Monday, 20 October 2008

Fourth A of Pakistani politics

Fourth A of Pakistani politics
Dr Shabir Choudhry 20 October 2008

People say three A’s – Allah, America and Army have always had important role in the Pakistani politics. Although some people now beginning to understand that Pakistan was not created to serve cause of Islam, but majority still believe that it was created to advance the cause of Islam and therefore Allah will always protect this ‘land of pure’.

These wishful Pakistanis who like to live in their fantasy world, conveniently forget that Allah only helps those who help themselves. Allah Almighty did not save break up of Pakistan, humiliating defeat and imprisonment of more than ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers in war of 1971, because Pakistani rulers and senior politicians of the time had no interest in saving united Pakistan.

Apart from influence of Islam or Allah, American influence has been a major determining factor in politics of Pakistan; some even say that Pakistan was created because the British and the United States wanted this, as it fitted in their scheme of things for future of Asia.

That view is academic and controversial; fact however is that soon after the creation of Pakistan, American influence became visible and with time has become so powerful that all major decisions are subject to Washington’s approval. Now their officials come to Islamabad just like British Viceroys used to come to India during the British Raj. Their missiles land in Pakistani territory regularly killing and injuring Pakistani citizens and Pakistani government; and Pakistani government still boast about its sovereignty and that they will not allow anyone to violate this.

Some have inferred from this that if someone asked government of Pakistan to allow them to bomb their territory to kill Pakistani citizens, they will not allow it but if it is done without asking them then they will not retaliate and just issue a statement to show their annoyance.

The third A, of course, is the army of Pakistan, which despite its overwhelming control, influence and violation of Pakistani constitution and repeated invasion of its capitol was held in high regard. But this trend changed dramatically during the reign of General Musharaf; and army officers were instructed not to use uniform in public places as they could become victim of public wrath.

The new Chief of army has taken certain steps which may help to restore image of the Pakistan army, but I can hear sounds of military boots which could lead to direct or indirect military rule before too long. Many experts believe that next few months will determine future course, and unless certain preventive measures are taken situation in Pakistan could get out of control leading to head on clash around February 2009.

The role of army is overwhelming in Pakistan and many people regard political role of army and ISI as the root cause of all problems of Pakistan. This might not be the whole truth, as landed aristocracy and corrupt politicians have also done no favour to Pakistan; and have helped to promote culture of corruption, nepotism, extremism and deliberately and consistently undermined national institutions.

The fourth A in the Pakistani politics is a new entry Al –Qaeeda and its sister organisation Taliban who were trained and promoted by secret agencies of Pakistan; and at one time Home Minster of Pakistan, during PPP government while referring to Taliban said they are ‘our boys’. These ‘boys’ have grown up and have become adults; and wants to pursue their own agenda which did not suit Pakistan after 9-11 mainly because Pakistan decided to become subservient to the USA interests in the region.

9-11 was tragic, but still mystery surrounds who were the real culprits? One thing is clear no Taliban were involved in this, then why invade Afghanistan? Is it because this fits in with the plan which they have for this region and Central Asia? Some reports suggest that plans to invade Afghanistan were made in mid 1990s, many years before the tragic events of 9-11. What this means is that Uncle Sam had plans to have his foot hold in the region as a part of their future strategy, and the tragedy of 9-11 provided them an opportunity to implement their agenda.

It was good luck of the USA that Pakistan at that time was ruled by a man who brought shame and humiliation to Pakistan and its army because of Kargil misadventure. After failing in Kargil the brave generals proved their heroism by successfully invading Pakistani capitol. He and his army could not conquer Srinagar or Lal Fort, which was their ultimate aim, but successfully conquered Lal Mosque.

Time and again he boasted that he was a commando and was not afraid of anyone, but when he received one phone call from Washington this commando General surrendered completely, and brought Pakistan and its people to troubles which they face today.

On the other hand a civilian Prime Minister, who had no commando training and no gun in his hand; and did not boast about his bravery received five phone calls from Washington, some phone calls from London and other capitols around the world that he must not become nuclear else he would face serious consequences. This softly spoken and easy looking man stood like a rock and did what was in the best interest of Pakistan and made Pakistan a nuclear state.

The army commando who ruled Pakistan with an iron fist since conquering Islamabad in October 1999, bulldozed all institutions, promoted culture of corruption, political opportunism and intolerance. It is due to his policies that future of Pakistan is bleak now. There is a civil war going on in some parts of Pakistan. The USA attacks are frequent and more destructive. Pakistan is faced with severe shortage of food and energy; and confidence is at its lowest ebb.

The present Pakistani rulers who do not enjoy good reputation, and lack personal integrity of being honest and sincere are forced to go from one capitol to the other with a begging bowl once again. To make bad situation worse, different Taliban groups and Al Qaaeda have challenged the writ of Government, and Pakistan has practically lost control in some parts of Frontier Province (or Pakhtoon Khawa) and FATA; and to rub salt in wounds it is believed that foreign countries including the USA are behind some of these groups.

Whatever the situation now, but by any stretch of imagination it was not a Pakistani war in 2001. Pakistan had no issue or axe to grind with Taliban or Afghanistan at that time, but Pakistani generals worked hard to make it a Pakistani problem and a Pakistani war; and of course they were generously paid for their services, according to some reports 100 million dollars a month, not to mention money they received by selling Pakistanis and Muslims of other countries to the Americans and the rent which they receive for leasing out certain airports and strategic locations. It is a different matter that ordinary soldiers and people of Pakistan had to pay very big price for this policy, and they continue to suffer as a direct result of that policy.

One can say that he was a bad general but many would agree that he was a good politician, although at times his army grooming and training made him commit certain political blunders. It was not that he was anti Pakistan that he brought these troubles to Pakistan, but because it suited his personal ambitions, and may be he thought what was best for him was also best for Pakistan.

Despite that he would not go beyond a certain point in support of the USA, and many believe that he successfully fought war on both sides, but you can only play around with a superpower for so long. He was replaced not because he was getting unpopular in Pakistan, the Americans didn’t care about that, as they have immense experience in dealing with unpopular dictators.

He was replaced because he was becoming too big for his shoes and would not take the American war to its final conclusion. He wanted them to be entangled in this quagmire that he could also continue with his game. Also in the view of the Americans he failed to make this war a ‘Pakistani war’.

The new team in the form of PPP and Zardari is willing to go to any lengths to fight this war, and are ready to use every weapon, apart from the atom bomb to eliminate the ‘terrorists’. Their definition of ‘terrorist’ is that whoever is killed by a Pakistani or the American bomb or a bullet is a ‘terrorist’, even if that person is a five year old child or a seventy year old woman, bombs fired by jet fighters do not differentiate between gender and age of its victims. The new team has also made some progress in convincing people that it is ‘their war’.

If we take Al Qaeeda and Taliban on one side and the USA and its allies on the other side, and despite massive propaganda one can still say that the public opinion in Pakistan is still in favour of the former. Al Qaeeda and Taliban have strong roots inside the Pakistani society, especially in FATA, Pakhtoon Khawa and parts of Punjab. These militants groups of course cannot engage in a direct fight with any regular army, but their long drawn strategy and effective propaganda means that they will give Pakistan and the USA a tough fight and outcome of this will determine future of Pakistan’s economy, future of democracy, peace and harmony; and of course future of Pakistan.
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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