What Lies Ahead

Spearhead Analysis – 06.12.2016

roadBy now it is clear that barring a major event we are not going to see any change in the political team that is running the country. Nor are we going to see any change in governance and decision making styles. There will be a gearing up of the political apparatus for the elections in 2018 and in fact this process has already started; the PPP striving to regain lost ground, the new ministers in Punjab and the MQM fighting to stay afloat. Like in the last election the voters will seriously consider the performance of the provincial and the federal governments and they are likely to vote out those found wanting on governance or those mired in corruption or those who forgot that the center of gravity in a democracy resides in the people. People want empowerment, they want to see their taxes at work for them, they want human security and above all they want an environment in which they can work and earn enough to educate and feed their children. There is still time for delivery before there is a vote for deliverance.

By now it is also clear that India will persist in its covert and overt declared policies of isolating Pakistan internationally and branding it a terrorism sponsor. After the Amritsar showing it is equally clear that Afghanistan is going to be in sync with India and will continue to be hostile to Pakistan. With the new President in the US we should expect more of an India first US policy and an indifference to the India-Afghanistan combine against Pakistan. There are already voices in the US asking for a review of the US aid to Pakistan and a hardening of US policy towards Pakistan unless US concerns are addressed. Lost in translation is the consideration that this great coercive drive against Pakistan will not help Pakistan in its efforts to root out extremism and militancy—in fact the hostilities that are bound to spring up may ramp up the activity that no one wants; certainly not Pakistan that is focused on its internal stability, security and economy but there may be those who see this as a way to derail CPEC that holds out so much promise for Pakistan and the region. The conclusion that can be drawn is that Pakistan needs to very seriously consider what is in its own interest and then undertake a long overdue review to reset and frame policies for the future without being India or India-Afghan centric or awed by the US attitude. Central to this review will be Afghanistan’s fragile situation and lack of capacity and the uncertainty of US policy for Afghanistan.

There has been a change of command in the Army and in spite of all the hype and needless speculation the change was smooth. Now there is a plethora of articles about ‘a new general’, a new COAS’, ‘what the new Chief should do’ and ‘what the new chief should not do’. No one is saying that the military will continue to act in the national interest of Pakistan and fulfill the need to maintain effective deterrence and help in projecting the image of a responsible state with nuclear weapons. The discussion, if there has to be discussion, should focus on how best the government can utilize the strength of the military institution for the betterment of Pakistan—completely putting aside past insecurity driven fears. This will lead to reciprocity that will create the best possible civil military relationship and do away with the phobia that when the military sits across the table from the government it is plotting ways to overthrow the government. The military has clearly demonstrated that it has no such ambitions and that the past is, — well, the past.

There are several challenges that need to be taken up. Safeguarding the CPEC and ensuring its success against the petty rivalries and the threats against it. Forging a comprehensive policy for India, for Afghanistan, for the LOC and for Kashmir is a great challenge as is a realistic policy for the relationship with the US. So is the consolidation of the gains made in FATA, mainstreaming FATA to give it effective administration, rehabilitation of displaced persons and action to ensure the return of the Afghan refugees. Ensuring internal security has to be a priority and this means widening internal security operations beyond their present restricted scope, acting against those whose agendas are not in state interest and who are the subject of worldwide concern. There has to be a constant vigil against any insidious attempts to take the country back into the violence and strife of the past and for this capacity has to be built up in the judicial system, the law enforcing agencies the intelligence and counter terrorism forces and the organs of effective governance. Many of these challenges can be addressed by comprehensive implementation of the National Action Plan. Above all the economy has to be made viable and sustainable through structural reforms.

So what lies ahead is political activity that must not lead to past turmoil, confronting threats and coercion and this does not mean rolling over and playing dead, steps to change and strengthen the internal environment without appeasement as a policy and a standing up to safeguard our interests and our freedom to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for these.

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