August 13, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:11 am

A central theme of a series of articles written by me from 2008 onwards has been ‘why since 1973 onwards, Pakistan has failed to ensure stability in Afghanistan despite repeated diplomatic interventions and Taliban Government pre 9/11’. The conclusion: Instability in Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan is essential to the calculus of checkmating Pakistan’s rise as a nuclear power. Bad governance is a catalyst to instability.

My assessments were the same in the 90’s when a conflict appeared imminent within a decade.  Pakistan continued to be sucked into a conflict in denial; and failed to contain the runaway factions of militants that it had created. It also chose to become an ally in the WOT without taking cognisance of the societal spin offs.  The lethal brew is now on the boil.

The time from 2000-2007 was crucial to building Pakistan’s image as a responsible country at peace within itself and all its neighbours. 9/11 came and passed but Pakistan’s policy planners failed to read the dynamics and rode gallantly into the trap. Somewhere, there remained a historical predisposition regarding Afghanistan being the graveyard of invading armies? This wait and see has not worked hastening instability.

Post 2007, Pakistan’s national power that strengthens national interests is drained of blood barring few ounces needed to sustain on a ventilator through dollars. Pakistan appears too frail to wait out the crises or stare in the face. Lack of attention to socio economic factors means proliferation of a new genre of organised violence that can take anyone by the throat. The violent cycle in Karachi occurs with alacrity; the targeting of Pathan and Punjabi workforce spreading ethno nationalism and so forth.

As reiterated, Pakistan’s security managers have walked wilfully into a minefield amidst a pack of hounds and a maze of conflict, they know little about. Our own, in blinded ignorance, short-sighted and narrow interests have worked feverishly to subvert national interests. Those who sponsored the NRO, the NRO sponsored politicians and their governments, pseudo liberals funded from overseas, majority of NGO’s operating with foreign funding with dubious connections; and most importantly militants waging a war against the state with terrorism, sectarianism and beheadings.

In my past articles I have deliberated on the wilfully faulty precepts of Pakistan’s political economy, making it impossible to become self reliant with dignity. Poverty breeds crime and militancy. Working on diverse perspectives, these elites, pseudo reformist and minimalists’ combine eat into the state like moths and maggots. As the space for good governance diminishes and compromises become endemic, crises intensify. Each is a hostage to a vested interest or captive to some Cassius Ambition within. As Clausewitz said, ‘in a state torn by insurrections, the centre of gravity lies in its capital’, in this case Punjab. Dissection of Punjab, the romantic notion of Pashtun & Baloch nationalism, the competing gangs in Karachi and barbaric militants are most likely to snowball this mushroom of internal instability.  This is Pakistan’s existential internal threat.

The way this environment shapes coincides with the US intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan.  This could be a token gesture as mixed signals emanating from Washington and gunboat diplomacy suggest otherwise. Nowhere do US statements indicate an end to hostilities and transition to peace. To ensure that this withdrawal takes place quickly, Pakistan has to rethink and reframe its Afghan Policy and create a pause to set its house in order. Delay implies more problems.

If Pakistan can effectively exert its influence on Afghan Taliban in moderating attitudes and pliability to forge stability, the process would speed up. Benazir Bhutto’s accord of 1996 which the Taliban negotiated and the US rejected could provide the blue print for a jump start. Though unlikely in the fog of conflict, US could shift to a primary objective of support missions by 2014 i.e. completing the first phase of its exit. However despite this relief, nothing would change for Pakistan if internal issues will continue to destabilise the state.

This means that despite bringing Taliban to the table, Pakistan will be left with no choice but to use an iron fist against its home grown centres of violence while aggressively addressing the internal causes of instability. This is a very tall and demanding order, beyond the capability of the present government and the timeframe of next elections.  This dilemma is the biggest challenge to Pakistan.

There is something very wicked in these timings. Events prove that as the time for new elections draws near and the present political dispensation plays its last waltz, the instability and anarchy will increase.  Will the upcoming elections be fair, civil and devoid of violence? What political rhetoric will be unleashed by competing parties? Will emotionalism and mutual hate eclipse sanity and wisdom? Will the party coming to power be capable to deliver on emotive electioneering slogans? Or what if in reaction to present rigours, a rightist anti US government comes to power?

These issues are beyond the present Parliament to evaluate or resolve. The powers of party heads conferred by constitutional amendments form a party dictatorship. Interventions by judiciary like stamping a mouse whilst there is a tiger at the door, for the past five years have not improved the situation. So where is the redemption if the interim government for elections is also constituted by these butchers implying more instability?

Hasn’t Pakistan had enough of ‘democracy the best revenge’? It needs more than an election to undo the damage and get Pakistan back to the road of stability. Perhaps a government beyond a caretaker set up that stabilises the internal situation and ensures fair, free and non violent elections. It is time for Pakistan to ensure peace within.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist. E Mail:





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