Pakistan Table of Contents
Artist's rendition of tile mosaic of horseman with lance from the Pictured Wall, Lahore Fort, Punjab. Artwork represents seventeenthcentury tile work of the Mughal period.
THE ARMED FORCES OF PAKISTAN have traditionally played a distinctive role in the life of the nation. As in many other developing countries, they are an important modernizing force in society and a key tool of national integration. As defenders of the nation's interests in Pakistan's troubled and volatile geopolitical neighborhood, the armed forces are accorded a particularly high status in public opinion. Less welcome, however, has been the repeated interference of the armed forces in the internal affairs and politics of the country. The military has frequently been called in to gain control of unrest that has gone beyond the ability of the police to cope; some of these intrusions have had a major impact and have been of fairly long duration. The military has assumed political as well as security control of the entire country three times under proclamations of martial law. Indeed, since it became an independent state in 1947, Pakistan has been under military control for much of its existence.
At the same time, however, democracy has always been seen as the "natural" state of the Pakistani polity, and the military has ultimately returned power to civilian hands. Thus, although the armed forces dominated the country to a certain extent, they have not perpetuated a military dictatorship. The military has been a permanent factor in the life of the country, but in a role that has ranged from complete control to vigilant observer. As political scientist Leonard Binder has observed, "Even [Pakistan's] dependence upon the military does not necessarily make of it a praetorian state, because there is little evidence that the state works in the sole interest of the military. Rather, it was the military which intervened in order to prevent the breakdown of the patrimonial system." Much of the political history of Pakistan has been set in this drama of contending influences, and the military in early 1994 was still searching for a role that would reconcile its interests and the broader needs of a country whose politicians were struggling to establish a credible authority of their own.
Data as of April 1994