The Research of Changes in Pakistan Military

By Professor Ahsan Butt

The Pakistan military has recently become the focus of academics and policy-makers alike. This focus is usually motivated by concerns either about regional security in Afghanistan, India, and beyond – especially motivated by the U.S. military presence in the region – or the development of democracy in Pakistan.

While such analysis has rightly focused on how the Pakistan military engages with others, whether they be other states or local politicians, we know remarkably little about the internal politics, organization, and bureaucracy of the army. Specifically, we have no data on promotions and retirements in the military: who rises, and how? Are particular types of personal or professional backgrounds favored or marginalized when it comes to deciding promotions and retirements? Where are retired commanding generals siphoned off, and to what extent does the military ensure a smooth transition to civilian life post-retirement? These questions are important because how a military deals with its own, both while in service and after, has tremendous importance for how such a large and dominant entity maintains organizational cohesion. Certainly, the significance of the internal politics of powerful armies has been pointed at in studies of militaries in the region, including those of Burma, Indonesia, or the Philippines.

To learn more about how the Pakistan military uses promotions and retirements to reward and punish its own, this project is aimed at the creation of an original dataset on commanding generals in the Pakistan army from 1999 to the present, including their background and post-retirement trajectory. To that end, my co-authors and I are collecting data in Pakistan. One of my co-authors has already visited Islamabad earlier this year, while my fieldwork, consisting of archival research and interviews, will start in January 2015.

Once my co-authors and I have collected this data, we will be able to develop a better sense of the pathologies, preferences, and practices of the Pakistan army. In turn, we hope that scholars concerned with civil military relations, foreign policy, international relations, South Asian studies, and organizational theory, along with policymakers focused on conflict, human rights, and political development, would find the study particularly relevant and interesting.


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