Spearhead Analysis – 05.10.2017
By Fatima Ayub
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
India and Pakistan did not disappoint the world at the 72nd UNGA meeting. PM Abbasi highlighted Indian atrocities and the flagrant abuse of human rights in Indian Held Kashmir where a revolt against Indian occupation is in full swing with no signs of a let up. He also dwelt on India’s declared and proved involvement in support of a nascent and dying separatist movement in Baluchistan. The Indian FM Sushma Swaraj forgot diplomatic norms as she raged against Pakistan for harboring and protecting banned militant outfits. Pakistan’s representative to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi exercising her right of rebuttal was blunt and forthright in her response to the Indian FM’s speech. So what was gained and what was lost? The two countries raged against each other in a multilateral world forum and may have found some satisfaction in living up to the expectations of their domestic audiences. What was lost, however, was the opportunity to tell the world that the two states could face their differences, live with them and try to resolve them through dialogue. India’s attitude precludes any such possibility.
Lost in the verbal sparring and Indian violations of the cease fire on the LOC is the fact that recently Pakistan’s PM, FM and the COAS have all on different occasions and in different contexts stated that Pakistan needs to put its own house in order. This combined stance implies that Pakistan has to move towards political stability and economic security and that this includes addressing the alleged presence of banned militant organizations who may be engaged in cross border activity from sanctuaries in Pakistan. In this context the COAS’ interaction with the Afghan President and the FM’s address at the Asia Society and the USIP and more recently his meeting with the US Secretary of State are significant developments. The US response has been positive as General Mattis has laid out a blueprint for future interaction but the threat implicit in recent statements by Generals Mattis and Dunford at the Congressional Committee hearings and the talk of ‘other options’ and ‘last chance to Pakistan’ should not be ignored as these indicate a mindset rooted in the past. After all the former US President called Pakistan an ‘an abysmally dysfunctional country’, a former US Joint Services Chairman had said that the ‘Taliban were an extension of the ISI’ and President Trump has stated his views strongly. There is talk of ISI’s ‘links’ with Taliban—can any intelligence agency do its job without links? But unlike the present situation with India the relationship with the US can be salvaged and the path to that is through the ‘broad based, structured framework for dialogue to serve mutual interests’ suggested by the FM in Washington DC.
Pakistan’s internal political turmoil needs to be urgently addressed by the current political leadership. Instigated institutional confrontations for personal interests are not the answer. There is a need for institutional interaction between those at the helm of affairs as suggested by the Chairman Senate and in a convoluted way also by the former PM. The COAS also asked for increased civil military interaction during the Parliamentary Committees’ meeting in GHQ. The political rhetoric needs to be toned down and the problems facing the country, not individuals, need to be addressed. The fact that the US Secretary of State showed concern about Pakistan’s political stability highlights the fact that Pakistan’s international image is taking a beating that is totally unwarranted. In a recent telecast the anchor asked the top economists and financial experts in the country to give their views on the dire economic situation and its impact on security. This is the problem that should be on top of the agenda in NSC meetings and other meetings.
It does not help the country’s image when new political parties backed by hard line banned militant groups suddenly surface and participate in elections as happened in the NA 120 elections. There was an uproar in the media but very little reaction from political parties and hardly any in the Parliament. If there is some kind of a master plan to bring militant groups into mainstream politics, then this stealthy ingress is not the answer. A seriously thought out effort is needed that does not exploit religious divides and create international concerns. The dormant National Action Plan needs to be revived and made a part of Pakistan’s new inward look. In this context it is important to reassess ISIS ingress into Pakistan from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan–especially after the cell discovered in Karachi University and the sudden appearance of the Daesh flag in Islamabad. The farcical ‘Free Baluchistan’ posters that appeared in Geneva indicate external exploitation of our current internal situation. Western countries need to be reminded that by permitting such acts they are inviting violence within their societies.
Given the wide array of stakeholders dealing with internal security, there is a need to establish and push for an institutional framework for the quick implementation of the National Action Plan, wherein policy and coordination measures must be reached by mutual consensus of both the civilian and the military institutions of the state. This calls for a re-assessment of the National Action Plan– to rehash Pakistan’s domestic priorities to allow the state to accept its security shortcomings and begin the process of tackling extremism and intolerance. Pakistan needs to take these steps to consolidate the gains made through successful military and intelligence operations. The long overdue mainstreaming of FATA needs to be expedited. Once the world understands Pakistan’s strategic direction, global support will begin to materialize and interaction with world powers can ensure this
At the global level, the world is undergoing shifts in political alignments and Pakistan must use its strategic geographical alignment in the increasingly significant South Asian sphere to its advantage – a constructive and open dialogue with the Afghan government aimed at political solutions and a commitment to an Afghan owned, Afghan-led peace process will allow Pakistan to do damage control and not leave open a caveat for Indian strategic diplomacy to take advantage of. It must be noted that the Modi regime has raised its profile as a key ally to the Afghan cause by funding and aiding the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. While the scope and nature of funding is not solely limited to monetary sums of an estimated 2 billion dollars in aid, Islamabad views these aid measures as a camouflaged attempt to infiltrate and fund anti-Pakistan militant outfits on the periphery of the porous Afghan-Pakistan border. India has also escalated its hostility on the international scene and its subversive activities in Baluchistan. In spite of all this Pakistan needs to break out of its India centric thinking and strike out with a proactive foreign policy.
The recent briefing by the military’s spokesman—the Director General Inter Services Relations—has set the record straight on many issues. He not only highlighted what the military has done and is doing for Pakistan but also bluntly disassociated the military from any involvement in political and judicial matters. He explained the motivations of those who malign the military and its intelligence assets. He answered all questions—even those on political issues—and his response to the silence after the Corps Commanders conference spoke volumes.