WILL PAK­ISTAN CHANGE? : A VIEW­POINT

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE -

If Sharif has the power and wants to truly have good re­la­tions with In­dia, he should make the ISI an­swer­able to the Pak­istani Par­lia­ment, con­trol his mil­i­tary and dis­man­tle the anti-In­dia ter­ror­ist in­fra­struc­ture in Pak­istan

There is con­sid­er­able eu­pho­ria over Nawaz Sharif hav­ing topped re­cent elec­tions in Pak­istan, him stat­ing that Kargil and 26/11 will not be re­peated and invit­ing In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Dr Man­mo­han Singh to visit Pak­istan. It would be pru­dent to view de­vel­op­ments and ground re­al­i­ties in Pak­istan prag­mat­i­cally rather than be car­ried away by utopian eu­pho­ria that ev­ery­thing will sud­denly turn hunky-dory.

Nawaz Sharif heads a po­lit­i­cal party which is sans strong pres­ence in prov­inces other than Pun­jab. More­over, he will have to tread with cau­tion in deal­ing with his mil­i­tary con­sid­er­ing his past ex­pe­ri­ence. His big­gest hand­i­cap will be that the Pak­istan’s prime in­tel­li­gence agency, ISI is 100 per cent an­swer­able to the mil­i­tary and not to the po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity. There is no change to the sit­u­a­tion from Sharif shak­ing hands with Prime Min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee at La­hore and Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf or­gan­is­ing mass in­tru­sions in Kargil.

It should be re­mem­bered that Asif Ali Zar­dari on be­com­ing Pres­i­dent had or­dered the ISI to be brought un­der the Min­istry of In­te­rior but the mil­i­tary made him eat his words within 24 hours. There is no change in the ground sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan and the army chief can keep Nawaz Sharif in the dark. Sharif may say that he has the au­thor­ity to ap­point the next army chief, of which there is no doubt. But it is also cer­tain that he will go by se­nior­ity to avoid any show­down.

Pre­lim­i­nary re­port by the team in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mushar­raf stat­ing he can­not be tried un­der the An­tiTer­ror­ism Act Sharif may also be un­able to take any worth­while ac­tion against Mushar­raf in or­der to not an­noy the mil­i­tary. The fact that Sharif ‘had’ some in­for­ma­tion if not all about Kargil in­tru­sions can­not be ig­nored as Prime Min­is­ter. The ques­tion now is why should the Pak­istani mil­i­tary con­tinue to fish in trou­bled wa­ters in In­dia?

Pak­istan mil­i­tary’s pri­vate busi­ness-cor­po­ratein­dus­trial com­plex was pegged at $20.7 bil­lion way back in 2007. That is the rea­son they need ten­sions with neigh­bours least they be asked to re­turn to bar­racks and lose all that power over Pak­istan and more im­por­tantly the moolah. The rel­e­vance of the Pak­istani army chief may be gauged from the fact that when the US wants to dis­cuss Afghanistan bi­lat­er­ally or mul­ti­lat­er­ally, Gen­eral Pervez Kayani is called and not the Pres­i­dent or Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan. There is no doubt that the mil­i­tary is real­is­ing the eco­nomic abyss that Pak­istan is go­ing into that ne­ces­si­tates bet­ter eco­nomic ties with In­dia. That is the rea­son he was harp­ing on the need to bet­ter re­la­tions but si­mul­ta­ne­ously en­gi­neer­ing withdrawal from Si­achen per­haps on China’s be­hest.

In­dia should tread cau­tiously and im­prove eco­nomic ties with­out re­course to any withdrawal from Si­achen or any ter­ri­to­rial con­ces­sions for that mat­ter. Re­cent state­ment by the US Ambassador to Pak­istan that the mil­i­tary is no more think­ing of strate­gic depth in Afghanistan also should be taken with a pinch of salt with at least south and east Afghanistan post-2014 go­ing un­der the Tal­iban in­flu­ence, au­to­mat­i­cally grant­ing Pak­istan strate­gic depth.

Robert Ka­plan writes in his book The Re­venge of Ge­og­ra­phy, “An Afghanistan that falls to Tal­iban sway threat­ens to cre­ate a suc­ces­sion of rad­i­calised Is­lamic so­ci­eties from the In­dian-Pak­istani bor­der to Cen­tral Asia… giv­ing Pak­istan’s ISI the abil­ity to cre­ate a clan­des­tine em­pire com­posed of the likes of Jal­lalud­din Haqqani, Gul­bud­din Hek­met­yar, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba—able to con­front In­dia in the man­ner that Hezbol­lah and Ha­mas con­front Is­rael”.

If Sharif has the power and wants to truly have good re­la­tions with In­dia, he should make the ISI an­swer­able to the Pak­istani Par­lia­ment, con­trol his mil­i­tary and dis­man­tle the anti-In­dia ter­ror­ist in­fra­struc­ture in Pak­istan. He could sig­nal his sin­cer­ity by re­leas­ing all In­dian mil­i­tary pris­on­ers in­clud­ing those dumped in for­eign pris­ons con­sid­er­ing that In­dia re­turned 93,000 Pak­istan pris­on­ers post-1971 War and con­sid­er­ing they were looked af­ter so well. The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the author.

LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) P.C. KA­TOCH

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