Op­tic Test for Pak­istan

Islamabad has no op­tion but to stop ter­ror fund­ing and proxy war against In­dia and Afghanistan; cor­rect its pol­icy of over de­pen­dence on out­side for solv­ing in­ter­nal prob­lems

The Day After - - FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK - By ASIT Manohar, Shankar KU­MAR

Op­tics for the two months old Imran Khan gov­ern­ment has grad­u­ally be­gun to change in Pak­istan. A large sec­tion of me­dia peo­ple and com­mon men in Pak­istan feel that newly elected Prime Min­is­ter’s con­tin­ued play­ing of sec­ond fid­dle to the coun­try’s big-headed Army Gen­er­als and lack of clar­ity on way to steer the coun­try out of cri­sis, would im­peril the coun­try’s over­all in­ter­ests. Those who voted him to power in the July 25 Gen­eral Elec­tions have be­gun to feel cheated; they had high ex­pec­ta­tions from the flam­boy­ant crick­eter-turned-politi­cian who says he will go to IMF and friendly coun­tries to seek bailout pack­age. Since he knows that no pack­age will come with­out string at­tached to it, his ac­tions as the coun­try’s Prime Min­is­ter are bound to gen­er­ate hope­less­ness, dis­gust and in­dif­fer­ence among a large sec­tion of peo­ple.

On Oc­to­ber 10, he launched hous­ing scheme un­der which 50 lakh af­ford­able houses will be built in five years for low in­come group peo­ple. With this, he ar­gued, as many as 40 sec­tors, in­clud­ing ce­ment, tiles, bricks, wood and oth­ers will see a rise in de­mand and youths will get jobs. In this hous­ing scheme, the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment’s role will be that of fa­cil­i­ta­tor and, fund­ing will be made by pri­vate in­vestors, he said while launch­ing the scheme in Islamabad. Prime Min­is­ter Imran Khan also said that the hous­ing scheme will be a step in the di­rec­tion of ‘Naya Pak­istan.’ He may be right in his claims. But when fun­da­men­tals of the coun­try are wrong, how he will ful­fill his goals is a big ques­tion.

Al­ready noise has started build­ing against the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic

Cor­ri­dor. Bur­dened by huge debt and widen­ing cur­rent ac­count deficit, Imran Khan too an­nounced that his gov­ern­ment would re­view the projects un­der $62 bil­lion CPEC, a planned net­work of roads, rail­ways and en­ergy projects lik­ing Pak­istan’s Gwadar Port in Balochis­tan prov­ince with China’s Xin­jiang prov­ince. The CPEC is ex­pected to be com­plete by 2030. Fi­nan­cial se­crecy in­volved with the ini­tia­tive and lack of clar­ity as to how Pak­istan will get ben­e­fit out of the multi­bil­lion project, has cre­ated a neg­a­tive vibe against China-led multi-bil­lion in­fra­struc­ture project in the coun­try.

There is a fear that like Sri Lanka and Ta­jik­istan, Pak­istan may also have to keep in pawn its sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory in ex­change for China’s un­paid loans. Ta­jik­istan had to cede 1 per cent of its ter­ri­tory to China in 2011 in ex­change for un­paid loans and then in De­cem­ber 2017, Sri Lanka handed over the Ham­ban­tota Port to China on lease for 99 years, in ex­change for $1.1 bil­lion in debt re­lief. As skele­tons over China’s loan trap­pings are tum­bling out of cup­board, noise against Chi­nese de­sign in push­ing its Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI) across the world has started be­com­ing shrill.

In Au­gust, Malaysia can­celled the Chi­nese-funded $20 bil­lion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line project in Sabah out of fear that the coun­try will be­come bank­rupt if it goes ahead with these Chi­nese funded project. Sim­i­larly, Myan­mar de­cided to scale back deep wa­ter port project which was to be built by China’s state-run CITIC Group with $10 bil­lion fund­ing from Bei­jing at Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state. In Au­gust Myan­mar said the port in­vest­ment would now be thinned down to just $1.3 bil­lion. While the Imran Khan-headed gov­ern­ment has de­cided to make re­view of the Chi­nese funded CPEC project, Pak­istan Army will al­low him to de­part from ear­lier Pak­istan govern­ments’ stand on the project is a mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion. The Imran Khan gov­ern­ment is al­ready seen as a pup­pet of Pak­istan Army. We have seen the way jour­nal­ists who crit­i­cize Army or pen against Hafiz Saeed, the Jam­mat-ud-Dawa leader and mas­ter­mind of the 26/11 at­tack, are pe­nal­ized in the coun­try. Cyril Almeida, a lead­ing colum­nist for Dawn, re­mained lucky as the La­hore High Court, which sum­moned him re­cently on a trea­son charge, gave him a per­sonal re­lief. While ar­rest war­rant against him has been with­drawn, the High Court has also or­dered re­moval of his name from the no-fly list.

On Septem­ber 25, the High Court is­sued a non-bailable ar­rest war­rant against him on a trea­son charge as his ar­ti­cle in May fea­tured Nawaz Sharif’s in­ter­view in which the de­posed Prime Min­is­ter had sup­ported In­dia’s ac­cu­sa­tion that Pak­istan Army aided the ter­ror­ists who car­ried out the 2008 Mum­bai at­tack in which 166 peo­ple, in­clud­ing for­eign­ers were killed. The move cre­ated a sense of un­ease among Pak­istani jour­nal­ists and civil so­ci­ety mem­bers. Some of them went to the ex­tent of call­ing it as the “dark­est pe­riod” of jour­nal­ism in Pak­istan’s his­tory.

For In­dia, how­ever, the in­ci­dent re­mained a mat­ter of con­cern as it showed that Prime Min­is­ter Imran Khan, while do­ing Pak­istan Army’s bid on the ter­ror­ism front, would pur­sue ag­gres­sive anti-In­dia agenda. On Oc­to­ber 1, the Imran Khan gov­ern­ment’s Min­is­ter for Re­li­gious Af­fairs and In­ter­faith Har­mony Noor-UlHaqQadri shared a dais with Lashkar-eTaiba founder and 26/11 mas­ter­mind Hafiz Saeed, just hours after For­eign Min­is­ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly that his coun­try has “turned the tide against ter­ror­ism.” The in­ci­dent showed that there is no change in Pak­istan’s at­ti­tude to­wards ter­ror­ism

even after Imran Khan as­sumed prime min­is­te­rial chair in the coun­try.

Also, there is a recorded fact about Imran Khan’s as­so­ci­a­tion with hard­lin­ers and je­hadis. He courted con­tro­versy by de­scrib­ing Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan com­man­der Wali-ur-Rehman, killed by Amer­i­can troops in 2013, as “pro peace.” In 2013 it­self, his state­ment grabbed me­dia head­lines when he said that the Tal­iban should be al­lowed to open an of­fice some­where in Pak­istan. His ar­gu­ment was that if the US could open of­fices for the Afghan Tal­iban in Qatar, why the Pak­istan Tal­iban couldn’t do the same? In an in­ter­view with BBC Hardtalk pro­gramme on June 4, 2018, he de­fended the Tal­iban’s jus­tice sys­tem, while in Jan­uary this year his party, PTI gave a grant of worth PKR 550 mil­lion to madrasas of Sami-ul-Haq who is also known as the ‘Fa­ther of Tal­iban.’ Then ahead of the July 25 polls, the PTI joined hands with Maulana Fa­zlur Rehman Khalil, who is on the US ter­ror watch list.

He has re­fused to ac­knowl­edge that Pak­istani schools, not just madras­sas are churn­ing out rad­i­cals who are fu­eled with pas­sion for jihad. In­stead, he feels that ser­vices ren­dered by the sem­i­nar­ies for the up­lift of the so­ci­ety can’t be ig­nored. This way he tries to side­line sev­eral re­ports which have linked sem­i­nar­ies in Pak­istan with rad­i­cal ter­ror groups. Pak­istan­based sem­i­nar­ies are said to be play­ing a crit­i­cal role in sus­tain­ing the in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist net­work. It is said that aca­demic cur­ricu­lum drafted dur­ing mil­i­tary ruler Muham­mad Zia ul-Haq’s regime in 1978 has not faded out of Pak­istan’s ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem com­pletely be­cause “no Pak­istani leader has had the courage to im­ple­ment se­ri­ous re­forms,” says, Pervez Hoodb­hoy, a Pak­istani physi­cist and ac­tivist who doesn’t hes­i­tate to call Pak­istan Army a state within the state.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in a de­bate on a Pak­istani tele­vi­sion, Hoodb­hoy re­cently said Pak­istan Army shel­ters peo­ple who sup­port ter­ror­ism. His anal­y­sis fits into present scheme of things in Pak­istan where Imran Khan, co-opted by Army to the coun­try’s prime min­is­te­rial chair, does what Gen­er­als sit­ting in Rawalpindi-based GHQ want. If me­dia per­sons try to point finger against these Army Gen­er­als for the cur­rent state of af­fairs in Pak­istan where ter­ror­ists and their sup­port­ers walk free de­spite ban on them, they are tar­geted, ab­ducted and killed. A few months be­fore the July 25 Gen­eral Elec­tion, sev­eral jour­nal­ists were beaten or ab­ducted for their open crit­i­cism of the coun­try’s Army. In June, Gul Bukhari, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor was kid­napped in an army con­trolled area of La­hore and ab­duc­tors were none other than men in mil­i­tary uni­form. Through such in­tim­i­dat­ing ac­tions, me­dia’s mouth is gaged, but ques­tion is: Can Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter turn Pak­istan into a ‘Naya Pak­istan’ by shoot­ing mes­sen­gers? Cer­tainly, Imran does what his god­fa­ther di­rects him to do. But this way he is not go­ing to save his per­sonal im­age which is that of in­de­pen­dent think­ing per­son­al­ity.

How­ever, at this junc­ture, one can ask why Pak­istan is fac­ing this pre­car­i­ous con­di­tion and what’s its folly that has al­most turned it into a failed state? For this, one has not to pore over the pages of his­tory, rather will see it in Pak­istan’s day to­day ac­tiv­ity in the sub­con­ti­nent: Its tense re­la­tion­ship with In­dia; con­tin­ued shep­herd­ing of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions un­der its mis­con­ceived strate­gic pol­icy. Amid this, hard work done by In­dian diplo­mats in con­vinc­ing the world about Pak­istan’s role in fo­ment­ing ter­ror­ism— has hit Islamabad hard. It should be borne in mind that sta­bil­ity of any coun­try is an out­come of re­la­tions it shares with its neigh­bours. In­dia too has a mixed set of re­la­tions with its neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. In­dia shares a rich his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural legacy but, dur­ing the last seven decades the armed con­flict and ter­ror at­tacks have been a low point. Ac­cord­ing to Kau­tiliya’s phi­los­o­phy, neigh­bors are re­garded as ene­mies and an en­emy‘s im­me­di­ate neigh­bor as a friend. The cen­tral con­cern of In­dia‘s re­la­tion­ship with Afghanistan is to counter the ne­far­i­ous de­sign of Pak­istan, along with hav­ing ac­cess to, gas and oil rich cen­tral Asia.

Dy­nam­ics of cold war di­vided whole world into two dis­tinct and po­lar op­po­site

blocs. The US led NATO and the erst­while Com­mu­nist USSR lead War­saw pact. De­spite this ide­o­log­i­cal di­vi­sion many coun­tries chose to try a mid­dle path. Dur­ing the Cold War as mem­bers of the Non-Aligned move­ment (NAM), both Afghanistan and In­dia re­mained neu­tral. Afghanistan played an im­por­tant role in the NAM from the lat­ter’s emer­gence till the ad­vent of the Com­mu­nist regime in April 1978. The Soviet in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and the suc­ceed­ing civil war dev­as­tated Afghanistan and bred ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy that left no room for the kind of co­op­er­a­tion that In­dia had been pro­mot­ing.

In Septem­ber 1996 when the Tal­iban swept onto the Afghan po­lit­i­cal scene con­tacts were dis­rupted. The Tal­iban was born in the Is­lamic schools that had sprung up in the Afghan refugee camps in­side Pak­istan. The Tal­iban’s pres­ence in Afghanistan and the Pak­istani con­trol over it and the way the coun­try was used for not only train­ing Kash­miri and other ter­ror­ist out­fits against In­dia but the Kandahar hi­jack­ing in­ci­dent only con­firmed In­dia’s worse fears.

Afghanistan holds strate­gic im­por­tance for In­dia as a po­ten­tial coun­ter­weight in its re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan. The eth­ni­cally Pash­tun and Baluch belts strad­dling the Du­rand Line are bone of con­tention be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan. So Pak­istan has al­ways wanted to con­trol the Afghanistan’s po­lit­i­cal regime. It is not in In­dia’s strate­gic and eco­nomic in­ter­ests to see Afghanistan be­ing ruled by a proPak­istani regime. Strate­gic fac­tors have played an im­por­tant part from the very begin­ning. Both In­dia and Afghanistan bor­der Pak­istan whose re­la­tion­ship with the lat­ter has had a share of sev­eral ups and downs. Pak­istan has seen In­dia’s grow­ing eco­nomic pres­ence and in­flu­ence in Afghanistan as a strate­gic loss.

So, to hit In­dian in­ter­est in Af-Pak re­gion, Islamabad un­nec­es­sar­ily burnt its hands by en­cour­ag­ing the Tal­iban, the ter­ror­ist out­fit which has now joined hands with LeT, Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mad. Now, the Af-Pak bor­der has be­come ter­ror heaven, which has tra­di­tion­ally been funded by Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment. Ear­lier, these ter­ror out­fits used to nid­dle the USSR, which suf­fice the US needs and hence all Pak abet­ted ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan was ig­nored on in­ter­na­tional plat­forms. But, once the USSR dis­in­te­grated, Amer­i­can in­ter­est in the re­gion started to de­cline and in a cal­i­brated man­ner, Wash­ing­ton fished out its ma­jor­ity of troops from Afghanistan leav­ing Pak­istan ex­posed to the global com­mu­nity. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of this, New Delhi started to cor­ner Islamabad on global plat­forms with clan­des­tine sup­port of Moscow and Wash­ing­ton.

To­day, Pak­istan is in limbo. If it stops abet­ting ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions, these ter­ror out­fits would start tar­get­ing Pak­istan, which has al­ready started to hap­pen. The money which was sup­posed for the

wel­fare of the Pak­istani ci­ti­zens was used for abet­ting ter­ror­ism to desta­bi­lize In­dia. Un­til, it had sup­port of the US, they could af­ford this anti-In­dia proxy war, but once Don­ald Trump took over, he started to squeeze Amer­i­can aid to Pak­istan cit­ing ‘Amer­i­can aides are not for ter­ror fund­ing.’ Now, Don­ald Trump has stopped all kinds of Amer­i­can aides to Pak­istan al­leg­ing ‘Pak­istan a ter­ror heaven’ — a charge that New Delhi has been al­leg­ing since early nineties of the last cen­tury.

While In­dian pol­icy in Afghanistan was to main­tain peace and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan, Pak­istani diplo­mats look at In­dian en­gage­ment there as an ex­ac­er­ba­tion to Pak­istan. In­dia’s strate­gic pres­ence in Afghanistan is one of the New Delhi’s ob­jec­tives in mov­ing to­ward great power sta­tus. While In­dia’s pres­ence in Afghanistan has Pak­istan-spe­cific util­ity, In­dia’s in­ter­ests in Afghanistan can be seen as merely one el­e­ment within In­dia‘s de­sire to be able to pro­tect its in­ter­ests well be­yond South Asia. Hence, the Pak­istani army and re­spec­tive govern­ments were more in­ter­ested in desta­bi­liz­ing In­dian growth with­out ret­ro­spec­tion whether they can af­ford to do that or not. As a re­sult, en­tire wel­fare works got stalled in Pak­istan and funds meant for those mea­sures were di­verted to ter­ror fund­ing. When there was dearth of fund; they took loan from var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional lend­ing plat­forms like World Bank, IMF etc. They even took loans from a coun­try like China that lends money at a very high rate of in­ter­est. As a re­sult, this ter­ror fund­ing diplo­macy of Islamabad de­nied growth to the en­tire na­tion. Hence, it’s not Imran Khan who should be held re­spon­si­ble for the pre­car­i­ous con­di­tion of the Pak­istani econ­omy and its peo­ple. In ac­tual, it’s Pak­istani Army, ISI and the var­i­ous demo­cratic govern­ments who played into the hands of US and China for mere sat­is­fy­ing their ego. For sat­is­fac­tion of their cus­tom­ary ego, they ig­nored the wel­fare of their ci­ti­zens, which is now hit­ting Pak­istan dearly.

Like In­dia, Pak­istan too adopted the pol­icy of ‘an en­emy’s en­emy is a friend’ and made friend­ship with China, es­pe­cially after the 1962 Indo-China War. But, the Pak­istani army and the suc­ces­sive govern­ments failed to un­der­stand the strong eco­nomic ties of both the na­tions. They didn’t re­al­ize that Pak­istani mar­ket can’t match with In­dia and they con­tinue to do the de­fense shop­ping with Bei­jing be­yond their af­ford­abil­ity.

Even re­cently, Islamabad has de­cided to buy 48 deadly Drones from China to counter New Delhi’s S-400 Air De­fense Sys­tem, which it has re­cently signed to buy from Moscow. On one hand, Pak­istani gov­ern­ment is ask­ing its non­res­i­dent Pak­ista­nis to con­trib­ute money for mak­ing dam, Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter is sell­ing buf­fa­los and lux­ury cars of the PMO to gen­er­ate funds to pay in­ter­est of the Chi­nese debt and on the other hand they are en­gag­ing them­selves to com­mit the same mis­take, which the pre­vi­ous govern­ments have done.

In fact, China too is not in a good shape to help Islamabad. Their con­trolled econ­omy has started to back fire and hence, the coun­try of fire-spit­ting dragon is fac­ing enor­mous stress. A lot of na­tions have de­cided to come out of its am­bi­tious OBOR project, which can fur­ther put Bei­jing un­der eco­nomic heat and such a de­vel­op­ment in OBOR may force China to starve for funds to keep OBOR on track. So, in com­ing years, rather bail­ing out Pak­istan from the eco­nomic cri­sis, Bei­jing would try to strengthen its eco­nomic ties with the US and In­dia to pare its losses in OBOR. So, Pak­istan may be­come a sac­ri­fi­cial goat in this Bei­jing bid and Islamabad is cer­tainly not pre­pared for this shift that may take place in Bei­jing’s diplo­macy. Islamabad has sought for another bailout pack­age from the World Bank within five years, which is sui­ci­dal. It should first stop fund­ing the ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions and make a mi­lieu to ini­ti­ate bi-lat­eral talks with In­dia. They need to cor­rect their pol­icy of over de­pen­dence on out­side for solv­ing their in­ter­nal prob­lems.

The Tashkent Dec­la­ra­tion was a peace agree­ment be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan signed on 10 Jan­uary 1966

Pak­istani PM Imran Khan meets with U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo in Islamabad, Pak­istan

Pak­istani PM Imran Khan meets with Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi

China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor project

Po­lice and fire­men work at the site of a deadly sui­cide at­tack in Jalal­abad, Afghanistan

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