In This Review

The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan
The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan
By Aqil Shah
Harvard University Press, 2014, 416 pp

Shah is a strong advocate for civilian control of military forces. His book explores why such control has consistently eluded Pakistan’s government. Many others have studied the Pakistani military, but Shah brings new insights based on interviews with intelligence officials and analyses of Pakistan’s National Defense University and its publications. He argues that Pakistan’s military maintains its own institutional norms and culture. It views civilian politicians as inherently incompetent and therefore as a threat to national security. The military blames its own serial bungling, from the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 to the fiasco of the Kargil conflict with India in 1999, on the failings of the civilian leadership. Since the military regime led by Pervez Musharraf ended in 2008, there have been glimmers of hope that civilian control of the military might be established. But Shah cautions that the military’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, remains a powerful tool and that the military retains tight control of Pakistani policy on Kashmir, India, and nuclear weapons. The military seems to have learned to prefer indirect control to direct rule, and Pakistan’s most powerful partner, the United States, is unlikely to pressure the military to change its ways.