By Brig Samson S Sharaf
The economic meltdown of Pakistan is a deliberate and methodical operation executed by Pakistan’s own policy makers in concert with State and Non State Actors. The political malaise rife with immorality flows out of this charter.
It is no coincidence that in the past two years, the war fronts in what USA calls AF-PAK have flipped. Slowly and gradually, Pakistan has been pushed to a corner; being accused as the spoiler. As NATO and US forces contemplate a symbolic withdrawal from Afghanistan, they will leave behind effective perpetual pivots of threat against presumed policies/targets in Pakistan. The credibility of this policy is based on a script of a discredited, ill organised and failing Pakistan; a direction we are headed and discussed/war gamed by Pakistan’s security establishment as early as 2002.
Why has Pakistan willingly made itself vulnerable and disadvantaged in an environment that offered fleeting opportunities? A nuclear country with abundant natural resources, manpower, sustainable economic indices succumbing to a melting point speaks volumes of the mindset and elastic conscience of its rulers; also a reflection of dysfunctionalism within.
In an essay titled From East India Company to West Pakistan Corporate in 2010, I had written, “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. As the anger of people grows to frustration, it will give way to violence, chaos and more militancy”. This is happening.
Pakistan’s rapid descent to anarchy is engineered by a coterie of corrupt and opportunist political parties adhering to different shades of ideologies conspicuously short on a unified national purpose, an interventionist and anti anarchic judiciary acting as a custodian of ‘rule of law’, an insurgency laced by urban terrorism, lack of federal and provincial writs, proliferation of alternate systems of arbitrations, shady Jirgas, poverty and rising waves of crime. Was this the Pakistan envisioned by Asif Ali Zardari when he declared that ‘democracy is the best revenge’? Within the given script, he pursued the policies of a military dictator with vigour and craft.
Within a year the distinction on Salala as a JSOC Operation or a NATO/ISAF strike has blurred. This hybridist notion is not without a purpose; most explicit in seeking an exclusive apology from USA and severing the ground lines of communications (GLOC) for NATO (Blame Pakistan) and least explicit in why such denial from USA. Where is the relevance?
In the US perspective one major consideration seems to be the controlled attrition and demolition of Pakistan under ‘shaping the environment’ on a timeline. US support of Pakistan’s corrupt political elites through back room deals has ensured moral and fiscal bankruptcy. At the same time it engages select Pakistani scholars and opinion makers to create a breed of armchair liberals, critics, intellectuals and writers who untiringly praise the merits of the supremacy of democracy oblivious to the frightening drama unfolding within.
USA also calculates that pushing Pakistan army too far into Waziristan could be counterproductive and may bring more instability than planned. According to Christine Fair, elements of Pakistan’s erstwhile jihadi proxies have refocused their efforts to sustain a bloody war on Pakistan itself. According to her, such disturbing mobilization should give pause to those who champion the causes of the "silent moderate majority" in Pakistan. This explains a veiled existential threat that non state actors pose to US adventurism into Pakistan and the reason why focus remains on Pakistan’s Jihadi nexus and Bombay bombing.
Consequently, USA could end up following a containment policy of Pakistan through economic manipulation, symbols of threat and outright coercion including limited Cold Start raids. It is expected that as Pakistan becomes weaker it will also become pliable. The ultimate mismanagement will unleash implosion, parochialism, division of the country and lead to international intervention. The issue of Punjab as a bastion of a strong army and Pakistani nukes would be settled for good. Pakistan’s geography could be redrawn. But laced within this simple narrative are dynamics that could explode the entire region and therefore the efficacy of working through proxies in Pakistan.
The government’s intransigence in not opening NATO land routes has relevance to the theory of uncontrolled demolition, which neither suits government nor USA. Knowing that in diplomacy, the secretaries and under secretaries draft and finalise agreements well in advance of the political ceremonies, this political bravery deflects all the effects of this stubbornness on the people and armed forces. Any haste may lead to a popular reaction within and upset the US scheme of sequential events in Pakistan focussed exclusively on the army and the nuclear capability.
The army actually feels convinced that USA has stabbed it more than once in the back and the times of GHQ-Pentagon romance are over. The container traffic has resulted in proliferation of US weapons and linkages with the ongoing insurgencies in Pakistan. Yet it has persisted with military diplomacy and kept communications open. According to Fair, the attainment of common strategic objectives in US-Pak relations has been overcast by divergence over security issues. With its hands full, the army is not keen to be sucked into any new conflict. It will wait and see how the dynamics within Pakistan shape themselves and choose working invisibly.
By choosing this option, pressure on Pakistan army is likely to increase through drones, sponsored militant activities particularly in Balochistan and posturing. Arrest of the Bombay mastermind, fresh offensives into Dir/Chitral from bases in North Afghanistan and presence of a US carrier off Gawadar are some of the implied threats. In case the issue of GLOCs cannot be resolved, raids into Pakistan will intensify. In a worst firebreak point, naval quarantine of Pakistan cannot be ruled out. Opening of a corridor through Balochistan alluded in my OPED titled Pakistan’s Future War could not be farfetched? This is how Pakistan’s Long War will be fought step by step.
Pakistan has reached a point where democracy as revenge is counterproductive. Every event is set to move in concert with US designs, unless the Supreme Court finally decides that the present dispensation is no more in the national interests of Pakistan; a question for Pakistan’s legal experts to ponder and liberals to rue.