The time from 2000-2007 was crucial to building Pakistan’s image as a responsible country at peace within itself and all its neighbours. 9/11 came and passed but Pakistan’s policy planners dominated by the military failed to read the dynamics and rode gallantly into the trap. Deep down there was perhaps a historical predisposition regarding Afghanistan being the graveyard of invading armies? This wait and see has not worked hastening instability.

By Brig Samson S Sharaf

A series of articles written by me from 2008 onwards analysed the Threat Assessment to Pakistan’s Security. One central theme was ‘why since 1973 onwards, Pakistan has not been able to ensure stability in Afghanistan despite its repeated interventions through diplomacy and the Taliban Government pre 9/11’. The conclusion: Instability in Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan is essential to the calculus of checkmating Pakistan’s rise as a nuclear power. Bad governance is a catalyst to instability.

This is nothing new. The same was also my assessments in the 90’s, to avert a future conflict that appeared imminent within a decade.  Nobody paid heed and the worse has come to pass. Pakistan continued to be sucked into a conflict that it refused to own; and failed to contain the runaway factions of militants that it had created. At the same time it also chose to become an ally in the WOT without taking cognisance of the societal spin offs.  The lethal brew is now on the boil.

The time from 2000-2007 was crucial to building Pakistan’s image as a responsible country at peace within itself and all its neighbours. 9/11 came and passed but Pakistan’s policy planners dominated by the military failed to read the dynamics and rode gallantly into the trap. Deep down there was perhaps a historical predisposition regarding Afghanistan being the graveyard of invading armies? This wait and see has not worked hastening instability.

  The Mission For National Emancipation?

Post 2007, Pakistan’s national power that strengthens national interests is drained of blood barring the last few ounces needed to sustain it on a ventilator through dollars. Lack of attention to socio economic factors means proliferation of a new genre of organised violence that can take anyone by the throat. The violent cycle in Karachi can be switched on and off at will; so can the Pathan and Punjabi workforce be targeted to spread feelings of ethno nationalism. No one in the country feels secure. Pakistan appears too frail to wait out the crises or stare in the face.

As I wrote over four years ago, Pakistan and its security managers have walked wilfully into a minefield trailed by a pack of hounds and a maze of conflict, they know little about. It is a tragedy that our own, in blinded ignorance, short-sighted and narrow interests have worked feverishly to subvert national interests. These include all those who sponsored the NRO, the NRO sponsored politicians and their governments, pseudo liberals funded from overseas, majority of NGO’s operating with foreign funding with dubious connections; and most importantly militants waging a war against the state, sectarianism, beheading servicemen and permeating every sinew of the populace with impunity.

In my past articles I have deliberated on the wilfully faulty precepts of Pakistan’s political economy, consequently making it impossible to become self reliant with dignity. It needs no persuasion to conclude that poverty breeds crime and militancy. Plummeting socio-economic indices have helped worsen the situation.  In this chaos, the biggest gainers are the militants who sneak into society each day. Working on diverse perspectives, these elites, pseudo reformist and minimalists’ combine eat into the state like moths and maggots. As the space for good governance diminishes and compromises become endemic, crises will intensify. Wittingly or unwittingly, they all work for their own interests; the hunters, the hounds and the hare. Each is a hostage to a vested interest or captive to some Cassius Ambition within. This is the Pakistan of the past ten years and there seems no end in sight. As Clausewitz said, ‘in a state torn by insurrections, the centre of gravity lies in its capital’, in this case Punjab. Dissection of Punjab, the romantic notion of Pashtun & Baloch nationalism, the competing gangs in Karachi and barbaric militants are most likely to snowball this mushroom of internal instability.  This is Pakistan’s imminent internal threat.

  Pakistan: CATCH-22 OF DEFENCE SPENDING

The way this environment shapes coincides with the US intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan.  In all earnest this could be a token gesture as mixed signals emanating from Washington and gunboat diplomacy suggest otherwise. Nowhere do US statements indicate an end to hostilities and transition to peace. To ensure that this withdrawal takes place quickly, Pakistan has to rethink and reframe its Afghan Policy and create a pause to set its house in order. Despite being a tall order, any delay implies more problems.

If Pakistan can effectively exert its influence on Afghan Taliban in moderating attitudes and pliability to forge stability, the process would speed up. Benazir Bhutto’s accord of 1996 which the Taliban negotiated and the US rejected could provide the blue print. If all goes well, (though unlikely in the fog of conflict), US could shift to a primary objective of support missions by 2014 i.e. completing the first phase of its exit. However despite this relief, nothing would change for Pakistan because internal issues will continue to destabilise the state.

This means that despite bringing Taliban to the table, Pakistan will be left with no choice but to use an iron fist against its home grown centres of violence while aggressively addressing the internal causes of instability. This is a very tall and demanding order, beyond the capability of the present government and the timeframe of next elections.  This dilemma is the biggest challenge to Pakistan.

There is something very wicked in these timings. Events prove that as the time for new elections draws near and the present political dispensation plays its last waltz, the instability and anarchy will increase.  Will the upcoming elections be fair, civil and devoid of violence? What political rhetoric will be unleashed by competing parties? Will emotionalism and mutual hate eclipse sanity and wisdom? Will the party coming to power be capable to deliver on emotive electioneering slogans? Or what if in reaction to present rigours, a rightist anti US government comes to power?

  How the US Radicalized Conservatism

These issues are beyond the present Parliament to resolve. The powers of party heads conferred by constitutional amendments have ushered a worst form of party dictatorship. There are just no checks and balances. Interventions by judiciary like stamping a mouse whilst there is a tiger at the door, for the past five years have not improved the situation either. So where is the redemption if the interim government for elections is also constituted by these butchers?

Hasn’t Pakistan had enough of ‘democracy the best revenge’? It needs more than an election to undo the damage and get Pakistan back to the road of stability. Perhaps a government beyond a caretaker set up that stabilises the internal situation and ensures fair, free and non violent elections. It is time for Pakistan to ensure peace within.

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