Manipal, India — Say this for Pakistan’s army, their after-shave works reducing the critical faculties of U.S. "experts" on Pakistan within the CIA, the State Department and the Department of Defense to blobs of helpless jelly.
Since the jihadization of the military by Pakistan’s former President General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1970s, officer corps within the force has continued as a force multiplier for the numerous terror groups headquartered in urban and rural communities across the country.
Except for Jehangir Karamat, Pakistan’s former chief of Army Staff, who accepted his 1998 dismissal at the hands of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, no chief of Army Staff since Zia-ul-Haq (1976-1988) has accepted any role for the elected civilian government of Pakistan in matters considered by the military to be within its purview. These include the portfolios of defense, foreign affairs and now the prime minister’s office, as well as subjects such as assistance to terror organizations, and the nuclear deterrent. Such an arrangement has had the tacit acquiescence of every NATO country including those who specialize in delivering sermons on democracy and human rights.
Despite the control of the armed forces over most areas considered key to the functioning of a government in any major country, both India as well as the United Kingdom are enthusiastic in insisting that Pakistan remain within "value-based" fora like the Commonwealth, and back every loan application of that country in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund despite the kleptomania of its higher echelons, which admittedly is a trait shared by Pakistan with several countries in the world including India.
Except the United States, no country in the world has lavished more treasure on Pakistan including the two runners-up in its “Santa Claus” sweepstakes - Saudi Arabia and China.
The generals in Islamabad have found a new champion in U.S. Senator John Kerry eager to funnel billions of U.S. taxpayer’s dollars towards a state whose key functions are controlled by accessories of the Jihad International. Although U.S. President Barack Obama made a few comments about ensuring that the Pakistan military return to health by withdrawing from jihad as well as in governance, Obama seems to be following the lead of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose tenure saw a sharp rise in the influence of jihadists within the Pakistan military helped along by complaisant U.S. envoys.
It was during the Clinton presidency that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. helped the Pakistan army set up the Taliban. And although in a few cases hindsight is 20:20, in the case of Pakistan, it has remained at close to zero levels for more than four decades of substantial U.S. involvement in that country.
Since 2005, Pakistan’s army has been using its multiple (and credulous) contacts within the U.S. policy and academic establishment to press forward its line of engagement with the "Good Taliban.” In other words, those are who believe women need not get an education or work except in the house and that minorities have the same "rights" as Jews did under Nazi Germany.
By surrendering the Swat valley to the Taliban, the army in Pakistan has created a safe haven for Al Qaeda to continue its mission of converting the entire country into a safe haven for terrorists like Afghanistan was under the Taliban.
Expert at managing the media, Pakistan’s military under General Ashfaq Kiyani, an officer in the social and ideological mould of his hero Zia-ul-Haq has ensured a steady flow of reports in the Western media pointing out the obvious that President Asif Ali Zardari is a playboy known to have made money through means other than saving a percentage of his official salary.
What such commentaries fail to consider is that Zardari is a Sufi, whose family has been bred in the syncretic and moderate traditions of that philosophy and that he has sought to ensure de-linking the Pakistani establishment from the terror networks, which operate today in the country with near impunity.
With his prime minister, defense minister, interior minister and foreign minister taking orders from Kayani rather than from himself, Zardari has found his authority ebbing away. Despite Zardari's recent decision to go along with Kayani's wishes, apparent in his recent public endorsement of the army-sponsored deal with the so-called "moderate Taliban" in Swat, the embattled president is soon likely to be confronted by a slew of charges that Kayani hopes will force his resignation.
Instead, Kayani’s head needs to roll, under whose watch Pakistan has abandoned even the pretense of
fighting the Taliban and other terror networks, a charade former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf maintained to his military's great advantage.
Pakistan’s current president needs to appoint an Army chief of his choice and ensure through amendments to the law that he behave not as an overlord but like a professional soldier, based on the US model.
Subsequently, the Pakistan army needs to undertake a ruthless winnowing-out of jihadist elements from its officer corps and special privileges given to jihadists since the 1970s need to be withdrawn in stages.
Such surgery seems drastic, but unless it is conducted, Pakistan will continue its descent into Talibanization. The bold and the beautiful in its urban centers will get swallowed up the way their counterparts in Afghanistan were during the 1990s.
Kerry is wrong. Pakistan needs major surgery and not coddling. Unless the civilian government headed by Zardari is empowered by the international community to conduct such an operation, and unless Nawaz Sharif is warned away from his current flirtation with the military brass and their terrorist associates, Kerry will need to convene a series of senate hearings on "Why Pakistan failed" within the next five years. Although his ignorance of ground realities in Pakistan is appalling, Kerry is regrettably hardly alone.
Practically all NATO "experts" on Pakistan are as blind to the looming future as they were in the previous decade about the real nature of the Taliban. The civilized world is already in a war that has Pakistan as the major theatre and unless it gives battle now, it will face a much more deadly battle within the next five years, like the Allies did from 1939 to 1941, after they ignored the Nazi storm during 1936-1938.
-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University. ©Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)