By K.N. Pandita
ISI chief Shuja is in Washington meeting with his counterpart, Panetta the CIA chief. Relations between them have soured on drone issue. Kiyani, in a rare public statement of March 17, demanded US not to use drone attacks in war on terror for the reason that it kills civilians. Who allowed US air bases in Khoshab to fly the drones and shoot missiles at Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets, obviously, the Army? The US has been reminding Pakistan that it is not doing much to suppress terror in Af-Pak region. The case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor further damaged relations. More than thirty CIA agents working in Pakistan had to be packed up for return to home. It is getting increasingly difficult for the USA to trust Pakistan Army’s intentions of resisting the terrorists on home soil and on the border. Traditionally, Pak Army has had a clout with the Pentagon, and Pak Generals have friends, well-wishers and supporters there. But then, complex and complicated as the situation on ground is in Af-Pak, the White House does not necessarily see eye to eye with Pentagon in many aspects of relationship. The Pentagon has always come into picture whenever relations between the Pakistan Army and its civilian government are in a confrontational mood.
For example, Gilani government does not want escalation of animosity with India and in a recent statement he has had all praise for the Indian Prime Minister asserting that Dr. Manmohan Singh sincerely wants to do something which would help restoration of peace in South Asia. Gilani government is eager to reciprocate the sentiment. It has a vision of future and believes that all outstanding issues including Kashmir can be resolved through dialogue. He is right in saying that the two countries cannot afford another war. But the problem is of a deep divide between Pakistan army and her elected government. Confessions made by Tahavvur Hussain, the co-accused with Headley in Mumbai attack case before a court of law in New York, shows that terrorist attack conspiracy had been hatched by the ISI and Army. It will also be remembered that in the matter of Kargil war, Nawaz Sharief, who happened to be the Prime Minster at that time, also said publicly that General Musharraf had kept him uninformed about latter’s incursion plan. Thus it is rightly said that there is a government within a government in Pakistan. It is this covert government that is talking to its counterparts in the Pentagon.
New Delhi is aware of this situation in Pakistan and that is the reason why India would want to continue dialogue with the government in Islamabad despite latter’s severe constraints. Pakistan’s diarchy has history and social trappings, and it is a phenomenon far more frightening than what ordinary Pakistanis may think of. The turning point of state formation in Pakistan was General Zia-ul-Haq’s “reconstruction” of key institutions and political processes in accordance with Islamic values. Whatever Zia stood for, his ‘Islamization’ crusade rendered Islam into a divisive force and created political space for the rise of religious groups, including the violent ones, some of which morphed into dangerous terror machines that destabilise Pakistan — and the region — and threaten international security. The rising tide of ‘anti-Americanism’ and the deepening economic crisis radicalised the youth and spawned a large number of extremist groups, while the state’s abdication of its responsibility to strike a balance between human capital and physical capital has been capitalised by the Islamists. In the absence of secular ideologies, Islam became the vehicle for political mobilization.
Though the country plays the Islamic card in its political discourse, yet, paradoxically, Islam is also proving to be insufficient as a force that can hold Pakistan together, as current developments in Baluchistan, the tribal areas in the northwestern region, and in the metropolis of Karachi would show. All this increasingly raises the question of Pakistan’s very survivability as a state. The tragedy of Pakistan is that even in the face of this existential challenge, it is the military establishment that continues to define national interest, and that interest is overwhelmingly defined in terms of confrontation with India, exclusion of civilian government from decision-making on core areas of foreign and security policies, and gaining ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan.