Pakistan faces phenomenal challenges

Pakistan should tread steps watchfullyBy Asif Haroon Raja

When the Mujahideen defeated the super power and forced the Soviet forces  to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989, Pakistan’s image had shot up very high because the miracle of the 20th century could not have been achieved without all out support of Pakistan to the Mujahideen. Pakistan’s stature once again rose dramatically after it carried out six nuclear tests in response to India’s five nuclear explosions in 1998. Pakistan became the sole Muslim State and 7th in the world to possess nuclear capability. Declared nuclear capability deflated jingoism of BJP leaders who till then were breathing fire and were threatening to annex Azad Kashmir. It brought such a sobering change that Vajpayee undertook a bus ride to Lahore in February 1999 and pledged to resolve all Indo-Pak disputes including Kashmir issue.

Pakistan’s fortunes began to tumble when the out of turn promoted Gen Musharraf pumped by Generals Javed Hasan, Aziz and Mahmood triggered Kargil conflict at his own without taking political leadership into confidence and its fallout effects. From that time onwards, Pakistan’s political graph among the world comity has been gradually sliding down. It provided an opportunity to India to cease composite dialogue, put Kashmir issue aside, and dub Kashmiri freedom movement as terrorism and Pakistan as an abettor of cross border terrorism. Kargil adventure in fact was a prelude to forceful takeover by the military.

Gen Musharraf and his core team of Generals overthrew heavy mandate elected government of Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. Contingency plan for takeover had been made before hand on account of intelligence provided by the then DG MI that Nawaz was actively planning to sack him and make DG ISI Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt as next COAS. This has been disclosed by one of the coup makers Lt Gen Shahid Aziz, who then was DGMO.

After 9/11, Musharraf opened the gates of Pakistan for the US to spread its perverse influence in all parts of Pakistan. USA and India jointly started to hammer the foundations of Pakistan so as to make the structure brittle and then bring it down by employing Indian military at an opportune time. The master plan hinged on multiple pincers with eastern pincer of cultural invasion directed towards major urban centres of Pakistan to corrupt the youth and dry up its warrior spirit, northeastern pincer in Kashmir to crush freedom movement in occupied Kashmir and to dry up three rivers flowing into Pakistan by building series of dams over three Pakistan specific rivers and to make Pakistan a wasteland, and western pincer of sabotage and subversion to subvert Balochistan and FATA using Afghan soil. Indo-western cultural subversion to secularize the society was to be undertaken with the help of local print and electronic media, pseudo intellectuals and liberal class. Musharraf’s concept of enlightened moderation was aimed at secularizing Pakistan’s education system and society. In his quest to resolve Kashmir dispute he agreed to resume composite dialogue with India on Indian terms.

Zardari led political regime propped up by Washington in 2008 instead of closing the gates promised their patrons to serve them better than Musharraf. It allowed US officials to micro-manage Pakistan’s external and internal policies. Choice-men of America were placed on key appointments so as to be able to work their way towards the nuclear arsenal closely guarded by the Army and ISI. Resultantly, when the US and its strategic partners began to tighten the noose around Pakistan’s neck, NRO cleansed rulers remained dumb and submissive.

Outwardly, USA and India demonstrated affability and pretended to be friends of Pakistan. The US played a major role in extracting series of concessions from Pakistan which impinged upon our national interests and eroded our resolve to keep foreign influences at bay. The enfeeblement process involved crippling economy, discrediting and wrecking national institutions, keeping the judiciary under the thumb of executive, demonizing Army, ISI and nuclear program, destabilizing political system, fomenting ethnicity, sectarianism, extremism and terrorism and embroiling Pak Army in long drawn self-destructive war and eventually stealing the nukes.

In over ten years, lot of ground has been traversed by adversaries of Pakistan as a result of which there is political instability; economy is in doldrums and on the brink of collapse, terrorism has shook the foundations of the country, sense of insecurity among people has deepened, law and order is highly turbulent and energy is in deep crisis. Poor political, economic and security conditions and above all rampant corruption, high inflation, back breaking price spiral and loosened morals have enabled the conspirators to brand Pakistan with all kinds of sleazy names and declare it as the most dangerous county in the world.

The overall situation has become so bleak, that Pak leadership remains subservient to the wishes of IMF, USA and India irrespective of the cost in terms of honor, dignity and national interests it has to pay. Militarily, 1467000 troops are deeply embroiled in war on terror and are operating in all seven tribal agencies of FATA and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Balochistan is simmering due to foreign backed separatist movement spearheaded by Baloch rebels. Kashmir cause has been hugely damaged and faith in democracy has withered.

Devastating terrorist and suicide attacks killing scores of people and destroying property worth billions have occurred in major cities. These attacks have been undertaken by dissident Pakistanis duly cultivated by foreign agencies to serve their ulterior motives. Afghan soil has been used for covert operations against Pakistan since 2002. It is humanly impossible for RAW and RAAM agents to establish training camps in Afghanistan to train saboteurs and to launch them into Pakistan and keep their activities hidden from CIA and US-NATO military. In fact, CIA is the master coordinator which is also conducting drone war in Pakistan. So far it has not given any commitment to halt drone strikes despite Pakistan’s repeated pleading that drones fuel terrorism and violate country’s sovereignty. Apart from covert operations, Indian forces are resorting to daily unprovoked firing across Line of Control in Kashmir since last August and are disregarding Pakistan’s pleas to honor 2003 ceasefire agreement.

The country is facing unprecedented economic challenges and its economy is in dire strait. Budget deficit has reached the figure of 8.2% of GDP (equivalent to Rs 1400 billion) against the target of 4.7%. GDP has dipped to 2.4% and inflation is in the range of 15%. All corporate sectors are gasping for life and require heavy bailout packages to keep them afloat. Other than the factors of poor governance, cronyism and corruption, one of the main reasons of economic crunch is the war on terror which is in its eleventh year. Pakistan has so far lost over $100 billion in this senseless war. This together with natural calamities in the form of earthquakes and floods, acute energy crisis and financial crunch has made things exceedingly difficult for the incumbent government to restore the health of the fragile economy in quick time.

The government is making serious efforts to bring down the prices of essential commodities so as to provide immediate relief to the poor but has so far failed because of tough conditions imposed by IMF. Non-provision of relief is wearing out the patience of the masses and has given a handle to the opposition to beat the government with. The government wants to end the war by opening talks with the TTP leadership but has made little progress since the TTP on one hand favors talks but in the same breath puts forward conditions and doesn’t stop acts of terror. Notwithstanding the phenomenal challenges, the government will have to intensify its efforts to prove that it is better than its predecessor and not the other side of the same coin as alleged.

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and columnist.

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