Confusion In Islamabad: Can
Politicians & Military Handle The
There are conflicting signals about what is happening inside the Zardari government, and mixed signals on U.S. and India. Pakistani experts are now convinced that India’s ‘evidence’ regarding Mumbai is not watertight. But a pro-U.S. core within the Pakistani government is preventing Islamabad from talking openly about it. The Pakistani media and political class remain confused about priorities, discussing nonissues such as the marks of a daughter of a senior judge and political backstabbing when the country faces a gathering storm on its international borders. The debate within military circles is substantive. But the military won’t intervene.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Sunday, 25 January 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—There are some indications that the Zardari government is taking a tougher line toward India and toward the proxy U.S. pressure regarding the Mumbai attacks and the U.S. attacks inside Pakistan.
This change, if real, contrasts sharply with the initial passive attitude of the members of the government who appeared too eager to take in the sermons from U.S. officials and to appease India.
Meanwhile, Pakistani defense analysts are reviewing some of the longtime military beliefs regarding how to fight a war with India in case of Indian aggression. Of special concern is the reported power concentration around central and northern Pakistan, leaving the southern parts of the country exposed. Some defense analysts, as shown later in this report, are arguing
The problem lies in the fact that this government is issuing contradictory statements. President Zardari, for example, has condemned, without naming President Obama, the Jan. 23 U.S. missile attacks inside Pakistan. But he is not ready to go beyond this or take a stronger public line. There are reports that his government has an understanding with Washington on increasing U.S. operations inside Pakistan. But Mr. Husain Haqqani, Mr. Zardari’s pointman and ambassador in Washington, was reported last week as having said that Pakistan might consider ‘other options’ if the U.S. did not change its policy. The statement raised eyebrows in Islamabad, coming from a known U.S. apologist in the elected Pakistani government.
This hardline is tempered by other statements that verge on appeasement. On India, Prime Minister Gilani said on Jan. 14 that India’s ‘evidence’ on Mumbai attacks is more of ‘information’ and not evidence that can admitted in a court of law. But o Jan 23, Mr. Gilani told a London newspaper that Pakistan ‘needs to act fast’ on the Indian dossier and emphasized, rather sheepishly, that Pakistan is taking the dossier ‘seriously’.
There are elements within the PPP government who are strongly pro-U.S. This includes President Zardari, Mr. Haqqani, and Interior Adviser Rehman Malik. The former national security adviser M. A. Durrani is no longer in this group. All four were either longtime residents in the United States and United Kingdom or retained strong business and personal interests in both countries. On the other hand, there are other PPP officials who do not approve of the policies of this pro-U.S. camp but are incapable of opposing them openly. This group supposedly includes – to varying degrees – Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani and some other lower-level party officials. This division is fluid and is not immediately clear. One sign of it surfaced on Jan. 7, when national security adviser Mr. Durrani was caught making leaks to the Indian media to embarrass Pakistan. Mr. Tasnim Qureshi, the State Minister for Interior, appeared on television to confront the revelations that Mr. Durrani was making. A couple of news channels showed Mr. Qureshi quite disturbed by his own government’s national security adviser insisting that Ajmal Kassab, the name India uses to describe the man in its custody involved in the Mumbai attacks, was indeed a Pakistani citizen. Mr. Qureshi went as far as saying that Mr. Kassab was an Indian intelligence asset even if it was proven beyond doubt that he was a Pakistani citizen.
President Zardari appears to be in a bind. He apparently has some commitments under the ‘deal’ brokered by the U.S. with former president Pervez Musharraf. But on the other hand, has to keep the Pakistani public opinion and the Pakistani military on his side.
Prime Minister Gilani’s soft message to India is balanced by Interior Advisor Rehman Malik’s veiled statement on Jan. 22 that foreign hands were behind insurgencies in Swat and the tribal belt:
Pakistan Interior Advisor Rehman Malik has said that the rise in extremist activities in the tribal regions of the country was due to the help being offered to the extremists groups from some foreign countries. He said that foreign hands were patronizing terrorists in the Swat valley, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Mr. Malik’s statement came during a closed door briefing at the Pakistan Foreign Office given to eighty diplomats based in the Pakistani capital, including U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson. Ms. Patterson was apparently keen to counter the impression that Washington is endorsing India’s position. This is an impression that U.S. ambassador in New Delhi and the outgoing Bush administration made quite clear. Additionally, the CIA, which is facilitating information exchange between ISI and the Indian security establishment, had also given clear indication that U.S. endorses the Indian ‘evidence’ without giving Pakistan the chance to verify it.
Pakistani officials are now telling the Americans and the British that they need DNA samples from Mr. Kassab to ascertain that he is the same person whose name appears in Pakistani records. Pakistani officials are also talking now about asking India for access to three senior Indian army officers arrested for blowing up 60 Pakistani citizens visiting Indian aboard a train service known as ‘Samjhauta Express’ [friendship train] in 2006.
Interestingly, the Zardari government has not made any formal request to India regarding access to the arrested Indian army officers. It could be possible that the government is releasing these trial balloons in order to show Pakistanis that the government is willing to take a hardline in defense of Pakistani interests. In this line of analysis, it would be fair to say that the Zardari government is reluctant to confront the ‘deal guarantors’ in Washington by taking a policy line that is confrontational in any way to the U.S. or its new regional ally, India.
The chairman of the Pakistani Senate Standing Committee on Interior, Senator Talha Mahmood, said as much on Jan. 14, insisting that Foreign powers are dictating the government:
Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, Talha Mahmood, said that the government was taking dictates from the foreign powers for promoting their agenda in Pakistan and had sidelined the parliament’s resolution that asked for a halt to the operations in the tribal and settled areas besides his committee’s recommendations. Talking to journalists here, Talha alleged that the government was being run by two or four persons who were taking dictates from the foreign powers instead of protecting the interests of the country and its people. “It is being trumpeted that there is a complete democracy in the country but it exists on papers only. Two or four persons are running the affairs of the government who don’t consider themselves responsible to the people or parliament,” he alleged.
The former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Air Force, retired Air Vice Marshal Shehzad Chaudhry, in an op-ed piece published on Jan. 21, called on the government to adopt an ‘institutional approach’ in analyzing the threats facing Pakistan. He called on the Pakistani military to temporarily shed its resolve not to interfere in politics and offer its institutional capabilities for crisis management to the government considering the exceptionally difficult regional situation.
His analysis was quite clear on the threats facing Pakistan and it’s not just ‘terrorism’ as defined by the United States. In his piece, titled, ‘The gathering storm, AVM Chaudhry wrote:
What gathers additionally on the horizon is even more disconcerting. What with the RAND study for the US Army engaging in a “long war”; and another sponsored by the US Joint Staff endeavoring to determine the most likely points of application of the US military in the future, pointing towards a nexus of Islamist threat in combination with a failed state of nuclear Pakistan that so scares the Americans.
The importance of what RAND says or what the US Joint Staff is sweating on can never be underplayed. The RAND guys are no neo-cons working on extravagant notions of re-carving the world; instead they are at the delivery end working out the combatant level logistic, operational and strategic details. Pakistan has never been in a more critical security dilemma. Even the 1971 the loss of East Pakistan was not as dangerous in consequences as is the current and progressively deteriorating regional and global environment from Pakistan‘s perspective.
Most importantly, he sent an indirect message to General Tariq Majeed, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of the Army Staff. The message is that this is not the time to keep the military in the background:
Amongst the few functioning institutions, the military chastened by their experience of the last nine years consider it wise to keep at a distance, while the foreign ministry is woefully short of effort to go beyond fire-fighting and superficial treatment of immediate sores. It neither has the time nor the inclination to dig deeper than the surface and address the inherent dangers to the state and the nation. In a paradox of comical proportions, neither is the state and government leadership getting an honest and well deliberated guidance from the bureaucracy. The state is in need of all hands; even though the military might wish to prove its non-intervening credentials, now perhaps is not the time. It should be able to bring the support of its organizational strength and institutional approach to deliberating issues of critical national importance in helping formulate the blue-print of recovery from a complex situation. The other national institutions too
On India, he wrote:
India is likely to continue to up the ante in terms of diplomatic pressure, enlivened by suitably spaced jingoistic support. It shall essentially be an effort to keep Pakistan embroiled in a meaningless banter and dissuade Pakistan from a steadied attention to the most important, hoping that Pakistan might implode from within under the weight of these compounding adversities.
Another retired Pakistani military officer and a defense analyst, Ikram Sehgal, published an important article on Jan. 22, titled Cold-starting Pakistan, describing in detail an Indian military doctrine that is stunning in its aggressiveness leaves no doubts about India’s aggressive military intentions toward Pakistan. The article is important because it indirectly raises questions about how and why the U.S. government and the think tanks deliberately suppress such glaring evidence that shows India as a cause of regional instability and not the victim that New Delhi likes to portray itself as.
Cold Start is the name that India has given to a policy of ordering rapid deployment forces to attack Pakistan in case of a terrorist attack inside or against India, without taking into consideration the other possibilities, like some third player trying to start a war, or the possibility of Hindu terrorist groups staging attacks and blaming them on Pakistan like they did in the ‘Samjhauta Express’ tragedy, according to India’s own investigations.
Mr. Sehgal made two important revelations in his article. One on how a quick Pakistani military response dampened the chances of a possible Indian military aggression after the Mumbai attacks, and second, an important revelation about the distribution of Pakistani military forces in Pakistan’s northern and southern regions.
Rumors are afloat about a game plan where India will conduct surgical strikes against “known” terrorist camps, and Pakistan will helpfully turn the other cheek. Our rather helpless response to daily “Predator” attacks, bluster rather than any substance, has given weight to this belief. Bob Woodward’s book “Bush at War” describes how, agonising over how to convince Pakistan, the US hierarchy was nonplussed by Pervez Musharraf’s “ready and willing” acceptance of all seven US demands without even a murmur. Was diplomatic pressure recently brought on Pakistan to fall in line in the “supreme” interest of the “war against terrorism,” the logic being that since only “terrorist” targets were to be engaged this was in “Pakistan’s interest”? Wonder of wonders, for once we did not roll over and play dead! Our rulers probably calculated that the people of Pakistan would give them short shift.
Initiating preliminary actions of their “Cold Start” Doctrine, the IAF was geared into a “first strike” mode. Picked up by our intelligence, the PAF responded by a “show of force” on “high alert.” A dense fog then engulfed most areas of the likely military options. During this time-lag some strategic reserves were extricated from FATA and rushed eastwards, that “window of opportunity” for India passed. Mere coincidence that three Strike Corps are in “winter collective exercise” mode in the Rajasthan Desert? That too carrying their first- and second-line ammunition? Movement of their Amphibious Brigade and dumping of fuel for forward deployment of troop-lifting helicopters has also been detected.
Pakistan‘s history is replete with strategic blunders of monumental stupidity, we have only been saved by tactical successes achieved by the great sacrifices and outstanding bravery of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, those who have actually taken part in action, and not just talked about it.
On the second point, the distribution of Pakistani military forces between the north and the south of the country, Mr. Sehgal made this observation:
Some morons thought up the “Defence of the East lies in the West,” and we left East Pakistan defenceless […] Those who think that “the defence of the South lies in the North,” i.e., putting the bulk of our Armed Forces protecting our main population centres and communication in the Punjab and AK, may be theoretically correct in a long-drawn-out war, in the short Indo-Pak version it is stupid, monumentally stupid, particularly in the face of the known Indian deployment.
As night turns into day, the Indians will put their main effort in the deep South. 18 Div was almost overwhelmed in 1971. Two brigades of 33 Div were force-marched from the Rahimyarkhan area to stem the rot. Only the outstanding courage of individual unit commanders like Lt Col (later Brig) Mohammad Taj, S J & Bar (44 Punjab now 4 Sindh), saved Pakistan when “the barbarians were at the gate” in Chhor and Umerkot on Dec 12, 1971. Taj was symbolic of many brave officers who went up and down the line in the Thar Desert exhorting the rank and file, the line held. It was touch and go for a couple of days! Later, no one did more than Lt Gen Lehrasab Khan as Commander 5 Corps for improving our defences in the area but even his soldierly persistence did not succeed penetrating military obduracy to get the resources in men and material required for the Chhor-Badin-Sujawal area. Kayani must ensure that this time around we have enough in the Thar Desert and the adjacent coast. Our existence is a zero-sum situation; can we afford to take chances?
These are issues that the political elite of the country is not aware of. In fact, with the lack of any organized research and analysis activities within the Pakistani political parties, it is no wonder that we see many Pakistani politicians and parties conducting their own private ‘foreign policies’ with outside powers.
The Pakistani military, while rightfully keeping a distance from domestic politics, has to make a temporary break and involve the political elite in an issue that concerns external threats facing Pakistan. The military will need this channel in the future, in case of a foreign imposed war, to urge the politicians to be able to explain the Pakistanis why Pakistan has to take unusual steps to protect the nation.
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