Pakistan Rising?

Spearhead Analysis – 01.06.2015

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at PM House. INP PHOTOIt has been generally accepted that Pakistan’s economy has stabilized and is no longer in a crisis situation. It is also the general perception that Pakistan’s economy could now start leaning towards modest growth. This perception comes on the back of the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the statistics supporting a stabilized economy. Adding to this optimistic picture is the emerging convergence between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China on the need for peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan by sidelining insurgent and terrorist threats that menace the region and the world.

This picture of Pakistan and its near abroad needs to be seen in the context of a US that has lost the primacy it had after the fall of Russia and Communism and a China that is increasingly assertive on the global scene especially in areas where interests clash. The US will have to decide if it can accommodate China as a global player or if it wants confrontation that could lead to a China-Russia alliance with India siding with the US. The Ukraine situation, European weakness, the Asia-Pacific region and the implications of China’s backing of new financial institutions are all relevant considerations as is the future US-Iran relationship and the future shape of the Middle East. For Pakistan what matters most is internal consolidation and cooperative bilateral relationships with all its neighbors and long time allies like the US, China and Saudi Arabia. An internally secure and economically viable Pakistan could give enormous strength to its foreign policy options.

Recently Pakistan moved quickly to reciprocate the Afghan Presidents’ overtures for better bilateral ties and cooperative action to combat a common threat. This has resulted in the first ever historic intelligence pact between the two countries that promises to be the driver between operational actions and more than anything else indicates that Pakistan understands the new realities that warrant changed policies. Pakistan has also shown exceptional resolve in the ongoing military operation in the western border areas — Operation Zarb e Azb — that is delivering results. The military has also put its organizational and structural strength behind the political leadership through various institutional structures to combat the situation in Baluchistan and Karachi. More importantly Pakistan has clearly spelt out India’s inspirational and supportive role in covert operations to keep Pakistan internally destabilized and internationally isolated. How India reads the new track that Pakistan is treading will determine the course of future relations between the two nuclear weapon states. Pakistan has repeatedly and unambiguously stated that it wants dialogue to resolve issues and normalize relations. India focuses on past events and its new found international status to have its own way through coercion. The upsurge in violence within Pakistan aimed at stirring sectarian and separatist issues in the wake of the agreements on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is an indicator of India’s intentions.

Pakistan needs to stay firmly on the path it has chosen. The best bet against radicalization and exploitation of its vulnerabilities is an economy that generates jobs and unites the people against threats and in support of the responses being made. There are, however, several areas that need special focus if failure is to be avoided. The facets of the National Action Plan evolved after the Peshawar atrocity to combat radicalization and intolerance need to be implemented on priority. The civil-military relationship has to be nurtured and maintained in the interest of democracy but a prolonged tutelary role by the military can be counterproductive. The political leadership has to be assertive and must deliver on leadership, governance and institution building with minimum use of discretionary powers to control institutions. The perception of rampant corruption and a sidelining of merit must not be allowed to persist and nor should incompetence at any level be tolerated. Recent statements by Army Corps Commanders in their respective areas of responsibility are an indicator of the military’s seriousness in tackling issues and its understanding of complex economic, political and human security matters.

It must be noted that a major national political party was not only voted out but is now reduced to barely regional and possibly ethnic status. A massive war chest could not change voter disillusionment. The present government is in the third year of its five year tenure with the perception gaining ground that it is the military that is the glue holding the country together and that the military is in an unobtrusive over watch role. This perception can and should change if those in positions of authority exercise leadership and understand the expectations that people have from them.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)