Spearhead Analysis – 22.04.2016
The last few weeks have been eventful, actually particularly eventful, because there is no dearth of action in the domestic scene thanks to a media in perpetual over drive. The Panama Leaks set off a firestorm that continues unabated. Then the mini war against the gangster Chottu came into our homes as we watched the police fumble and the military come on the scene. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) stated a long overdue fact when he talked of across the board accountability in the interest of Pakistan thereby creating a social media craze in his support. The Army followed this up with action against its own as the culmination of a fairly long ongoing investigation and inevitably this was taken up enthusiastically as an example that had to be followed by ‘all’—the timing was everything. Violence returned to Karachi as seven policemen were gunned down in deliberate planned attacks while a ‘red alert’ blanketed the country and a US advisory warned its citizens about travels to and within Pakistan.
The Panama Leaks were taken up so enthusiastically by the media that some thought the matter was being dragged beyond limits to serve a particular purpose. The focus was mainly on the Prime Minister as a media trial began and considerable speculation started when he decided to go abroad for a medical checkup and died down only when he returned in good health. Predictably his political nemesis took the leaks as a bounty from heaven and set in motion a strategy for the Prime Ministers exit—not explaining what would be the state of the country if the government was ousted. There were some muted calls for a focus on systemic solutions, for structural and tax reforms and for taking this opportunity to create an inviting business climate and an environment in which Pakistanis would prefer to keep their money and business within Pakistan. The leaks have certainly created an opportunity to set such a process in motion given the fact that there will be investigations abroad, that unscrupulous people would blackmail off shore company owners and that such funds could be frozen. Savvy people are already thinking that perhaps the leaks were orchestrated to be selective and inevitably the thinking turned to the opposition to the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and the fact that Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons plus the Islam phobia gripping the West especially the US where Trump and Cruz’s speeches are finding resonance and at least six Muslims have been off loaded from domestic flights. The government is responding to the demands for accountability and the statement by the COAS and follow up action has brought urgency to the matter.
The COAS in his speech to a military audience of all ranks said that ‘Across the board accountability is necessary for the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan’ He linked the need to fight corruption to the fight against terrorism, militancy and extremism led by the military and offered his institutions support to any ‘meaningful effort’ to end corruption. There were voices that questioned the right of the COAS to say all this but these were drowned in the overwhelmingly positive response across the country. This was followed by Army action to dismiss 11 officers including two general officers that seemed to herald an era of accountability with the example set by the military. So far the accountability process of the military had been carefully kept within the institution but with a hyper active media this was no longer possible and given the overall scenario perhaps not desirable. The COAS was also speaking to the men he commands setting the stage for the actions that were to follow. Lone voices that sought to focus the downside of the action as being indicative of ‘problems within the military’ were quickly ridiculed though there may be more such utterances in the future given the narrow agendas that some have.
The military also earned kudos by their well thought and carefully calibrated action that led to the unconditional surrender of the gangster Chottu who was holding 23 policemen as hostages and had killed six in an earlier police action against him. The military action was in sharp contrast to the ill conceived and poorly executed police operation that led to disastrous consequences. The Chottu episode also put paid to assertions of the ‘all is well in South Punjab’ mantra and led to the military suggesting wide ranging ‘combing ‘operations to end the existence of patronized gangs. Chottu is in military custody and what he is telling the military is anybody’s guess. What is clear is that Police ‘elite’ forces and ‘dolphins’ have to focus on hard training to enhance capacity rather than elaborate passing out parades and fancy uniforms.
The violence that returned to Karachi with the targeted killing of seven policemen in broad daylight came in the wake of the massive attack in the heart of Kabul. The Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) located in Afghanistan claimed the attack through Jamaat Ahrar but preliminary investigation suggested local militant involvement also. Earlier in follow up to the arrest of an Indian spy there was proof of Indian sponsored destabilization activities using Iran and Afghanistan. Just before this attack there was a red alert on the basis of information that militants had entered Pakistan for terrorist activities. This indicates that there is no room for complacency as long as local sympathizers and collaborators are available. The implication, of course, is that the wide spectrum Army led operations have to continue, that governance has to be improved and institutional capacities enhanced. This brings us back to the statement of the COAS and the need to implement the National Action Plan.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)