What does 2012 hold for Pak­istan’s fu­ture?

Southasia - - Contents - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

The de­part­ing year has been quite event­ful for Pak­istan both do­mes­ti­cally and ex­ter­nally. From the very start, re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and United States be­gan to sour. In Jan­uary a CIA agent, Ray­mond Davis, mur­dered two Pak­ista­nis in cold blood and a US em­bassy ve­hi­cle ran over an­other two. He was let off af­ter pay­ing blood money to the be­reaved fam­ily, yet, be­fore the scars left by the in­ci­dent had healed, the clan­des­tine May 2 raid by US troops on Osama bin Laden’s hide­out in­flicted fur­ther wounds.

This time the cuts were deeper be­cause it hu­mil­i­ated Pak­istan and es­pe­cially its army be­fore the world. And fi­nally, while those wounds had yet to be salved, NATO he­li­copters at­tacked Pak­istan’s for­ward bor­der posts killing 24 troops, in­clud­ing two of­fi­cers on 26 Novem­ber. This proved to be the last straw on the camel’s back, so Pak­istan al­most screamed with an­guish and anger. As a re­sult, PAK-US re­la­tions have been strained to a point

just short of out­right rup­ture.

The in­ci­dent has ig­nited a wave of spon­ta­neous anger na­tion­wide. Nei­ther any re­li­gious par­ties nor the army is be­hind the wide­spread protests. Pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tures in KP and Balochis­tan have passed res­o­lu­tions con­demn­ing the at­tack while var­i­ous sec­tions of the civil so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing lawyers and busi­ness­men, have been hold­ing protest ral­lies.

Re­spond­ing to the at­tack, Pak­istan took back the Shamsi air base from US troops, blocked the tran­sit of NATO sup­plies to Afghanistan and re­called its li­ai­son of­fi­cials from NATO head­quar­ters in Kabul. In ad­di­tion, it placed heavy guns at the bor­der posts with or­ders to shoot down any in­trud­ing planes, in­clud­ing drones and de­clined to par­tic­i­pate in the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Afghanistan in Bonn and the Pen­tagon-spon­sored in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent.

The bit­ter­ness is not go­ing to end any time soon un­less Washington takes con­crete and vis­i­ble dam­age con­trol mea­sures. Though US De­fence Sec­re­tary, Leon Panetta, in his sud­den visit to Afghanistan told re­porters, “Ul­ti­mately we can’t win the war in Afghanistan with­out be­ing able to win in our re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan as well,” there ap­pears no in­di­ca­tion that such sen­ti­ments would be trans­lated into ac­tion in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

In fact US ar­ro­gance has fur­ther mud­died the wa­ters. Pak­istan had sim­ply asked for an apol­ogy. Just three words, “We are sorry” could have wrought the magic. This would have re­sus­ci­tated the sit­u­a­tion and ev­ery­thing would have been hunky-dory as be­fore. Flow of sup­plies to the ISAF troops in Afghanistan would have been re­sumed. Even drones could have con­tin­ued to take off from the Shamsi air base, on their for­ays into North and South Waziris­tan, as usu- al. Re­gret would have been the most log­i­cal act, es­pe­cially when US claims that the at­tack was not de­lib­er­ate.

Even Cameron Munter, US am­bas­sador in Pak­istan, ad­vised his gov­ern­ment to say “sorry,” but was over­ruled by Pres­i­dent Obama’s hau­teur. For Mr. Obama, the tragedy that took the lives of 24 in­no­cent peo­ple, be­long­ing to an “ally,” was not worth re­gret­ting.

As a re­sult, the era of ca­ma­raderie when Islamabad took de­ci­sions on vi­tal is­sues just on a tele­phone call from the White House has be­come his­tory. All ex­ist­ing ver­bal agree­ments and all new deals shall have to be spelt out in writ­ing as rec­om­mended by a con­fer­ence of Pak­istani envoys in Islamabad. This will also ap­ply to the ar­range­ment un­der which sup­plies for NATO are trans­ported through Pak­istan to Afghanistan. Un­til such agree­ment is signed, the block­ade that started from Novem­ber 27 will con­tinue.

There is no ques­tion that Pak­istan wants am­i­ca­ble re­la­tions with the United States. But af­ter what the coun­try has suf­fered at the hands of the US dur­ing this one year, there is a con­sen­sus on a “cur­tailed” or “re­stricted” re­sponse. Nor­mal re­la­tions would re­sume only af­ter the US gives writ­ten as­sur­ance to re­spect Pak­istan’s sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity.

Mean­while, chief of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Ma­rine Gen. John Allen told a news brief­ing in Kabul that he re­cently spoke on the phone with Pak­istan Army Chief Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani in which both expressed a com­mit­ment to work through the in­ci­dent. But in the ab­sence of any tan­gi­ble signs of a thaw, this is just empty rhetoric, par­tic­u­larly be­cause Pak­istan has al­ways co­op­er­ated with the US.

On the do­mes­tic stage, the peren­nial is­sue of what is called “civil-mil-

…af­ter what the coun­try has suf­fered at the hands of the US dur­ing this one year, there is a con­sen­sus on a “cur­tailed” or “re­stricted” re­sponse.

itary di­vide,” seems to have taken a back seat. No doubt re­la­tions be­tween the civil gov­ern­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Zar­dari and the mil­i­tary have not been ideal, but an­a­lysts note with sat­is­fac­tion that the army has por­trayed no sign of usurp­ing power.

The gov­ern­ment re­mains weak be­cause the rulers re­main more con­cerned with pro­tect­ing their flanks than with the wel­fare of the masses. Cor­rup­tion has be­come the rule than an ex­cep­tion. At the same time, Pres­i­dent Zar­dari’s ca­pa­bil­ity to dis­charge his func­tions prop­erly, af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke, has be­come ques­tion­able. As these lines are writ­ten, he re­mains in Dubai un­der med­i­cal treat­ment.

On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif has “in­vaded” Sindh. He held a public meet­ing at Larkana, the PPP’S heart­land. De­ter­mined to launch an all-out drive against the PPP gov­ern­ment, he has di­rected the leader of the op­po­si­tion, Chaudhry Nisar to start ne­go­ti­a­tions with Awami Na­tional Party chief, As­fand­yar Wali Khan, JUI-F chief, Maulana Fa­zlur Rehman and law­mak­ers from the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas to sup­port the PML-N with their “no-con­fi­dence” move­ment. He has also de­cided to ap-

proach mem­bers of the PML-Q as well as dis­si­dents of other po­lit­i­cal par­ties, lur­ing them with the prospect of party tick­ets at the next elec­tions.

Im­ran Khan’s po­lit­i­cal party is also gain­ing strength by the day. Im­por­tant ad­di­tions to his party re­cently have been for­eign min­is­ter, Shah Mah­mood Qureshi, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and Shafqat Mah­mood. His next public meet­ing is sched­uled for 23 March in Quetta.

Not­ing the pull Im­ran Khan ex­er­cises on the youth, PPP and PML (N) have also launched their young ones in the po­lit­i­cal arena. The PPP al­ready has Bi­lawal Zar­dari as its party chair­man and Nawaz Sharif has re­cently in­tro­duced his daugh­ter Maryam.

Mean­while, the Supreme Court dis­missed gov­ern­ment’s plea for re­view of its De­cem­ber 2010 decision an­nulling the NRO ab ini­tio. It has now called for a re­port from the pres­i­dent, the prime min­is­ter, the gov­er­nors of the four prov­inces and the NAB, on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of its ver­dict. Any dither­ing by the gov­ern­ment would bring it into di­rect con­flict with the Supreme Court.

In such an even­tu­al­ity, de­ter­mined as the Supreme Court is to see its or­ders ex­e­cuted, it would be obliged to call the army for as­sis­tance, which, the lat­ter is con­sti­tu­tion­ally bound to ex­tend. Though this would mean impo- sition of mil­i­tary rule, the gov­ern­ment would have to re­sign. A care­taker gov­ern­ment would then be in­stalled to hold gen­eral elec­tions. Hope­fully, the gov­ern­ment will have the vi­sion to avert the cri­sis.

This is the gloom un­der which the year 2012 will start for Pak­istan. For the coun­try this is the mo­ment of truth. The odds look in­sur­mount­able. But the day can still be won with cool heads that put a pre­mium on rea­son ver­sus emo­tion; in short, with “Unity, Faith and Dis­ci­pline.”





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