Situation is far more critical than in 1971
Asif Haroon Raja
In the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Indian military overwhelmingly superior in men and equipment wanted to crush Pakistan but failed because of the stubborn resilience of the Pak military and unity of Pakistani nation and over cautiousness of Indian forces. Their cautious approach in Lahore and Sialkot sectors helped the Pak forces in wresting the initiative. India therefore changed its strategy and resorted to psychological operations to weaken the vulnerable eastern wing from within to subvert the loyalties of Bengalis before applying the military instrument. She successfully brainwashed the Bengalis projecting herself as their real friend and West Pakistanis their enemies. 59 training camps were established by Indian Army and BSF all along the border to support civil war in East Pakistan. She embroiled the depleted corps size force in civil war for over eight months, demonized Pak Army through propaganda war, internationalized refugee issue, encircled eastern wing from all sides and cut it off from the rest of the world, neutralized China with the help of USSR, won the support of the world powers and made thorough preparations for the invasion. Nothing was left to chance and green signal was given only when victory had become a foregone conclusion.
When India successfully amputated eastern wing of Pakistan in an almost one-sided 1971 War with the help of Bengali rebels and former Soviet Union, the then Indian PM Indira Gandhi gurgled with delight and stated, “We have avenged the vivisection of Bharat”. She added, “Pakistan had changed the geography of Bharat, but we not only changed the geography but also the history”. She went on, “We have buried two-nation theory in the Bay of Bengal and whenever any opportunity comes our way, it will be availed to teach a similar lesson to the left over Pakistan”.
After surgically dividing Pakistan into two and making 93000 West Pakistanis as prisoners of war, over 50% of which were civilians, Indira Gandhi thought that truncated Pakistan was down and out and would be too willing to accept India’s hegemony in the region. Much to her chagrin, she found Pakistan under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) not ready to act as a satellite of India. While the economy of newly born Bangladesh sunk to lowest ebb, truncated Pakistan’s economy improved considerably. This reality belied the propaganda that West Pakistan would collapse if it was deprived of export earnings of East Pakistan; and that future stability and prosperity of Bangladesh depended upon its detachment from western wing and forging closer links with India. Not only Pakistan strengthened its military muscles, in response to Pokhran nuclear explosion in August 1974, it also laid the foundation of its nuclear program. Subramanian said that while cobra had been cut to size, its head needed to be crushed otherwise it will avenge its humiliation. It was therefore decided to steadily work toward further fragmenting Pakistan using similar tactics of indirect strategy to weaken Pakistan from within before employing the military force.
After the ouster of pro-Moscow and pro-Delhi NAP governments in Balochistan and Frontier Provinces in 1973 by ZAB government, which triggered Marri-Mengal tribes led insurgency in Balochistan, RAW was assigned to further foment the insurgency in collaboration with KGB and KHAD using Afghan soil. RAW was also tasked to subvert Sindh and create conditions similar to erstwhile East Pakistan. Sindhu Desh movement under GM Sayyed and several other Sindhi nationalist parties were activated. Sacking of popular leader ZAB in July 1977 by Gen Ziaul Haq and later his judicial murder in April 1979 as a result of decision given by Punjabi judges alienated Sindhis. It gave a golden chance to RAW agents to stoke hatred against the Army and Punjab. RAW fully supported Al-Zulfiqar terrorist outfit led by two sons of ZAB living in exile wanting to avenge the death of their father. Trained Al-Zulfiqar terrorists as well as Indian agents were launched from India and Afghanistan to carryout acts of sabotage and subversion. Bomb blasts continued throughout the Afghan war and even afterwards till Murtaza Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1994 during second stint of Benazir Bhutto.
Movement of Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led by PPP in Sindh in 1983 was fully backed by India as was evident from chairing of World Sindhi Conference in Delhi by Indira and passage of a resolution in support of MRD by Lok Sabha. Army had to be brought in to crush MRD which had become menacing. The ISI could have a hand in creating MQM in Karachi in 1984 with a view to checkmate Sindhi nationalism but the new party soon came under the influence of RAW which helped it in getting organized on the pattern of Awami League. Militant wing of the MQM virtually created a state within a state in Karachi by terrorizing the people; MQM also gained political control over Hyderabad and further expanded its influence in other urban centres of Sindh. Sindhi dacoits created lawlessness in rural Sindh at the behest of Sindhi Waderas and Patharidars. By early 1990s Sindh had become a wounded province and Karachi could no more be called a city of lights. Bitterness between new and old Sindhis kept intensifying and sharpened rural-urban divide.
The situation became so precarious that a military operation had to be launched in June 1992. It saved the day but gave reason to MQM to hide its crimes and project itself as a victim of oppression. To this day, it makes false claims that thousands of MQM activists had got killed in the Operation Cleanup whereas not a single MQM worker was killed by security forces. Large numbers of Jinnahpur maps and flags as well as torture cells were unearthed during the six-month operation. Altaf Hussain in sheer frustration resigned from politics but Nawaz Sharif hastened to bring him and his party to life out of political expediency. Emergence of MQM Haqqiqi in 1992 under Afaq and Aamer, a breakaway faction led to bloody conflict between the two factions which once again disturbed the peace and tranquility of Karachi and forced the then government under Benazir Bhutto to launch another police operation in Karachi in 1995/96. Naseerullah Babar managed the break the back of MQM militants but it made little dent on the political power of the MQM or the hold of self-exiled Altaf Hussain over his party. MQM again became coalition partner of Nawaz led PML-N but the two parted ways in October 1998 after the murder of revered Hakim Saeed allegedly gunned down by MQM goons. MQM became politically strongest during Gen Musharraf’s tenure, while MQM Haqqiqi was nearly obliterated.
While insurgency in Balochistan died down in 1978, but RAW managed to keep the temperature of Sindh on the boil. Keeping Sindh province restive had become necessary for India in the backdrop of eruption of Khalistan movement in East Punjab in early 1980s. Exercise Brasstacks in 1986/87 was conducted by Indian mechanized forces in Sindh since it suspected that Pakistan was supporting the Sikhs. Rajiv Gandhi developed cold feet and had to hastily call off the bluff when Pak Army made a superior maneuver by threateningly placing its armor might against vulnerable East Punjab.
The situation became alarming for India when Afghan Mujahideen supported by Pakistan won a spectacular victory against Soviet forces and forced them to withdraw from Afghanistan in early 1989. Escalation of freedom movement in occupied Kashmir in mid 1989 seeking right of self determination added to the woes of India. Kashmiri and Khalistan movements were on their way to linkup, but before the linkup could take place which would have proved catastrophic for India, Khalistan movement was crushed by Indian security forces. Provision of list of insurgent Sikh leaders by Benazir government to India facilitated the Indian counter insurgency drive.
India became an orphan when Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and got reduced to Russian Federation. USA against whom India had all along adopted an unfriendly policy became sole super power because of the extraordinary services and sacrifices rendered by Pakistan. India knew that the Afghan Mujahideen grateful to Kashmiri Mujahideen who had taken part in Afghan Jihad would help in liberating Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Feeling left out and highly vulnerable, India hastened to snuggle into the waiting arms of USA which had been vainly wooing India since its inception to become a counterweight to China. The US had filled the Indian armory with armaments after the 1962 Sino-Indo border conflict ignoring that it will harm the security interests of its ally Pakistan. It once again befriended India at the cost of Pakistan and India made full use of its closeness with USA to harm Pakistan. RAW used all sorts of underhand methods to weaken the Kashmiri freedom struggle and to portray freedom fighters as terrorists supported by Pakistan. Like operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam in 1965, Kargil operation in summer of 1999 was also an act of desperation in view of uncompromising attitude of India to resolve the longstanding Kashmir dispute and its continued oppression against Kashmiris. It however helped India to not only act as victim and to earn the sympathies of USA and western world but also to project Pakistan and Kashmiri Mujahideen in poor light.
India finally got the opportunity it was looking for in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. In concert with USA, Britain, Israel, Germany and Afghan Northern Alliance, she embarked upon a comprehensive covert plan to undo Pakistan. In order to weaken Pakistan from within, FATA and Balochistan were initially targeted by agencies of six countries to embroil bulk of security forces in fighting self-destructive war on terror against their own people. East Pakistan model was applied by opening up large numbers of training camps and Pakistan specific Indian consulates along Pakistan’s western border to support insurgency in FATA and Balochistan.
To start with pro-government tribal elders and clerics were systematically gunned down and rebellious anti-Pakistan elements were brainwashed and bribed to wage war against the state. Supply routes were established and spy network created in restive regions. IEDS were provided to the militants in addition to funds, sophisticated arms, ammunition, explosives and communication sets. Later on, phenomenon of suicide attacks was introduced for the first time in Pakistan. Do more mantra was devised to open new fronts and to keep the flames of terrorism blazing. Propaganda war was unleashed to discredit Pakistan and its institutions and to depict its nuclear program insecure. Drone war was started to fuel terrorism. Group attacks against sensitive installations in major urban centres were initiated from 2009 onwards. These included attacks on POF Wah, Mehran naval base, Kamra airbase and Peshawar airbase. GHQ and ISI set ups were also struck. None of the attacks were possible without intimate intelligence and guidance provided by external sources. PC-3 Orion’s and AWACs worried India alone and not the Taliban. Efforts are now in hand to orchestrate an attack on one of the nuclear installations so as to drum up the vulnerability of our nuclear program.
During this time, India twice tried to initiate hostilities. After equating an insignificant terrorist attack well outside Indian Parliament in December 2001 with 9/11 and creating war hysteria, Indian military was fully mobilized in 2002 to invade Pakistan. Resolute defiance by Pak armed forces took the heat out of Indian belligerence. Credit for keeping India at bay goes to Gen Musharraf and my course-mate Vice Chief Gen Yusaf. Cold Start doctrine was framed in 2004/05 to destroy Pak forces in the limited war confined to the frontiers without provoking nuclear war. Mumbai attack was engineered by RAW in November 2008 to deflect the attention of the world from Kashmir where people had got reactivated, to brand ISI as a rogue outfit and to make India’s new doctrine operational. Media hype was once again created as if heavens had fallen. Quick deployment of Army by Gen Kayani, defiant PAF’s posture and to an extent aggressive response of TTP threatening to attack India with hundreds of its suicide bombers if it dared to attack Pakistan deflated Indian jingoism.
India has so far not applied the military instrument despite having sufficiently weakened Pakistan from within because the conventional and unconventional strength of Pak armed forces is still robust. The military is capable of making foreign aggression very costly. While the socio-politico-economic fabric has become fragile because of weak and inept political leadership, the military trunk is strong and nuclear deterrence is credible. India has the intention as well as capability to attack Pakistan, but her cautious nature comes in her way. Unless Pak nuclear bombs are disabled, India will not opt for an open war, but would prefer to achieve her objectives clandestinely. India will not risk military adventure unless it gets 100% guarantee of success.
Making an assessment of the obtaining internal and external environment, it will not be wrong to say that the situation is far more critical than what it been in 1970-71. At that time it was only eastern wing which was in turmoil and Mukti Bahinis were in league with India and Soviet Union was in backup support. But now Pakistan is up against Indo-US-Israel-UK-Afghan nexus and both eastern and western fronts are hostile posing a twin threat. Internally, while the political forces are deeply polarized and there is inter-provincial disharmony, economic hub centre of Karachi is on fire and so are FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Poverty stricken Southern Punjab is simmering with discontent and vested interests are demanding creation of Bahawalpur-Southern Punjab as a new province at a time when elections are round the corner.
TTP aligned with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in the northwest, and BLA, BRA, BLF in Balochistan duly supported by foreign powers are up in arms against the state. 40,000 people have died in this insane war. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is under extreme threat of either being destroyed or hijacked. The ruling regime installed by USA and UK has systematically destroyed all the public sector enterprises and ruined Pakistan’s economy. While there is acute energy crisis, railway under pro-India ANP minister is almost grounded, while ports of Karachi, Qasim and Gawadar are in control of pro-India MQM minister. 150,000 Army troops fighting the senseless war since 2003 are fatigued while their weapons and equipment have suffered wear and tear. Reserve stocks are depleting. USA has an uncanny history of blocking military supplies at critical times. This time it would undoubtedly do so since it is a strategic partner of India and has lots of complaints against Pakistan.
India and USA have been making concerted efforts to provoke Gen Kayani to commit additional forces for launching an operation in North Waziristan, or in Balochistan, or in Karachi, to not only imbalance the Army on the eastern front but also to allow the detractors to demonize and defame Pak Army that it is involved in human rights violations. Gen Kayani was also enticed to take over the reins of power so as to give the two natural allies an excuse and a cogent reason to invade Pakistan under military ruler. Thankfully, Kayani has maintained his composure and hasn’t lost his cool. It may be recalled that with the help of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, India had succeeded in provoking Gen Yahya to launch a military operation on 25 March 1971 to save Pakistan but it proved to be the beginning of breakup of united Pakistan. Provocation is one of the tools employed by India to achieve its ends.
GHQ is now on guards after the US exposed its true-self as a consequence to series of offensive acts it undertook in 2011 and unearthing of secret CIA network in Pakistan. Levin Anatole, a British historian says in his book ‘Pakistan, A Hard Country’, that all the explosions and attacks are being planned and carried out by CIA and its agents in the name of Taliban. Revelation of these anti-Pakistan activities has steeled Pak Army and ISI and the two institutions are determined not to get bullied any further. Although I disagree with Army’s assessment that the most dangerous threat to Pakistan’s security is internal, I must pay tribute to Gen Kayani and his team for having kept monumental external and internal threats faced by Pakistan in check. He frustrated US aggressive designs hidden behind Af-Pak policy, deceptive Kerry-Lugar Bill, OBL venture linked with memo case, and incessant pressure to mount an operation in North Waziristan. An answer to Pakistan specific Cold Start doctrine of India has been found by conducting series of Army level Azm-e-Nau exercises. Pakistan’s strategic assets have been steadfastly defended and Army has been attuned to both conventional war and low intensity conflict. Today all ranks of the Army are far better battle inoculated and motivated than they were ever before to take on compound challenges.
But for Army’s stance, the NATO supplies couldn’t be stopped for over seven months and Shamsi airbase cleared of US presence. Bold and imaginative offensives in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan recaptured lost spaces and snatched the initiative from TTP and restored the image of Army. His policy of winning hearts and minds of people in FATA and interior Balochistan is bearing fruit. Above all, despite the extraordinary heavy strains of war, political pressures and scathing media war, he has kept the morale of all ranks high. Thoroughly professional and upright, he knows his job but is neither a braggadocio nor a show off. No Army chief had to put up with such enormous multifaceted pressures. Unlike his predecessors, he didn’t have any time to enjoy his command. When I compare him with Indian Army chiefs and US-NATO Generals in Afghanistan, I find him taller than all of them. Some say that he is a fit case to be awarded the rank of Field Marshal, or appointed Chief of Defence Staff, although his handful of detractors and Army haters may have different views.
India wearing the mask of friendship and duly glamorized by actors of Aman ki Asha, SAFMA and types of Asma Jahangir and Najam Sethi, also got exposed after her ugly response to Mumbai attacks. She again managed to deceive our India-loving leadership when she agreed to renew stalled composite dialogue and also offered to enhance bilateral trade. Our leaders eager to regain confidence and friendship of India hastened to offer Most Favored Nation status and to open up border for free trade. Preachers of Aman ki Asha are now feeling embarrassed after the recent change of colors of India for the hype created over a trumped up beheading incident along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Indian Army chief, air force chief, Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders as well as Hindu extremist groups had all started jumping rhythmically like clowns trying to scare Pakistan but couldn’t befool the world quite used to their theatrics.
Since the government, political parties, institutions, NGOs and civil society are all engrossed in internal wrangling and political jockeying, Pakistan has not been able to suitably respond to India’s uncalled for belligerence. Although Pakistan is going through most critical time of its history, however in a way Pakistan is fortunate that both the US and India are also going through testing times and not in a position to overtly harm Pakistan. Cut out date of ISAF’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is getting closer and both are in need of Pakistan’s cooperation. Pakistan’s health will improve substantially if we elect right kind of legislators in the coming elections but that is possible only if electoral machinery is reformed and we adopt golden principles of Islam.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com