Vol 3, PW 10 (09 Jun 99) People & Policy

To understand whats going on in Kashmir, you have to understand the mindset that drives the generals that lead the Pakistani army and the corruption of its civilian rulers.

Unlike India, civilian government is the exception in Pakistan, not the rule. In the 52 years since independence, the army has ruled for 33 years, with a succession of corrupt and incompetent dictators holding power.

The last one, General Zia ul-Haq, was killed in a plane crash in August 1988, after ten years of despotic rule in which he executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a former prime minister. Since then, Pakistan has had several (mainly corrupt) civilian-led administrations, but the army retains influence behind the scenes and discourages long-term peace with India.

Western diplomats in Islamabad accept that Pakistani generals operate as a state within a state, accountable to no-one. Top of their agenda is to exact revenge on India for a humiliating defeat in 1971, when 100,000 Pakistani troops were captured by Indian troops in what is now Bangladesh.

That humiliation still rankles deep. As for peace in Kashmir, the generals could defuse the crisis overnight by ordering the insurgents back over the LOC.

So, why dont they Answer: theyre kicking their heels for a fight. Indian intelligence agencies report that Pakistans Chief of Staff, General Parvez Musharrif, made two trips to the militants training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the two months prior to the invasion.

For Nawaz Sharif, faced with damning corruption allegations (most recently aired by a BBC report in the UK on 5 June 99) the armys action is a convenient distraction which - for the moment at least - hes happy to go along with.