Unholy Internal-External Linkages
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

2005 has begun in a hectic fashion for Pakistan, on the home and external fronts, between which there are clear linkages at certain levels. Regarding the external, India has stonewalled Pakistan on conflictual issues, especially Baglihar Dam and Kashmir. On the former, it is still seeking to buy time to complete the gates construction while on the latter it has gone mute even on simple confidence-building measures like the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service, which Pakistan agreed to without passports and visas.

In terms of actually resolving the conflict, India is clearly not proceeding even towards evolving a process that could lead to a solution acceptable to all parties to the conflict. India has neither responded positively to any of the new approaches Pakistan has put forward, nor given any new "out of the box" proposals. Instead, there is a reversion to the hackneyed accusations about infiltrations across the LoC and claims of Kashmir being a "symbol of Indian secularism". Strange how an occupied territory can symbolize Indian secularism but then India has a history of expanding its borders through military means - as in Goa, Hyderabad and Junagadh, with Sikkim being brought into the Indian Union through covert operations. Ironically, the Indian political leadership is at variance with its military that has declared that infiltration is down to zero.

How are these developments linked to Pakistan's domestic environment? Well, Indians have developed major access to Pakistan's Western borders through consulates in Zahedan, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Is it really a coincidence that whenever Pakistan expresses dissatisfaction with the dialogue process, or when Kashmiri freedom fighters take on Indian forces, the violence in Pakistan's sensitive areas increases? Pakistan's situation does have domestic roots, but there are also linkages between these roots and external forces intent on creating instability here. It is in this connection that Pakistan should be concerned with another external development relating to our rediscovered ally, the United States.

A recent report by Seymour Hersh ("The Coming Wars", The New Yorker, 24-31 January 2005) has caused a major controversy. Washington claims that it is "riddled with errors" but has not denied its main claims - among other things, it reveals that the US is now relying more on the Pentagon to undertake clandestine commando operations. This has a strong logic since the US has failed to accept the EU and IAEA approach of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and accommodation. There is the US trauma about the overthrow of the Shah's regime and the subsequent US hostage crisis, and Rumsfeld's reorganizing of the Department of Defense given the various CIA botch-ups.

According to Hersh, the new chain of command for these Pentagon operations will include the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone and Lt General Boykin - who once declared that his God was superior to the Muslim God and that the Christians were involved in a crusade! So it should surprise no one if Boykin and Co plan military actions against Muslim states like Iran. But for Hersh to drag Pakistan into the picture is extremely damaging because it threatens to impact sensitive Pakistan-Iran relations. Pakistan has refuted allegations regarding its role in the new Pentagon agenda of covert military operations against Iran. If Iran's nuclear facilities were to be attacked, we could well be next in line given how uncomfortably our nuclear program sits with the US. But then Pakistan has become the favorite whipping boy of US analysts and journalists. Stephen Cohen has brought out yet another biased book on Pakistan - this time on the idea of Pakistan itself.

It seems he cannot accept the fact that many generations of Pakistanis know no other identity, so there is no doubt in their minds about their Pakistani identity. Even more damaging is America's Secret War (2004) by George Friedman, founder of a US strategic thinktank, Stratfor. Friedman also claims that the US saw Pakistan as "the most unstable, most pro-Al Qaeda" country, with the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation, thereby making it the most immediate problem. According to him, the US used the Pakistan-India confrontation of 2001-02 to blackmail Pakistan on the nuclear issue. Given the massive personal risks that President Musharraf has taken to support the US war on terror, it is hardly comforting to be informed that "the US had no trust in Musharraf's promises and wouldn't bend" in their demand that US forces be allowed access to Pakistan's nuclear installations.

Friedman claims that the US gained this access, which the Pakistan government categorically refutes. Ironically, while Pakistan has made itself a frontline state in the war against terrorism, the US continues to suspect it. But there is more to this. The US wants to isolate Iran and contain China. And so it cannot go along with development work in Balochistan that would bring a Chinese presence there and increase overland trade and the energy pipelines involving Iran. Therein lies the linkage between another facet of our external and internal political dynamics - apart from the linkage between the war on terror and Pakistan's military operations in Wana. Therefore the Balochistan issue is crucial for Pakistan. There are multiple layers here, from an overall political problem to law and order in specific areas and the inclusion of rape into this scenario. All these issues need to be dealt with simultaneously, at different levels. The law and order problem can be reduced by immediately bringing the rapists to justice.

The writ of the government must be established in all parts of the country including the areas of the tribal sardars. This can be done more effectively through a cooperative approach that co-opts the Baloch leaders and sardars, who from all accounts are also being pulled in opposing directions. The new "Baloch Liberation Army", as it terms itself, is different from the BLA of the 70s - many of those old comrades are now frontline supporters of the US. The new supporters of BLA have a lot of money and weapons. A Baloch Liberation Front in Iranian Balochistan is funded from outside - and it takes little to guess who the provider may be. Regarding the BLA, those in the know point a finger in two main directions - an ally and our large eastern neighbor.

A lack of economic opportunities is leading many young, educated Balochs to join the BLA. The sardars do not want to lose their hold over them, so they keep abreast of BLA developments but would also like to see a reassertion of their power through government backing. Hence there is a need to engage in political dialogue and push through economic opportunities for the locals. The Sui legacy - where the rest of the country benefited while the locals remained deprived - should not be repeated in the development of Gwadar and Balochistan in general. In any event, with education and greater economic opportunities, the sardari or tumandari system will die a natural death. But until then, why not take along local leaders into the national mainstream through dialogue and accommodation, while standing firm on law and order and against criminal acts. These are difficult times for Pakistan and we need to bolster ourselves against the multiple external threats that are exploiting our internal problems. Therefore, we need to be more all-encompassing with the diverse national forces. Uni-dimensional solutions for multidimensional problems will not work. (Courtesy The News) (The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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