|In a bind
Like the Indian armed forces, the army in Pakistan, too, is the creation of the British. However, unlike India, Pakistan’s army has been the most prominent ruling class of that nation. Further, unlike India’s armed personnel, the Pakistani army believes that “Islam is… the basis of the country’s identity and source of culture.” Moreover, for the soldiers, this is also a “defining aspect of the profession of arms” as that “faith is said to owe more to the power of the sword… and remains a potent inspiration for the Pakistani army.”
Today, the same army faces a grave threat from within — a threat, which, over the years, has been the creation of the army itself. Pakistan’s army is being confronted by an increasing number of jihadis and rogue elements within its own ranks even as it attempts to curb violence in the restless and reckless north-western frontier.
Interestingly, the second Caliph, Umar, had sent an expedition to the same area during his campaign to conquer Persia. Here is what the expedition is said to have reported: “O Commander of the faithful! It is a land where plains are stony; where water is scanty; where the fruits are unsavoury; where men are known for treachery; where plenty is unknown; where virtue is held of little account; and evil is dominant; a large army is useless there; and a less army is useless there; the land beyond it is even worse.” Taking cue from this description, one can visualize the nature of the terrain in which the Pakistani soldiers are operating.
One can thus understand how things are today and what could happen tomorrow. The nexus between the military and the terrorist outfits in Pakistan is a reality. It has resulted in many a coup and plots, assassination attempts on civilian leaders as well as terror attacks on Pakistan’s cities, navy bases, air force stations and even on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The list of wrongdoings by the military is a long one. In1995, a couple of Pakistani army officers, including a major general and a brigadier, were arrested for planning to take over the army headquarters and a civilian government “for the establishment of a strict-Islamic political system in Pakistan.” Soon after, in October 1999, Pervez Musharraf, the then army chief, defied the constitutional authority and resorted to a coup. Understandably, when the chief resorts to insubordination and treachery, can the juniors lag far behind? Two attempts were made on Musharraf’s life in December 2003. They resulted in the arrest of at least 57 Pakistani air force personnel, the dismissal of 24 servicemen as well as the passing of the death sentence on six officials.
After 9/11, the media in Islamabad reported that several Pakistani army officers had taken ‘official leave’ and gone to wage jihad in Afghanistan against the United States of America. According to the sources in Pakistan’s army, a number of Pashtun personnel, junior commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers had also gone to Afghanistan to participate in the jihad.
In August 2003, a Lahore daily had reported that 12 Pakistani officers had been arrested in Afghanistan’s Zabul province for having links with militants belonging to the Taliban and the Hizb-i-Islami. In October 2006, 40 mid-ranking Pakistani air force officers were arrested for being involved in an abortive coup against the then Pakistani president and army chief. In March 2006, the deputy chief of air staff operations, Marshal Khalid Chaudhry, too, complained that “airmen of Pakistani air force were sabotaging F-16s deployed for security operations against the Taliban in the tribal region.”
Things started deteriorating further from 2007-2008, even as the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence made desperate attempts to unite their scattered resources by orchestrating the deadly attacks on Mumbai. Yet, it was fairly evident by then that terrorists belonging to the Taliban and al Qaida, who had been nurtured by the army and the ISI, had come back to haunt them. The sensational assassination of a retired major general, Ameer Faisal Alavi, by another former armyman-turned terrorist was a case in point. The signal had become loud and clear. The army in Pakistan had to prepare itself for a nightmare — a war on two fronts. One was a civil war to appease its American ally; another was the battle to take on its arch enemy, India.
The army-terrorist entente surfaced once again in 2009. Ahsanul Haq, a former major of the Pakistani army, was linked to the heinous attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Haq, who has now aligned himself with the Tablighi Jamaat, a revivalist, Islamic movement, is alleged to have given logistical support to fighters belonging to the Taliban. The summer of 2011 has shown that the situation has become even more bleak than what it was for the once-admired armed forces of Pakistan. The killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistani territory is a clear indication of the deep roots sprouted by the army-terrorist-fundamentalist combine inside Pakistan’s defence apparatus.
To the acute discomfiture and embarrassment of Pakistanis, it has now emerged that a former commando of the Pakistani navy and his brother were directly connected to the terror attack on PNS Mehran. In June 2011 came the confirmation from the army that a serving brigadier was found to have ties with the Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been proactive in seeking the recruitment of serving Pakistani soldiers to engineer an Islamic revolution in the country.
What is the message of all the turbulence within the armed forces in Pakistan? During the last two decades, the army’s ‘strategic assets’ — the various militant outfits that were waging the proxy wars against India on behalf of the army — have opened a new front against their mentors in Islamabad. Nonetheless, one should remember the chilling words used as a warning by Ilyas Kashmiri and his 313 Brigade in February 2010: “We, the Mujahideen of 313 Brigade, vow to continue attacks all across India until the Indian Army leaves Kashmir and gives the Kashmiris their right of self-determination….We again warn the Indian government to compensate for all its injustices. Otherwise they will see our next action.”
The writing, therefore, is on the wall for India. The Pakistani army and the ISI which had raised, trained and nurtured the motley band of extremists to bleed India will never cease doing what they consider to be their foremost duty. But the extraordinary changes that have swept through the globe have resulted in the creator and the created getting embroiled in a deadly war inside Pakistan. Nevertheless, there still exists a formidable, ‘anti-India’, agenda that revolves around the ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (the promised Battle for India). Hence the overall security situation looks grim for this country.