Spearhead Analysis – 26.03.2013
The ancient Greeks advocated walking backwards into the future with your eyes fixed on the past. We are not ancient Greeks and our style is to put the past behind us, forget it and go forth boldly into areas where no one has ventured before. What else can explain the predicament we are in now? Economists are going hoarse screaming about the declining economy because of reckless spending, growing deficits, poor resource generation and hemorrhaging public sector enterprises. The ‘establishment’ has identified the internal threat as the most serious threat facing the country and it must have done this on the basis of the linkage between the endless insurgency in FATA, high levels of urban violence, the widening fissures from sectarian conflict, increasing radicalization and the activities of extremist militants. Only an ostrich would assume that such a heady internal mix would not be exploited by our external enemies or those seeking to coerce us into compliance. The external threat has morphed to become a part of the internal threat and the line between the two has blurred. We should not expect that anyone will bail us out or let us off the hook – they would rather watch us stew in juices of our own making.
The only glimmer of a silver lining in the darkness around us is the fact that an ‘informal’ economy buoyed by robust remittances from Pakistanis abroad is keeping us afloat in a consumption oriented environment and that we are headed for elections after the elected government completed its five year tenure – the first such event for us. All hopes are now pinned on the elections. The next government will need to start by fixing the civil-military relationship – this means putting in place a very competent team that will ensure good governance and sound policies to achieve the kind of credibility that will draw the military to support it with all its assets. The government will then have to assert its supremacy in national security and foreign policy making keeping economic considerations upper most. Assertion on the basis of authority alone never works. Major policy decisions like our bilateral relations, the counter insurgency in the west, the problems in Karachi and Baluchistan, law and order, radicalization, intolerance, poverty, human security and all the other issues that have to be the precursor of an economic revival can then be taken in a formal structured environment that deters all considerations other than national interest.
There are serious challenges ahead and the past needs to be reviewed so that mistakes are not repeated. The situation in Afghanistan and its influence on our tribal areas and TTP (Tehrik Taleban Pakistan) activities casts a big shadow over the country. The US came to Afghanistan on the backs of former Northern Alliance warlords and westernized Afghans to defeat Al Qaeda and stayed on to restructure the country and destroy the Taleban. Neither of these tasks has been fully accomplished and the US is preparing to leave after a reconciliation process that brings the Taleban into the political mainstream. An ethnic imbalance created at the outset persists and a north-south divide looms as a possibility. Many consider the Constitution to be flawed. The northern warlords are preparing to defend their turf as are the Taleban. Pakistan’s support of the reconciliation process should not cause it to ignore the worst case scenario in Afghanistan and it should carefully assess the continued US presence in Afghanistan post 1914 and the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces. This should determine our short term and long term policies in FATA – alienated people cannot be mainstreamed. Nor can we fight an endless war that draws sustenance from across the border and supports violence within the country. A consolidated intelligence picture of the internal situation is important and for this the output from all agencies has to be coordinated in order to develop interlinked tactical and strategic responses. The success of these policies will depend on an economic revival plan – that again must have short term and long term measures.
Unknown to most the military has brought about something akin to a revolution in its internal affairs. Notwithstanding views to the contrary the military has operated within its own sphere and has clearly stated the interventions and ideas like strategic defiance and strategic depth are things of the past – not to be repeated. This has given it time to focus inwards. A series of strategic and tactical war games including logistical and mobilization plans and follow up actions has prepared it for the spectrum of threats that it faces or is likely to face while sustaining counter insurgency operations in the west. Security and counter subversion measures have been upgraded. Welfare arrangements for the troops have been vastly improved especially because of the losses in lives and crippling injuries during operations. Strategic deterrence has been upgraded and the capacity to inflict attrition and respond to so called punitive and preventive strikes developed. The military, however, has to function in an overall environment created by all the elements of national power for which the well spring has to be the political leadership and its policies. The hope is that the next government will bring together and harmonize all the institutions—and for this you need leadership not just people in positions of authority.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)