By Brig Samson Sharraf

East India Company

Clive had convinced himself that the Company’s trade in Bengal could only be truly safe when Siraj had been dethroned and replaced by a puppet….Clive was abetted by two colleagues….men of quick wit and elastic conscience who acted as emissaries to Siraj….Siraj grudgingly agreed to make peace in February….Large Afghan forces were operating in Punjab and might strike into South East…and he was glad to hear that the Company were now his friend and would come to his rescue…..Siraj had been gulled.

Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India

Clive’s war of mercantilism was supported by treacherous local money men, greedy beneficiaries and ambitious Mir Jaffar. True to the methodology of colonialism and imperialism, this was how in 1757, the East India Company secured Bengal and later India. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

If anyone has any doubts on how political absolutism and neo imperialism work, better read the account on how Bengal

Lord Clive

was won. It is a shameful tale of greed, deceit, narrow self interests, degenerative societies and most importantly, strategic miscalculations. Come 2010 and the litany are no different. We have learned no lessons.

The pursuance of strategic interests through economic, foreign and military policies has always remained a subject of interest for political economists; not so much for the aggressive powers seeking domination but rather for the simplicity in the method of execution and willingness of the vulnerable to be manipulated for a pittance. At the back end of such global agendas are experts and research organisations laying down long drawn objectives and methodologies. Yet in sharp contrast this genre of social scientists remains conspicuously absent in third word countries that grapple with tied trade and aid, bilateral and multi lateral loans. A glance at the South American bubble economies and political instability repeatedly reflects such narratives and events. We have learnt no lessons.

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Pakistan in sharp contrast to both India and China remains a country that has willingly made itself vulnerable and disadvantaged in an extremely significant strategic environment. A nuclear country with abundant natural resources, manpower, and potential allowing itself to be subdued so easily speaks volumes about the mindset and moorings of those who govern it. In the same argument, it also reflects dysfunctionalism within the various organs and instruments of the state, their propensity to pursue narrow policy agendas with complete disregard to a unified state policy.

Notwithstanding tactical military successes in FATA, Pakistan is ultimately positioned to loose on the larger canvas. A cohesive national policy needed to win such a conflict remains elusive. The government rather than strengthen and synergise other instruments of policy in tandem with military operations is hell-bent to reach an irretrievable position. Beset by poor governance, lack of transparency, rising poverty and inflation, the streets of Pakistan are likely to implode. As the anger of people grows to frustration, it will give way to violence, chaos and more militancy.

But the government does not seem to realise the impending dangers to the country. ‘Pakistan turning the corner’ in Washington during the recent high profile visit to USA seems an event of the distant past, because the resolve and imagination shown in the summit is not matched by good governance and pluralism. Like the jokers of Bengal, diverse segments are more interested in pursuing narrow self interests and rewards. Rather than dispel this image, the government has taken on itself to institute measures and policies that fragment Pakistan. As if this was not enough, even the opposition politicians have joined ranks for a third term and in awe of accountability.  It is also their desire to keep the army busy so that it does not interfere in political matters.

FATA and Frontier Province

It is my hypothesis that Pakhtunkhwa is cantankerously more symbolic than a mere change of name. Flood gates to further devolution and fragmentation have been deliberately opened. Hazara, Bahawalpur and Seraiki are a case in point. The romantic notion of Pakhtun nationalism as predicted by me is exploitable with the potential to gull the predominantly Pathan resistance endemic to foreign interventions. Already, sub nationalists parties are calling for a greater Pakhtunkhwa with eyes set on FATA, areas of Punjab and Balochistan.

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But before this happens, Pakistan’s armed forces must carry out clearing operations in the area through flushing and killings. The reaction will undoubtedly resurrect in Punjab, story repeated and the army expected to run from pillar to post. This is where the agendas of USA and politicians converge. Both do not want a swift end to the conflict for different reasons; USA for a weakened and compliant Pakistan and politicians for a weakened army.

It is in this background that government’s confrontation with Judiciary can be explained. As battle lines become clearer it is left to be seen how the army reacts to Supreme Court orders in the shadow of an over bearing USA . This needs explanation.

Shaping of the environment in the past two months appears detrimental to Pakistan’s interests. It appears that Pakistan has lost the initiative it gained over the Afghan Taliban.

First, it was arrest of Afghan Taliban leaders allegedly negotiating without the knowledge of Pakistan, followed by an apparently warm reception and reconciliation with Pakistan’s delegation led by the foreign minister and COAS.  The wide publicity and fanfare given to the COAS by the US and Indian media was part of the game theory of ‘feel good’. However, the core issues regarding the expansion of conflict and nuclear proliferation remained the same.

Pakistan’s delight at being counted an equal partner was short lived. Doubts if any on who calls the shots were dispelled unequivocally through the murder of Khalid Khawaja by a mysterious group ‘Asian Tigers’. Colonel Imam, perhaps for his utility in future was spared the execution squad.

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Secondly, the inconclusive UN Report on BB’s murder means much more than it reveals. The government remains committed to cover up the assassination for reasons best known to it. But it remains my view that we must keep this pyre burning as a national symbol. The murder of Khalid Khawaja and arrest of Faisal Shahzad in USA have not mulled the public reaction to proper investigation of the tragedy.

The case of Faisal Shahzad, under surveillance for over two days and yet allowed to park a vehicle laden with incendiaries is mysterious. He was enigmatically arrested immediately from a departing flight. Already, a part of US media is calling the bluff. If not a coincidence, these events nonetheless, cast Pakistan in extremely negative media publicity. Though the CENTCOM terms it a loner’s act, Hilary Clinton’s warning to Pakistan on the incidence is very meaningful.

Following battle lines are clearly discernable.

  1. US WOT against AlQaeda and Taliban with geo strategic objectives in the region, expanded to highlands of FATA. At stake is the national integration of Pakistan.
  2. The military operations in FATA against Pakistani Taliban and their supporters including their foreign handlers.
  3. Economic crises that will weaken Pakistan to a position of pliability including nuclear compromises.
  4. Politicians versus the Judiciary over issues of Law and Good Governance.
  5. Politicians versus the military and their desire to keep it bleeding.
  6. Institutional degeneration.
  7. The socio economic deprivation of the masses that could lead to mass agitation and political turmoil.

The West Pakistan Corporate is positioning for the final battle. However, there is one difference. As the scenario unfolds, the hands are opening and soon everyone will have to place the cards on the table. Then the people of Pakistan will know who is who?

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist. He writes for English Dailies and Opinion Maker.

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