Jalees Hazir A lot of anger is being vented against the army by the donor-funded brigade of liberal fundamentalists these days. While past military leaders are responsible for a lot of our present problems and the institution itself is not beyond criticism, some aspects of the current campaign against the army are a cause of concern. It doesnt make sense to go out of your way to malign the institution at a time when it is engaged in a challenging fight against what is generally recognised as the biggest threat to the country and democracy itself. Regardless of the rocky history of civil-military relations, the two must fight this out together. Whose interest does it serve to pit one against the other at a time when Pakistan is at war? There are other problems with a single-minded and simplistic bashing of the military establishment. It has a bleak record of interfering in political affairs and bolstering militant extremism, but in order to end these shamefully long chapters of our history for good, and to ensure that the new chapters are not equally shameful, we need to see the larger picture. Sentencing the military establishment in a simplistic summary court and hanging it is unlikely to produce any positive results for the citizens of this country. In fact, it might add to their woes. Take the case of religious extremism for instance. A simplistic analysis tells us that military dictator Zia and his ISI was solely responsible for giving birth to and nurturing the demons we are fighting today. But dig a little deeper, and it is not difficult to identify other culprits who share the blame for bringing us to this sorry state of affairs. It might be easier to scapegoat the institution of the army, but we must take into account the role played by the US and our political leadership in creating the mess, in order to find any real solutions. To begin with, Zia was one nut in the extensive machine of the free-worlds Cold War game-plan. At the time when he was enthusiastically embracing the CIA-funded jihad, saner voices in our midst called for having an independent policy towards Afghanistan and not becoming a tool in the hands of the US. Basically, it was the subjugation of the countrys foreign policy to the fluctuating interests of a distant power that played havoc with the country and we do not seem to have learnt any lessons. Today, a civilian government is doing exactly what Zia did 30 years ago. Besides, the political elite must share the blame for the religious extremism that plagues our society today. Can the civilian governments under Benazir and Nawaz, that came after Zia, absolve themselves of continuing with his policies? It is a weak excuse to say that the military establishment did not allow it. They had no right to enjoy power if they could not exercise it. Other than conspiring against each other with the help of the same military establishment, both were accomplices in strengthening the forces of extremism through the 1990s. For Nawaz, Zia was a spiritual father and this relationship continued in his two democratic stints until he was removed by Musharraf. Even PPP did not have any qualms about bringing to its fold and forming coalitions with members of Zias Majlis-e-Shura who rubber-stamped his ill-conceived Islamisation. The religious extremists have drawn their strength not only from the Arab-funded madr-assahs, army-backed training centres and CIA (and later ISI)-funded supply of weapons, but also from the legitimisation of their politics by the civilian leadership. For Zia to view the religious parties as his natural constituency was understandable. The irony is that in the over 20 years since his dark reign ended, no attempt has been made by the mainstream parties to isolate the religious parties that create a favourable environment for the militant groups. The problem actually started much before Zia when the founder of the so-called progressive PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, laid the foundation of fundamentalism in the country by introducing a constitutional amendment that essentially started the process of the state deciding about religious matters. All successive civilian governments have similarly ceded ground to the religious parties for political expediency and tacitly or actively supported their acts of soft-terrorism in our cities and villages. Even today, while making pronouncements about fighting extremism, the government has failed to challenge it at a socio-political level. Military operations against the strongholds of militants might be important, but they are not enough. The all important political response is non-existent. The government has presided over blatant excesses against minorities in Gojra and Sialkot at the hands of intolerant extremists. While it worked overtime to produce the numbers for Zardaris elections, it has done precious little to reverse discriminatory laws incorporated by Zia (and even Bhutto) that continue to militate against reclaiming a moderate society. The hype being created about the impending take-over by the army is also rooted more in the insecurity of Zardari and his dubious coterie than anything else. It is obvious that the president and his henchmen would like to continue in their undemocratic behind-the-scenes style of decision-making that is extremely damaging not only to the military but every other institution of the state. Though the military did assert itself over the Kerry-Lugar Bill, these fake torchbearers of democracy have found a convenient way to deflect any resistance against this personalised and unaccountable style of governance, no matter where it emanates from; the media, the opposition or the judiciary. The knee-jerk response has been to pander for sympathy by blaming the military establishment for conspiring against democracy. The real and imagined tensions between the civilian and military leadership are not difficult to overcome. The solution lies in more democracy. It is a tall order to expect from the present dispensation built upon undemocratic cultist political parties, but things can at least start moving in that direction. Shifting the centre of civilian gravity from the dictatorial presidency to a more democratic Parliament would be a good beginning. The writer is a freelance columnist.