Why Pakistan could well become another Syria
The shockingly open support by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s ‘active role’ to resolve the Kashmir conflict, soon after former Pakistan president and military dictator Pervez Musharraf hailing Saeed, the JuD and the LeT as ‘patriotic,’ marked the beginning of a new era in the way Pakistan’s so-called war on terror is being perceived.
The birth of the first militant-supported political party, Milli Muslim League (MML), under Saeed at Lahore in October 2017, the confirmation by Saeed of his contesting the 2018 elections and for the first time, the Pakistan military acknowledging links with militant groups completes the new triad of transformation in Pakistan’s perception of terror outfits and their roles in the war on terror.
Reactions from the US escalated from an instantly strong condemnation warning Pakistan of serious consequences failing Saeed’s re-arrest, to snapping bilateral ties with Pakistan that was expected to compel action and warn Pakistan of further sanctions and strictures. The more recent and serious warnings by the US President and the secretary of state have not just been openly defied but also contested as being unjustified.
With this Pakistan’s military and the government have conceded surrender to the terror leader, de facto acknowledging the rise of its fifth estate of terror in its constitutional governance alongside the military, the government and the ISI.
While Pakistan today rises from a terror-sponsor state to a terror-driven state with a terror based-strategy with terrorists in frontline combat running their own training camps and plotting anti India strikes, the military’s relevance stands depleted. Not only does this seriously challenge traditional governance and paradigms of civilian-led hierarchy, it also threatens inverting the pyramid: flipping terrorists from non-State actors to the governing class, with politics and military as its two wings.
The new and distinctly arrogant narrative in Pakistan, rejecting fears of Washington’s warnings appears drawn out of a new regional China-Pakistan-Russia nexus articulated by Former DG ISI, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, and backed by another former ISI chief, Lieutenant General Assad Durrani’s perceptions of Pakistan’s strategic relevance that has been signified by both China and Russia.
The recent surgical strikes carried out by India’s special forces reflect that we are deploying a new counter-terror strategy. A comprehensive capability to make Pakistan’s terror machine and supply chain dysfunctional or untenable by continuous attrition cannot be overstated.
Given the operational freedom by the political leadership, the capability of our special forces to track and destroy the militant leadership, their camps and foil infiltration from Pakistan, or anywhere in the neighbouring region with the help of the Afghanistan National Army and US troops must be fundamental in the potent deterrence that India needs. A strong joint US-Indian- military strike capability backed by Israeli technology and experience, based on drones will reinforce deterrence in the entire region in the long term.
Pakistan’s military is shedding its skin and revealing its integral Corps of Terror and terrorists that have always been tacitly operationalised under its wings. Notwithstanding China’s continuing veto, India must press the global community to draw a larger member support base through the UN to press a resolution for arrest or re-arrest of global terrorists.
The non-State actor in Pakistan has finally risen to frontline politics. Journalist Ahmed Rashid in his 2009 book Descent Into Chaos identified Pakistan to be a future crisis zone thanks to its intimate linkages with Taliban and other terror groups. In 2012, Rashid’s other book, ‘Pakistan On The Brink,’ chronicled the country’s internal threats, divisive politics and strategies that were threatening to take Pakistan to the edge. Less than five years later, Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban , divisive politics and its strategy of exploiting terror to manage national security and internal affairs has catapulted the State into its ultimate abyss.
Eventually, the people of Pakistan must be made to realise that the Pakistan military, despite having drawn the biggest billions from the US and the world in its so-called ‘war on terror’, apart from squeezing its own country’s economy, may be heading to be another Syria or Iraq. Any new and viable deterrence for this ‘war on terror’ must therefore emerge from the Pakistani people. Only then can any regional or transnational effort contribute towards a comprehensive and effective counterstrategy.
AS Lamba is former Vice Chief Of Army Staff
The views expressed are personal