IS PAKISTAN UNRAVELLING ?

Anil Athale,

with contributions from Lt Gens Eric Vas & Ashok Joshi and Maj. Gen.s KS Pendse & SCN Jatar.  ,

 

 

In the wake of enquiry commission report on the events of 9/11, there is a spate of articles in the American media detailing the major role played by Pakistan in that catalytic event At popular level in America, as shown in various Hollywood movies, Pakistanis are often depicted as terrorists along with the Arabs.

On a recent visit to the US ( last week of June) one was struck by the general air of pessimism prevailing amongst the American think tanks about the future of Pakistan.  Some of these experts are well known for their soft corner for that country, therefore it was all the more surprising.  Earlier that honour was reserved for India, prediction of  its break up after Nehru or after BJP came to power were routine. But similar sentiments being expressed about Pakistan was indeed a new experience.

         The reasons for the Pakistani crisis according to them were,

·                           Rift within the Pak army between rank and file and officers, between senior officers and junior officers ( post Zia period and influenced by Islamist world view versus the old guard that is more pro American and moderate) and within the officer class as a whole between Islamists and moderates.

·                           Unrest in the civil society due to food shortages and clear perception that the army was hoodwinking the people in name of threat from India.

·                           Disenchantment with Mullahs who are now increasingly seen as the biggest threat to Islam.

·                           Regional differences between provinces where Sindh and Baluchistan feel discriminated against in matters of allocation of financial resources.

·                           Effects of the anti Tribal operations in Waziristan area.

·                           Effects of Indian elections where Pakistani people, specially poor, saw how democracy works while in Pakistan they are powerless and under the army rule. This feeling of disaffection has also spread to the middle classes.

      The two pillars on which the ruling Mullah military alliance stood,

·             Threat from India.

·             Danger to Islam.

 

Both stand discredited and weakened if not altogether demolished. The hype and mass coverage to the recently concluded cricket series did much to blunt the anti India edge.  Paradoxically the wide media coverage given to the frequent missile test that are carried out by Pakistan have further convinced the vast majority of Pakistanis that India no longer poses a threat to them.

 

Singly, none of these factors could pose a threat of dissolution of Pakistan. But the fact that these multiple crisis are occurring simultaneously is the real danger. The US places lot of faith in Musharraf. They feel he is their best bet to keep Pakistan together and away from turning terroristic. But the Americans are clearly worried about the very survival of Musharraf in case of a major ‘catch’ like Mullah Omar or Osama Bin Laden as a result of ongoing military operations in Pakistan/Afghanistan border areas. 

           The Americans are concerned that collapse of Pakistan may remove the vital pillar of their Afghan and anti terror policy and are searching for answers. But it also appears that they may well be preparing for the inevitable if that becomes unavoidable. Given the proximity of Americans to the Pakistani establishment, their views have to be taken seriously.

 

HOW WILL IT UNRAVEL.

 

Two possible scenarios are ,

1.      Revolt in the periphery.

The provinces of Sindh, Baluchistan, Northern Areas and Pok may well revolt against Punjabi domination. North West Province is already part of Afghanistan all in except name, so is likely to continue in the same way. It is accepted that Pakistani army is capable and ruthless enough to crush this revolt with great brutality. But if all of periphery revolts at the same time then its resources are not adequate. At most it can deal with one revolt at a time not more than that. In this case while there would be no direct military threat to India, we may well be saddled with huge refugee influx specially from Sindh and POK. In addition, the Jihadi elements may well then try to create similar disturbances in India by engineering Godhra type incidents. The forthcoming Amarnath Yatra may well be the first target. As the central authority would be weak in this situation, Jihadis may well be totally out of control with grave threat of increased terrorism in India that would be random and directed at creating communal animosities in India. This would be helped by the local sympathisers of Jihadis who have created virtually autonomous enclaves in major urban centres of India.

2.      Taliban like Hardliners take over of Pakistani Army and the State.

The second possible scenario is that a hardline faction of the army consisting of the younger elements led by persons like Lt. Gen. Aziz with help of Jamaat E Islami take over the army. It may not mean any rift within the army as Pak army has tradition of conducting bloodless coupes. What may well happen is systematic purge of army moderates and elimination of opposing civilians. The revolt could be bloody if the moderate army leadership finds support amongst rank and file and those units stand by and fight. It is now clear that the two assassination attempts against Musharraf were an inside job signifying that there is a sizeable pro Fundamentalist faction within the army. But if the extremists are stronger then faced with the prospect of certain defeat, it is unlikely that any soldier may hitch his future with the moderates. There may well be resistance in the civil society. In case this scenario is to materialise then since the Jihadi forces would be fully engaged in consolidating their hold over Pakistan, there would be very little attempt to foment trouble in India. Flow of refugees is however likely to be even greater. Since a Taliban like take over Pak is certain to invite economic sanctions, Pak would face an economic collapse as all aid would dry up. A Taliban like regime taking over in Pakistan would have long term repercussions on India in that the hardline Islamists within India would get greater support. A sort of mirror image of what happened to Pakistani when Taliban took over Afghanistan. The Taliban like revolt would have grave repercussions on the West’s war on terrorism in Afghanistan and a likely military intervention by West may take place.

India can not keep aloof from these events. In this scenario the use of Pakistani nuclear weapons against India, either authorised or by rouge elements is very likely. How far the Americans have seized the control of Pak nukes is not known at this point in time. A web site some time ago had claimed that the Jihadis have control over two/three nuclear tipped missiles.

The basic cause for unravelling of Pakistan was the very un-naturalness of the concept of Pakistan. If religion alone could be basis of nationalism then what about the minuscule Hindus and Christians in Pakistan, are they also a separate nation?

 

CONTRARY VIEW.

 

A long term context and view of Islam shows that Islamic separatism is still a potent force in the subcontinent. The spread of political Islam was halted on the banks of Narmada in the 18th century. But in the North of the subcontinent there has been no roll back of Islamic influence like in Europe. Separation of Bangladesh could well be explained as having taken place due to geographical factors. The current direction of Bangladesh in Islamising shows that clearly. Pakistan could well be seen as an extension of Middle East into the Indian subcontinent. Wherever in local majority, as in Kashmir, the Muslims yearn for a separate state or merger with existing Islamic entity.

Pakistani achievement of survival between 1947-1954 ( before the beginning of Western aid) should not be underestimated. A huge ( in proportion of its overall population) inflow of refugees, total absence of any infrastructure of government and lack of natural resources and industry did not deter Pakistan from not only surviving but thriving and even invading parts of India, ie Kashmir. The ‘hate India cement is too strong and the rulers will use it when faced with difficulty and label all revolts on the periphery as ‘Anti Islam’ and crush them ruthlessly.

 

The very basis of Pakistan is anti democracy. It was created since the Muslims did not accept living under a rule of Hindu majority. Creation of Pakistan on that basis ensured that democracy remained a factor to be suppressed with the use of Sharia and feudalism. Islam has been used by the Pak elites for governance and keeping India destabilised. Pak army would not break up or revolt, it would merely change its role from  ‘modernising’ to enforcing ‘Sharia’.

 

Revolt by the poor and disposed in Pakistan is unlikely as the people of the subcontinent have a virtually unlimited capacity to suffer. Also the history of Islam in the subcontinent shows that an Aurangzeb invariably succeeds against a liberal Dara Shikoh. This has been proved time and again. What is likely to happen in Pakistan is series of coupes as a letting off steam mechanism for the society. Witness the exactly identical rhetoric against corruption et al that has been used by all the military coupe leaders since Ayub and swallowed by the Pak public.   One of the coupes could well usher in an Islamist and Taliban like corps commander and lead to Talibanisation of Pakistan. As long as the minimum level of order prevails and common man can survive, there is no chance of unravelling of Pakistan.

As against the above argument, some reports suggest that the anarchy that prevails in Karachi and even Lahore is such that ordinary thievery is passé and in its place there are crimes like ‘car snatching’ taking place in Pakistan. There have been reports of Pak army officers defying the orders to shoot at civilians in Tribal areas. Musharraf himself is prisoner in his palace and does not dare to move out. The minimum level of ‘order’ has already collapsed in Pakistan and use of army to restore order would bring it in direct confrontation with the people. Would it then act against the people or the rulers?

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

But first and foremost, the Indian government, media and the people must give up the woolly notion of attributing all this to the machinations of the ISI. It is time that we realized the truth that the ISI is manned by Pakistani army personnel on deputation and operates under firm control of the Pakistani Army Chief  ( NOT  PM). For all intents and purposes it is part and parcel of the Pak Army.

 

Recently  PM Jamali has been replaced. The scenario of coupes and counter coupes seem to be in place. India has to watch out for ,

  • Advent of Islamist leader at the helm of affairs.
  • If there is a peaceful coupe then the terrorists would be unleashed against India as the best bet for a new ruler to establish himself.
  • If there is Taliban takeover then its local sympathisers would create trouble and there is a greater danger of pre-emptive use of nukes by Pak as the Taliban mindset is inherently illogical and unstable.

 

The constant ‘Hot and Cold’ blowing by Musharraf is a symptom of the instability there. At the minimum, India must expect and deal with the continuing campaign of terror against us.