Friday, February 27, 2009

ALL CYLINDERS ON FIRE, WHERE IS PAKISTAN HEADING?

Really, are Pakistanis that dumb? People with even elementary intelligence will not continue to fool themselves into believing for so long that they can keep playing with fire and making a fool of everyone else, and yet emerge triumphant at the end of it. Particularly when things are falling apart all around them. But that is exactly what the many actors who define the state of Pakistan are doing even though the whole world can see that the dangerous games they are playing are leading their country straight into the pages of history.

How can almost an entire nation be so blind? Or is it that it has come so far on the path of consciously plotting the destruction of others that it is now impossible for it to turn back and get onto a track it has never been on, never believed? Why hasn't the nation's survival instinct kicked in yet?

President Asif Ali Zardari, no less, tells the world openly that his nation is in danger of being run over by the Taliban, a possibility that is already beginning to look like a reality. The world, naturally, reacts with due understanding and sympathy thinking that the democratically elected government that he is heading is innocent and the real villain is the military. But, within days of making that chilling statement, Zardari supports the capitulating deal to hand over the Swat Valley to the Taliban saying that force is not the answer to defeat them. Simultaneously, he shows no qualms in playing dirty political games again to defeat his principal political opponent, Nawaz Sharif, with whose support he had got Musharraf thrown out.

It may be recalled that Zardari had earlier to manipulated his way to become President in a swift move that left Sharif stunned and fuming. Then, after getting into that chair, he went back on his two key promises of giving up the enormous powers that Pervez Musharraf had illegally given to the President, and reinstating the judges of Supreme Court who had been sacked by Musharraf to save his Presidency. In effect, Zardari is now theoretically as powerful a President as Musharraf was, provided the Army lets him be, which it won't.

If that dishonesty was not enough, he has now manifestly got the Musharraf-appointed judges of the Supreme Court to declare Nawaz Sharif ineligible to contest elections and also declare null and void the election of his younger brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, leading the fall of his government and imposition of Governor's rule. Predictably, protests have broken out all over Pakistan and the situation has once again become unstable and ripe for another former military takeover. Nawaz Sharif, in fact, is now talking of starting, yes, one more jehad in Pakistan, this time against Zardari.

Given this political turmoil, will the military seize power again or has the wily Zardari struck a double-deal with the Army and the US to ensure his survival in the Presidential Palace with Army Chief Kiyani calling the shots? The latter seems likely. But what has happened once again in Pakistan is that its civilian leaders have proved that they are no better than petty tribal chieftains who cannot see beyond themselves and are completely unfit to rule and run their country. That story, which began almost immediately after Pakistan was created, is having another sickening re-run. No one seems to have learnt any lesson yet even though the country broke in two in 1971 and is going to pieces now.

What about the military? Has it learnt any lessons from 9/11 and the spread of the Taliban into large parts of Pakistan? Has it realised that the double-game that it has been playing with the US since its troops landed in Afghanistan cannot be continued indefinitely? Or does it think that a few nukes and America's dependence on Pakistan to sustain its war in Afghanistan is sufficient insurance that will work till the Americans, like the Soviets before them, accept defeat and leave that country back in the hands of Pakistan, just like it was before?

It may be recalled that before 9/11, Pakistan's military was virtually in control of Afghanistan through an almost seamless relationship with the Taliban that it had nurtured and armed to overthrow the Soviets, with generous American assistance. For Pakistan, Afghanistan was then all but it own territory that, as per its military "thinkers", provided "strategic depth" to Pakistan. That view has still not changed. Pakistan cannot allow a strong, secure and truly independent Afghanistan to re-emerge before the US leaves that country. It wants it remain its private backyard. That why General Kiyani, who headed the ISI before taking control of the Army, talks of Talibani commanders like Jallaluddin Haqqani as "strategic assets". That is why, while pretending to be on the side of the the US, Kiyani continues to blatantly back the Taliban who are fighting US troops in Afghanistan. He reckons he will need them after the Americans leave.

David E Sanger has written in his book "The Inheritance" that as per an American intelligence report, "Taliban were making huge inroads into Afghanistan and... other militants saw an opportunity over the next two years to attempt the first violent overthrow of a nuclear-armed state: Pakistan. The country was ripe for the picking: Its weak, corrupt government faced national bankruptcy, an insurgency was at the doorstep of the capital, and the Pakistani government had no comprehensive strategy to confront either threat. Nor did it seem to want one...Pakistan’s aid to the Taliban was no act of rogue Pakistani intelligence agents, but instead was government policy".

If Pakistan's aid to the Taliban, despite the US on its back, is not an act of rogue elements but remains government policy, then is there any doubt as to what its policy about the likes of Lashkar-e-Toiba and other terrorist outfits operating against India will be?

The whole drama that Pakistan has been enacting since Mumbai 26/11, from the initial outright denial of its involvement in the attack to the slow and reluctant change to its acceptance of the involvement of only a few rogue Pakistanis operating in isolation is not a case of innocent ignorance as it is pretending. It is no less than a concerted effort on part of the government and the military from day one to prevent exposure of the damning fact that carrying out terror attacks on India continues to be a central part of government policy and that Mumbai 26/11 was just a visible manifestation of that. India needs to understand clearly that nothing has changed in Pakistan's avowed policy of bleeding India to death by inflicting on it a thousand cuts. All this official talk of Pakistan being a victim of terror etc is just to hide that ugly fact so that the international community does not react too harshly.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, Ajmal Kasab has provided enough clues to show that the attack on Mumbai was not done by "non-state actors", a new term coined by Pakistan to con gullible Indian media personalities and others. The charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police points to the involvement of a serving Colonel, whose name Ajmal Kasab has revealed, and a serving Major General in the attack. It goes without saying that Kasab, a lowly operative, would not have been given direct access to Kiyani himself. But the fact that two senior officers were in touch with him at the lowest rung of the whole operation tells us that they in turn would have had been operating under the orders of much higher ranked officers in the military hierarchy. Mind you, we are not talking about the rogue ISI here. It is the Army that is directly involved. Col Sadatullah, whom Kasab has named, has already been traced by Indian media.

Who can believe that the Pakistani establishment has not known exactly who all were involved in the attack from the very beginning? If there were really a few small-time rogue elements responsible for the attack, would there have been such an elaborate exercise to shield them and deceive India and the world for so long?

It is amazing how a country that is a basket case, that is being torn apart internally, that is lead by warring political leaders with minds of petty, feudal tribal chieftains, and that has all but failed as the state it started out to be, can simply refuse to see reality and live in peace with itself and its size. Even as it is cracking apart, it still wants to make-believe that it can usurp Afghanistan and Kashmir, destroy India and be in the vanguard of the jehad that seeks to establish Islamic rule over the whole world. Somehow, its nuclear-tipped military thinks it is almost invincible and can successfully achieve all this and more. These sweeping and dangerous ambitions make even Adolf Hitler look benign, as indeed he was mistakenly believed to be by some before he launched the Blitzkrieg. Can there be a more explosive recipe for unmitigated disaster?

Barack Obama has already hyphenated Afghanistan with Pakistan. By now almost everyone in the US has come around to the conclusion that Pakistan is the ground zero for the central war on terror that the US is fighting. The realisation that there cannot be a peaceful and genuinely independent Afghanistan till there is a Pakistan in its present shape will also come soon. The same goes for Kashmir too, no matter what Pakistan might say to try and de-link it from what it has been doing in Afghanistan. From that will flow the logical understanding that the present state of Pakistan has to be fundamentally altered and reconfigured to give abiding peace in the region a real chance.

If all these illuminations come to Pakistan itself in time, then the country might yet survive in its present form and shape. Will Pakistan be able to see light and save itself from the inevitable? Tribal minds are perhaps the most obdurate of them all. Not only can they not see beyond narrow limitations, they are not at all amenable to being told what they should do in their own interest. Add to it the many jehads that have been unleashed by and in the country, and it does not appear likely that Pakistan will be able to transform itself as it needs to. On its own.

With all its cylinders on fire and no fire extinguisher in sight, Pakistan does not need a crystal ball to see its 'future'. It is staring it in the face. But its eyes are still wide shut.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Readers may also read:
1. Kashmir and Afghanistan are two sides of the same terror coin
2. India needs to ready itself for a post-Pakistan scenario
3. A vote to save Jinnah's Pakistan: Will it?
4. Pakistan: Dangers of the multi-ethnic Islamic state