Pakistan’s Evolving Internal Scenario

Spearhead Analysis – 08.07.2015

Pak_grandeIf there is one word that could describe Pakistan’s political scene it is vibrancy. Rumors, speculation, the shadow of the military, the criticism of the elected government, the reported shenanigans of the politicians, interference by India’s intelligence agency RAW, worries about US interference and the obsession with the state of civil-military relations — all combine to give grist to the 24/7 churning media mills. This leads to lively and even irresponsible debates across the population spectrum and these debates get a shot in the arm from the anchors orchestrated discussions on the electronic media and the writings of wise men in the print media. Periodically the foreign media intervenes with provocative researched articles to add another flavor to the bubbling cauldron. In their enthusiasm to add a new twist to the ongoing debates the discussants sometimes forget that this is their own country that they are talking about and that what is being said can expose chinks in the country’s armor for exploitation by those on the lookout for such vulnerabilities.

Over the last several years there is increasing belief that democracy is here to stay and that the military is not interested in taking over — in fact the perception is that it is working to make democracy sustainable. The operations being conducted by the military against insurgents and the success achieved has put an end to the talk of an existential threat to Pakistan and there is a surge of hope and optimism. The intelligence driven actions to cleanse the internal environment are finally delivering results and as they expand and succeed there will be an elimination of the vulnerabilities that are being created and exploited by external elements through linkages with internal collaborators. The arrest in economic decline coupled with the slowly improving internal security situation has ended the talk about Pakistan being a failing state. This distinction should now be conferred on Greece and Portugal that have sunk to new economic lows without even a semblance of a threat to their security. Pakistan has shown remarkable resilience and this fact should be noted against the backdrop of writings those who never tire of maligning Pakistan’s military and its intelligence services — without really understanding the changed dynamics within Pakistan that are driving the military to give new meaning to civil-military relations.

All incumbent governments come in for criticism being under the microscope and the present government is no exception. It is criticized for ceding space to the military, for misgovernance, for failure to forge credible and competent teams, for corruption and for compromises even with those who threaten the state. Such criticism has been the lot of previous regimes too including the military ones. This time it all seems magnified manifold because of a free and unfettered and commercial gain driven media and new political players on the scene — though some are not new but merely recycled. Though all sorts of speculations are rife the abiding perception is that unless it really wants to commit hara kiri the present government will complete its tenure and that the political institution should prepare for the next scheduled elections. The government that seems stoic and indifferent is apparently banking on an economic turnaround and an end to the energy crisis on the basis of the multibillion Chinese economic package and the success of the military’s actions to ensure internal security — this should happen over the next two years giving the ruling political party time to cash in on what will be billed as its success.

The best laid plans can go awry if serious soul searching does not lead to actions to ensure success. Those trying to or waiting to create a civil-military divide should be pushed into the woodwork permanently. Those trying to jump start a premature election process should be denied such opportunity by responsive governance. Such governance can only be delivered by competent and credible leaders and an institutionalized system of crises response and decision making. Transparency is the best bet against damaging rumors and speculations and this should be ensured through a deliberate process. There is no ongoing game in which a winner will be declared — the civil and the military institution have to work together in the best interests of the country. If one is seen in a transient superior position then this should be seen as part of the evolving scenario and not something to be criticized to create worst case scenarios. There will be serious challenges in the foreign policy domain because of the relations with India and Afghanistan but these have to be faced and overcome by policies that focus on the future and not the past.

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