More than 6 weeks have passed after the Mumbai attacks. It seems that the Pakistani Government is still in the self denial mode. Press reports say that the investigations by Indian and American agencies have unearthed enough proof of the involvement of Pakistani based terrorist organisations.Pakistan Government know all this.
Then why it is still in the self denial mode?
Can Pakistan keep its house in order by destroying all the terror network present there?
Indians are impatient.There are calls for surgical strikes[meaning all out War], economic blockade and cultural blockade. Indian Government is urged by hawkish experts and pseudo-patriots to do an ‘Israel’.
The Indian Government it seems is in two minds.Statements taunting Pakistan and proclaiming all options are open are coming daily from the External Affairs Ministry.The Cricket tour is cancelled and also most of the cultural contacts.Though Prime Minister said war is not an option, top level meeting with Military Chiefs lasting for hours are given good publicity.
Which is the best way forward for India so as to ensure there are no more Mumbai style attacks?
How can we ensure that our neighbour is stable, democratic and devoid of terror networks?
Let me go into little bit of history here.This is essential for better understanding of what is happening in Pakistan.
Partition and formation of Pakistan
Since its birth in 1947 Pakistan had an acute sense of insecurity and identity crisis.
Insecurity was there because the basis of formation of Pakistan is the premise that under Indian National Congress rule [which was the main force in the freedom struggle] Muslims in undivided free India will face severe hardships.
Pakistan was born as a Nation with the primary aim of protecting Islam from ‘Hindu’ Congress. Thus Pakistan could be easily turned in to a security state in which Army monopolised power and defined National interest as keeping ‘Hindu’ India at bay.
Identity crisis was there because the supposed to be unifying factor of the different provinces of Pakistan,Islam failed to unify it. This was evident from the breaking up of Pakistan with the formation of Bangladesh.In contrast Muslims in India could live the same way as their brethren in Pakistan while India survived and prospered as a secular Republic.
Islamisation of Pakistan
To overcome this identity crisis the army under Zia ul Haq in 1979 tried to Islamise the country even more with radical Islamist ideology. An ideological Islamic State was imposed on Pakistanis. To cement his rule he used Islam. He banned political Parties, censored Media, imposed laws targeting minorities and Women.He Islamised the legal system and Education.
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 made Zia USA’s major ally.Zia allowed Americans to use the Inter Services Intelligence Agency[ISI] to act as a conduit for the arms and funds the CIA wanted to supply to the Afghan Mujahedin. In few years the CIA were able to build up the ISI into a formidable Agency. ISI managed to run the Afghan war.the Kashmir militancy and also the political process in Pakistan. Between 1982 and 1990 the CIA working with ISI and Saudi intelligence service funded the training,arrival and arming of some 35000 Islamic militants from 43 Muslim countries in Pakistan madrassas to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.This global jihad launched by Zia and Reagan administration was to sow the seeds of al Qaeda and turn Pakistan in to world centre of jihadism.
Pakistan and 9/11
With 9/11 attack carried out by al Qaeda, World’s attention turned to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The US asked Pakistan army to switch sides and to join the battle against Taliban and al Qaeda.Pakistan army and the army controlled Government agreed in public.But that was only a show.The ISI continued to help Taliban and Islamist terrorists both in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir.The Islamists in turn conducted big anti-US rallies but supported Musharraf’s army rule.Musharraf was successful in making the US Government believe that only he and the army rule can prevent Talibanisation of Pakistan. Generous support by US helped Musharraf to consolidate his power and systematically weaken the Opposition political parties
Present situation in Pakistan
The Elections conducted in February 2008 was considered fair by Pakistani standards [with out much army interference]even though the ruling Musharaf’s Party PML-Q had some unfair advantage. The Islamic Parties were trounced in the election with the relatively secular PPP becoming the single largest Party. This was a big setback for both the Islamists and the army.The election of Asif Ali Zardari as president of Pakistan has–at least theoretically–ushered in a new era in Pakistan’s development. But can it control the army/ISI?
Monopoly of influence the Army enjoys in Pakistan continues today.It is estimated that the Military-Industrial Complex is worth around 20 billion dollars.The 3 armed services is running hotels.shopping malls,insurance companies,banks,farms and industries.Army owned factories make cornflakes,bread,cement,textiles and sugar.Two army run conglomerates,Fauji foundation and Army welfare trust controls a third of entire heavy manufacturing in Pakistan.Army owns about 12 million acres of Land.Almost all retired Generals are working in the Government under various capacities.At one point all the vice chancellors of Universities in Pakistan were retired Army officers.
The new civilian Government under Zardari is weak due to many reasons.PPP do not have absolute majority in National Assembly.It is having an uneasy relationship with Nawas Sherif’s Party.Zardari lacks the following and reverence that Benazir Bhutto carried. In addition, Zardari does not have the political or army connections, which his major opponent Nawaz Sharif has.At the same time there is a feeling of aversion towards terrorists, Islamic extremist philosophy and the army among Pakistani public. They believe that it was the army/ISI in league with Islamist terrorists that killed Benazir Bhutto,the most popular leader of Pakistan.There is also a strong sentiment that only a strong civilian Government can reduce the terror attacks that is happening so regularly in Pakistani provinces.
What should be the Indian response?
India should try to utilise this anti-terror sentiment of Pakistani public by strongly supporting the Civilian Government’s effort to control its non-State actors. Any taunting or war mongering on India’s part will only help the Islamic Parties to whip up anti-India hysteria and unify the public sentiment in Pakistan against India,there by weakening the civilian Government and strengthening the army and Islamists.
It is in best interest of Indian people that we utilise this opportunity in a matured way, as an emerging World power and not as a bickering and taunting neighbour giving tit for tat statements to get some applause from the gallery. India’s role should not be as a Teacher trying to discipline rogue students,but as a Neighbourhood friend helping the neighbour to set its house in order. India should not behave in such a way as to increase Pakistan’s inferiority feeling
More and more evidences laid on the table of Pakistan in full view of the World will help Zardari Government to come out of its self denial mode. Hard evidences and diplomacy in all fronts will make it easy for the civilian Goverment to create a consensus to act against jehadi elements in the army and the terror networks.Instead of cutting off Trade,Sports and Cultural contacts, using such contacts judiciously to soak in Indian point of view on liberal section of Pakistan Civil society is very important in isolating the jehadis.
The terrorists wanted an increase in hostility between India and Pakistan.That’s why so much evidences were left behind. Increasing tension between India and Pakistan and even an all out War will mean more support for ISI/army and for the Islamists in Pakistan. That will mean the weakening of Civilian Government and even an army take over.That will mean less democracy and less freedom for media in both countries.That will also result in more money and men in Terror networks.
Let us not play in to the hands of the terrorist.