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Pakistani General to Civilian Leadership: Don’t Mess with Us

Pakistan’s army chief lashed out at the country’s civilian leadership yesterday, the AP reports:

“Armed forces draw their strength from the bedrock of the public support,” [Gen. Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani told a group of officers at army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi. “Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and the armed forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.”

Kayani’s cryptic statement followed a series of provocative rulings from Pakistan’s judiciary, which, under the stewardship of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, has been flexing its muscles over the past few years:

Several recent actions by the Supreme Court have brought home the end of the army’s once inviolable status. In a landmark ruling, the judges recommended last month that the government launch legal proceedings against a former army chief and head of intelligence for allegedly bankrolling politicians in the 1990 election.

The court has also pressured the military for allegedly snatching scores of people off the street in southwest Baluchistan province, where the government faces a separatist insurgency, and holding them without charges.

The institutional base of army power in Pakistan is very strong, and the institutions and individuals arrayed against it are for the most part ineffective and corrupt. But the long decline of every institution in Pakistan, including the military, can alter the balance of power in surprising ways.

For now, however, Pakistan’s military power seems secure.

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