Pakistan: Peace remains a Chimera
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Issue Courtesy: CLAWS | Date : 13 Sep , 2013

The successful holding of elections in Pakistan earlier this year marked a significant forward movement in the country’s politics with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) handing over power to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), based on the people’s verdict. Nawaz Sharif’s victory and assumption of office as Prime Minister on 5 June 2013 was widely heralded by many in India as representing a changed dynamic, which would facilitate rapprochement in the strained India–Pakistan relations. However, the more circumspect in India’s strategic circles questioned the euphoria, because the fundamentals within Pakistani polity had not changed. These related to the de facto control exercised by the Pakistani military over certain aspects of foreign and domestic policy, internal conflict arising out of ethnic, sectarian and ideological fault lines and an almost bankrupt economy.

The Nawaz Sharif government has no strategy in place to curb terrorism despite tall claims made in its election manifesto.

The economic indicators within Pakistan remain grim and many believe that the state is on life support, dependant on financial assistance from the US and western donors. Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan is a tinderbox, all set to explode. The PML(N) manifesto had specifically promised to limit government borrowing, but its record for the first three months in office holds little hope for such an outcome. The future looks grim with the State Bank of Pakistan planning to raise a colossal Rs1.6 trillion during the 1st quarter of FY 2014 through T-bills and an additional Rs175 billion through Pakistan Investment Bonds. The government’s efforts to turn around ‘loss making state enterprises’ have also been a non–starter, though three months is perhaps too short a period to make a valid assessment. Moreover, individuals heading these enterprises are political appointees, their selection having no relevance to considerations of merit and professionalism. It would be difficult if not well nigh impossible for them to come out of the red. While the energy sector has shown improvement in the three months since Sharif assumed power, multiple challenges in the sector remain. From an installed capacity of 23,538mw, production has increased to 13, 600mw, a quantum leap from the earlier abysmally low figure of 8000mw. However, this is still far short of the consumption requirements, which stand at about 16,800mw.

The security situation remains forbidding. Over 1,100 people have been killed in the last three months in terrorist violence, averaging about 14 fatalities per day. The country remains hostage to bomb blasts, which occur on a daily basis, and to suicide attacks occurring at a frequency of three to four per week. The Nawaz Sharif government has no strategy in place to curb terrorism despite tall claims made in its election manifesto. The Pakistan Army has neither the will nor the capacity to defeat the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which means that the country’s security situation will remain grim for some time to come. Perhaps this realisation prompted the Sharif government to extend the olive branch to the TTP. In his maiden televised address to the nation on 19 August, the premier stated that his government would prefer talks to end the nagging insurgency.

Later, Pakistan’s Defence Cabinet Committee put the laying down of arms by the extremists as a pre-condition for talks, but speaking in a different voice, the interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said in a television interview that the government had set no preconditions for talks with militants. Asmatullah Muawiya, the chief of Punjabi Taliban welcomed the offer for talks but was sacked by the Taliban Shura, which met under their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. However, Muawiya rejected the TTP decision, saying that the group has no authority to sack him as ‘the Punjabi Taliban has its own Shura which makes its own decisions’. Muawiya’s offer is seen as a split in the Taliban ranks but this must be viewed in context. The Punjabi Taliban, unlike the Taliban in FATA is close to the PML (N), to whom it gave active support in the recent elections. It is now payback time. Perhaps there is an unannounced deal with the Punjabi Taliban as stated in a news report published by ‘The News’ on 26 August 2013, which quotes confirmation of the deal through Malik Ishaq of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), who actually commands the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Many however, see such a deal as appeasement, which points to a lack of ability by the security forces of Pakistan to rein in the militants and bring them to the negotiating table.

The proposed drawdown of ISAF forces from Afghanistan will further exacerbate existing tensions.

The military still calls the shot in the country restricting the manoeuvre space available with the civilian government. While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continues to emphasise his mandate for peace with India, the actions of Pakistan’s military on the line of control belie that claim. Pakistan can ill afford to activate the LoC as it is fully committed in combating internal conflict, which is why the actions of its military is surprising. Perhaps it is to convey a message to the Sharif government not to get too close to India. The Pakistani establishment is also unlikely to wind down the terrorist training camps as it continues to view groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba as strategic assets for use against India. Sharif too is supportive of such groups as indicated by the financial support given by the Punjab government to Hafiz Saeed. There are hence inherent contradictions in Sharif’s approach to peace. While he may be desirous of reducing tension with India, he will continue to support the flow of terrorists into India from their safe sanctuaries in Pakistan.

The proposed drawdown of ISAF forces from Afghanistan will further exacerbate existing tensions. Instability in Afghanistan will have consequences on Pakistan, especially in its restive western provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Islamabad is also wary of India’s involvement in Afghanistan, despite India’s efforts being directed towards development activities and having no military component. All this belies hopes of an India-Pakistan rapprochement, taking place in the short to medium term. It has been argued that trade could be an important first step in building trust, but here too, the progress will be slow, largely due to Pakistani fears that India will swamp Pakistani markets as also the fear expressed by Pakistani farmers in Punjab that subsidised Indian agriculture will hurt their interests. While cooperation between the two countries can flow from converging economic interests, the road ahead remains long and will have to be chartered with care.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch

former Director of CLAWS and is currently the editor of SALUTE Magazine.

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2 thoughts on “Pakistan: Peace remains a Chimera

  1. The Pakistan establishment, is a political organization with roots almost totally Indian, from undivided India. The Pakistani author of a book on Pakistani-U. S. relations, said on N. D. T. V., that the establishment was identified at a time, as fundamentalist. The people who formed Pakistan, don’t seem to be anything but the most western educated elite, and not fundamentalist. In Sindh, Mr. Zulfikar Bhutto had differences with the ‘Mohajirs’, or Indian immigrants, but it seems he was in a ‘power struggle’ with the establishment, with administration to do with the establishment pertaining to the national political, and administration. It seems, Gen. Zia-ul- Haq made the idea of religion relevant, to state, after Bangladesh was lost.
    Now, the political religiosity of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq is in question, and how he formulated this identity. It seems, either one ideology, or the other is blamed, not praised for anything in Pakistan. In India, either the U. P. A., or the N. D. A. is blamed for loosing elections. This seems to be what democracy is in the Indian subcontinent. In Arab Muslim world, the Libyan dictator Gaddafi was killed like a savage animal. How is democracy relevant in practice, as practiced by our leaders and people, outside Europe and America?

  2. Pakistan is in a very unusual situation. Pakistan is concerned about her security, but from within. With India existing as she does, how does the Pakistan govt. justify her policies to her provinces/national states? Apparently, the Bangladesh division from Pakistan was an internal matter, not made less easy by the fact that Pakistan justified division from India. The modern state as espoused by Mr. Zulfikar Bhutto, seemed to have made Pakistan society agitated. He had issues with local political and social leaders, in the nation. His political function, made him seem to want to create division, and then his political strength would make the issues destruct. He perhaps admired strong western democratic leaders, when they were recorded by history to be in very difficult times.
    After Gen Zia ul Haq came to power, he found that there was uprising and unrest for no particular reason, in every province, and Kashmir didn’t have such a history, nor a present, then, that was inimical to Pakistan. The Pakistan I. S. I. is a domestic security apparatus, perhaps, for domestic security.
    The reason why the string of pearls seems to be evident around India, thanks to China, is that every nation and state that surrounds India, has had a disturbance, whether Nepal, Burma, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. In Pakistan, the Punjab and Sindh, and Baluchistan have had agitations, and so too, the other nations. What if India has the same problems, and her neighbours also have the same issues, either existing, or to follow?
    A Pakistan minister said, that Pakistan was given 13% of Indian resources, but she had 33% of the old Indian Army. With Sindh being the business hub of undivided India, and with the very great area of the Punjab going to Pakistan, The potential for business and agriculture was far greater in Pakistan, than in India. T

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