India not the real enemy, militancy is! – by Ayaz Amir

Will hypocrites such as Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmed listen to this sane voice?


India not the real enemy; militancy is
Islamabad diary

Friday, December 26, 2008
by Ayaz Amir

Militancy and extremism on the march. Three schools in Peshawar attacked with rockets. The Fazlullah-led Taliban in Swat ordering the closure of girls’ schools from January 15. Scores of schools already torched in Swat, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Swat’s prestigious Sangota Public School blown up on Oct 7. These events are far more important, of deeper impact, than the bluster and threats coming our way from India.

India will have to take leave of its senses to attack Pakistan, even to carry out a limited attack, what armchair idiots like to call a “precision strike”. Any Indian attack, precision or otherwise, will elicit a Pakistani response. Where that might lead to falls in the realm of the incalculable. It needs no Clausewitz to vouchsafe that it is easier to start wars; much harder, as the Americans from their Iraq and Afghanistan experience can testify, to end them.

India is piling up the pressure on Pakistan, exploiting the opportunity provided by the Mumbai attacks. We should take cognisance of the pressure and resist it. But there is no need to go into panic mode. India is not attacking us. Or, rather, it has no need to attack us because we are attacking ourselves from within. Militancy is on the march and the state (I can think of no better word) is in retreat, helpless before the militant onslaught, now confined not just to FATA and Swat but spreading, and indeed clueless about how to combat it.

We know how to meet any threat from India. This is travelled territory, a script we know by heart. But India is not the problem. We are being slowly devoured and destroyed from within and there is no agreed script about how this challenge, now turning into a grave threat, is to be met.

India says we are in denial about Mumbai. This is not true. Evidence of any smoking gun, clinching evidence rather than rhetorical flourishes, has yet to be shown to Pakistan. But this is beside the point. We, the Pakistani people and our state, are in denial about the tramp of what could easily pass for the 21st century equivalent of the Huns in the northwest and the north.

The problem before us has its roots in the past but it won’t do to make the past an alibi or excuse for twiddling our thumbs in the present. Gen Zia all those years ago helped create this Frankenstein monster and Gen Musharraf through ill-judged cunning, and equally ill-judged military actions, allowed militancy and extremism to become the fast-growing viruses which they presently are. But berating Zia and Musharraf won’t do us any good. The monster is a monster, regardless of the laboratory or the geniuses who created him.

What defies understanding, and the army has yet to come up with a convincing explanation, is why the army operation in Swat has come to a standstill, without being able to dent the power of the Fazlullah-led militants? It has been trying to clear Swat for over a year now but Fazlullah’s forces are stronger than ever. What is happening? There may be an American angle to the situation in FATA but there is none in Swat.

Turmoil in Swat makes nonsense of the concept of sovereignty. If we are not internally fully sovereign, of what worth our claims to external sovereignty? The threat in Swat, because it undermines the nation from within, is more serious than any notional threat from India. The army high command should be concentrating on this and senior generals would do the nation greater service by stationing themselves in Swat rather than lolling about in Rawalpindi. Indeed, it would be no bad idea for the Rawalpindi Golf Club, where senior generals take their leisure, to close down while the troubles in FATA and Swat last. This is no time to play golf.

Afghanistan and Iraq may be stupid wars but American and British leaders make it a point of visiting their troops in both countries. Musharraf never, not once, visited FATA. He never visited Swat. Gen Kayani has gone to both places but he needs to go there more. What about President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani? At the drop of a hat they set off on foreign tours. But they can’t bring themselves to visit troops in FATA and Swat. There can be no greater shame than this.

The world has changed and so has our regional environment. War with India—-or from India’s point of view, war with Pakistan——should no longer be a possibility or an option. The nature of the threat has changed. The armed forces therefore need to revamp and restyle both their thinking and their posture. F-16s and more inter sub-continental missiles will do us little good. How many atom bombs do we have? Fifty? That should be enough for any sane notion of defence against India. If 50 atom bombs are insufficient all the world’s arms will not give us a sense of security.

We need a leaner force, more attuned to covert operations and warfare in the rugged north and northwest. The eastern frontier must become a frontier of peace if we are to devote what energies we have to the threat from within. Which doesn’t mean we lower our guard, only that we give up on meaningless warmongering. It is time to bury the notion, so beloved of the Nazria-e-Pakistan school of thought, that India is our eternal enemy. It isn’t. India is not torching our schools. It is not proscribing female education. Someone else is.

To Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, whom I once heard lecturing at a Jamaat-ud-Daawa mosque in Chakwal, I would respectfully say that the time for the kind of ‘jihad’ as promoted in the 1980s and 1990s is over. What was possible then is no longer possible now. That kind of ‘jihad’ far from serving any useful purpose or advancing any Pakistani interests now endangers the country. A farewell to ‘jihad’, turning Kalashnikovs into ploughshares, that is what Pakistan needs.

When the Bolsheviks under Lenin seized power in Russia in 1917, the First World War still raging, large parts of western Russia were under German occupation. Most of the members of the Bolshevik central committee were for continuing the war. But Lenin insisted that saving the Revolution was more important. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded with Germany imposed humiliating terms on Russia, including the loss of the Ukraine, but Lenin accepted them in the hope that if the Revolution triumphed temporary setbacks would be of no account. Events proved him right. Germany lost the war and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk came to nothing.

Saving Pakistan from within must take priority over everything else. Notions of strategic depth and the like, of ‘jihad’ as an instrument of national policy, must finally be discarded. Folly sowed over 30 years of benighted effort has come to haunt us. High time we gave up on these ghosts from the past.

The army is pitted against the Taliban in FATA but there are persistent accusations, never persuasively denied, that it turns a blind eye to the presence of Taliban elements in and around Quetta. How long can we sustain such dichotomies?

Should the ISI be brought under ISI control? Even if it is, that would still be but a half-step. What gives the ISI a distinct imprint is its umbilical link with the army. Army officers rotate to and from it, making the ISI an extension of the army. The time may have come to consider ways of turning the ISI into a professional spy organisation like the CIA and KGB, or even RAW for that matter. These organisations are not staffed by army officers.

Immediately after the Mumbai attacks our government’s stand could have been more coherent. But as consultations with various branches of government and other political leaders got underway, some of the earlier fumbling disappeared.

This is not a Churchillian government. I think we are all agreed on this score. Even so, with all the confusion on display, Pakistan’s response to combined American and Indian pressure in 2008 has been a whole lot more steady and sensible than Gen Musharraf’s response to American pressure in 2001. Which serves to underline the distinction that the most fumbling democracy is preferable to any kind of military dictatorship.