The Great Game

Written by Fakhar Ahmed  •  Special Features  •  May 2013 PDF Print E-mail

After its successful economic growth between 2002 and 2007, Pakistan today stands at the verge of collapse, threatened by economic uncertainties, lawlessness, water and food insecurity, energy shortage, shrinking of its industrial base, quasi-democracy, a huge mix of feudal and corrupt elements coming to the fore, deteriorating education, health and social welfare institutions, growing terrorism, ethnic violence and, more importantly, huge geopolitical and strategic risks. All this is further accentuated by the emergence of enemies of Pakistan from within and outside, backed by international vested interests and an unstable Afghanistan.

There are those who credit the 2002-2007 economic growth to former President Pervez Musharraf while some view his political actions as the very reasons for the current economic and security disaster. Some even think that ousting Musharraf from power was part of the Great Game as Pakistan’s GDP was touching 8% and the enemies of Pakistan felt that such growth was not suitable for a Muslim nuclear state. Pakistan’s enemies may also have comprised some allies who created conditions to make Musharraf resign as president and go on self-exile.

Pervez Musharraf has been in world focus for the past decade for various reasons positively, as a statesman and negatively, as a dictator. After 4 years of self-exile, he is back in Pakistan with a pledge to save the country. There is a viewpoint that perhaps Musharraf has been pushed forward as bait to trap the Pakistan Army. Whether he should be tried or not for high treason is a matter of legal debate and the question needs to be evaluated under the prevailing laws of the land.

However, in order to understand the dynamics of the situation and for better comprehension, it is important to consider the following:

Located at the crossroads of a globally strategic geo-political and strategic front, Pakistan is the only declared Muslim nuclear nation with the strongest standing army in the Muslim world. Pakistan has strong ties with China, the world’s fastest growing economy, its geographical location along the Arabian Sea offers the most promising trade routes, it has a border with Afghanistan which leads to future lucrative routes to the rich resources of central Asia and it has suffered from three decades of war in Afghanistan in addition to terrorism, the Mujahedeen and the Taliban. Besides its border with Iran, it is caught in the continued quest by post-cold war Russia and China to gain access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The long pending issue of the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir is also among the top strategic factors for which a number of prevailing powers will not let Pakistan live in peace and attain political sovereignty.

There will be continued efforts from many vested interests and groups to undermine Pakistan internally and externally. These interests will try to achieve competitive advantage by exploiting issues in the name of political democracy, national security, economic development, social justice, religion, etc. The fact is that Pakistan needs to understand these issues and protect its interests. The international community is not comfortable with Pakistan’s right of minimum nuclear deterrence. What is a further cause for worry is the rising militancy in the country and in bordering Afghanistan. International policymakers are cautious about Pakistan’s political and military outlook and evolve their policies accordingly. The country’s ailing institutions and weakening economic situation favors them and they wonder how long can Pakistan maintain its minimum nuclear deterrence and maintain a strong military? Pakistan will not give up these advantages in any case but economic pressures are increasing by the day along with other social issues. These pressures will eventually weigh down on the country’s strategic strengths. It is a race against time - that the country brings order to its socio-economic and political dimensions which are directly proportional to its strategic strengths. There have been maps and conspiracy theories and stories that Pakistan’s geography will not be the same after 2017 or 2020. The enemies of Pakistan (some of them are also our allies in the war against terror) have seen the strength and unity of Pakistan’s military despite its political forays in politics in the past. The Pakistan armed forces are largely viewed as a bonding force, a non-ethnic entity and a savior of Pakistan. The country has the 6th largest Army in the world, the largest in the Muslim world and the world’s 8th largest nuclear weapon and missile arsenal supported by high end technology. The training and skills of the Pakistan Air Force and Special Services Group are amongst the top 10 in the world while the Pakistan Army continues to be the country’s binding force as a defender and symbol of patriotism.

The international groups of vested interests, including the allies, have somehow created a mess by leaving behind the Mujahedeen/Taliban legacy. The International Security Forces are now going back without achieving tangible success. One of the major aims of the allies on the war on terror seems to have been to harness the nuclear assets of Pakistan and weaken the country’s military. Now, they have launched a propaganda campaign for freedom of speech, democracy and social justice in Pakistan and have started to publicly malign intelligence agencies, summoning former military leaders and intelligence chiefs in courts of law. While social justice, rule of law and democracy may be essential elements for democratic evolution but do the U.S., U.K., Russia or China debate over their own nuclear programs and intelligence operations in congress and parliament, do they reveal their covert operations or have intelligence trials through media or public debate? Do they try their military generals publicly for their good or bad decisions in the line of duty? The answer is no because they understand that a three or four star general has to take tough decisions and military operations are undertaken to tackle both external and internal threats. In the recent example of Raymond Davis, the Americans did not even disclose the real name of this so-called special agent who was apprehended in Pakistan for killing three innocent civilians and was later bailed out.

Pakistan needs tough decisions and forceful action by its military commanders to ensure internal and external security. The enemies of Pakistan are now trying to weaken the decision-making ability of Pakistan’s military leaders for taking tough decisions and are trying to tarnish the image of the Army internally and externally as a fascist, weak, orthodox and maligned force. Pakistan’s enemies are creating a huge gap between the civilian and military leaders, propagating the Army as a danger to democracy, presenting it as a failure in the backdrop of a few terrorist activities and creating public confusion about the Official Secrets Act, military planning, military and civilian laws and trial of officers in civilian courts for actions undertaken in the line of duty.

Pervez Musharraf was encouraged by his supporters, by his own patriotic will and, most importantly, by his so-called friends from the west to return to Pakistan on the promise that he would be protected and finally bailed out. The emotional elements in Pakistan, supported by the political rivals of Musharraf, have now started a negative campaign against Musharraf and are propagating a trial against him for high treason and for subverting the constitution by imposing an Emergency, as well his military action on Lal Masjid and efforts to tackle the Balochistan insurgency, leading to Bugtis death. The bait it seems is that if Musharraf is tried publicly for his military action on Lal Masjid or Balochistan, or the geo-political decisions he took, will weaken the will of the current military leadership in taking tough decisions to tackle internal or external security and the enemies of Pakistan will get a chance to prevail.

It is felt that some democratic forces, supported by vested interests, are trying to punish Musharraf for enforcing the emergency and subverting the constitution along with certain military actions undertaken to fight terrorism and insurgency. If Musharraf is publicly tried and punished for his actions, then do we really expect that in future any military leader will take any bold action for eradication of terrorism from Pakistan? Who will give orders as typically three star generals or the IG Police or directors general of intelligence agencies only have a few years left before they retire. The enemies of Pakistan are trying their best to bring about the trial of Musharraf to humiliate the Pakistan Army, tarnishing its image and that of the intelligence agencies.

The military and the people of Pakistan clearly understand who the enemies of the country are. With Musharraf’s trial, the image of Pakistan will be tarnished and the will of its armed forces and para-military forces to take tough decisions in future compromised. The possibility of public debate on issues related to national secrets and institutions will certainly restrict the subordinate officers to take direct orders from their superiors. In the event that there is a legal compulsion to try Musharraf for high treason, the proceedings must be held in-camera and all those related to the trial must be put under oath not to disclose any information, which may subsequently harm the national interest or image of the military. 

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