Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 13:55:01

Pakistan: The cancer of South Asian stability

By LT. GEN.(RETD) P.C. Katoch
Updated: February 12, 2020 11:21 am

After looting $45 trillion from India over a century plus rule, the depraved British partitioned India giving Cyril Radcliffe five weeks to draw the borders with newly created Pakistan. Visiting India first time and perhaps never seen any map, Radcliffe chaired two boundary commissions (one for Punjab and one for Bengal) each consisting of two Muslims and two non-Muslims. The boundary award was announced on August 17, 1947 and Radcliffe vamoosed to England next day. The bloody Radcliffe Line killed one million plus people and displaced 12 million.

But Britain’s debauchery went far beyond through conspiring Pakistani invasion of J&K through Mountbatten, Lockhart and Douglas Gracey, keeping Nehru in dark and Jinnah in picture, to give Pakistani army a foothold in J&K, making Pakistan party to the dispute when India approached the UN on behest of Mountbatten. Clement Attlee was Prime Minister of Britain but Churchill (who hated Indians) still in the advisory loop  instructed  Douglas Gracey, C-in-C Pakistan army to let India-Pakistan fight but “keep a piece of India”; giving Pakistan a border with China it never had.

Pakistani invasion by so-called Razakars had mix of Pakistani regulars – all armed by Pakistan army. British officers in Pakistan army guided Pakistani infiltrators into Shyok and Nubra Valleys of Ladakh but the Nubra Guards of Ladakhis fought and made them retreat. Gracey organized the massacre and fall of Skardu Garrison, which was holding on for eight months under Lt Col Sher Jung Thapa. Fall of Skardu threatened Kargil and Leh, for which Indian Army had to mount attacks, including securing Zoji La. Even the Ceasefire Line (CFL) marked during 1949 Karachi Agreement was on a quarter inch map with a thick sketch pen and went east only till NJ 9842, beyond which it mentioned “thence North to the Glaciers”.

From the time that the sun never set on the British Empire, much has changed but not British debauchery. US historian William Blum indicates Britain has become America’s poodle as latter goes about regimes change, bombing countries, interfering in elections, using chemical and biological weapons and attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. But Britain and even Canada are home to Muslim radical organizations and Khalistani separatists in synch with Pakistan’s ISI. BBC, wholly controlled by the British Foreign Office, continues with its Pakistan bias. Now that Boris Johnson rejoicing over BREXIT looks for new trade deals, India must link any trade deal with Britain clamping down on anti-India forces.

From day one Pakistan used sub-conventional warfare against India. The proxy war was heightened to save face from the ignominy of the Pakistan army not having won a single war including the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 resulting in capture of 93,000 Pakistani POWs by India – the biggest surrender after the World Wars. In the 72-year history of the country, the military has ruled it either directly or indirectly. Zia ul-Haq gave an extreme radical dimension to Pakistan.   Zia-Ul-Haq wrote in the book ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ (authored by Brigadier SK Malik in 1979) focusing on the concept of jihad within Islam and explained it (jihad) is not simply the domain of the military but of all Pakistani population. Most significantly, it justifies terrorism. Wahabi Sunni-radicalization was ushered in that went about killing Shia and Ahmediyya Muslims as well.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman admitted in March 2018 that Saudi-funded spread of Wahabism began as a result of Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urging Riyadh to invest in mosques and madrassas abroad to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union. He also added that successive Saudi governments had lost track of that effort, and that funding now comes mostly from Saudi based “foundations,” rather than from the government. The Pakistani army embraced Saudi-funded Wahabism even though Saudi Arabia considers Pakistanis inferior Muslims. In July 2018, Pakistani journalist Tanveer Arain posted a tweet from the Saudi Defence Minister referring to Pakistan as a slave country and saying it will continue to remain a slave country forever. Radicalization of Pakistan became the passion of the Pakistani army. While some 32,000 plus madrassas were churning out some 1,00,000 radicals annually, the campaign went beyond madrassas to schools, colleges and universities.

In 2008, Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad wrote, “The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s schools, colleges and universities has had a profound effect on young people. Militant jihad has become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, with armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The immediate future of Pakistan looks grim, as increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control over the minds of their worshippers. It may yet be possible to roll back the Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years, and defeat the ‘holy’ warriors. However, this can only happen if Pakistan’s elected leaders acquire the trust of the citizens. To do this, political parties, government officials and, yes, even generals will have to embrace democracy, in both word and deed.”

Hoodbhoy’s hope of Pakistani generals embracing democracy in both word and deed was a case of extreme utopia. The reverse has been happening as a planned strategy by the Pakistan army, with the so called elected government playing subservient, the latest edition being Prime Minister Imran Khan who has been playing obedient poodle to army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Recent award of death sentence by a special court to former Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf finding him guilty of high treason under article 6 of the constitution (for suspending the constitution when he imposed a state of emergency in November 2007) has been effectively overturned. Rules have been tweaked to award an extension to Qamar Javed Bajwa. Imran Khan would have probably found his neck on the chopping block had he not acquiesced to Bajwa’s extension.

The sub-conventional has gained prominence in the continuum of war with increased lethality of weapon systems and transparency in battlefield. Costs in conflict having become prohibitive including in terms of lives, has led to reduction in ‘boots on ground’. Pakistan’s ISI, the other face of the Pakistani army, is linked to some 40 regional and international terrorist organizations and its proxies are available to global powers including China and the US. This is the very reason that out of the 10 top intelligence agencies in the world, the ISI occupies the number one slot. Both the US and China had helped Pakistan raise the Mujahedeen fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistani proxies helped the US against the Syrian regime and Pakistan has helped Saudi Arabia by providing regulars in covert role for operations in Yemen.

Above is the reason why Pakistan has been able to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare. It is extending full support to Taliban and Haqqani Network but had also helped the US in coalescing elements of both Afghan and Pakistan Taliban in forming an ISIS brigade level force in Peshawar and pushing them into Nangarhar region of Afghanistan before some of the original ISIS cadres from Iraq-Syria commenced relocating to Afghanistan. Similarly, the ISI helped the Taliban in investing Kunduz twice to increases the pressure on the Afghanistan- Tajikistan border, forcing Russia forces to boost their presence in Tajikistan.

To retain its hold on Pakistan and the power and money it derives from this, the Pakistani army must have continued conflict with India and Afghanistan. To expect this to change would be foolhardy. The Pakistani army nurtures a pathological hatred against India, which is not going to change. That is why  Musharraf boasted, “Osama-bin-Laden, Ayman-al-Zawahiri, Haqqanis are our heroes ….. We trained the LeT against India.”  Why Pakistan is waiting for the US to exit Afghanistan is best described by Robert H Kaplan in his book ‘The Revenge of Geography’ wherein he wrote, “An Afghanistan that falls to Taliban sway threatens to create a succession of radicalized Islamic societies from the Indian-Pakistani border to Central Asia. This would, in effect, a greater Pakistan, giving Pakistan’s ISI the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba : able to confront India in the manner that Hezbollah and Hamas confront Israel”.

The China-Pakistan anti-India nexus is well established. The CPEC is China’s strategic highway to the Indian Ocean and PLA presence in POK and Pakistan furthers its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Region. The nexus is also helping China draw India’s neighbours into its strategic sphere in an effort to wean them away from India. The leader of the Arakan Rohingya Salavation Army (ARSA) in Myanmar is a Pakistani national. The ISI is consolidating in Nepal and ISI links with the Al Qaeda in Asia (AQIS) help its aim to destabilize India. The abrogation of Article 370 by India and formation of Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh has tightened the China-Pakistan embrace.

The US appears to be softening its stance on Pakistan, eccentricity of US President Donald Trump notwithstanding. There is speculation that Pakistan may even get off the FATF grey list this month. The US is naïve in thinking Pakistan would help bring Taliban into the reconciliation process but needs Pakistan’s support till US troops are in Afghanistan albeit US exit from Afghanistan will be a geostrategic loss of face for the US. “The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan. This will be the time when the Russians, Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred…”, wrote former Pakistani army officer Agha H Amin. According to a senior fellow of Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, “Most important are our own interests: we are willing to let Pakistan (and even Iran) establish spheres of influence in Afghanistan because at the end of the day, we really don’t care   how Afghans govern themselves”.

Pakistan’s economy is in doldrums but none of the global powers will let it sink. India has rightfully linked any talks with Pakistan with cessation of Pakistani terrorism but there is little hope of the Pakistani army giving up waging proxy war against India. It requires little effort to keep insurgencies alive and India’s chaotic democracy, host of banned and not-banned organizations (like Popular Front of India), plus opposition parties and saleable lawmakers provide a wide asymmetric battlefield.  Cessation of hostilities against India and Afghanistan would imply that the Pakistani army is asked to return to the barracks, which is not going to happen. In between a googly like the Kartarpur Corridor is dealt but then the  Maharaja Ranjit Singh statue was defaced in Lahore Fort and a young Hindu bride recently abducted from her wedding ceremony, forcibly converted to Muslim and married off to a radical.

India fails to acknowledge that conventional war is not a solution to terrorism. That is why organizations like the ISIS and Al Qaeda are continuing to exist and flourish. Ironically the US has put the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) on the ‘terrorist’ list and killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Commander of Quds Force who was for Baloch independence against the China-assisted Pakistani army genocide in Balochistan. For India, an occasional physical strike across the border is not going to work, which anyway are mostly reaction to a terrorist act by Pakistan. There has also been speculation about placing a division-sized force in Afghanistan, which is dim-witted considering maintenance corridor such a force would need and the US experience in the prevailing situation with Pakistani proxies and regulars in covert mode operating in Afghanistan.

The answer lies in India opening a dual sub-conventional front against Pakistan in close conjunction Afghanistan – taking advantage of Pakistan’s geographical   sandwiching between the two countries. Pakistan has too many fault lines and the Punjabi domination at the national level is even being challenged by the Pashtuns. There is mounting dissent in Balochistan, Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA. A second bifurcation/trifurcation of Pakistan alone can bring stability to South Asia. Afghanistan has indicated readiness for this in the past but there has been little will from the India side; only political rhetoric that Pakistan can be brought down on its knees in 10-15 days. The only way out is to transport the sub-conventional war from our territory to that of Pakistan.

In present day warfare, the ‘alternative force’ has become irregular forces, which are being used increasingly in conjunction Special Forces to promote own national interests by countries big and small. India needs to follow the ISI example. R&AW must operate in conjunction Special Forces and not view this as loss of turf. India must emulate the Chinese strategy of operating simultaneously at multiple levels through ‘deep coalitions’. Once such a proactive sub-conventional plan in conjunction Afghanistan is put in motion on continuous basis, the results would be dramatic though not instantaneous. Hoping that US troops would remain in Afghanistan and US would restrain Pakistan is naïve. If we cannot fight our own wars, we should not expect others to do so for us.



By LT. GEN.(RETD) P.C. Katoch

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