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Pakistan’s three-legged race

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Pakistan’s three-legged race

Satish Kumar

Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik’s visit to Delhi in the second week of December has added to the frustration about lack of progress in India-Pakistan relations. Instead of assuring India of bringing to book the 26/11 suspects soon, Mr Malik absolved Pakistan of any responsibility in this regard by comparing 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks with the Babri Masjid demolition of December 1992.

This amounts to an official declaration by Pakistan that India should no longer expect any action against the suspects of 26/11.
India needs to understand the nature of Pakistani state in order to solve the puzzle. At present, the Pakistani state rests on three pillars of power. The first pillar is the Army, which has traditionally wielded power in Pakistan but has reluctantly ceded some of it to the civilian government since 2008. It can still be said to wield 40 per cent of power in the governance of Pakistan. The second pillar of power is the Islamist consortium led by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but supported by all other Islamist groups. It can also be said to wield 40 per cent of power as regards decision-making on vital matters. The third pillar of power is the civilian component of government represented by the parties ruling at the Centre, which wields barely 20 per cent of influence in governing the country. The significance of this distribution of power lies in the fact that while the Army supports the civilian government only cosmetically on a few matters, it has a real convergence of interests with the Islamist consortium on most vital matters.
The phenomenon of Army-Islamist coalition needs some further analysis. The Islamist consortium is often seen to be attacking the state, particularly the military installations, on the pretext that Pakistan’s military is serving American interests. The Islamist consortium’s ultimate goal is to capture state power. The most recent example is TTP’s attack on the Peshawar airbase on December 15. Earlier it was the Mehran naval base in Karachi in May 2011, and the Minhas Air Force base in Kamra in August 2011. These attacks would not have been possible without the connivance of some radical Islamists within the ranks of the military establishment. While these attacks are a part of the process of capturing power, they are also, in the interim, meant to pressure the Army to yield more ground to the Islamists in matters of domestic and external policy. And the Army has yielded considerable ground.
One glaring example of this is that Pakistan’s security establishment took no action against the assassins of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, in January and of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minorities minster, in March 2011. Both of them wanted reform of the blasphemy law.
Another example is unwillingness of the security establishment to take action against Sunni groups who have been unleashing violence against Pakistan’s Shia population. Anti-Shia violence aggravated since the days of Zia-ul-Haq but has been particularly rampant after the higher salience acquired by powerful Sunni militant groups post 9/11. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, nearly 400 Shias were killed in 2011 alone.
The Pakistan Army’s refusal to take action against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan despite tremendous US pressure is another example of the Army having yielded ground to the Islamists.
The Haqqani network is closely allied with Al Qaeda and various Sunni militant groups because of their common objective of capturing power and establishing a sharia-based state in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The examples quoted above would be enough to show that the Pakistan Army is under the heavy influence of Islamists. In matters of foreign policy, particularly relations with the US and India, the Army is carrying out the Islamist agenda. Action against Hafiz Saeed for his responsibility in planning 26/11 falls in this category.
It should be realised by India that Hafiz Saeed and the entire Islamist consortium have tremendous street power in Pakistan which is used by the Army to serve their strategic interests whenever necessary. This street power was given a political form by the name Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) — organisation for the defence of Pakistan — at the beginning of 2012. Initially, mass public rallies attended by 20,000 to 30,000 people were organised by the DPC in major cities of Pakistan. In the early months of 2012, the focus of these rallies was anti-America, to mobilise the country’s anger against the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at Salala in Mohmand Agency during a Nato attack on November 26, 2011. More recently, on December 16, 2012, the DPC organised a protest march from Lahore to Wagah border to oppose the government’s decision to grant the “most favoured nation” status to India. On this occasion, the DPC also flaunted a new map of “Islamic South Asia”, this being the day on which the Pakistan Army had signed the “Instrument of Surrender” in Dhaka in 1971.
Referring to the havoc created by the TTP-led militants in Pakistan, Abdul Sattar, former foreign minister of Pakistan and former high commissioner to India, told this writer recently in Islamabad that Islamic militancy is the most serious existential threat to Pakistan. In the last five years, these militants have killed 39,000 civilians and 6,000 security personnel.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known Pakistani strategic affairs analyst, wrote recently that there are three reasons why the legal proceedings against seven suspects in the Mumbai terror attacks case are taking so much time. First of course is the official Pakistani position that evidence as provided by India is not suitable. The second reason is that there is sympathy within certain state institutions for the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as its trained warriors are available to the Pakistani state. And the third is that the judges are afraid of their life if they deliver the judgment warranted by law.
It would be futile for India to hope that action would be taken against the suspects of 26/11 anytime soon. Perhaps never. At the same time it is necessary for us to recognise that progress in Indo-Pak relations will take place only on those issues which are tangibly in Pakistan’s interests, e.g. resumption of trade. As regards other issues, e.g. Kashmir and Siachen, Balochistan and water, it would suit Pakistan’s security establishment to keep them alive because of their high value for mobilising opinion against India.

Source: The Asian Age

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