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Pakistan Army and Its Pakistan

Pakistan and its behaviour, often in the past and now more increasingly, are hyphenated with its ‘Deep State’. The latter is left open to readers’ interpretation and understanding. With the arrival of new dispensation in governance, and the urge to exhibit a fresh, better and more effective policy towards Pakistan, the subject as such is being consumed and debated by all and sundry, with revived interest. I would like to raise a question and then respond to it. The question is 'what is the Deep State in Pakistan and how is Pakistan Army orchestrating it?’.

The deep state in Pakistan is commandeered by the Pakistan army. It is not a new phenomenon and has been in practice since its violent birth, especially so after demise of Jinnah. Pakistanarmy has remained the sole owner of the state of Pakistan. Other elements of the ‘Deep State’, which are secondary in effect, are fundamentalist leaders and few feudal and powerful tycoons. ISI is in total concert with Pakistan army. At times, judiciary does come in and play its limited and brief role. Democracy is sham, public opinion muted and the institutions other than army are defunct. Precisely speaking, Pakistan is an oligarchy with a moribund economy.

Pakistan army is deep-seated, the only power center in Pakistan. It has in the preceding six decades, built an empire of its own, running it like a corporate. It has now become used to this status; has grown greedy and power-hungry. Pakistan army, to retain this status, has to first and foremost remain relevant. It seeks India as arch rival of Pakistan, to justify its own existence. Adversity with India, is in fact raison d'être of Pakistan army. Everything else in Pakistan – its actions, inactions, responses, policies and endeavours are derivative of this principle of ‘showcasing India as adversary’. Pakistan army strives to ensure it at any cost. It shall never let any other institution in Pakistan attempt to violate this principle. History is replete with episodes to corroborate this fact.

Why has Pakistan army imbibed this principle as an intrinsic part of its strategic culture?  Memories of violent birth / partition, etched deeply in the minds and now part of their DNA; perceived unfair division of resources and meager share to post-partition Pakistan; inheritance of troubled provinces in the West; bitter historical experiences of the past (1971) and now the insatiable hunger for power with a view to steer a pro-army course for Pakistan are some of the major reasons to maintain adversity with India. Kashmir is just a façade; even if the issue is resolved, which is most unlikely, there would emerge another causefor enmity. Till the time Pakistan army does not change its agenda with regards to India, neither would be able to see the end of the tunnel. It requires a change of heart, which appears difficult. The heart belongs to people, who in majority are still so called ‘martial race’, belonging to West Punjab. They have unflinching sense of ascendancy. Call it a ‘pseudo-sense’, by a section does not undermine its cruciality.

It appears that provinces in Western part dominated by tribal culture with a sense of pride in their own values and beliefs juxtaposed with the predominantly martial race from Punjab have some strands of stubbornness in their DNA, preventing any scope of compromise towards coming closer to each other. Pakistan, perhaps, will have to live with discomfort on both, Eastern as well as Western flanks.

Another important issue that needs to be mentioned is the geo-strategic location of Pakistan and its implications. Pakistan believes that it is located at the cross roads of many civilizations. There are many countries either looking for warm-water ports or for oil-rich regions of Central Asia. Pakistan, since its birth, has been important for many stakeholders. Many countries have interests in this region…US, Russia, China, Iran. The regional dynamics cannot afford to ignore geo-strategic implications and hence are directly linked with the geo-politics. Alliance formulation and national interests of these countries have been taking cognizance of this fact. Since all these countries have stakes in this region, Pakistan is unlikely to fail; it will continue to get support from outside to exist. Pakistan army knows it too well; it has a vision in developing and promoting terror and jihadi infrastructure and capabilities as a strategic asset. Pakistan shall continue to have ‘pro-Pakistan Taliban hold’ in Afghanistan to have its say in this region. It would never let any peace process with India be on track. Attempts to derail such a process in future will never subside. Till the time Pakistan army is capable of managing Afghanistan in the West and India in the East, in this manner, Pakistan will never disintegrate and fail. MJ Akbar has very aptly used ‘toxic jelly’ as a metaphor for Pakistan – it is neither going to stabilize nor implode.

If that be so, what then should be the policy architecture guiding India-Pakistanrelations? Should we endeavour to provide some bones to the jelly and assist in stabilizing it? Pakistan army will never allow this to happen as its raison d'être to remain in significant existence would be compromised. Need to compel Pakistan army to shed its obsession with itself and yield to overall development of Pakistan is urgent for both India and Pakistan. The ultimate objective should be to discredit Pakistan army and pave way for a cultural revolution. This would require a multi-lateral approach and lots of time and therefore patience. Strategy to achieve this objective needs to be researched, discussed and debated by the Government. A balanced mix of strategic restraint, coercion, deterrence, sanctions, embargo and suitably designed control regime will have to be used for arriving at the strategy. Stability in Pakistan to prevent it from implosion is necessary for the region to progress. In the meantime, a well calibrated approach to counter Pakistan’s designs needs to be put in place without escalating the belligerence and lowering thresholds on either side. A credible deterrence in terms of capability and intent needs to be effective to counter all threats.

There may not be a better way for a responsible nation to deal with an immature and irresponsible institution on the other side, owning a state. Formation of alliances and strategic partnerships in the region must facilitate consensus building with a view to synergize efforts for a more comprehensive regional stability and mitigate any adverse implications in future. A collective, collaborative and participative approach would be a better bet to contain and tame a hazard in Pakistan army, resonating a common threat and risk to all the stakeholders in the region.Pakistan army and its state, Pakistan, needs to be viewed as a disaster in waiting and treated accordingly.

Views expressed are personal.

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O S Dagur

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