Pakistan: The New Script

Pakistan’s descrip­tion as the ful­crum of Asia is most emi­nent, as it is locat­ed at the junc­tion of South Asia, West Asia, Cen­tral Asia and Chi­na. Since its incep­tion Pak­istan has been trau­ma­tised by the weak­ness and bit­ter rival­ry between its state insti­tu­tions. Its lead­ers invari­ably have relied on exter­nal pow­ers to enforce or restore insti­tu­tion­al bal­ance. An oft quot­ed remark attrib­uted to the Amer­i­cans is that oil is too impor­tant com­mod­i­ty to be left to the will of the Arabs. Sim­i­lar­ly the Af-Pak region is too impor­tant to be sac­ri­ficed at the altar of the ‘sov­er­eign­ty of Pak­istan’. Pak­istan is at a crit­i­cal cross­roads of its his­to­ry. A very inci­sive analy­sis of recent devel­op­ments there by a for­mer R&AW offi­cer and mil­i­tary ana­lyst.

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India

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Since its incep­tion Pak­istan has been trau­ma­tised by the weak­ness and bit­ter rival­ry between its state insti­tu­tions. Its lead­ers invari­ably have relied on exter­nal pow­ers to enforce or restore insti­tu­tion­al bal­ance. The cur­rent insta­bil­i­ty in Pak­istan there­fore should not come as a sur­prise because the insti­tu­tion­al bal­ance between the Pres­i­dent, the Prime Min­is­ter and the Army in the first place had been forged by the US as part of war against ter­ror­ism. Even then, the deal between Mushar­raf and Benazir Bhut­to was ham­mered by the US after a series of meet­ings in Dubai. Gen­er­al Kayani, who was then the ISI Chief under the Mushar­raf dis­pen­sa­tion, played a cru­cial role as a medi­a­tor. It is per­ti­nent to men­tion that Gen­er­al Kayani as a junior offi­cer had served as the Staff Offi­cer to Benazir Bhut­to dur­ing her first term as prime min­is­ter. It is anoth­er mat­ter that the script was briefly inter­rupt­ed by an impon­der­able (some say by design) i.e. assas­si­na­tion of Benazir Bhut­to.

2013 dead­line

It may also be recalled that in July 2010, it was Prime Min­is­ter Gilani, who gave a three year exten­sion to Gen­er­al Kayani. He is the first four-star gen­er­al to receive such an exten­sion from a demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ment. Gen Kayani is due to retire in Novem­ber 2013, which almost coin­cides with the end of pres­i­den­tial tenure of Zardari. Also the Direc­tor Gen­er­al of ISI Lt Gen Shu­ja Pasha is to retire in March this year and from all indi­ca­tions ema­nat­ing from Pak­istan, is not like­ly to get any fur­ther exten­sion. He is con­sid­ered very close to Gen­er­al Kayani and was also on extend­ed tenure since 2010. By next year there­fore the entire gov­ern­ing struc­ture of Pak­istan is due for change. It is obvi­ous that giv­en the crit­i­cal strate­gic exi­gen­cies the Amer­i­can estab­lish­ment can­not just afford to leave Pak­istan in the realm of impon­der­ables and walk into a geo-polit­i­cal vac­u­um.

Judi­cia­ry the fourth pil­lar

The stand­off between the judi­cia­ry, i.e. the Chief Jus­tice Iftikar Chaud­hary and Mushar­raf was con­sid­er­ably respon­si­ble for decline of Mushar­raf and his con­se­quen­tial exit from the pow­er struc­ture of Pak­istan and the coun­try as such. Even at this crit­i­cal junc­ture, the judi­cia­ry is play­ing the spear­head role in erod­ing the present dis­pen­sa­tion of Pres­i­dent Zardari and Prime Min­is­ter Gilani. In fact, there are com­men­ta­tors, who opine that pow­er play in Pak­istan is no longer con­fined to the machi­na­tions of Troi­ka, i.e. the Pres­i­dent, the Prime Min­is­ter and the Army Chief, but there is yet anoth­er pil­lar which has emerged and that is the ‘Judi­cia­ry’.

In the past, there have been indi­ca­tions about grow­ing US lever­ages in the Pak judi­cia­ry as well. In March 2000, when an angry Bill Clin­ton vis­it­ed Pak­istan for less than five hours, one of the per­sons that he met was the then Chief Jus­tice of Pak­istan, Jus­tice Irshad Hasan Khan. Hasan Abbas in his book Pakistan’s Drift into Extrem­ism writes:

Inter­est­ing­ly, the Pak­istani team that met Clin­ton also includ­ed Jus­tice Irshad H Khan, Chief Jus­tice of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan, who along with oth­er judges was con­duct­ing a hear­ing to decide whether Musharraf’s coup in Octo­ber 1999 was legit­i­mate and law­ful. It was unprece­dent­ed that the head of the judi­cia­ry was attend­ing such a meet­ing. It is believed that Clin­ton briefly con­versed with him in pri­vate dur­ing this short vis­it, but what was dis­cussed is not known. … Inter­est­ing­ly, a few weeks lat­er, a twelve-mem­ber bench of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan val­i­dat­ed the mil­i­tary takeover of Octo­ber 12, 1999, on the basis of the doc­trine of state neces­si­ty and gra­cious­ly gave Mushar­raf three years to accom­plish his agen­da and hold gen­er­al elec­tions.

Has the present cri­sis in Pak­istan engen­dered by a re-script­ing process of the Pak­istani dis­pen­sa­tion by and in favour of the strate­gic agen­da of the West par­tic­u­lar­ly the US, set in motion con­se­quent to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

Strate­gic agen­da

The great­est asset that Pak­istan has is its geo-strate­gic loca­tion. This asset has so far been sin­gu­lar­ly respon­si­ble for Pakistan’s mil­i­tarised nature of its nation­al dis­course and its sur­vival as a state. Pakistan’s descrip­tion as the ful­crum of Asia is most emi­nent, as it is locat­ed at the junc­tion of South Asia, West Asia, Cen­tral Asia and Chi­na. It has been at the cross­roads of var­i­ous ‘isms’ that these regions have spawned from time to time. In the ensu­ing era it is the Islam­ic ter­ror­ism.

The deal between Mushar­raf and Benazir Bhut­to was ham­mered by the US after a series of meet­ings in Dubai. Gen­er­al Kayani, who was then the ISI Chief under the Mushar­raf dis­pen­sa­tion, played a cru­cial role as a medi­a­tor. It is per­ti­nent to men­tion that Gen­er­al Kayani as a junior offi­cer had served as the Staff Offi­cer to Benazir Bhut­to dur­ing her first term as prime min­is­ter

It is an eter­nal aspect of geog­ra­phy that pow­er seek­ing influ­ence in Asia have had to either tra­verse through the land or region of present day Pak­istan or con­tend with it as a strate­gic inter­locu­tor. It was active­ly court­ed by the US in the ear­ly 50s and even as its impor­tance to the US start­ed to decline since the mid 60s, it once again assumed the sta­tus of a front­line state after the Sovi­et inva­sion of Afghanistan in 1979. Such was the crit­i­cal­i­ty of that peri­od, that the US was com­pelled to ignore Pakistan’s many mis­de­meanours, includ­ing its clan­des­tine nuclear pro­gramme. The free flow of weapons and the encour­age­ment and sup­port that the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists received from the US, imbued Pan-Islamism with mil­i­tant shades. The smug belief of the US that their dis­tance from the epi­cen­tre of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism afford­ed them rel­a­tive immu­ni­ty was shat­tered on 9 Sep­tem­ber 2001. Thus the USA’s mil­i­tary and strate­gic machin­ery had to revis­it Pak­istan in the form of ‘war against ter­ror’ to defang the Islam­ic ter­ror­ists.

The job is far from over and the strate­gic retreat of the US and its allies from the Af-Pak region at this junc­ture is unthink­able.

In fact, the geopo­lit­i­cal sce­nario in the region has become even more com­pli­cat­ed. Apart from con­cerns of glob­al ter­ror­ism, the Af-Pak region has stri­dent res­o­nance in West Asia, Cen­tral Asia, South Asia, in respect to Chi­na and the Indi­an Ocean. West Asia is under the grip of polit­i­cal upheaval, which threat­ens to shake the very foun­da­tions of most coun­tries in the region. The Iran­ian nuclear cri­sis is get­ting seri­ous by the day with increas­ing­ly bel­liger­ent pos­tures by the US and the Iran­ian lead­er­ship. The chasm between the Shia and Sun­ni pop­u­la­tions is get­ting dan­ger­ous. Islam­ic ter­ror­ism in form of Tal­iban con­tin­ues to inhib­it the restora­tion of civil­i­sa­tion in Afghanistan. An oft quot­ed remark attrib­uted to the Amer­i­cans is to the effect that oil is too impor­tant com­mod­i­ty to be left to the will of the Arabs. Sim­i­lar­ly the Af-Pak region, at least in the fore­see­able future, is too impor­tant to be sac­ri­ficed at the altar of the ‘sov­er­eign­ty of Pak­istan’.

This is the bench­mark. There­fore, the devel­op­ments in Pak­istan must be viewed in this back­drop.

Even at this crit­i­cal junc­ture, the judi­cia­ry is play­ing the spear­head role in erod­ing the present dis­pen­sa­tion of Pres­i­dent Zardari and Prime Min­is­ter Gilani

Cal­i­brat­ed leak

The imme­di­ate trig­ger for the cur­rent cri­sis in Pak­istan is the alleged com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the Pak­istan Ambas­sador to US, Hus­sain Haqqani (alleged­ly on behalf of Pres­i­dent Zardari) and the then US Chief of Defence Staff, Admi­ral Mike Mullen, wide­ly known as the ‘Mem­ogate Scan­dal’. In this memo, fears were expressed of a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary takeover and the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion had been urged to pre­vent it. Fur­ther, as a quid pro quo for US mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal help, the cur­rent Pak­istan dis­pen­sa­tion under Pres­i­dent Zardari had promised to car­ry out a com­plete revamp of the secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus of Pak­istan to include the nuclear estab­lish­ment and pol­i­cy set­up and pro­vide carte blanche for the US in con­duct­ing mil­i­tary strikes with­in Pak­istan.

The con­duit who deliv­ered this memo is one Man­soor Ijaz, a US based busi­ness­man of Pak­istani ori­gin. Ijaz is no ordi­nary busi­ness­man. He is also a well-known media com­men­ta­tor and inter­na­tion­al nego­tia­tor. He was stead­fast in his sup­port to neo-con­ser­v­a­tive poli­cies of George Bush on Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion. He had also been involved in unof­fi­cial nego­ti­a­tions between US and the Sudanese gov­ern­ments with regard to extra­di­tion of Laden. He has all along been a fierce crit­ic of the Pak­istan Army.

In the past, there have been indi­ca­tions about grow­ing US lever­ages in the Pak judi­cia­ry as well. In March 2000, when an angry Bill Clin­ton vis­it­ed Pak­istan for less than five hours, one of the per­sons that he met was the then Chief Jus­tice of Pak­istan, Jus­tice Irshad H Khan

Hus­sain Haqqani is also known for his pro-US and anti-Army beliefs. This is more than appar­ent in the book Pak­istan: Between Mosque and Mil­i­tary authored by him. There­fore, the sud­den admis­sion by Man­soor Ijaz about the said memo is rather intrigu­ing. Even more intrigu­ing is the Admi­ral Mullen’s admis­sion that he knew of the Memo, but “thought noth­ing of it”.

Admi­ral Mullen can­not be so naïve so as not to fac­tor the upheaval that his admis­sion could cause with­in Pak­istan. In the field of diplo­ma­cy such admis­sions of secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions are con­sid­ered blas­phe­mous. It appears to be a delib­er­ate and cal­i­brat­ed leak.

US wish list

The con­tents of the alleged memo are sig­nif­i­cant. It clear­ly indi­cates that Pakistan’s approach in ‘war against ter­ror’ has been con­trary rather inim­i­cal to the US and is tac­it admis­sion that the mil­i­tary-intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment has been abet­ting ter­ror­ism and Pakistan’s nuclear arse­nal is unsafe in mil­i­tary hands. Sam­ple these (direct­ly quot­ed from the alleged memo):

  • Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan will order an inde­pen­dent inquiry into the alle­ga­tions that Pak­istan har­boured and offered assis­tance to OBL and oth­er senior Qae­da oper­a­tives …
  • The inquiry will be account­able and inde­pen­dent and result in find­ings of tan­gi­ble val­ue of the US gov­ern­ment and the Amer­i­can peo­ple …
  • The new nation­al secu­ri­ty team will imple­ment a pol­i­cy of either hand­ing over those left in the lead­er­ship of Al Qae­da or oth­er affil­i­at­ed ter­ror­ist groups who are still on Pak­istani soil …

An oft quot­ed remark attrib­uted to the Amer­i­cans is to the effect that oil is too impor­tant com­mod­i­ty to be left to the will of the Arabs. Sim­i­lar­ly the Af-Pak region, at least in the fore­see­able future, is too impor­tant to be sac­ri­ficed at the altar of the ‘sov­er­eign­ty of Pak­istan’

  • One of the great fears of the mil­i­tary-intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment is that with your stealth capa­bil­i­ties to enter and exit Pak­istani air­space at will, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are now legit­i­mate tar­gets. The new nation­al secu­ri­ty team is pre­pared, with full back­ing of the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment — ini­tial­ly civil­ian but even­tu­al­ly all three pow­er cen­tres — to devel­op an accept­able frame­work of dis­ci­pline for the nuclear pro­gramme. This effort was begun under the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary regime, with accept­able results. We are pre­pared to reac­ti­vate those ideas and build on them in a way that brings Pakistan’s nuclear assets under a more ver­i­fi­able, trans­par­ent regime.
  • The new nation­al secu­ri­ty team will elim­i­nate Sec­tion S of the ISI charged with main­tain­ing rela­tions to the Tal­iban, Haqqani net­work, etc. This will dra­mat­i­cal­ly improve rela­tions with Afghanistan.
  • We are pre­pared to coop­er­ate ful­ly under the new nation­al secu­ri­ty team’s guid­ance with the Indi­an gov­ern­ment on bring­ing all per­pe­tra­tors of Pak­istani ori­gin to account for the 2008 Mum­bai attacks, whether out­side gov­ern­ment or inside any part of the gov­ern­ment, includ­ing its intel­li­gence agen­cies …

This alleged memo rather reads like the wish list of the US with the aim to cir­cum­scribe the mil­i­tary in Pak­istan. It clear­ly indi­cates that world’s secu­ri­ty can no longer be trad­ed with sov­er­eign­ty of Pak­istan. It is an indi­rect and open cau­tion to all future dis­pen­sa­tions of Pak­istan about the irrec­on­cil­able strate­gic con­cerns and inter­ests of the US.

The new script

To the US, the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion in Pak­istan, both polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary has out­lived its util­i­ty, rather it is now counter-pro­duc­tive and an embar­rass­ment as such. The alleged memo has trig­gered the process of realign­ment of polit­i­cal forces as var­i­ous insti­tu­tions in Pak­istan includ­ing the mil­i­tary. The Zardari — Gilani dis­pen­sa­tion has only got a tem­po­rary reprieve from the assertive Supreme Court. In the ulti­mate analy­sis the cur­rent polit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion will be com­pelled by the judi­cia­ry to step down, thus paving the way for elec­tions.

It appears that in the new polit­i­cal restruc­tur­ing Imran Khan and Mushar­raf will have dom­i­neer­ing roles, with pos­si­bly the for­mer as Prime Min­is­ter and the lat­ter as Pres­i­dent. The fact can­not be over­looked that all these years since his exit from pow­er, Musharraf’s home has been in Unit­ed King­dom.

There are no free lunch­es.

In few months time we may see a new polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary set­up in Pak­istan at the helm. This new dis­pen­sa­tion will be under con­stant US pres­sure to deliv­er on crit­i­cal issues like ‘ter­ror­ism’ and ‘safe­ty of nuclear weapons’. Of course, the new script too is fraught with impon­der­ables. Nev­er­the­less, its intent is ben­e­fi­cial to India. The mem­ogate promi­nent­ly refers to bring­ing to book the per­pe­tra­tors of Mum­bai attack

Mushar­raf is the best man to deliv­er on ‘ter­ror­ism’ and ‘nuclear’ con­cerns of the West, as he knows their nuts and bolts. Imran’s inter­na­tion­al image and more so his Pathan extrac­tion could prove to be of great advan­tage giv­en the cur­rent nature of reli­gious, region­al, social and eth­nic chasms in Pak­istan. The bias of Pak­istan pol­i­tics may move away from over­whelm­ing Sind­hi-Pun­jabi dom­i­na­tion. In all prob­a­bil­i­ty, the cur­rent Army lead­er­ship too would be cir­cum­scribed by the judi­cia­ry lat­ter.

Con­clu­sion

In few months time we may see a new polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary set­up in Pak­istan at the helm. This new dis­pen­sa­tion will be under con­stant US pres­sure to deliv­er on crit­i­cal issues like ‘ter­ror­ism’ and ‘safe­ty of nuclear weapons’. Of course, the new script too is fraught with impon­der­ables. Nev­er­the­less, its intent is ben­e­fi­cial to India. The mem­ogate promi­nent­ly refers to bring­ing to book the per­pe­tra­tors of Mum­bai attack.

About the Author
Col RSN Singh (retd — The writer is for­mer Research & Analy­sis Wing (R&AW) offi­cer and has authored books on strate­gic and mil­i­tary aspects.

Note by the Author:
To the US, the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion in Pak­istan, both polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary has out­lived its util­i­ty, rather it is now counter-pro­duc­tive and an embar­rass­ment as such. The alleged memo has trig­gered the process of realign­ment of polit­i­cal forces as var­i­ous insti­tu­tions in Pak­istan includ­ing the mil­i­tary. The Zardari — Gilani dis­pen­sa­tion has only got a tem­po­rary reprieve from the assertive Supreme Court. In the ulti­mate analy­sis the cur­rent polit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion will be com­pelled by the judi­cia­ry to step down, thus paving the way for elec­tions

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