October 19, 2013

Pakistan and Crescent



This year’s Noble Peace prize was the most hotly debated and speculated event.  Top contenders in MalalaYousafzai of Pakistan, Edward Snowden  and Russia’s Vladimir Putin reflected a disapproval of US policies and helped consensus for Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to spare USA the blushes. Inasmuch as the award reflects neutrality, the list of top contenders explains unison in combatting diverse strains of religiously inspired transcending floating threats. In final analysis, OPCW award reflects the struggle of each who did not win. The fact that OPCW moved quickly to dismantle the Syrian Chemical capabilities also means that the Americans blinked in the backdrop of strong EU disapproval and Russian threat to Saudi Arabia, the major exporter of fighters to Syria. The award is symbolic in that President Bush’s doctrine of global domination has reached its nadir and that President Obama has the responsibility of defining new objectives and policy options for the next decade based on engagement rather than confrontation. Most, the award has exposed international duplicity on democracy and terrorism.

Under the shadow of the Syrian Crisis, one possible outcome of this event is the way how the world will transform from unipolarity to a multipolar world shaped by USA, South America, EU, Russia, China and the APEC Arc. The Muslim world divided within, lacks the potential to play an assertive role in this transformation. If it unites, it may become a very strong power centre within the multi polarity.  The instability from Libya to Pakistan and Afghanistan is inter linked and no more an internal issue of any country. Considering the oil crisis of 1973, this division provides opportunities to bigger powers to keep the house divided.

Insofar as delivering democracy to the world is concerned, Arab Springs have radicalised and polarised Muslims. Conflict zones within the Ummah have become floating minefields. Transcending militant organisations with multi-state linkages exercise more leverage in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Morsi’s democratically elected government had to pay for not supporting US-KSA led policies in the Middle East. Prospects of an Al Qaeda led regime change in Syria that were imminent are now dim. A complete US led military withdrawal from Afghanistan appears doubtful.

2013 Mini Muslim world is reminiscent of the end of WW II, divided between East and West. There is a Cold War within. The Ummah led by Saudi and Iranian camps is positioning itself to derive maximum geo political leverage through sponsoring weaker states and non-state actors. Turkey, a secular Muslim State is caught between the European rock and the deep sea. The Syrian Crisis indicates that despite being a trusted US ally, Saudi Arabia cannot always rule the roost. This irrelevance in Syria warrants a reappraisal of Saudi policy on proxies lest the winds of a real spring blow across the deserts to its Eastern boundaries.

Iran in contrast, after years of diplomatic isolation has managed to create a diplomatic space.  Syrian Crisis and Hassan Rouhani’s nuclear diplomacy set a platform for engagement that shall extend to Afghanistan and Palestine. As frigid relations with USA thaw, the resistance to Pak-Iran Gas pipeline will also melt away. A paradigm shift in West Asian politics is slowly taking place and till such time the issue of Syria is not settled, its negative ripples will continue to appear in Pakistan.

My hypothesis that Pakistan’s internal terrorism has international linkages continues to pass testability. Profiling of terrorism indicates external linkages and hence the futility of a negotiated settlement without addressing the international sponsors. It had been written that as dates of US led withdrawal from Afghanistan get closer, the trajectories of violence in the region will move to more bloodshed and emergence of warlordism. Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is doing just that. He appears desperate to wrest control of TTP inasmuch as Pakistan exercises leverage over Afghan Taliban. The recent visits of an ANP delegation to Afghanistan and Maulana Fazal ur Rehman’s meeting with Hamid Karzai reinforce this policy.

Hamid Karzai with whatever allies he may find appears to be turning against Pakistan. The recent surge in terrorism in Pakistan is a reflection of these battle lines from Nanga Parbat to Sukkur, Dera Ismail Khan to Peshawar and simultaneous attacks in the four provincial capitals. Earlier this month, US forces interdicted an Afghan Government convoy escorting Latif Mehsud, the second in command of TTP and captured him for plotting of a bomb attack on Time’s Square.  In another related event, Afghan Taliban attacked TTP’s Fazal Ullah’s hideout in Kunar, Afghanistan. A day after the governor of Logar Province Arsala Jamal was killed in Afghanistan; Pakistan lost its Provincial Law Minister Israr Ullah Gandapur in Dera Ismail Khan in an apparent quid pro quo.

Contours of a new battle line are emerging and political parties in Pakistan eager for peace need to beware. They need to realise that they are hanging on a precipice with unsure footholds. They lack the wherewithal of working through this maze by relying on a single interlocutor.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf despite its nonviolent stance, having lost three legislatures to violence has to tread with caution and circumspection. Political romanticism and idealism must make way for well informed and imaginative pragmatism over issues of militancy. Its leadership has to take an international view of the dynamics and place itself at an enviable position where it matters. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as an island of security, prosperity and social reforms in a melting Pakistan must remain its top agenda.

Pakistan’s tough grind will continue and exasperate if Pakistan does not make a full blown effort at differentiating friends from foes, friends disguised as enemies, spoilers, plethora of self-styled revisionists and fly by night reformers. As new battle lines emerge, so does an effort by these so called intellectuals in reinventing nationalism and formulating conflicting narratives to further subvert the nation? There is no room for a Turkish, Egyptian or a Saudi Model. If Pakistan reasserts itself, it has the potential of becoming a viable actor within this equilibrium.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email:




Blog at

%d bloggers like this: