In the continuously played out power game in Islamabad, the Pakistan Army uses image as its most potent weapon. Portrayed as efficient, smart and highly disciplined, it is projected as an institution which can fix anything that others – especially politicians – cannot, from disaster management to overseeing polling and maintaining law and order. “The army legitimises its role by claiming to do what others cannot do. For instance, Ayub Khan said he would carry out development, General Ziaul Haq said he would Islamise the country and Musharraf said he would cleanse it of corruption,” says Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a military analyst based in Islamabad.
Siddiqa says that the army has been successful in creating such an image, and sustaining it through most of the country’s history, because it has been successful in taking “intellectual control” of society. The exercise of this control involves domination of historical, social and political discourses; anyone questioning such establishmentarian discourses is dubbed a traitor. The intellectual control then translates into political power, which hinges on the army’s image as an institution superior to and better than any other in the country. “The army wants to be perceived as a powerful entity that never fails,” says Siddiqa.