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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Pakistan is marching towards chaos

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd), Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 18, 2014
First Published: 09:23 IST(18/8/2014) | Last Updated: 09:59 IST(18/8/2014)

While the Middle-East is in a state of turmoil, developments nearer home in Pakistan are nearly as bad. Various governments in Pakistan, its army and the ISI have from time to time played with the idea of creating trouble for India in Jammu and Kashmir. While India has met the challenge adequately and with considerable restraint, for Pakistan chickens are finally coming home to roost.

That country itself has increasingly become target of terrorist attacks: including some of the key defence establishments. Pakistan has been getting less and less governable over the past decade because of terrorism.

The goings-on in Iraq, Syria, Israel and Afghanistan will have their spillover effect on Pakistan as well, where minorities are already being targeted. The Muslim world seems to be in a state of turmoil where thousands have been killed by the ISIS, led by a self-styled ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, giving a new dimension to “human rights violations”. He wants to bring in Islamic Caliphate, taking the community back to the seventh century. Volunteers from Western countries are being drawn to Syria to join the ongoing struggle.

Threat to Sharif govt
There is unrest in Pakistan and a new threat to Nawaz Sharif’s government is in the making. His somewhat troubled relation with the army is the result of the treatment being meted out to Pervez Musharraf on the one hand, and on the other, the moves underway to improve relations with India. To this has been added the threat from that firebrand preacher from Canada, Tahir-ul Qadri, who calls himself Sheikh-ul-Islam, whose supporters have had a number of clashes with the police.

Pakistan’s political party Tehreek-e-Insaf led by Imran Khan, together with Qadri, pose a serious threat to the Nawaz Sharif government. The demand for removal of the Sharif government rests on the argument that the last elections were rigged. Sharif’s decision to hand over security of the capital to the army from August 1 and invoking Article 245 has its own long-term implications and has revived old apprehensions.

Tahir-ul Qadri’s involvement in Pakistan politics is bound to give this agitation greater twist towards religious fundamentalism and open new avenues to radicalism. The reports of Qadri’s close ties with the army have led to concerns in some quarters in Pakistan. The trouble in Kyer-Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of North West Frontier Province and the military’s operations against terrorists in those areas have led to problems of refugees and animosity against the state by groups such as Tarik-e-Taliban, Pakistan.

Spillover effect
The war between Sunni and Shiite in Iraq and other parts of the middle-east launched by ISIS is already having its spillover effect in Pakistan, where minorities are savagely persecuted. First harassment and then eviction of Pandits from the Valley was just a prelude to what is in the offing for minorities elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Sind province, known as the Land of Sufis, is now in the grip of radical Sunni Islam, where minorities are being persecuted. Seminaries have multiplied. Their funding is somewhat opaque, but the major contributor appears to be Saudi Arabia. These seminaries provide free education plus boarding and lodging to the poor students. Here teaching is essentially religious in content. They are the breeding ground for religious bigots and terrorists. Students from these seminaries have no skills and thus no employability.

Feeling of insecurity
Karachi, a megalopolis of 20 million, has been a hotbed of terrorist activity. During 2013, 166 police personnel were killed and their number this year is 100. Some of these killings are retribution for police brutality, extra-judicial killings, corruption and inaptitude. Police stations have often been the target. The feeling of insecurity is so pronounced that of 27,000 police personnel in Karachi, 8,500 are deployed on VIP protection.

A large number of police officers have applied for transfers. Besides, members of Awami League and other political rivals, too, are targeted. Kidnapping and extortion is rampart. Taliban have been opposing the polio vaccination drive. They want to bring in Sharia laws and drag the community back to the middle ages.

A large number of terrorist organisations are active in Pakistan. These are Tarik-e-Taliban, Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organisation, Jammat-ud-Dawaand, whose leader is Hafiz Saeed, Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam and half a dozen more groups. If not tackled effectively, these extremist jihadist groups will eventually drive Pakistan to chaos. The country’s economy is a shambles and these added developments carry serious implications not only for Pakistan, but equally for neighbouring countries. India will have to face the fallout from these developments.

The Pakistan army and the ISI have been nurturing the notion that Afghan Taliban and indigenous terrorist groups are the country’s strategic assets against India and in the normal course deploy these in J&K to India’s discomfiture, but now chickens are coming home to roost.

(The writer is a defence expert. Views expressed are personal)

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