Wall Street Journal’s August 16 report that the Inter-Services Intelligence (popularly known by its acronym ISI) has displaced India from the position of Pakistan’s top ‘enemy’ was vindicated in barely two weeks by the string of blasts in major cities of that country, Lahore included. In fact, Pakistan suffered innumerable casualties in 2009 by the rampant ‘fidayeen’ attacks spearheaded by the Tehrik-i-Taliban. Nevertheless, the civil-military authority of the ‘land of the Quaid’ had appeared overtly insouciant with regard to the perceived threat from that angle.
A military operation in Waziristan, a melee in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and US pressures to act against the Taliban Shura nestled in Quetta notwithstanding, the Pakistani military had showcased its strength in its eastern sector last year, citing the decades-long psychoneurotic threat from its ‘childhood enemy’.
The rationale behind such a demeanour was hardly unknown to the world. However, it is ironical that even divine disasters are utilised by the pachyderm power brokers to further their own interests.
Unprecedented floods have wreaked havoc to shatter the economy of the country. Yet, the response as against aid appeals so far is not upto expectations. As the Daily Telegraph, London, pointed in an editorial, that even the Gulf states appear indifferent to the suffering of fellow Muslims in Pakistan, while the offer of help from China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend is paltry.
Does all this underscore the image deficit, if not international pariah status, of Pakistan? It is tempting to reply in the affirmative. But how will that description fit a country, which is regularly hailed as the frontline ally in the ‘global war on terror’?
A time comes in every nation’s life when it has to confront reality and the floods have merely hastened that denouement for Pakistan. The international community has refused to share the entire flood burden as it did earlier on so many occasions. For Pakistan’s government though, all that aid was Zakat, the surplus wealth given out in charity, and hence nothing out of the ordinary.
The apposite answer to the above stated query is that Islamabad’s continued dalliance with the ISI-created terror outfits even as it received billions of dollars in aid to fight the very menace of terrorism itself; is in essence the raison d’etre of the changed ‘global view’ toward Pakistan. Things have reached such an impasse that British Prime Minister David Cameron asked Pakistan to stop looking ‘both ways’. His remarks, according to a British daily, carried the endorsement of the White House.
The Daily Telegraph, which is in the forefront of the global media campaign for Pakistan, has not helped her cause either. Its correspondent, Dean Nelson, reported from Islamabad that more than £300 million in foreign aid for the victims of 2005 earthquake was misused by the Zardari government. The dispatch went on to say that “officials now feared that the alleged diversion of funds will deter donors from showering further aid”.
So, Pakistan’s desperation, if any, at ‘image make over’ makes perfect sense but not its reported readiness to give up its paranoia about India as its ‘number one’ enemy. Is one to construe that what the Americans failed to achieve in multiple visits, the flood fury did in a matter of weeks, and nixed Rawalpinidi (the general headquarters of the army) in conjuring up fears of an Indian attack?
Theorisations aside, India is central to Pakistani policies. The Army chief Kayani has made this unequivocally clear on more than one occasion. Interestingly, before taking up the present job, he headed the ISI, which has made this famous ‘India is not our main threat’ disclosure to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Even Maj Gen Athar Abbas, the chief Pakistan military spokesman, said he wasn't aware of ISI’s recent assessment pertaining to the threat (or the lack of it) from across the eastern side of Indus.
Incidentally, the deluge as well as the ‘renewed blasts’ demand a roll back of the army’s traditional policy of hostility towards India; at least in public. And the ‘story’ in the American economic daily simply bears an insignia to that. In fact, as if in resonance with the said report, President Zardari, on the occasion of ‘Defence Day’, expressed fears of an ‘existential threat’ to Pakistan due to ‘terrorism’ and ‘natural disaster’. And it is a matter of further bemusement that Zardari passed such a statement on a day which the Pakistanis commemorate as their defence of Lahore from the Indians in 1965!
On the other hand, the WSJ report must have come as a big relief to the US lawmakers, who have been told by the Congressional Research Service that “the American interests are primarily focused on Pakistan’s ability to control its territory to prevent it from being used as a haven for anti-American terrorists, and prevent inter-state conflict with India that would be regionally destabilising”.
Any how, who will check if the civil-military administration of Pakistan is actually in tune with the afore-mentioned media reports? Will the Americans do it? It remains a matter of speculation because the US relishes its stakes in the sub-continent not only as a ‘friend’ but also as a seller of goods and services through a uniquely American-esque multi-speak. Indians can check and hit the high octave but will the West at all bother about their Pakistani bogey? After all, India has no Haqqani network to drive out!
And what if the flood-induced discontent threatens the very fundamentals of the military establishment and political system of Pakistan? No guesses. It would definitely mean a re-establishment of India as Pakistan’s ‘enemy number one’.
Dr Uddipan Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor based in Kolkata. He writes on security issues.
Rajeev Sharma is a senior journalist-cum-author based in New Delhi. He writes in several global media outlets.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the editorial committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).