Samson Simon Sharaf
The army is now called a state within a state, supporter of nuclear proliferation, permeated by fundamentalists and militants in its ranks and file and an institution that pursues big business rather than focus on its primary mission.
Despite suffering over 1,500 dead (the highest figure for any army) in this war, it is still accused of playing a double game. American organisations that once praised now call it ill-organised and badly trained to fight counter insurgency operations in FATA. The hardest criticism has come on the ISI. It is repeatedly accused of hobnobbing with militants and supporting Al Qaeda. This is the outfit busy in unravelling the plethora of intrigues played by diverse actors against the sovereignty of Pakistan operating with the tacit consent of US and Afghanistan.
Methodically, a new theme is being developed. Pakistan’s obsession with India and Kashmir does not allow it to focus unilaterally in FATA. The Taliban in this context are being described as a strategic asset of Pakistan army for its security objectives. The latest accusations to surface relate to the diversion of US funds for building up capabilities against India. No reference is being made to the fact that the mishandling of the situation in Afghanistan in fact adds to Pakistan’s security concerns.
The praetorian mindset within the Pakistan army has made matters worse for the country. The last two military coups of Pakistan got legitimised due to US geo-strategic interests in the regions. 9/11 was an opportunity for an otherwise besieged General Musharraf to get the Americans off his back and use them as erstwhile allies. The short-sightedness of his policy meant that the Pakistani military has been drawn into a most hostile environment – such as in FATA and Swat – where states and a maze of non-state actors compete for influence. The surveillance, intervention and connections of competing actors in the region are so effective that it leaves the local troops with little operational initiative.
The entire resistance and lawlessness in the area has been lumped into two generic names: Al Qaeda and Taliban. Yet many militants groups have the direct backing of operators from US, UK, India, Russia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and now even Iran. Every pro-Pakistan Taliban is outnumbered by diverse strains, each with strings operating it from elsewhere. America has the advantage to operate even from within Pakistan through its bases, embassy and consulates. India has deployed over 20 intelligence units in its consulates to control insurgency inside Pakistan. The insurgency in Swat was created to denude and divert the concentration of the Pakistan army on multiple fronts. According to Shireen Mazari, suffice it to check the record of housekeeping at the Serena Hotel in Swat, to know the type of foreigners that had been visiting there.
Electronic surveillance of the area is so effective that no communications go unnoticed. Pakistan’s allies have the capability to take on these communication centres in real time, yet do not. Many mullah radio stations operate with impunity spewing propaganda against Pakistan. They cannot be jammed with the electronic counter measures of the Pakistan army while America does not seem willing to do this. Spokesmen of Taliban groups talk over cell phones to various news channels for hours but yet cannot be targeted with precision missiles and drones.
Besides the inherent state of insurgency, the movement of Pakistani troops is precariously dangerous. Curiously, there is ample early warning of all the movements of the Pakistan army exposing them to well planned explosive devices (IEDs) and ambushes. Most casualties suffered by troops were result of pre-planned ambushes in which the militants had credible early warning.
Pakistan’s arch-rival has been allowed to move into Afghanistan. Scores of consulates that India has established in Afghanistan are directly linked to instability and militancy inside FATA and Balochistan. While Pakistan can be readily made a scapegoat for cross border movement both in Kashmir and Afghanistan, this does not apply to India.
At the same time, sales of uranium to India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group have been opened implying that India is now free to exploit its indigenous uranium and thorium resources solely for military purposes. There is a constant effort and well crafted plan at degrading Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. An upsurge in Indian capabilities, stories of proliferation in which all complicit international actors but Pakistan are conveniently overlooked and Pakistani weapons falling into the hands of militants serve to project how dangerous a country it has become. It now appears that everything had been timed in a manner to coincide with the upsurge of hostilities and socio-economic upheaval in Pakistan.
Pakistanis need to understand that in the US scheme of things, the degradation of the army is a key plank in the objective to rid Pakistan of its nuclear capability. Has the time come to eat grass?
The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan army.
Source: The News, 17/9/2008