Incumbent government should redouble its efforts
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan was dumped by USA in 1989 after its objectives were achieved in Afghanistan. However, despite cold shouldering by USA, Pakistan’s status in the Muslim world in particular and international community in general had shot up very high because the miracle of the 20th century could not have been achieved without all out support of Pakistan to the Mujahideen. Pakistan was not totally discarded by USA since it was still seen as a possible jumping pad for the US to cater for her affections or apprehensions towards the Central Asian States. Pakistan was also seen as a bridge for US-Afghan negotiations. Those considerations together with the possibility of an aggrieved Pakistan opting to turn fundamentalist and nuclear and joining hands with Iran and Afghanistan in all probability prompted USA to wave the olive branch to Pakistan and to keep it out of the list of terrorist States.
Notwithstanding the disintegration of Soviet Union and classic victory of the Mujahideen making Pakistan’s western border somewhat safe, the situation in Afghanistan remained in a state of flux for a long time owing to internal power struggle. Instability in Afghanistan and presence of 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and aid cut by USA disturbed the socio-economic fabric of Pakistan. But for freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir which consumed over 0.7 million forces of India and Pakistan’s nuclear program in the making, India would have opted for fourth round. India’s aggressive designs sobered in the aftermath of Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998.
The downslide in Pakistan’s fortunes came when Gen Musharraf and his core team of Generals overthrew heavy mandate elected government of Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. If one recalls, Pakistan’s stature had risen dramatically particularly among the Muslim world after its nuclear tests in response to India’s nuclear explosions. Pakistan had become the sole Muslim State and 7thin the world to possess nuclear capability. It had deflated jingoism of BJP leaders who till then were breathing fire and were threatening to annex Azad Kashmir. It brought such a sobering change that Vajpayee undertook a bus ride to Lahore in February 1999 and pledged to resolve all Indo-Pak disputes including Kashmir issue. Bus yatra gave false hopes to Nawaz Sharif that Vajpayee was serious in resolving core dispute of Kashmir to the satisfaction of people of Kashmir and Pakistan.
The first downturn occurred when Gen Musharraf pumped by Generals Javed Hasan, Aziz and Mahmood triggered Kargil conflict at his own without taking political leadership and foreign office into confidence and without taking into account its fallout effects. Kargil adventure in fact was a prelude to forceful takeover by the military. From that time onwards, Pakistan’s political graph among the world comity has been gradually sliding down. It provided an opportunity to India to cease composite dialogue, put Kashmir issue aside, and dub Kashmiri freedom movement as terrorism and Pakistan as an abettor of cross border terrorism. Fallout of Kargil conflict led to the fall of Nawaz and takeover by Musharraf by through a military coup.
The economic upturn from 2004 to 2007 was temporary and consumer based. The crash took place from 2008 onwards when elected government led by PPP took over the reins. Other than the factor of world recession which skyrocketed oil prices and plummeted all economic indicators, the elected government broke all records of corruption and destroyed institutions.
While Musharraf had opened the gates of Pakistan for the US to spread its tentacles in all parts of Pakistan, Zardari led political regime propped up by Washington instead of closing the gates promised their patrons to serve them better than Musharraf. It allowed US officials of all hues to micro-manage Pakistan’s external and internal policies. Choice-men of America were placed on key appointments so as to be able to work their way towards the nuclear arsenal closely guarded by the Army and ISI. Resultantly, the noose around Pakistan was tightened to such an extent that our political leaders couldn’t even squeak in protest when the pain became unbearable. Despite humiliations and barrage of threats, NRO cleansed rulers remained submissive. WikiLeaks gave a good view of the level of the character of political class as a whole. Imran Khan and to an extent some Jamaat-e-Islami leaders were the sole exceptions.
Gen Musharraf in his quest to resolve Kashmir dispute and to live as peaceful neighbors agreed to resume composite dialogue with India on Indian terms. The US played a major role in extracting series of concessions from Pakistan which impinged upon our national interests and eroded our resolve to keep Indian influence at bay. India and the US jointly started to hammer the foundations of Pakistan so as to make the structure brittle and once made fragile, bring it down by employing Indian military at an opportune time. The master plan hinged on multiple pincers with eastern pincer of cultural invasion directed towards major urban centres of Pakistan to corrupt the youth and dry up its warrior spirit, northeastern pincer in Kashmir to crush freedom movement in occupied Kashmir and to dry up three rivers flowing into Pakistan by building series of dams over three Pakistan specific rivers and to make Pakistan a wasteland, and western pincer of sabotage and subversion to subvert Balochistan and FATA using Afghan soil. Indo-western cultural subversion to secularize the society was to be undertaken with the help of local print and electronic media, pseudo intellectuals and liberal class. Concept of enlightened moderation introduced by Gen Musharraf was aimed at secularizing Pakistan’s education system and society.
Outwardly USA and India demonstrated affability and pretended to be friends of Pakistan. The enfeeblement process involved crippling economy, discrediting and wrecking national institutions, keeping the judiciary under the thumb of executive, demonizing Army, ISI and nuclear program, destabilizing political system, fomenting ethnicity, sectarianism, extremism and terrorism and embroiling Pak Army in long drawn un-winnable war and eventually stealing the nukes.
Success in these areas would have rendered decision making ability and responses to external challenges impaired. In over ten years, lot of ground has been traversed by adversaries of Pakistan as a result of which there is political instability; economy is in doldrums and on the brink of collapse, sense of insecurity among people has deepened, law and order is highly turbulent and energy is in deep crisis. Poor political, economic and security conditions and above all rampant corruption, high inflation, back breaking price spiral and loosened morals have enabled the conspirators to brand Pakistan with all kinds of sleazy names and declare it as the most dangerous county in the world. The overall situation has become so bleak, that Pak leadership remains subservient to the wishes of IMF, USA and India irrespective of the cost in terms of honor, dignity and national interests it has to pay.
Pakistan’s political system was reasonably stable although not ideal till mid 2007, but with the coming in power of the US-made coalition government in March 2008, political system became wobbly and faith in democracy withered. The economy which till 2007 was healthy became fragile. Militarily, 1467000 troops are deeply embroiled in war on terror and are operating in all seven tribal agencies of FATA and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Balochistan is simmering due to foreign backed separatist movement spearheaded by Baloch rebels. Kashmir cause has been hugely damaged.
Devastating terrorist and suicide attacks killing scores of people and destroying property worth billions have occurred in major cities. These attacks have been undertaken by dissident Pakistanis duly cultivated by foreign agencies to serve their ulterior motives. Afghan soil has been used for covert operations against Pakistan since 2002. It is humanly impossible for RAW and RAAM agents to establish training camps in Afghanistan to train saboteurs and to launch them into Pakistan and keep their activities hidden from CIA and US-NATO military. In fact, CIA is the master coordinator which is also conducting drone war in Pakistan to fuel terrorism.
The country is facing unprecedented economic challenges and its economy is in dire strait. Budget deficit has reached the figure of 8.2% of GDP (equivalent to Rs 1400 billion) against the target of 4.7%. GDP has dipped to 2.4% and inflation is in the range of 15%. All corporate sectors are gasping for life and require heavy bailout packages to keep them afloat. Other than the factors of poor governance, cronyism and corruption, one of the main reasons of economic crunch is the war on terror which is in its eleventh year. Pakistan has so far lost about $100 billion in this senseless war. This together with natural calamities in the form of earthquakes and floods, acute energy crisis and financial crunch has made things exceedingly difficult for the incumbent government to restore the health of the fragile economy in quick time.
The government is making serious efforts to bring down the prices of essential commodities so as to provide immediate relief to the poor but has so far failed because of tough conditions imposed by IMF. Non-provision of relief is wearing out the patience of the masses and has given a handle to the opposition to beat the government with. The government wants to end the war by opening talks with the TTP leadership but has made little progress since the TTP on one hand favors talks but in the same breath puts forward conditions. Simultaneous ceasefire has been made conditional to stoppage of drone attacks over which the government has no control. Notwithstanding the phenomenal challenges, the government will have to redouble its efforts to prove that it is better than its predecessor and not the other side of the same coin as alleged.