover. It concludes with a consideration of whether or not genuine civilian control would result in a significant change in Pakistan's foreign and domestic policies, particularly Pakistan's well-known utilization of Islamist militants in India and Afghanistan.