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Category — Kayani

The days ahead: op-ed by Zafar Hilaly in The daily Times, May 14

One hears that the government is currently pondering the amount of extra time General Kayani should be given as head of the army. Should it be one, two or three years?
If life were fair, the prime minister, a gaddi-nashin, would have been making a living interceding with God on behalf of devotees. Nevertheless, Mr Gilani will need his special nexus with God to get the government out of the deep hole in which it finds itself as the seemingly inevitable clash with the judiciary draws nearer. To be fair to Mr Gilani, he would prefer not to be a part of the fracas, it being entirely a matter concerning Mr Zardari, but he has no option. As he said some time ago, “We swim or sink together.”

The Swiss cases are not the only cause of friction between the government and the judiciary. If, or rather, when the Supreme Court finds out about the amount of commission, the extent of advance payment and other details of the rental power projects (RPPs), of which it has taken suo motu notice, there will be hell to pay. The ethos of the Supreme Court is very different from that of Mr Zardari. Actually, there is a vast divergence between them on just about every issue, including their respective takes on right and wrong and what is permissible or reasonable and what is not. In brief, their perspectives are antithetical and a rupture, therefore, appears very likely.

Another development, which could impact negatively on the conduct of the war against the Taliban, is the question of General Kayani’s extension. That he should be given one is generally agreed by all, especially many of those who serve with him in the army. Ordinarily, extensions are considered unnecessary because no one is indispensable. However, that cliché has proved wrong by the absence of Benazir Bhutto and the presence of Mr Zardari in her stead.

One cogent reason for Kayani to remain is that, having been tasked to draw up the military’s response to the threat posed by the Taliban and India and to such Indian doctrines as ‘Cold Start’ and ‘Two-Front Wars’, it is only logical that he stays on to implement it. Thus far, Kayani’s operational plans have been successful far beyond expectations, although success against the Taliban has been marred by collateral damage to civilian property and lives, lack of a determined effort to resettle the displaced population and an inability to provide assured security to the inhabitants of the areas supposedly cleansed of the enemy. And although all that, the military says, is not its job, frankly no one buys such nice distinctions. There is no use clearing a field of weeds if nothing is made to grow on it. Whether the military feels aggrieved or not, it had better address these issues lest Kayani be equated with the victorious Protestant general whose troops caused such desolation and suffering that when he was removed many rejoiced.

One hears that the government is currently pondering the amount of extra time General Kayani should be given as head of the army. Should it be one, two or three years? And that will probably depend on who else the government has in mind. And also whether it prefers to serve out its own term with Kayani or would also like to appoint his successor.

Given the proclivity of the current regime to keep its options open, which is another way of not having to deal with the issue immediately, one suspects that it may opt to grant him only another year. That would be a pity for a number of reasons in addition to the importance of continuity of command: the excellent rapport that Kayani has forged with allied generals; the trust that he has engendered among them and with his own troops; the strategy that he enunciated and recently sold to NATO in Brussels; and, of course, the likelihood of another operation in North Waziristan. However, to my mind, Kayani needs to stay most of all because removing a commander in the midst of a war sends the wrong message to friend and foe alike and, more importantly, because he appears uniquely suited for the job at this juncture of our troubled history in view of his personality, temperament, ability, aptitude and experience.

These plusses easily outweigh the heart burning his extension may cause among his peers. They also outweigh fears that he may grow too big for his boots. In any case, that is misreading the man. And, as this is the near universal view about him, not everyone can be wrong. The snag is that General Kayani will not personally raise the issue nor, rumour has it, will he accept an extension unless it is long enough to allow him to implement his plans for the army.

The selection of an army chief, or the question of his extension, is nearly always in Pakistan the subject of intense controversy. What should be and is elsewhere a relatively routine matter dictated by need, and not wish or favour, is not so here. Mr Gilani (or is it Mr Zardari?) has the opportunity to lay such speculation to rest by being forthcoming on the issue and acting quickly to quell the uncertainty. And, hopefully, they will, because one recalls with no pleasure the antics of politicians when it came to choosing General Waheed’s successor after he refused an extension; and earlier after General Asif Nawaz’s untimely death. In the case of the former, it was virtually the only subject of discussion at every Islamabad gathering for weeks and, in the case of the latter, one recalls being offered celebratory sweets by supporters of a general who eventually did not make it. Things should not be allowed to reach such a pass. It is hardly an unforeseen event.

In many respects, therefore, 2010 is a crucial year. It will probably determine Mr Zardari’s fate and, if things do not go well in the war, also Pakistan’s future. Should one be downhearted? No!

May 14, 2010   No Comments

Taliban Widen Afghan Attacks From Pak Bases

The New York Times, Sept 24

WASHINGTON — Senior Taliban leaders, showing a surprising level of sophistication and organization, are using their sanctuary in Pakistan to stoke a widening campaign of violence in northern and western Afghanistan, senior American military and intelligence officials say.
The Taliban’s expansion into parts of Afghanistan that it once had little influence over comes as the Obama administration is struggling to settle on a new military strategy for Afghanistan, and as the White House renews its efforts to get Pakistan’s government to be more aggressive about killing or capturing Taliban leaders inside Pakistan.
American military and intelligence officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were discussing classified information, said the Taliban’s leadership council, led by Mullah Muhammad Omar and operating around the southern Pakistani city of Quetta, was directly responsible for a wave of violence in once relatively placid parts of northern and western Afghanistan. A recent string of attacks killed troops from Italy and Germany, pivotal American allies that are facing strong opposition to the Afghan war at home.
These assessments echo a recent report by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, in portraying the Taliban as an increasingly sophisticated shadow government that sees itself on the cusp of victory in the war-ravaged nation.
General McChrystal’s report describes how Mullah Omar’s insurgency has appointed shadow governors in most provinces of Afghanistan, levies taxes, establishes Islamic courts there and conducts a formal review of its military campaign each winter.
American officials say they believe that the Taliban leadership in Pakistan still gets support from parts of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s military spy service. The ISI has been the Taliban’s off-again-on-again benefactor for more than a decade, and some of its senior officials see Mullah Omar as a valuable asset should the United States leave Afghanistan and the Taliban regain power.
The issue of the Taliban leadership council, or shura, in Quetta is now at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda in its meetings with Pakistani officials.
At the same time, American officials face a frustrating paradox: the more the administration wrestles publicly with how substantial and lasting a military commitment to make to Afghanistan, the more the ISI is likely to strengthen bonds to the Taliban as Pakistan hedges its bets.
American officials have long complained that senior Taliban leaders operating from Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, provide money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan, where most of the nearly 68,000 American forces are deployed.
But since NATO’s offensive into the Taliban-dominated south this spring, the insurgents have surprised American commanders by stepping up attacks against allied troops elsewhere in the country to throw NATO off balance and create the perception of spreading violence that neither the allied military nor the civilian Afghan government in Kabul can control.
“The Taliban is trying to create trouble elsewhere to alleviate pressure” in the south, said one senior American intelligence official. “They’ve outmaneuvered us time and time again.”
The issue has opened fresh rifts between the United States and Pakistan over how to combat the Taliban leadership council in Quetta. American officials have voiced new and unusually public criticism of Pakistan’s role in abetting the growing Afghan insurgency, reviving tensions that seemed to have eased after the two countries worked closely to track and kill Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in an American missile strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas last month.
General McChrystal said in his assessment, which was made public on Monday, “Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with Al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups,” and are reportedly aided by “some elements” of the ISI.
The United States ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, said in a recent interview with the McClatchy newspapers that the Pakistani government was “certainly reluctant to take action” against the leadership of the Afghan insurgency.
Pakistani officials take issue with that, adding that the United States overstates the threat posed by the Quetta shura, possibly because the American understanding of the situation is distorted by vague and self-serving intelligence provided by Afghanistan’s spy service.
A senior Pakistani official said that the United States had asked Pakistan in recent years to round up 10 Taliban leaders in Quetta. Of those 10, 6 were killed or captured by the Pakistanis, 2 were probably in Afghanistan and the remaining 2 presented no threat.
“Pakistan has said it’s willing to act when given actionable intelligence,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “We have made substantial progress in the last year or so against the Quetta shura.”
Pakistani officials also said that a move against militant leaders in Quetta risked inciting public anger throughout Baluchistan, a region that has long had a tense relationship with Pakistan’s government in Islamabad.
Mullah Omar, a reclusive cleric, recently rallied his troops with a boastful message timed for the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr.
In the message, he taunted his American adversaries for ignoring the lessons of past military failures in Afghanistan, including the invasion of Alexander the Great’s army.
And he bragged that the Taliban had emerged as a nationalistic movement that “is approaching the edge of victory.”
A half-dozen American military, intelligence and diplomatic officials said in interviews that the Taliban leadership in Baluchistan, which abuts the portion of southern Afghanistan where most of the fighting is taking place, is increasing its strategic direction over the insurgency.
“The Taliban inner shura in Baluchistan is certainly trying to exercise greater command and control over the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said one American official in Afghanistan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his assessment involved classified intelligence.
The official said that Mullah Abdullah Zakir, a former inmate at the American military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who is now a top Taliban lieutenant, was involved in replacing Taliban shadow governors and commanders, as well as reorganizing the Taliban throughout the country. “The Quetta shura — you can’t knock on their clubhouse door,” a Western diplomat said. “It’s much more of an amorphous group that as best we can tell moves around. They go to Karachi, they go to Quetta, they go across the border.”
American officials grudgingly acknowledge the Taliban’s skill at using guerrilla-style attacks to manipulate public impressions of the insurgency. “We assess that the primary focus of attacks in northern provinces such as Kunduz is to create a perception that the insurgency is spreading like wildfire,” the American official in Afghanistan said. “But I think it’s more of an ‘information operations’ success than a substantive one of holding any territory.”
Another American intelligence official who follows Pakistan closely said the insurgents had sought to exploit allied countries’ political vulnerabilities, like elections in Germany on Sunday. “The Taliban have proven themselves capable of strategic planning,” the official said.
General McChrystal said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he had been surprised by “the growth of the shadow government, the growth of its coercion and its growth into the north and west.”
Germany, which has suffered 33 combat deaths in Afghanistan, has remained committed to the Afghan mission, although it has placed strict limits on where its soldiers can serve, refusing to send them to the south.
But that commitment is now being hotly debated in the coming parliamentary elections, after an airstrike called in by a German commander this month. The NATO airstrike, directed at two tanker trucks carrying alliance fuel that had been hijacked by the Taliban, killed scores of people; the number of dead civilians remains unclear.
Other allies are also rethinking their presence in Afghanistan. A bomb that killed six Italian soldiers in Kabul last Thursday prompted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to declare that his nation had begun planning to “bring our young men home as soon as possible.” Italy has 3,100 troops in Afghanistan. www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/world/asia/24military.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print

September 24, 2009   No Comments

A challenge to integrity: Editorial in The Nation, Aug 13

THE law and order situation in all the four provinces remains a matter of deep concern. With the PPP-led government having done little to resolve the problems of Balochistan despite big promises, extremist slogans are being raised in the province. Sixty persons were reportedly arrested on Tuesday on charge of flying on houses, offices and vehicles the flag of independent Balochistan. In Karachi, targeted killings of political activists continue unabated.
While life in Swat is slowly returning to normal, militancy still poses a threat. Markets have opened, schools, government offices and banks are functioning and the business community and the public at large are expressing resolve to fight extremism. There are however negative developments that need to be taken care of. A day after Prime Minister Gilani and COAS Kayani visited Swat, militants in Buner torched 14 schools, one basic health unit, a warehouse of a private construction company and a policeman’s house. The idea was to undermine the perception of stability, instil fear among the local population and demoralise those cooperating with the government. Through terrorist acts the TTP wants to make it known that despite the government’s claim of having crushed the militants they still remain a force to be dealt with. Meanwhile there are reports of the TTP activists having assembled in the strategic Chagharzai which connects Swat and Buner with Shangla, Mansehra and Battagram districts. There is a need under the circumstances to concentrate on consolidating the gains in Malakand Division before undertaking any other venture as is being suggested by President Zardari. The momentum gained in the region must not be lost. For this the remaining pockets of the militants have to be cleared and their leadership apprehended or neutralised. Any perception of the initiative passing over to the militants is likely to nullify the gains made at great price in human and material terms.
The law and order situation in Punjab as well is far from satisfactory. Speaking at the floor of the House on Monday, a Q-League MNA warned the government of the dangers if firm action was not taken against those responsible for the Gojra incident and the Interior Minister claimed sectarian terrorists were behind the act. A PML-N MNA underlined the gravity of the situation in South Punjab where the incidents of kidnapping for ransom have broken previous records. There is a need on the part of the federal and provincial governments to cooperate to deal with the situation that poses threat to national integrity.

August 13, 2009   No Comments

A Home-grown Conflict: By Malik Siraj Akbar, Balochistan bureau chief of Daily Times

When the first Baloch insurgency broke out in 1948 to resist the illegal and forceful annexation of the Baloch-populated autonomous Kalat state with Pakistan, Manmohan Singh – today Indian prime minister – was barely a teenager while his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani had not even been born to witness the rebellion’s magnitude. Yet, last month, both leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh discussed for the first time the indefatigable Baloch insurgency.

Pakistan has been blaming India for causing trouble in its resource-rich province. Gilani broached the issue with India at a time disgruntled Baloch youth have removed the Pakistani flag from schools and colleges and stopped playing the national anthem. Punjabi officers refuse to serve in Balochistan, fearing they would be target-killed. Islamabad attributes the unrest to ‘foreign involvement’. India is not the first to be blamed. Similar allegations were levelled in the past against the now defunct Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Iraq to discredit the indigenous movement for retaining a distinct Baloch identity. Indian assistance sounds ridiculous given that the Baloch do not share a border, common language, religion or history with India. Hardly has 1 per cent of Balochs have visited India.

The idea of Pakistan never attracted the secular Baloch. Ghose Baksh Bizanjo, a Baloch leader, said in 1947: “It is not necessary that by virtue of our being Muslims we should lose our freedom… If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran… should also amalgamate with Pakistan.”

Over the years, Islamabad has applied a multi-pronged approach to deal with Balochista Apart from military operations launched in 1948, 1958, 1962, 1973 and 2002 to quash the rebellion, Islamabad adopted other tactics. First, it kept the province economically backward by denying it good infrastructure, mainly in education and health. Natural gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1951 and supplied to Punjab’s industrial units. The Balochs hardly benefit from their own gas.

Second, Balochs, whom the state views as traitors, were denied representation in the army, foreign services, federal departments, profitable corporations, Pakistan International Airlines, customs, railways and other key institutions. Third, Balochistan has historically been remote-controlled from Islamabad. A Pakistan army corps commander, often a Punjabi or a Pathan, and the inspector general of the Frontier Corps, a federal paramilitary force with less than 2 per cent Baloch representation, exert more power than the province’s elected chief minister. The intelligence agencies devise election plans and decide who has to come to the provincial parliament and who should be ousted.

Fourth, Islamabad has created a state of terror inside Balochistan. Hundreds of check posts have been established to harass people and restrict their movement. Forces and tanks are stationed even on campuses of universities. Fifth, national and international media are denied access to conflict zones in Balochistan. Several foreign journalists were beaten up supposedly by intelligence agencies personnel or deported when they endeavoured to report the actual situation. Sixth, international human rights organisations are denied access to trace the whereabouts of some 5,000 ‘missing persons’. Pakistan is also in a state of denial about the existence of around 2,00,000 internally displaced persons in Balochistan.

Seventh, Islamabad has been engaged in systematic target killing of key Baloch democratic leaders. Ex-governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, became a victim once he demanded Baloch rights. Balach Marri, a Balochistan Assembly member, was killed to undermine the movement. In April this year, three other prominent leaders were whisked away by security forces and subsequently killed.

Eighth, Pakistan has pitted radical Taliban against secular and democratic Baloch forces. The state is brazenly funding thousands of religious schools across the province with the help of Arab countries to promote religious radicalisation. Elements supportive of Taliban were covertly helped by state institutions to contest and win general elections. They now enjoy sizeable representation in the Balochistan Assembly to legislate against the nationalists and secular forces.

Ninth, Islamabad has been using sophisticated American weapons, provided to crush Taliban, against the Baloch people. This has provided breathing space to Taliban hidden in Quetta and weeded out progressive elements. Finally, Afghan refugees are being patronised to create a demographic imbalance in the Baloch-dominated province.

Baloch leaders are critical of many democratic countries for not doing ‘enough’ to safeguard a democratic, secular Baloch people. I asked Bramdagh Bugti, a Baloch commander, about the India link. He laughed and said, “Would our people live amid such miserable conditions if we enjoyed support from India? We are an oppressed people… seeking help from India, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to come for our rescue.”

The Baloch movement is rapidly trickling down from tribal chiefs to educated middle-class youth aggressively propagating their cause on Facebook and YouTube. This generation would understandably welcome foreign assistance but will not give up even if denied help from countries like India. The Baloch insist their struggle was not interrupted even at times when India and Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations.

August 11, 2009   No Comments

US: Proof of Indian meddling in Balochistan not provided

holbroke1By Anwar Iqbal in The Dawn, July 31
WASHINGTON, July 30: Pakistan raised the issue of India’s involvement in Balochistan with the US, but provided no credible evidence to support their claim, says America’s special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

“I would be misleading, if I said it didn’t come up,” said Mr Holbrooke when asked if Pakistan brought up this issue during his visit to the country last week.

Responding to the second part of the question — “if Pakistan also gave credible evidence to support its claim” — Mr Holbrooke said: “The narrow answer to your question is no.”

Pakistan raised this issue with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well at a bilateral meeting in Egypt on July 16.

On Wednesday, Mr Singh defended the inclusion of Balochistan in an India-Pakistan joint statement issued after the meeting but said he received no dossier from his Pakistani counterpart on India’s alleged involvement.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Pakistan linked its action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba with New Delhi ending its covert operations in Balochistan.

The report said that in conversations with the Obama administration, Pakistan’s army chief indicated that India needed to stop meddling in Balochistan in return for Pakistan’s actions against the Lashkar.

At his briefing in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Holbrooke also refused to discuss Occupied Kashmir, saying that it was outside his area of responsibility.

“That issue is outside my area of ability to discuss,” he said when asked to what extent the resolution of the Kashmir issue would help him in achieving the US goal to dismantle, disrupt and defeat the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Mr Holbrooke cast doubt on the success of Pakistan’s Swat valley offensive, saying that it was unclear if the military had defeated the Taliban in the region or simply driven them underground.

“We don’t know exactly to what extent the Pakistani army dispersed or destroyed the enemy,” he told his first media briefing after his visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan last week. “The test of this operation is, of course, when the refugees return. Can they go home? Are they safe? And we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Mr Holbrooke said that during his trip he wanted to visit Swat as well but the Pakistani military advised him not to do so now.

“I asked to go to Swat or Buner knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Mingora, but I wanted to establish the limits of what was possible here,” he said.

“And the military said they really would prefer we didn’t do it now. And look, ‘prefer’ means ‘no’. So we didn’t.”

Mr Holbrooke, however, said the US was in constant touch with Pakistan to help it deal with any spill-over effect of stepped-up operations by international forces on the Afghan side.

He said that top US military commanders in Afghanistan often visited Pakistan to discuss the issue. “So the military-to-military discussions are helping to harmonise the situation” in the area, he said.

The purpose of these consultations, he said, was to alert Islamabad of any movement of militants from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Mr Holbrooke urged the international community to provide sustained economic support to Pakistan so that it could deal with the problem of the Swat refugees and the economic and energy crises.

“Pakistan is critically important to the rest of the world” and could not be ignored.

Secondly, he said, what happened in Pakistan affected Afghanistan.

Mr Holbrooke also praised the Pakistani leadership for shifting some of its forces stationed along its eastern border with India to the western frontier bordering Afghanistan to fight out Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“The Pakistanis have moved a very large number of troops from their eastern border to their western border. That’s a historically significant redeployment,” he saidhttp://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/proof-of-indian-meddling-in-balochistan-not-provided-us-179

August 1, 2009   No Comments

Army Calling Shots In Pakistan

By Man Mohan Kaul
If there are any doubts about who is calling the shots in Pakistan, here is further evidence that says that the Army does it.

The Pakistan Army has made it clear to the country’s Parliament. lt that cannot withdraw its forces from its present location. The context here is clearly the Indian border.

The Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, said at an in-camera briefing to MPs on May 15 that the Army cannot be withdrawn from its locations of covering the expected attack routes on the border with India.

Specifically, he told the MPs that the Army would not mount its operations as per the diktats and preferences of any outside force.

The context here is very clear: US President Barack Obama impressed upon President Asif Ali Zardari when the two met early in May that Pakistan Army should withdraw its forces from the relatively peaceful border and re-deploy its personnel and equipment in the current fight against the Taliban.

Zardari responded by agreeing to it in principle and later said while interacting with the American that some units had actually been shifted.

But he spoke too early and Kayani has all but vetoed the move.

Only one newspaper carried the story that was probably an official leak from the Army General Headquarters. No one is prepared to vouch whether the account is accurate but Pakistan watchers are confident that this was a report based on the briefing Kiani gave the lawmakers.

It was about the four-hour in-camera briefing. Had the Army taken a decision and was the Parliament being simply informed? This remains a matter of conjecture. .

Either way, it reflects the thinking of the Pakistan Army and the lawmakers were being told who is the real boss when it comes to matters pertaining to national security and that too, where India is involved.

If there is a formal decision by the Army, no announcement was made: perhaps it was not found necessary. The Army simply let its mind be known and did not want the fledgling civilian government to take the diplomatic rap from the Obama Administration.

Here, one is not even speculating on the angry Indian reaction despite the preoccupation with the elections and formation of a new government.

The Pakistan Army is upset that the Americans have been trying hard in their Afghan-Pak thinking to make Pakistan withdraw the bulk of its Army from positions of confronting India to its western borders where the Taliban trouble is still going strong.

What is clear is that Pakistan Army is simply not willing to withdraw from positions of checkmating Indian military forces.

On the other hand, it plans to up its ante on the border with India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, to tell the Americans that their assessment of the situation on the Indo-Pak border is grossly inadequate and ill-informed.

The next question arises whether Pakistan would continue to resist American pressures to relieve the bulk of its troops to serve on its northwestern frontier.

This remains a billion dollar question, literally and figuratively, since the US is bending backwards to salvage the sinking Pakistani economy and fund its defence acquisitions in the name of fighting the Taliban.

One assessment is that the US has also prodded the other NATOP nations and Japan to pool in a whopping $ 23 billion over the next five years.

But Obama Administration and the US/Nato concerns and efforts are a present-day developments, while Pakistan’s struggle to maintain its identity that it fears could be obliterated by India is as old as its own life.

It does not require Kiani to spell it out and the Pakistani lawmakers to understand and appreciate that Pakistan’s very existence has depended upon opposing India.

The very emergence of Pakistan was because its founding father felt convinced that Muslims could not live in a Hindu-dominated India.

It needs recalling here that Pakistan in its very first year of existence devoted some 43 per cent of its budget to defence. It was meant in Muslim League government’s thinking that it would prevent Pakistan from being gobbled up by India.

But that set the benchmark. High defence spending aimed at defending Pakistan against Indian threat, real or perceived, has been the story of Pakistan for the last six decades. This is now almost an article of faith for all conservative sections. To move away would be such a radical shift in Pakistan policy that it is hard to imagine it can ever be agreed to.

The Americans are recommending such a radical departure from traditional Pakistani view that has congealed into an ideology. The conservative political class – the whole of it, actually — does think that India is an existential and permanent threat to Pakistan.

To move away from the original is now too hard an exercise. No regime in Pakistan – military, civilian, quasi-civilian-quasi-military – not to speak of the liberals and the once-influential socialists, ever could deny the demands of the country’s armed forces. Everything is just brushed aside when it comes to “defendant of the nation”, particularly when this ‘defence’ is enmeshed with the “defence of Islam,” and “Kashmir”

Pakistan joined, willy-nilly under Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the global war against terrorism, doing a complete U-turn in the support the Taliban rulers of Kabul. But decades before that, Pakistan had joined the West-led military alliances that were meant to counter the communists who ruled Russia.

That Pakistan has managed to sup with the Chinese since the 1960s, and that china remains a communist nation that the US and the West view with concern is a different story altogether.

Pakistan agreed to join the west in lieu of military and some economic aid. The Americans were clear headed. They had made it plain from day one that their aid is not to be used against India. But did that ever happen?

When he launched his misadventure in 1965, its grandiose name was “Operation Gibraltar”, Ayub Khan believed that the America who not do much beyond shouting and protesting if Pakistan used its aided equipment against India

He did use it in 1965 war and the Americans were, expectedly, angry. They imposed sanctions on Pakistan; aid was suspended for some years.

But the Americans always knew that Pakistan would do such a thing when needed. They showed their anger more for the record than actual punishment of Pakistan. It was more to please India. Later America relented and the aid was resumed.

New sanctions were imposed on Pakistan and were fairly quickly lifted each time Pakistan used the American-supplied military hardware against India.

The situation is no different and all concerned – the Pakistanis, the Americans and even the Indians – know it. The Indian dismay at the Obama Administration’s Af-Pak policy is precisely on this ground. Only, in the more complex situation that develops in the new century, it finds open protests against the US and the West counter-productive.

Pakistan and its Army cannot possibly annoy Americans in any big way. Without American aid Pakistan Army cannot be sustained. It now requires anything from $ 500 million to 1 billion a year in foreign exchange.

This is only consideration. There are others: Can Pakistan say no to what Americans may insist on? Can Pakistan sustain a policy of defiance to America? It is easier said in a conference or in a briefing.

Some political posturing is permissible by the donors but not in terms of fundamental choices. And this is precisely the message conveyed through Kayani’s briefing to the country’s lawmakers.

Kayani’s message is: If Pakistan Army is expected to take its forces off the Indian border, then why have the Army at all? Taliban, or for that matter, even Al Qaida, are recent phenomena and will come and go. India will still be around to “gobble up” Pakistan

June 26, 2009   No Comments