Friday, January 13, 2012

Pakistan: Still On The Brink


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The War of Nerves in Pakistan, which has degenerated into a War of the Institutions of the State, shows no signs of ending.

2. The lack of self-restraint on the part of the three institutions involved in the war---the elected executive, the Army and the judiciary--- has kept the country on the brink. The inflexible stand taken by the three institutions has created the danger of a possible institutional collapse, the main beneficiaries of which could be neither the elected executive, nor the army nor the judiciary, but the jihadi elements opposed to a liberal democracy who are waiting in the wings for the collapse of the State.

3.The jihadi elements, who had always advocated the end of the liberal democracy on the ground that it gives greater importance to the will of the people than to the will of Allah, are hoping that the present civil war of the institutions, might pave the way for the replacement of a liberal democratic State by a jihadi State. If this happens, the implications will be serious not only for the people of Pakistan, but for the international community as a whole.

4. There is a real danger of Pakistan becoming a failed State not as a result of a collapse of its economy and/or system of governance, but as a result of the civil war being waged by the institutions of the State.

5. The Army has united behind Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). According to reliable sources, the Corps Commanders and the Principal Staff Officers, who held a strategy session at the GHQ in Rawalpindi on January 12,2012, threw their weight behind Kayani and Lt.General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and decided that the ISI should provide security to MansoorIjaz, the US citizen of Pakistani origin, who unwittingly or deliberately triggered off the present confrontation, to enable him to testify before the Judicial Enquiry Commission appointed by Chief JusticeIftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury to enquire into the allegations made by Ijaz against HussainHaqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to US, in connection with the so-called Memogate.

6.The same sources say that the Army is firm that HussainHaqqani must be punished for what it looks upon as an act of treason in complaining to the US Government against the Pakistan Army and seeking Washington’s intervention in the matter. Punishment of Haqqani is the minimum that the Army demands as a price for relenting in its fight against the elected executive.
7. The seeming support of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister YousefRazaGilani to Haqqani even before the serious allegations made by Ijaz against him had been formally enquired into and their action in providing security to Haqqani while dragging their feet on the question of security to Ijaz have added to the anger of the Army.

8.The judiciary’s determination to go ahead with its enquiry into the allegations of Ijaz despite the non-cooperation of the executive has encouraged the inflexible stand of the Army.

9. Despite whatever one might say about the domination of the Army in the Pakistani State, the anger of the military class against the political class in general and Haqqani in particular for allegedly seeking the intervention of the US against the Pakistan Army has to be understood instead of being ridiculed. The credibility of Kayani as the leader of the military class---in the eyes of his senior officers as well as the rank and file--- could suffer if he is seen as taking a soft line on this issue.

10. To save Pakistan from a looming institutional collapse, three steps are necessary:

(a). A statement by the Government that the law will be allowed to take its course against Haqqani and that the Government will not stand in the way of the judicial enquiry into the matter.
(b).A public assurance by Kayani that all the Army wants is action against Haqqani and that it has no intention of staging a coup to overthrow the elected Government.
( c ). A reiteration by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the judiciary’s determination not to provide ex-post facto validation to any coup staged by the Army.

11. At a time when there is a crying need for wisdom, discretion and self-imposed restraint on the part of the political class as a whole, the opportunistic attempts of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to exploit the situation for their partisan purposes could push Pakistan down the precipice.

12.US policy-makers, who have nothing to learn and nothing to forget from their experiences in Pakistan, are adding to the complexities of the situation by coming out with statements and remarks which are seen by the military class as sympathetic to Haqqani. The US has to realise that it no longer has the same influence over the Pakistan Army as it used to have before May 2 last when its special forces unilaterally raided Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden. (13-1-12)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.