May 10, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:40 am

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Sartre’s drama ‘Huis Clos’ featured three conspiring/tormenting sinners, apparently dead and gone to hell. To their surprise hell is not a land of fire, brimstone, and devils, but an oddly furnished living room where they are subjected to eternal torment by each other. The only possible path to salvation is through struggle against their special tormentors. And that means there is truly no exit; they are stuck “for ever, and ever, and ever. The Council on Foreign Relations in NO EXIT FROM PAKISTAN relates this satire to US Pakistan relations but evades description of the many daemons ‘Neither Friend nor Foe’ relationship has fostered to add to complexities.

Though proverbial, it is possible for a hare to hunt with hounds. Politically, the term applies to power sharing amongst nations. The stronger get the lion’s share while the weaker end with crumbs. When smaller nations over reach or break the cordon they realise their futility in the game of hounds and wolves. Yet they howl and growl like French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit or Living Hell.

According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau “The statesman must think in terms of the national interest, conceived as power among other powers”. This power is an exclusive cake. You only get what is permitted and not what is desired. When small countries think they have canines, Alpha leaders growl them to submission. In this living hell, coercion and compellence are employed by stronger allies and enemies across the entire spectrum of policy. They ensure that any challenge collapses like a house of cards from external and internal attrition.

For most part of its history, Pakistan being the hare has toiled in the shadows to preserve and promote its interests. Yet Pakistan has achieved neither at a cost to its territorial integrity (East Pakistan, Sir Creek, parts of Kashmir, Siachin and Kargil) and sovereignty. It is now faces additional challenges raised by its fragmenting internal dynamics. India the arch rival has chosen the indirect approach. In a lethal mix, the gravest threat arises from the interplay of external with internal dynamics.

Pakistan’s economic vulnerabilities and dependence on allies of convenience curtail its economic potential. Simultaneously compellence forces it to sacrifice national goals and remain tied. The internal dynamics with international leverage keeps the pyre smouldering through terrorism, militancy, sectarianism and separatist movements. Unfortunately this interplay extends beyond hounds and wolves to more hares with canines promoting violence in name of religion and sectarianism. The turf is wide open for intelligence agencies of all countries.

Karachi, the port city of Pakistan is a metropolis where these dynamics are intertwined in gridlock of terrorism, violence, extortion, sectarianism and separatism.  This city, once the only port of undivided India and West Asia is reduced to nothingness in the past 60 years. Shipping lanes have since shifted to more stable and developed ports in Bombay and Persian Gulf. All international actors know that the potential juggernaut of Pakistan can eclipse the entire Arabian Sea rim. Leaving Karachi and other potential ports of Pakistan underdeveloped ensures security and development of competitors. The failure to exploit resources for potential and develop logistics keeps Pakistan dependent.

Such is the awe created by prospective development of Karachi, Port Qasim, Ormara, Gwadar and Suntser that Iran in cooperation with India developed Bandar Abbas and Chabahar to link it by roads and railway to Europe and Central Asia. Even countries like Oman and UAE stand to lose if Pakistan’s coastline becomes a beeline of international ports. Aforesaid, it needs no rocket science to link the instability and violence in Karachi and Balochistan. Each country of the region is supporting its own proxies for its objectives. Pakistan must remain a beggar.

But resilient Pakistanis keep trying. It is a big carcass acting dead poised to rise from its slumber with the right leadership at its helm. Pakistan has outlived 50 years predicted by Schuman. It has also outlived the ugly instability thesis of Rand Corporation or Council on Foreign Relation’s ‘Pakistan’s Road to Disintegration’ and now strives to contest Rand’s recent thesis on ‘Unfolding the Future of the Long War’.

The long War is all about maintaining and growing US Influence in the Muslim world. According to Rand, it is the confluence of three problems related to the ideologies espoused by key adversaries in the conflict, those related to the use of terrorism, and those related to governance. In order to shrink the swamp, Rand had theorised eight trajectories out of which Pakistan figures in the two most dangerous i.e. a Muslim nation going bad and sectarianism.

This sectarianism grows from ideologies and is not merely Shia-Sunni conflict. It is also the surge of Salafi-jihadist ideologies in Pakistan linked to terrorism.  The financial and moral support comes from Pakistan’s major allies in Middle East and Iran. According to this report, Pakistan faces the most hazards and could become the most dangerous country if taken over by a Jihadist regime. The recommendations of this study make a conflicting mix for Pakistan.

Ally with Sunni Middle Eastern countries and run the risk of one, Salafi Jihadism, two Iranian supported militancy, three separatist movements in Balochistan and finally a violent Karachi. Reject and starve. Surge of jihadist control in Pakistan justifies US pretext of disarming Pakistan of nukes as also the separation of Balochistan that cuts Pakistan to size and takes away its nukes. Both East and West have eyed Balochistan for a very long time and the obvious line drawn now runs from Quetta to Karachi. The plan is clear but complicated. Destroy Pakistan through attrition and rid it of its fangs. Chinese aided development challenges these scenarios.

It is not without reason that General Raheel Sharif on a visit to Balochistan gave a warning to intelligence agencies of all countries to get their hands off Pakistan. This was preceded by murder of workers near Turbat and violent engagements with law enforcement agencies.  Uzair Baloch of Layari Gang vanished from Middle East to his likely sanctuary in Iran. The countries that mattered understood Rahil’s threat.

The reaction was swift. Sabeen Ahmad who made the error of hosting Mama Qadeer was shot dead and a political party controlled from London erupted with anti-Pakistan army rhetoric. Brahumdagh Khan Bugti awoke from his comfortable villa in Europe to roar against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The entire geopolitics of containment and denying Eurasia access to shortest land routes to sea became the sore in the eye. To please other masters, the government of Pakistan wants to keep CPEC ambiguous. This also facilitates its ulterior designs.

Unfortunately it is not only MQM but also some other mainstream political parties that have joined the hounds and wolves. At one hand they yearn for Chinese economic prospects and at the other indulge in activities that counter weigh it. MQM, PPPP and sectarian parties share a common ground against operations in Karachi. The sudden rise of Zulfiqar Mirza or visits of Saudi clerics are not without reason. Whenever India and Iran wish to threaten Pakistan, they raise the Chabahar flag.

Within Pakistan, there are many willing to create holes in a purportedly sinking ship with the argument of civil supremacy over the armed forces. Unless they develop the governance paradigm indicated by RAND, this supremacy is an illusion. All political parties of Pakistan pursue this objective despite complete ignorance of statecraft while Rand warns that any military coup will disintegrate Pakistan. Cognisant, what does the army do?

General Raheel Sharif is meandering and wading through shark and alligator infested waters with scorpions riding his back. Time seems running out for him.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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