A prominent front page news from Pakistan on October 6, seems to suggest that Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has asked the military to stop sheltering terrorists. “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military,” the report said implying that this move by Sharif would be a step in easing tension with India. Reports have also said that Sharif wants the Army to stop supporting terrorists because it has led to Pakistan’s isolation. The Sharif office has since denied the report and ordered an inquiry into how the sedate Dawn broke the ‘news’ in the first place.
Anyone who has observed Pak affairs would dismiss these reports as a joke – both the breaking exclusive and the probe into how the exclusive appeared. A Pakistani Prime Minister ‘ordering’ the army! A Prime Minister who had to consult the Army Chief from his New York perch on what he had to mention in his address to the UN General Assembly, and allowed this nugget to be flashed on the front pages of all dailies to go down in history as the GHQ voice on Kashmir! Given the mood in the land of the pure it is hard to believe that there is a genuine desire or effort to do something that rescues the plummeting relations with India, ‘the land of Kafirs’.
The Sharif denial took four days to come. Some officials attached to his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief honcho of home turf, Punjab, made denial noises but these were no more than half-hearted attempts for the record, and did not dent the credibility of the Dawn reporter. Yet, what made the dispatch look like a flight of fancy is the fact that in Pakistan a civilian leader is simply in no position to order, ask or tell the military to do something related to India.
It is the men in Khaki who have always decided Pakistan’s India policy, as publicly acknowledged by the Pakistan’s envoy in Delhi in the interviews he gave to the Indian media smoking the peace pipe. That situation is not going to change as long as the Pakistani civilian and military establishment and the Islamist clergy live with their paranoia about India.
A common theme in Indian media on Pakistan has been that Sharif may have begun his innings as the Prime Minister by talking of improving relations with Delhi but he has completely surrendered to the other Sharif, the Army Chief Raheel Sharif, who is a die-hard India hater because his uncle and brother were killed in wars with India. The anti-India rant from the Sharif in uniform has been increasingly loudly.
The Pak Prime Minister has no choice but to accept the supremacy of his Army after he found himself in deep trouble over his family’s alleged dubious business dealings overseas. Opposition parties have been asking for his removal. Strikes and agitations to press that demand have been frequent. Former cricketer playboy turned politician, Imran Khan, who heads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, (PTI), Imran Khan has been serving him ‘ultimatums’ to voluntarily quit or face more intense agitations.
It has been widely suspected that Imran is an Army proxy, like Nawaz Sharif was during the Gen Zia regime. The Army has been backing many other Opposition leaders also, particularly Pakistan Awami Tehreek, (PAT), leader Dr. Tahirul Qadri. The army’s hand is also suspected to be behind the strikes and agitations against the Prime Minister that have been a regular feature for about two years.
After India’s surgical strike inside PoK, chances of the present Army Chief getting an extension after his term ends in November are believed to have increased. That has to be seen but there is no doubt that Raheel Sharif has emerged as the most favourite Army Chief in the history of Pakistan. His popularity rests on the Army’s ‘success’ in restoring law and order in Karachi, the country’s commercial capital, operations against Waziristan based terrorists who attacked targets from Peshawar to Quetta, and his unmitigated hawkish stance against India.
The axis of the Kashmir policy of Pakistan is uninterrupted support to terrorists and militants in Kashmir whose chief patron is the Pakistan army and its intelligence wing, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) that was conceptualized by a British expert during Ayub Khan regime. Withdrawing support to India-centered terror is unthinkable for the GHQ Shura. Kashmir is also an obsession of most Pakistani civilians, including those who claim to support friendly ties with India. For them Kashmir was and is jugular vein of Pakistan.
Pakistan has mounted a world-wide high voltage propaganda war against India. It cannot be withdrawn all of a sudden without further denting the image of the civilian government and weakening the position of the prime minister.
The Pakistanis, many of them nameless lawmakers representing Prime Minister Sharif’s party being sent out to different corners of the world are tasked to salvage the country’s poor image and end its isolation. These special emissaries will find their job easier if Pakistan is rid of the long-sticking terror tag. But that will be possible only if the results on the ground are visible, which is to say that the huge terror network inside Pakistan that is directed at India and Afghanistan is dismantled and the two neighbours testify to that.
But if Pakistan winds up its terror factories it will lose its most potent weapon against India, and to an extent against Afghanistan. It will raise the bogey of India gobbling up Pakistan with its military might. In all the three or four wars that Pakistan waged against India, it failed to achieve its objective of defeating the Indian army, and has settled to inflicting thousands of cuts to bleed India.
The rest of the world may keep its distance from Pakistan but China will steadfastly stand by Pakistan because the two countries share their antipathy towards India. The United States, despite all the setbacks it has received in dealing with Pakistan, has its own geo-political reasons and is not going to step beyond a point in isolating Pakistan.
With China deciding to become a full-time mender and round-the-clock protector, Pakistan says it does not have to suck up to the Americans the way it used to till recently. That is, of course, pure bluff and bluster but Pakistan can get away with it as long as it manages to keep the fires going in Afghanistan.
Pakistan uses its nuclear stockpile (growing at the fastest pace in the world) to blackmail the world, particularly the United States. Pakistan has started telling the US—and the world—that if it is abandoned or isolated it would not be able to tame its terrorists, the protégés of the Pakistan army. Pakistan has also realised that it can continue to depend on doles from the rich Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia.
In short, there is no incentive for Pakistan – its Generals and Mullahs with civilian leaders in tow, to give up its love for exporting terror. (Syndicate Features)