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PAK ARMY- A POWER ONTO ITSELF

Major General Harsha Kakar (Retd) Writes :

Imran Khan in his address to the UNGA, which was almost a repeat of 2019, raised Kashmir and the threat of war. He stated, ‘In order to divert attention from its illegal actions and atrocities in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, India is playing a dangerous game of upping the military ante against Pakistan in a nuclearized strategic environment.’[i] The speech was evidently scripted by the Army and meant for domestic audiences, rather than global, as mere mention of war and Kashmir enhances the importance of the Pak Army, which has been facing an internal onslaught from the opposition for political interference and corruption.

In the current Indo-Pak scenario, it is India which is expecting a Pak-China collusion, rather than the reverse. Further, as intelligence inputs indicate, Pak, on instructions from China, is seeking to drop arms and ammunition into Kashmir, prior to winters, desperate to revive its flagging terrorism.[ii] With failing infiltration attempts and lack of local response, Pak is now attempting to push in terrorists from unchartered routes including India’s porous borders with neighbours, who would perforce have to be unarmed. For both China and Pakistan enhanced terrorism in Kashmir, would be an added headache for India, which faces a possibility of a two-front conflict.

In his recently released book, ‘The India Way, Strategies for an Uncertain World,’ S Jaishankar states, ‘Pakistan can only be treated as a normal neighbour when its behaviour corresponds to one. Till then India will have to show a mix of fortitude, creativity and perseverance of a degree that would impress even Arjuna.’ This is because the Pak polity has no control over the nation and its policies. It is the Army which rules and dictates from the background.

Based on the directions of the Pakistan Army Chief, General Bajwa, the head of the parliamentary standing committee on defence, Amjad Ali Khan, introduced a bill in their national assembly seeking to prosecute anyone who ‘ridicules or brings into disrepute or defames’ the military.[iii] The Army needed legislation to preserve its image after multiple corruption cases were projected against its hierarchy and it was being accused of political interference. It may shut doors to similar revelations in the future but open bigger doors for large scale corruption.

Pak Civil rights groups have repeatedly stated that the Army, apart from meddling in politics, controls every organ of the state and is behind enforced disappearances. The Army denies these allegations. Officially, the Army controls political discussions within the country under the garb of national security, even though it may have no link to national security. It is a part of every state organ and ensures decisions are taken in Rawalpindi, instead of Islamabad.

The Army chief, accompanied by the DG ISI, conducted a meeting with opposition political parties on 16 Sept, prior to the multi-party conference, and counselled them against drawing the Army into politics. The meeting was officially to apprise politicians of the Army’s intention of converting Gilgit Baltistan into the fifth province on Pakistan and demanded their willingness. As per inputs, the reasons given were an apprehension of an Indian attack into POK and protecting increased Chinese investments.

A verbal duel occurred when Bhutto warned the Army of a similar decision in 1971, leading to loss of East Pakistan.[iv] There are already differences between the Army and the polity on stage management of elections and use of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to target politicians. Maryam Sharif stated, when questioned on the actions of the Army, ‘(Gilgit Baltistan) is a political issue, an issue of the people’s representatives, for them to solve and deliberate upon. These decisions should be made in parliament, not in GHQ.’[v]

Imran Khan was not involved in the meeting as such a decision was beyond the power of his office. It was Rawalpindi which decided and instructed politicians to toe its line to ensure it passed political scrutiny in both houses. The reason was that the current government lacked the two-third majority and the Army wanted it to be projected globally as a political decision.

The presence of DG ISI, Lt General Faiz Hameed, in the meeting was to intimidate politicians, as the ISI collects dirt on them and is the master blackmailer, when required. Faiz will be the senior most general when Bajwa finishes his three-year extension and hence, next in line for Army chief. Though the meeting was to have been in-camera, details were leaked to the press. Evidently, China is pressurizing the Pak Army to push it through.[vi] It would open doors for changing demography of Shia dominated Gilgit Baltistan and exploitation by China.

Nawaz Sharif’s criticism of the Army on its direct interference in national politics, in the multi-party conference, was an outpouring of reality from an individual who fought to challenge the system but was stonewalled. His words, the Army has gone from a ‘state within a state’ to a ‘state above the state,’[vii] is the bitter truth. Current laws within the country place few institutions above criticism. These include Islam, Army and the CPEC. For the Pak Army, Nawaz was an anathema who could challenge their power, therefore they had to ensure his removal.

The joint resolution of the multi-party conference had 26 points including ‘extreme concern over the increasing interference of the establishment (Army) in the internal affairs of the country.’[viii] The ISI reacted to the resolution and sought to break opposition unity by leaking inputs of the meeting of select politicians on Gilgit Baltistan and discussion on withdrawal of cases against Nawaz Sharif and his family. They could even succeed.

The power of the Army to hide its internal corruption cases has enhanced anger amongst its population, who, however, have limited means to protest. It is Pakistan’s worst kept secret that the CPEC has emerged as a goose laying golden eggs for the military establishment. Writing for The Diplomat, Kunwar Khuldune Shahid states, ‘Since CPEC’s launch in 2015, the military has eyed its share in the economic bounties, which have historically made it richer at the expense of the masses.’ He adds, ‘Unsatisfied with a civilian stooge government stalling the projects, Beijing decided to push for a thorough military takeover of CPEC.  In November 2019, the CPEC Authority was formed with Lt Gen Asim Bajwa as its head. In July, a CPEC Authority Bill 2020 was proposed, practically handing over the corridor to the Army.’ [ix]

The story of Lt Gen Bajwa’s family owned Bajco and Papa John Pizza outlets in the US has been subdued in Pak media. His explanation, with no proof, was pushed through by the Pak Army in every media outlet as a historic submission of truth, while Judges and politicians are persecuted at will on mere suspicion and when they declare their assets in a similar vein as Bajwa, they are termed liars. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pak, whose website had details of Gen Bajwa and his family members, removed them and issued notices to its employees on the leak.

Cases against politicians are processed by the NAB and continue to dominate headlines, thus degrading their reputation and standing. The NAB has refused to even consider the case against General Bajwa.[x]

The impression created within the national public is that politicians, bureaucracy, and the judiciary can be challenged and are traditionally corrupt. The Army is the holy grail, can never be corrupt and only cares for Pak’s national interests and security. This despite the Army’s business empire rising to over $100 billion in a short time frame.

How and why did the Pak Army create such unbridled power while politicians remained helpless? Partially the reason lies in the fact that Army dictators have ruled Pak for over half its existence, notwithstanding that in dictatorship, the nation was pushed downhill. More importantly it has been twisting history, is obsessed with Kashmir and projection of India as an eternal enemy.

As per Pakistan website, HistoryPak.com, Kashmir should have acceded to Pakistan because of its, ‘Muslim majority population and location.’ Pak’s strategic reason for demanding Kashmir is that all rivers which feed Pakistan emanate from it. In an article in the Herald of 02 Feb 2019, Zaib Un Nisa Aziz writes, ‘Four major rivers originate from the Himalayas located in Kashmir and it also shares a border with China — the two factors that make it a strategically crucial region. In other words, it is a prized territory. Both states, therefore, formed strategies to lay claim to it.’[xi] Pak is emphasizing that Kashmir being a Muslim majority region cannot be ruled by Hindu’s, thus converting a land dispute into a religious one.

For any Army to remain of importance, it must have a defined enemy. It is to counter this enemy that an Army needs strength, capability, finances, and power. Pakistan and India having separated on religious grounds and the splitting of Kashmir, enabled the Pak Army to declare India an eternal enemy. This was aggravated by the insult imposed by the 1971 war, where it surrendered with 93,000 prisoners. It was Zia ul Haq who launched the philosophy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts, which the Pak Army continues to exploit. Blaming India for every incident within and claiming to be the only force capable of stemming Indian plans, it twists every internal discussion into one of national security.

Post its involvement in Kashmir since 1987, the Pak Army pushed for a change in the narrative. Firstly, it refused to permit the civilian government from interfering in the Kashmir cause as it supported Jihadist outfits. Secondly, it forcibly changed the discussion narrative from a diplomatic solution to one of India accepting holding of a plebiscite, aware that these were meaningless demands. Thirdly, all attempts for talks for peace ran parallel to talks of war and support to Jihadi networks, ensuring talks never succeeded.

Pak has changed its history and is currently teaching its students that their Army is invincible, thereby projecting that it as the only force capable of countering India. Some examples were listed by the Dawn in an article of 15 Aug 2014, titled ‘what is the most blatant lie taught through Pakistan textbooks.’[xii]  These include, a fifth-grade history textbook stating on the 1965 war, ‘The Pakistan Army conquered several areas of India, and when India was at the verge of being defeated, she ran to the UN to beg for a cease-fire. Magnanimously, thereafter, Pakistan returned all conquered territories.’  Pak therefore celebrates ‘defence day’ in memory of the 1965 war.

On the 1971 war, its books mention, ‘after 1965 war India conspired with the Hindus of Bengal and succeeded in spreading hate among the Bengalis about West Pakistan and finally attacked on East Pakistan in December 71, thus causing the breakup of East and West Pakistan.’  A class five social studies book reads, ‘India is our traditional enemy and we should always keep ourselves ready to defend our beloved country from Indian aggression.’

On Kargil, Pak history projects Nawaz as the culprit who requested Clinton to enable their withdrawal, while the Army was holding ground, whereas the reality was that Musharraf begged Nawaz to rush to the US knowing Pakistan was on the verge of defeat. On its internal insurgencies, Pak blames RAW for having created and funding them, disregarding its own failed policies and hard power approach. The Baluch insurgency has been ongoing mainly because of the highhandedness of the Pak Army in region, and the Pak Taliban rose from the ashes of the attack on the Lal Masjid in 2007.[xiii]

The Pak Army has played its cards well. Its control every organ of the government and makes certain that it remains above investigation and accusation. Its policy of enforced disappearances ensures very few can even contemplate criticizing it. Whichever issue irks it, becomes one of national security and decision is taken in Rawalpindi. It projects its invincibility, teaches twisted history, blames RAW for every internal incident while hiding its own failings and perpetually warning of an imminent Indian attack, thereby enabling it to maintain its hold and dominate every sphere of Pakistani life. Unless the Army is let down nationally, Pak politicians would never regain their power and the region would be devoid of peace.

 

End Notes

[i] PM tells UN, India is planning misadventure, The Dawn 26 Sep 2020. https://www.dawn.com/news/1581632/pm-tells-un-india-is-planning-misadventure

[ii] https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/pakistan-dropping-weapon-via-drones-to-disturb-peace-in-jammu-and-kashmir-dgp-dilbagh-singh/654988

[iii] https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/pakistani-parliamentarian-introduces-legislation-that-would-punish-criticism-of-the-military/

[iv] https://www.sirfnews.com/bajwa-and-bhutto-zardari-clash-during-secret-meeting-on-gilgit/

[v] https://www.efsas.org/commentaries/pakistan-plan-to-usurp-gilgit-baltistan-and-further-divide-jk-is-disquieting/

[vi] https://www.efsas.org/commentaries/pakistan-plan-to-usurp-gilgit-baltistan-and-further-divide-jk-is-disquieting/

[vii] https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/pak-oppn-parties-unite-to-decry-military-s-state-above-state/story-6a0jTfeYC6cSpnhQ8IhFLN.html

[viii] https://www.dawn.com/news/1580700

[ix] https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/asim-bajwa-expose-underlines-the-corruption-linking-the-pakistan-Army-and-cpec/

[x] https://asiatimes.com/2020/09/another-assets-scandal-more-silence-by-pakistani-elite/

[xi] http://herald.dawn.com/news/1153341

[xii] https://www.dawn.com/news/1125484

[xiii] https://www.dawn.com/news/1345068

 

 

Major General Harsha Kakar (Retd) writes and speaks on national security and the armed forces. Commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in Jun 1979 he has held a number of appointments in field and peace. He was the head of department of strategic studies at the College of Defence Management. He was the first Indian Army officer to attend the National Security Studies Course at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.
Article uploaded on 29-09-2020
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation that he belongs to or of the USI of India.

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