By Jai Kumar Verma*
Recently an article of Cyril Almeida published in Pakistan’s reputed English daily Dawn has exposed the bitterness between the political leadership and the army. Almeida, a fearless journalist, a rare commodity in Pakistan, wrote in the article that the civilian government has warned that Pakistan is being isolated in the world arena because of its position on terrorism. The article also revealed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, a younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, pointed out that whenever security agencies took actions against the terror groups or its leaders, security agencies (meaning Inter Services Intelligence-ISI) protected the terrorists. It was also reported that hot words were exchanged between ISI chief and Punjab Chief Minister.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry reportedly revealed at the meeting (October 4) that several countries clearly have told Pakistan that action should be taken against Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and terrorist outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqqani network and investigation about the attack on Pathankot Airbase must be completed. China also reportedly suggested to its “all-weather friend” that it should change its policies towards terrorism.
The Pakistan army, which claims itself as the savior of the country, directly ruled the nation for more than 33 years, with the remaining years witnessing a façade of democratic government but the Chief of Army Staff remained the most powerful individual in the state and the army remained the de-facto ruler. The dominant political leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were killed while Nawaz Sharif in his first tenure was overthrown and evicted from the country.
General Raheel Sharif was selected as Chief of Army Staff by Nawaz Sharif and although he has not overthrown him so far but snatched all the powers pertaining to foreign policy towards important countries like India, Afghanistan, United States and also grabbed vital security related matters.
The Pakistani army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in North Waziristan in opposition to the wishes of Nawaz government, which came in power by promising negotiations with the terrorists. The army killed only ‘bad terrorists’ while ‘good terrorists’ were protected hence the image of the country in the world was not improved. Nonetheless as bad terrorists were carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan, the army achieved public support.
The military-controlled ISI has launched a low-intensity war against India as well as pursuing the policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan hence it wanted to eliminate ‘bad terrorists’ while ‘good terrorists’ were protected. The rogue ISI perpetually sends terrorists in India especially in Jammu & Kashmir.
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Haqqani network as well as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar have close relationship with ISI and are considered ‘good terrorists’. LeT and JeM target India while Haqqani network is attacking Afghan and US forces in Afghanistan.
In all the terrorist activities in the world, either Pakistanis were involved or the terrorists had links with Pakistan. Large number of terrorist camps are either directly run by the army or by the terrorist outfits controlled by ISI.
The postponement of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, scheduled to be held in Pakistan in November, was a big blow to the prestige of the country.
Pakistan sent 22 Members of Parliament to different world capitals to turn world opinion in favour of Pakistani policy towards Kashmir. However the response of world leaders was not only lukewarm but in a few capitals it was negative if not altogether hostile.
the civilian government also reportedly mentioned that no country criticised the Indian pre-emptive covert counter terrorism “surgical strike” inside Pakistan-occoupied Kashmir (PoK) in which Indian forces destroyed launch pads and killed Pakistani terrorists and soldiers. Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the US State Department openly supported the Indian action.
Pakistan was always getting support from Muslim countries nonetheless this time Muslim countries have also not issued any statement in favour of Pakistan. In fact Saudi Arabia conferred its highest civilian award ‘King Salman bin Abdulaziz’ to Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will be the chief guest in Republic Day Parade in 2017.
Overtly the civilian government blamed terrorist organizations for the isolation of the country but in fact it reprimanded the army.
The present army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, is retiring in November 2016 and civilian government would select his successor. It is the only time when civilian government in Pakistan has influence on the army. The analysts mention that Nawaz government utilized this opportunity and pressurized army controlled ISI to abandon assisting terrorist groups as it is isolating the country. The analysts also mention that the civilian government purposely leaked the proceedings of the sensitive meeting to pressurize the army.
Pakistani army tried to project Indian surgical strike as a routine cross border firing while Prime Minister mentioned it as “unprovoked and naked aggression”. Both sides made calculated moves, civilian government utilized surgical strike to downgrade the image of army especially of Raheel Sharif as Pakistani army is in no position to resort to surgical strike as India has no terrorist camps and it cannot attack normal installations.
Rana Muhammad Afzal, a MP of the ruling party, made the most devastating attack on terrorists especially Hafiz Saeed when he stated “which egg is Hafiz Saeed laying for us that we are nurturing him” in an interview to foreign media.
Pakistan sponsored terrorist outfits can carry out some big terrorist activity in India especially in Kashmir as a revenge of surgical strike hence the civilian government wants to control terrorist outfits also.
Pakistan has enhanced terrorist attacks and there were eight terrorist attacks in last three weeks and the terrorists snatched more than 30 weapons from Indian security forces in J&K. Pakistani army which launched a proxy war against India would not abandon it easily.
The report was published in English newspapers while the masses in the country read Urdu newspapers, and vernacular press has not covered the reports about the rising differences between army and civil government hence the reputation of the army has not suffered.
There is tension between civil and military and Nawaz Sharif wants to have upper hand at this juncture. The analysts claim that Nawaz may announce name of next army chief soon to cultivate a supporter in the army.
The tenure of Gen Raheel Sharif is up to November and he has an image of a hardliner and an India baiter. The recent Indian “surgical strike” was a big jolt to his image and he will like to avenge it before relinquishing the post of Chief of army staff. According to reports Gen Raheel Sharif called a meeting of Corps Commanders on October 14 in which it was decided that the proceedings of the secret meeting between civil and ISI officers of October 4 were leaked from the Prime Minister’s office and hence the PM office must reveal the name of the person who disclosed the secrets so that stringent action can be taken against the culprit.
The chances that Pakistani army succeeds in taking revenge (against India) are remote; hence it may be possible that Gen Raheel Sharif compels Nawaz to give him extension and in case he refuses to give extension, Pakistan may witness one more coup.
*Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent on: [email protected]