Not for Rent

Southasia - - COMMENT - Syed Jawaid Iqbal

What was re­ally be­hind all those sto­ries that a large con­tin­gent of Pak­istani soldiers may be sent to Syria? Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts ini­tially talked of a few di­vi­sions of the Pak­istan Army be­ing sent to the Mid­dle East­ern coun­try cur­rently caught in a civil war that does not seem to be end­ing soon. Then the fig­ure bal­looned to 100,000 troops. It was sur­mised that since Pak­istan had been gen­er­ous enough to send its soldiers to the Mid­dle East on so many oc­ca­sions be­fore, it would do so again. In­stances quoted in this con­nec­tion was the flush­ing out of Ira­nian rebels from the Khana-e-Kaaba by Pak­istani com­man­dos back in the 80s, Pak­istani pi­lots fly­ing on be­half of the Pales­tini­ans and down­ing Is­raeli air­craft, or Bahrain re­cruit­ing troops from Pak­istan in 2011 to stamp out a re­bel­lion. Per­haps what boosted the ru­mours was the fact that Pak­istan has a large pro­fes­sional army and has been one of the largest con­trib­u­tors to UN Peace Keep­ing forces around the world. Then there was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince, Sal­man bin Ab­dul Aziz’s to Pak­istan, in the wake of which, Saudi Ara­bia made a ‘gift’ of about $1.5 bil­lion to Pak­istan. The visit of Bahrain’s King, Ha­mad bin Isa bin Sal­man al Khal­ifa and ear­lier that of the Kuwaiti prime min­is­ter, also drove the ru­mor mills to work over­time. While it was thought that the visit by the Bahraini King was ba­si­cally aimed at up­grad­ing trade and in­vest­ment links be­tween Pak­istan and Bahrain, it later tran­spired that the Bahrai­nis seemed to be more in­ter­ested in en­hanc­ing de­fense links with Pak­istan.

It was good that Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif put the ru­mours to rest when he cat­e­gor­i­cally stated that Pak­istan had no plans at all to send troops to fight the forces of Bashar As­sad in Syria, nor had his govern­ment been asked to do so. It is clear that send­ing Pak­istani troops to Syria or any Gulf coun­try for that mat­ter would be a risky and even dan­ger­ous busi­ness. But be­yond that, it is not con­ceiv­able how any na­tional army with a high rep­u­ta­tion for pro­fes­sion­al­ism could be avail­able against a cer­tain fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tion, no mat­ter how pre­car­i­ous the coun­try’s own eco­nomic con­di­tions. Does it ever hap­pen that when a coun­try raises a fight­ing force, whether large or small, it has some­where in the back of its mind a mer­ce­nary role for this force? How could then the idea of send­ing Pak­istani forces on fight­ing du­ties to some part of the world ever ger­mi­nate in some­one’s mind? Why was it even thought pos­si­ble that Pak­istan would ever ac­cept the idea of send­ing such a large slice of its troops to fight an­other coun­try’s war? The orig­i­na­tors of the idea per­haps did not even stop to think that if the Pak­istani army got it­self em­broiled in an­other Is­lamic coun­try such as Syria, whose side would it be on – the anti-As­sad Sun­nis or the Alaw­ite Shias who com­prise the Syr­ian govern­ment led by Bashar al As­sad? Since Saudi Ara­bia and other Gulf states, which are pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni, would have been in­volved in ac­quir­ing the ser­vices of the Pak­istan army, it would have ob­vi­ously been fight­ing on the side of the Sun­nis and against the Syr­ian govern­ment. Pak­istan has al­ways en­joyed friendly re­la­tions with Syria so would its army fight against this coun­try? Fur­ther­more, if this hap­pened, where would the Pak­istan armed forces stand in the eyes of their own pop­u­la­tion which is pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni but has a fair mix of Shias? It is ob­vi­ous that if the Pak­istan Army’s top brass were con­fronted with the re­quire­ment of send­ing a large body of troops to fight in Syria, it must have shot down the sug­ges­tion in its very in­fancy, say­ing it was best to keep away from Syria’s in­ter­nal mat­ters. Pak­istan needs to take a tough stand on such quixotic ideas for fu­ture ref­er­ence as well. No doubt that Pak­istan has the 6th largest army in the world but no part of this army is avail­able for rent and there is no ques­tion that the best place for the troops is to be in Pak­istan, ei­ther guard­ing the na­tional borders or fight­ing the mil­i­tants.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.