Threat assessment —Shaukat Qadir

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One can only hope that the political leadership realises that it must rise to the challenges we face, and soon, because if they don’t, perhaps the recently coined term ‘near-failed state’ might soon be applicable to Pakistan, if it is not already

In military parlance, the conventional assessment of threat is essential to formulate hypotheses and response options. Generally speaking, the total composition of forces of any country and their capabilities are known. Therefore, threat analysis begins by concluding the quantum of these forces the enemy will bring to bear against you.

Then, based on a variety of factors, including terrain, weather, composition of enemy forces, your own vulnerabilities and, where possible, the characteristics of the enemy commander(s), one formulates hypotheses: what are the options for the enemy to utilise his forces. Based on the most likely or the most dangerous hypothesis, you mount your response manoeuvre, with variants planned, if the enemy resorts to any other hypothesis.

How would one assess the threat to a nation, in our case, Pakistan?

Not only have our military threats become multi-faceted, but our domestic difficulties are also being multiplied by a so-called-ally. On the one hand, we have to cater for the conventional threat from India, and on the other from increasing religious extremism and militancy in the NWFP and Balochistan.

In the NWFP, while US drone attacks have indeed become increasingly accurate, they are still acts of war by a foreign power. Unopposed, they can only further undermine the writ of the government.

On the other hand, India has adopted the policy of support to the militancy in both these provinces, intended to weaken Pakistan from within, without adverting to the fact that even if Pakistan becomes so weak that the Indian military can just walk over it, the militancy India is helping foster can only result in further Mumbai-like incidents.

It is astonishing that no one in India sees what is happening next door. It is the chaos in Afghanistan that has spilled over to Pakistan and the more Pakistan is destabilised, the greater the spillover to India. There is only one way of fighting this problem, i.e. together.

The only good news was US President Barack Obama’s acceptance of the fact that Afghanistan needs to be stabilised to ensure Pakistan’s stability; a tacit acceptance that Pakistan is suffering from Afghanistan’s chaos and not the other way round, which the previous US administration had argued. However, the methodology that he is reportedly planning to adopt is also likely to misfire. It would be a tragedy if Afghanistan were to do to Obama what Vietnam did to Lyndon Johnson.

But the threat to a nation is not only military. Once again, India’s violations of the Indus Water Treaty have resulted reduced water supply to Pakistan, threatening us not only with water shortage, but also power shortage. Our deplorable agriculture policy is resulting in frequent food shortages; the provinces are not prepared to share their resources with other provinces; Punjab’s offer to assist Balochistan is a rare and welcome exception. With the power shortage, the tottering industry is floundering and unemployment is on the rise.

Simply put, the threats to the nation are multidimensional, and these are not threats that the armed forces can deal with.

At this critical juncture where our individual liberty is under threat from the extremists in our midst and the very existence of Pakistan may be at stake, our political leadership appears magnificently unconcerned. The PPP government continues to hold the Damocles’ Sword of disqualification over the heads of the Sharif brethren. Reportedly the Punjab Governor has met the PMLQ leadership to prepare for a political takeover in the province. In retaliation, the PMLN is becoming increasingly intractable on all issues, including the restoration of judges.

Even as all this is still in the melting pot, it is adding to another dimension of the threat we are already facing: political insecurity. What does the government think will be the consequences of the disqualification of the Sharif brethren or of the successful overthrow of the PMLN government in Punjab?

So, that is what we are faced with. When assessing threats to a nation, we are looking not only at the military dimension of the threat, which in itself has become increasingly complex as well as multifaceted, but all security-related issues that effect the nation and its citizens.

In Pakistan, apart from the conventional treat to our military, we are faced with increasing domestic religious extremism. There is no security of life and there is decreasing political security; decreasing security of liberty, of food, of water, of livelihood, of religious freedom, of freedom of speech, of justice. There is rampant corruption and an increasing distrust of our political leadership, which is perceived as playing politics and enjoying perks at the expense of the people’s welfare.

If this is the assessment of our threat, all our political leadership now needs is to consider comprehensive response options and then select which one to adopt. The trillion-dollar question is: will they?

The ray of light that shines through this increasingly gloomy cloud is the courage of the media, whose members continue their investigative journalism in the face of threats, making both public. There is also increasing concern and activism in our hitherto dormant, silent, and listless civil society, including retired bureaucrats and military personnel.

One can only hope that the political leadership realises that it must rise to the challenges we face, and soon, because if they don’t, perhaps the recently coined term ‘near-failed state’ might soon be applicable to Pakistan, if it is not already.

The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)

Article reproduced by permission of DT.\02\07\story_7-2-2009_pg3_4


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