Well, it is decision time for Pakistan. On one hand, Raheel Sharif, who is scheduled to retire at November end, is trying hard to make his case for an extension or coup. Perhaps, Uri was to make his case.
But for the ‘surgical strikes’ that exposed the vulnerability and redundancy of Pakistani army, he would’ve staged a coup. As he lost his moral authority, if he stages a coup, he will be seen one more Power hungry general trying to destabilize the already wobbling nation.
Considering he had already received indirect support from General Parvez Musharraf, when he notoriously remarked that ‘democracy was not cut for Pakistan’, he still may be hoping to make a comeback to regain lost moral ground. And so, there are continuous attacks on various Indian army camps.
Well, the other Sharif, Nawaz that is, who happens to be the head of Pakistan in the eyes of civilized world, is not too soft to be pushed around, but he has a history of being kicked into exile. He was caught unaware of Musharraf’s misadventures in Kargil.
Though he tried to use his influence on America to pressurize India to withdraw forces, this time he failed in getting any support from not only Americans, but from any other world power – including Russia that is engaged in military exercises with Pakistan.
Whether it is the fruits India is reaping from the ‘Around the World’ campaign of Modi or the superior efficiency displayed by Indian Army in executing the surgical strikes, for the time being both civil and military establishments of Pakistan lost face. Oblivious to international politics are inside politics.
As if to answer all queries raised by some Indians including Arvind Kejriwal and Sanjay Nirupam, one of the respectable papers from Pakistan, The Dawn had published an exclusive report containing details of meeting ‘All Parties Conference’ in Pakistan. It appears Nawaz Sharif finally trying to pave a new way forward for Pakistan to end its isolation in international community.
Aizaz Choudhary, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan gave a presentation explaining the isolation faced by Pakistan and how their attempts were met with indifference by major world powers. He informed the audience that Pakistan’s relations with America are at a low and may further deteriorate, till they act against the Haqqani network. India wanted completion of Pathankot investigation and visible action against JeM.
However, what surprised the audience was the response of China. Though China agreed to extend the technical hold against UN ban of Masood Azhar, it questioned the logic of repeating the extension of hold.
In other words, China may not extend technical hold another time. Being a major economic partner of Pakistan, China would prefer a stable Pakistan free of terrorists who function independent of state.
Rizwan Akhtar, Director General of ISI questioned what Choudhary was suggesting to end the isolation. Aizaz Choudhary was direct in his answer when he replied that action against Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hafiz Sayeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network are the principal demands – from one and all.
When General Akhtar asked the Government (the civilian one) to arrest whomever it deems necessary, it was the Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab who replied. He said in no unequivocal terms that whenever civilian authorities takes action against certain groups, the military establishment works behind the scenes to get them free. And then Silence ruled the room. It was Nawaz Sharif, who defused the tension by explaining to General Akhtar that he is not being blamed for past actions that were state policy.
Though DG Akhtar agreed that all militant groups would be treated similarly, he expressed reservations on the timing of action, for this may be construed as an action under pressure from India. Also, action against militants may be seen as abandoning Kashmiri people.
The meeting concluded after two actions were finalized.
- DG Akhtar along with Nasser Janjua, NSA of Pakistan would travel to all four provinces to meet sector commanders to explain that they are not supposed to interfere in the actions by any civilian law enforcement agency against any militant group.
- Investigation into Pathankot incident to be completed and trials in Mumbai attacks to be reopened in anti-terrorism court, Rawalpindi.
For Indian citizens and leaders and Pakistani citizens, even Pakistani officials don’t take assurances of General Akhtar at face value. While one official feels this was what ISI heads state always, another official prefers to wait and watch “Give one month to see if something happens – or not”. He continues, “In one month, many things happen”. And military officials offer no comments.
It appears that Nawaz Sharif already discussed the same matter with Raheel Sharif and conveyed the reality of international isolation the country faces, if actions were not taken.
Well, if Akhtar keeps his words, definitely there would be uproar from the loud speakers installed in the minarets of Pakistan. That would pressurize the civilian establishment to stop or pause its action against militants, who are supported by the religious authorities.
If the civilian establishment fails to take action against these militants, even with the backing of military, Nawaz Sharif would lose his credibility as an administrator, facilitating the coup by Raheel Sharif.
If ISI and Army prefer to ignore the meeting and assurances, actions by civilian agencies would fail and Nawaz Sharif would be exposed as an ineffective administrator, in the eyes of Pakistani people and international community.
The nexus between Army, ISI and religious preachers who control militants is very strong and time tested. It would be naïve to expect such a change happens overnight.
Alternately, ISI may negotiate with the religious establishments and REQUEST them to agree for temporary action against militants. However, this action would depend on how strongly Raheel wants to rule Pakistan and how much control he has over the military establishment.
Maybe in the changed circumstances, Raheel may not be willing to rule a country that is isolated internationally. Leading such country would put him in the league of African dictators and is not worth the risk and endeavours needed to overthrow the democratically elected government.
Finally, if Raheel Sharif prefers retired life genuinely and Rizwan Akhtar keeps his promise and ensures military establishments do not come in the way of civilian agencies, Nawaz Sharif prevails over the religious establishment – only then Masood Azhar, Hafiz Sayeed and their followers would be behind bars.
From the way Nawaz Sharif was eulogising the valour of Burhan Wani repeatedly, it is difficult to expect a change even in him. Still, there is no harm in hoping for the good, if not best. However, a caution to all those optimists (I consider myself one), it would be asking too much if one expects Pakistan to become a genuine democratic republic.
Despite knowing there is light at the end of tunnel, it takes guts to go through the tunnel. Whether current establishment of Nawaz Sharif has that much guts, is to be seen.