Pakistan civilian-military ties hit new low

Pakistan civilian-military ties hit new low
Ahmed Rashid, BBC, October 16, 2009

As a wave of militant attacks hits Pakistan, tensions between the army and the civilian government have hit a new high, despite promises by the military establishment that it would no longer intervene in politics. Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid has this assessment.

The renewed tension comes as feverish speculation has gripped the country about the army's intentions, after it forced the government to backtrack on a US bill which provides Pakistan with millions of dollars as long as it pledges to eradicate Taliban and al-Qaeda militancy.

At least nine Taliban suicide attacks have hit Pakistan's security forces in the days from 5 October - including a devastating and embarrassing siege inside the army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi that claimed 22 lives, and three attacks on a single day in Lahore.

Over 150 people have been killed and several hundreds injured.

However, these attacks did not stop army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani from challenging the government and the US administration as Washington's crucial aid bill - which has taken more than a year to pass through the US Congress - was finally ready for signing on President Obama's desk.

Caught by surprise

It was while on a visit to Kabul in late September that Gen Kayani first conveyed to Gen Stanley McCrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, that he found the bill insulting and demeaning to the army.

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