Our hike in wilderness
By Asif Haroon Raja
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires” – — Susan B Anthony.
“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life”– Jane Addams
After losing the opportunity of invading Gilgit-Baltistan and disrupting CPEC at Karakorum Highway (KKH) via DBO road due to Chinese action in May-Jun this year, India is now planning to up the ante by once again intensifying terrorism in the restive zones, and waging a limited war in a specific region like disputed Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), where it hopes to keep the conflict limited to conventional war. Going by the threatening statements of Gen Rawat Bipen, India must have earmarked objectives of strategic importance in AJK, the loss of which would embarrass Pak military leadership. Even loss of one to two heights would give an opportunity to inflamed opposition to exploit it to the hilt to defame the army. In case Pakistan decides to use nukes to save its territory, India hopes that the US will step in and prevent Pakistan.
Our enemy is not India alone. India couldn’t have dared to make Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) its integral part on August 5, 2019 without the full back up support of US and Israel. India is a problem but the bigger problem is USA, and still bigger problem is the blind faith of our leadership in USA. This infatuation is not fading irrespective of repeated betrayals. The US-India-Israel nexus which is anti-Pakistan is a reality and cannot be severed or wished away.
The other issue at hand is our fancy for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which should now have vaporized after Riyadh showed its true colors. After asking Islamabad to return the $ 2 billion loans and cancelling the oil given on deferred payment, there are reports that the whole lot of Arab States including KSA would soon be recognizing Israel and forming a block with US, Israel, the West and India. There is a strong possibility that Pak troops in Gulf States would be replaced by Indian and Israeli troops and military instructors hired from US and Israel. The fate of millions of Pakistanis working in Arab States hangs in the balance. UAE has stopped giving visas to Pakistanis on the pretext of Covid-19, but India being the second biggest affected country in the world, no restrictions are imposed on Indian nationals. KSA is pressuring Pakistan to recognize Israel. Prince MBS has changed colors and can no more be blindly depended upon.
Another worrying development is the presence of 20,000 Blackwater operatives at Bagram airbase, and Daesh Khurasan (ISIS) that were brought from Iraq and Syria and married up with Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) at Nangarhar in 2014 by Ajit Doval. He has now rejuvenated the splintered TTP based in safe havens of Afghanistan by reuniting JuA and Hizbul Ahrar with TTP. Lashkar-e-Islam and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have also been aligned with TTP. The proscribed groups have been provided funds to once again foment terrorism in restive regions of Pakistan. Likewise, the Baloch rebel groups have also be united under the umbrella of BRAS which comprises BLA, BLF and BRG. The Sindh based proscribed groups have been put together under JSMM which comprise of MQM London, JSQM and JSM. Shafi Burfat has handed over the reins of jSMM to Altaf Hussain residing in London. There has been a sudden upsurge of acts of terror in Pakistan in the last two months.
Reports are that Prince Eric, head of Blackwater, who is a close friend of Joe Biden will take over the security of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops. Blackwater, Daesh and ANSF would operate jointly to confront the Taliban and also carry out attacks in Pakistan. If true, it will enable India to keep both Afghanistan and Pakistan destabilized, thus pouring cold water on our high hopes of peaceful Afghanistan.
If there is some veracity in the above scenario, the unstable political front at home and with so many quislings and anti-Pakistan elements together with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) ever ready to promote the agenda of our enemies will add to our woes. It makes the overall security situation highly grave.
Armed forces alone cannot singly tackle the multiple external threats and the hybrid war, and would need full back up support of the nation as was the case in 1965 war. The economy cannot improve unless there is political stability and there is law and order.
It looks that our enemies have won the battle of minds by cloning the minds of the elites and the educated through tutored narratives and perceptions spread by our media houses, several of which are on the payroll of outsiders. Unfortunately, due to acute political polarization, the ruling regime and opposition parties consider each other bigger enemies than external enemies. Both camps have adopted an uncompromising stance and in this political battle, the army misconstrued as pro-PTI and anti PML-N is getting compromised and is losing face. This is exactly what our enemies want since they know that dent can be made in Pakistan only when the army gets discredited in the eyes of the people.
There was a time that great majority in Pakistan used to consider India as arch enemy; all our guns were trained against India. Hindus were viewed as double dealers, crooked, cowardly, hypocrites carrying a dagger under their armpits. Only a handful talked in favor of India but they were severely censured. The trend has changed now. We have forgotten our real enemies and we have turned our guns inwards.
Political polarization and hatred have scaled new heights and the government and its allies have drawn battle lines against the union of 11 opposition parties which have staged public gatherings in big cities and indulged in diatribe against the government and the army leadership. Both refuse to talk to each other and with every passing day the political temperature is rising. The PDM leaders intend sending their resignations to the National Assembly Speaker on Nov 13 as hinted by Mariam Nawaz. This move will be followed by the long march to Islamabad in January next year to force the government to step down and hold mid-term elections.
The civil society, public and private office holders, veterans, anchors and journalists spew venom against the government and the opposition. Guests on TV talk shows are often quarrelsome and at times they indulge in fights. Social media is adding fuel to fire. Given the state of intolerance and extremism of the society, the situation is heading towards chaos.
We lament about the attitude of Indian leaders that they have a bad habit of holding Pakistan responsible for all the wrongs in their country. Instead of giving a tit for tat response, our leaders have all along maintained a defensive and apologetic stance and they leave no stone unturned to befriend India. Our policy of appeasement is one-sided. Instead of reciprocating our friendly gestures, India keeps hatching conspiracies to harm Pakistan.
While maintaining a friendly posture towards our arch enemy, our government has adopted a highly belligerent posture against the opposition. It seems that every problem in Pakistan these days has something to do with the Sharif brothers, their family and cohorts. It is as if the country has no other issue — all the rest would be fine if only these people are put behind bars. It is inconceivable that the fulfillment of this wish will actually help the man in the street in any meaningful way. If all this is for the love of the people, as claimed, why is there almost no discussion of the issues that actually concern the latter and the country as a whole? For instance:
- The need to control the population that has risen almost seven-fold —- from 35 million in 1947 to 220 million. How can any responsible individual not be worrying about where it is taking us? What are we doing to provide jobs, schools, universities, hospitals, housing and above all, food for these ever-rising numbers? From where will the land, water, money and other resources needed for these come from?
- The population shift from the villages is leading to the creation of megacities with their mega management issues. Should we not be actively engaging in finding ways to reverse this trend?
- The administrative system that was once the envy of the world, now lies in tatters. Who is going to fix it and when? If only we can spend as much time and effort in dealing with this as we do on putting Nawaz Sharif in jail.
- The less said the better about the state of the system of education that lays the foundation of future generations and builds the country.
- No government made any effort to build institutions and to improve the system of justice. Governance, management and economy would never improve without reforming the institutions.
- India is building dams in huge numbers to make us water scarce and dry our arid lands. It will take many years for our two hydro power projects to get completed. How do we plan to meet our water needs till the commissioning of the two dams?
- Accountability of the culprits is necessary provided the process is fair and transparent and not selective. Can the ongoing accountability drive be termed as equitable, and are the ones holding others accountable saints? How can the accountability be fair in the absence of accountability bill which is lying in pending tray since 2010, and the judiciary, police, NAB, FIA etc. have not been reformed, and the PTI is filled with bad hats from other parties? How come the allies of PTI with tainted past are above board?
- Perhaps Jinnah’s greatest achievement was that he rescued the Muslims of India from the clutches of disastrous Maulanas. His successors have done their best to destroy this legacy and left increasing numbers of hapless people vulnerable to the fatal attraction of the siren song of these false prophets. Don’t the people in power know where it will land the country? Don’t they care? We have thrown the Quaid’s motto “unity, faith and discipline” into dustbin.
Perhaps the most worrying part is that those among us who should know better seem blissfully unconcerned or unable to see beyond their noses. They seem to have absolved themselves of the responsibility and left it all to ‘others’ whoever they might be. Hiding from the issue is not going to solve it. The time to speak up and stand up to be counted is now.
The job of any government is to unite the people; not divide them — to care for all of them and not sacrifice national interest for the sake of political expediency. It is there only to serve all of the people, including those who did not vote for it. It has to carry all of the people with it. This is the very essence of good leadership. A good leader knows the right path to follow. The hike in wilderness we have taken is leading to disunity, despair and ultimately disaster.
At this rate, there is bound to be a reaction sooner than later. We don’t know what shape it will take but, if past experience is anything to go by, it will not be good for the country or the PTI for that matter.
The only way out to meet the external threats squarely is to achieve unity, achieve political stability, consolidate home front and uplift the economy. It is time for a national dialogue to avert the political impasse.
The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS & Veterans Think Tank. firstname.lastname@example.org