Saturday, 26 November 2016
New Chief, new start and may be a new agenda, Dr Shabir Choudhry
New Chief, new start and may be a new agenda
Dr Shabir Choudhry 26 November 2016
The elected Sharif is here to stay; and the Sharif which had to go has gone. He is history now. However, he may be back in a new role after 2 years, especially if Nawaz Sharif continues to rule the country.
Foot soldiers and opportunists, who are always available to flatter every army Chief, and present him as a Messiah should not feel disappointed because the new Chief would also need their services. You can start preparing new slogans and new songs for the new Chief.
In December people will start writing about what Raheel Sharif did not do, or what wrong he did. Already I have come across with some articles analysing his performance. I expect many more articles in near future.
Most people admire Raheel Sharif for not doing what he was not supposed to do – overthrow an elected government. He was urged to do it by some opportunist politicians. He may have had some pressure from his colleagues to step in and ‘save’ the country. As a professional soldier he resisted the temptation to topple the government. This decision was good for him, good for government and good for Pakistan.
He did not topple the government but he ‘generously’ took away some more powers from Nawaz Sharif who was elected to rule Pakistan. When Nawaz Sharif comprehended that his government was in danger, he let the other Sharif to encroach more powers, especially in domains of security, foreign policy and defence; and his endeavours from then onwards were to save his throne rather than facing the lion.
The Sharif in uniform ensured that the civilian Sharif understood clearly that ‘bloody civilians’ could not point fingers at the officers in uniform, as the most powerful institution was there to protect them.
Nawaz Sharif wanted to punish General Musharaf for treason; but he ended up getting hundreds of civilians tried by military and hanged for treason.
However, he could be rightly complimented for taking a brave decision of starting a military campaign in North Wazirstan. His predecessor, despite advice and urgent need to take military action hesitated to take any action, because of reprisals; and may be because of fear that he won’t succeed.
Nevertheless, it is sad to note that Raheel Sharif could not finish the job. It is job half done, terrorism has come down; and terrorists are on the run, but they are not defeated. It is case of glass half full or half empty. Various officers and leaders have claimed on number of occasions that they have broken backbone of terrorists. Fact is the terrorists have been striking back effectively even with the ‘broken back’.
Many experts believe that they took a long time to take action against terrorists. When decision was taken, it still gave sufficient time to terrorists to move out to other safe areas.
Apart from that not all terrorist groups were targeted. Only those terrorists were targeted which became ‘disobedient’; and were keen to attack Pakistan and Pakistani interests. Those ‘good boys’ or ‘good terrorists’ are still safe and enjoying the patronage. Then question arises, was it a war against terrorism; or a war against some bad boys who disobeyed the ‘parents’ or the ‘parent body’.
Syeda Mamoona Rubab writes on the topic:
The results are in front of us and some of those entities are emerging with greater virulence after ganging up with external terrorist organizations. Whether the local extremist groups were left untouched for some tactical reason or they did not fit the criteria adopted for those operations, it was a deadly mistake to not go after them. This could blow apart whatever legacy Gen. Raheel had been trying to build for himself. 1
This selective fight or half hearted war against terrorism cannot and will not end terrorism. Roots or sources of terrorism are still there; and those who promote hatred, extremism and violence are still highly respected in the society. Moreover the International scepticism on Pakistan’s sincerity to root out terrorism is seriously questioned.
General Raheel Sharif was army Chief as well as an ‘unofficial Foreign Minister’. We need to analyse what he has left behind. Apart from the unfinished war on terrorism he has left the following:
1. General Ashfaq Kayani thought Pakistan had internal threats rather than external threats. He and his predecessor, despite Kargil fiasco thought gun was not the way forward and wanted to have peace with India.
In pursuant with that policy and because of his own aspirations Nawaz Sharif wanted to have closer ties with India and also wanted to grant India most favoured nation status.
2. General Sharif did not like that; and during his time we have seen more trouble on LOC and on the Working Boundary. We people of Jammu and Kashmir had fewer problems and less suffering and fewer dead bodies and injuries during six years of General Ashfaq Kayani’s ‘rule’ than during three years of General Sharif’s ‘rule’. Once again relationship with India is at its lowest ebb and fast deteriorating.
Trolls and hate mongers will accuse me of being Pro India, as they expect everyone to blame India for all wrong doings. Of course India is also responsible for many wrong things, but here we are not analysing role of India. People of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered immensely; and people are beginning to understand negative role of Pakistan bit better now. Many people now say both India and Pakistan have colluded to teach people of Jammu and Kashmir a lesson that they forget talking about independence; and accept the status quo.
3. Relationship with Iran has also suffered a serious setback, especially during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan. In a way, Iran was accused of ‘facilitating’ Indian spies, it was undiplomatic response to broadcast it so loudly during the State visit of a friendly neighbour.
4. Similarly relationship with Afghanistan is not so cordial; and policy of strategic depth is a thing of the past now. Both Iran and Afghanistan are closer to India than to Pakistan.
5. Also Bangladesh, former East Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia don’t have friendly relations with Pakistan. They have better relations with India than Pakistan.
6. America hoped that General Raheel Sharif was the man to do what other Generals could not do or did not want to do. During his first visit to Washington in 2014, General Raheel Sharif was awarded the US Legion of Merit. His second visit to the US was in 2015, which interestingly took place a month after PM Nawaz Sharif’s visit; and in which he was treated as a special guest, almost like a Head of State of an important country. They regarded him as a “dependable partner” and “honest broker”. However, to put it mildly, relationship with the US is not as cordial as it was some years ago. It won’t be right to put blame at the door of General Raheel Sharif.
7. Relationship with Russia has improved, but analysts wonder what is there for Pakistan in future; and if Russia has forgotten what role Pakistan played in downfall of Russian?
8. During General Raheel Sharif’s term, tens of thousands of Chinese armed personnel are also stationed in various places of Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Is that not a compromise on sovereignty of Pakistan? Is Pakistan not able to defend issue related to the CPEC and the Chinese workers, or the Chinese lack trust in them? Moreover, how this will affect Pakistan in future?
9. Situation in Karachi is far from satisfactory. If agenda was to tame MQM then they have made some progress; but as far as rooting out corruption and terrorism is concerned, they have not completed the agenda. Splitting MQM may appear a success but it will create more problems in Karachi in near future.
10. Situation in Balochistan has improved but is far from satisfactory. Rebels and dissidents will continue to challenge writ of the State and endanger CPEC projects
11. Terrorists and extremists in other areas have not faced wrath of the army; and many analysts wonder why? Won’t these extremists, hate mongers and terrorists create problems in future?
In conclusion, in my opinion, despite huge publicity and hullabaloo, gains are fewer than the problems he has left; as he is leaving behind many unfinished important tasks. His successor Lt General Qamar Javed Bajwa has a lot on his plate. He will have to work hard to complete the unfinished tasks.
New army Chief will surely have his own ideas. After settling down in the job he may think that he cannot be a successful Chief if he continues his journey with all of the baggage left behind. He may prioritise things, change strategies or abandon some of the tasks.
1. Syeda Mamoona Rubab, The Friday Times, 25 November 2016
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch; Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.