Pakistan At War With Itself
In the coming years, Islamabad will remain pre-occupied with internal strife without respite due to multiple contradictions arising out of the use of terrorism primarily against New Delhi as a tool of foreign policy.
The conflict between the Pakistan Army and the elected government will intensify. Contradiction between the Supreme Court and the Civil Government will be aggravated. This will result in increased resentment in Sind against Punjab dominated Islamabad. The Pakistan Army is over-stretched, stands degraded and despite the ongoing genocide unleashed, is unable to control Baluchistan.
The largest state, Baluchistan is moving towards independence, slowly but surely.
At the time of its creation in 1947, in an Islamic majority population of 76 million in Pakistan, the minority groups constituted approximately 13 percent. In its unholy fervour to achieve the elusive Islamic ‘purity’, the minorities were reduced to 2.5 percent even as the country’s population soared to 176 million by the year 2010. After cleansing the population of other religious groups, the dominant faction of the Punjabi Sunni Pakistan is waging war against all the other Islamic sub-groups in the continued search of the elusive Islamic ‘purity’.
There is growing resentment against the Punjabi Sunni Muslim (sixty percent of the total population), which outnumbers and dominates the other sub-nationalities such as Pashtuns (13.5 per cent), Sindhi (14 per cent), Baloch (4.5 per cent), Muhajir (8 per cent). The Shias that constitute twenty percent of the population face sectarian violence unleashed by Sunnis. There are several other sub-groups within the larger groups with differing philosophies and a school of thought, only serve to accentuate the dichotomies and divergence.
The Pakistan Army primarily consists of the Punjabi Sunni Muslim. Similarly, the Irregular Forces or the “Jihad Factory” nurtured by the ISI as strategic assets to the regular army also boast of dominance by the Punjabi Sunni Muslim. The recruiting ground being mostly Punjab, it is normal for one brother to join the army and the other the jihad factory due to lack of employment opportunities.
This ethnic commonality between the Army and the Irregular Forces has created an institution strong enough to impose its will forcibly on all diverse ethnic groups and the state institutions.
Democratic voices are forcibly being silenced jointly by the ISI and the militant groups in Pakistan. Many journalists and intellectuals are now seeking foreign fellowships so that they may exit Pakistan.
The recent Memogate Scandal possibly is an excellent illustration of the dirty tricks played by the ISI. As Pakistan is a non-NATO ally of United States, the Ambassador of Pakistan therefore is a very important player for Washington. He has full access to the top echelons both in the State Department and in the Pentagon. This equation has been strengthened on account of the ongoing operations in Afghanistan for mutual benefits being conducted by the USA and Pakistan.
Therefore Ijaz Mansoor’s allegations against the former Ambassador Haqqani is illogical. Why would Haqqani go through another player of dubious character for such a sensitive matter as seeking intervention by Washington against the Pakistan Army in Islamabad, when he had direct access to the powers in Washington? In any case such sensitive matters are conveyed verbally and not in writing.
It is obvious that the dirty tricks department of the ISI on behalf of the Pakistan Army has planted this document through Ijaz Mansoor since they are desperate to engineer the removal of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani from their positions without resorting to a military coup.
Also, if one analyses the activities and utterances by Imran Khan and the huge turnout at his rallies with the help of the Irregular forces, Musharraf’s plan to return to Pakistan by the end of January to participate in the elections, it becomes evident that the ISI and the Pakistan Army are engaged in an effort to ensure early elections and that individuals supported by them take over as the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Who will be more convenient than Imran Khan as the Prime Minister and Musharraf as the President? In case Haqqani was guilty, he would not have returned to Islamabad, as he could be imprisoned. Incidentally, the Pakistan Army does not like Haqqani but the Americans certainly do.
In the unfolding drama of Memogate, it appears Generals Kayani, Shuza Pasha and Musharraf along with the Pakistan Army, ISI and Imran Khan are on the same page.
To keep its relevance, the Pakistan Army created an enemy in India and imposed on it four wars which it lost including a chunk of the country in the bargain. The only wars the Pakistan Army could win occasionally was against its own people, namely the diverse ethnic groups in Sind and Baluchistan. However, while such internal victories were possible in the past, it is unlikely to be so in the future as different Lashkars pitched against the Army and Islamabad are highly motivated and better equipped. Earlier, focus by creation of an external enemy in India ensured the unity of diverse groups under the umbrella of Pakistan; but this adhesive is not strong enough and does not work anymore.
With Zardari and Gilani unfazed, Nawaz and Imran against military coup, the Pakistan Army’s days of being a state within a state are numbered. Its primacy is under threat by the civil society and the diverse ethnic groups. However, in the coming years, the struggle between the military and the different groups of Lashkars and independent power centres will witness unprecedented anarchy and bloodshed, as traditionally, internal dissensions are normally resolved with the help of the sword.
These multiple contradictions within will keep the Pakistan Army deeply engaged with the different warring groups in an effort to ensure the unity of Pakistan.
If the Pakistan Army successfully manages to divert attention from internal problems and joins hands with China against India, then we face a formidable threat on two fronts. China already treats Pakistan as one of its provinces! Also if the Taliban are able to take control of Afghanistan with help from the Pakistan Army, an Islamic Emirate will emerge in our neighborhood that will be dangerous for our multi-cultural and multi-party democracy and Central Asia.
The only way out of the mess for Pakistan is to emulate India’s federal structure with fair amount of autonomy to the sub-nationalities and ensure that the Pakistan Army is brought under the constitution of the country, instead of it acting as an independent state.
In all likelihood, Pakistan will splinter in the coming years with most of the sub-states becoming independent of Pakistan Punjab. In the following fifteen years, this is likely to lead to re-stitching of the Indian sub-continent, something similar to the European Union.
In order to benefit from the fallout, India should remove the huge governance deficit that encourages rebellion within by its citizens (and in turn is exploited by the external players) as well as rapidly modernise the Indian Armed Forces that are capable of defending not only the borders but also safeguarding the growing strategic interests in the region and beyond.
By Bharat Verma
(The author is Editor, Indian Defence Review)