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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

'Normalcy' Returns To Pakistan

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

There is hardly anything unexpected in the Pakistani political scene today, though it is not the same thing as saying that, hence, there is nothing to worry about. Bitter political rivalries, apprehensions in the civil society, religious zealots running amuck and prospects of another direct—as opposed to proxy—military rule, are scenes that have been repeated so often in the 60 years of the country’s history that it must have ceased to surprise and shock anyone when the script repeats itself.

No matter what happens in Pakistan, whether it reverts to overt military dictatorship or the warring political parties strike another of those 'deals', there is no chance of Pakistan giving up its hostile intentions against India. India has to constantly enhance security on the Pakistani borders and sharpen ways of countering all manner of threat from Pakistan; the debate over the future of 'democracy' in that blighted land is more suitable in the surroundings of five-star seminar circuits

If India has to react then security concerns have to take precedence over speculating the likelihood of another military 'intervention' or politicians striking another dubious deal in Pakistan amongst themselves or with the almighty army. If at any time a crisis in Pakistan increases the chances of Islamabad trying to flex its nuclear muscles against India then preparations to thwart that danger have to be stepped up at once. Who rules Pakistan does not really matter because India will have to ‘do business’—if it wants to—with whoever sits in power there.

The world has been warned many times since the September 2001 terror attacks on US soil that an unstable Pakistan could see its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the Al Qaeda and similar fanatics who see visions of the crescent fluttering all over the world. Serious though such an eventuality is, the fact is that the people who have the nuclear trigger in their hands in Pakistan today have been ideologically close to these fanatic elements. Just consider how many times have the Pakistanis threatened to use their nuclear bomb against India and how fiercely they oppose the ‘no first use’ doctrine.

Pak army’s 'secular' character is a western myth and so is the contention that 'liberals' dominate Pak society and the majority of its people are 'moderates' even when they openly display their admiration for one as 'liberal' and 'moderate' as Osama bin Laden. Successive rulers including the allegedly most 'liberal' of them, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, have contributed to making Pakistan a more intolerant nation than it was envisioned by its founding fathers, who had foisted the belief that Islam is incompatible with Hindus.

The bigoted elements in Pakistan dominate all sections, the army, the politicians, the civil society and the rest of the decision-makers and followers. They perfected the idea that Pakistan’s nationalism must be defined by an intense antipathy towards India and only that belief must dictate their country’s India policy.

Armed militants called by different names at different times—Qabailyees (tribals), freedom fighters, defenders of faith and so on—have always operated freely outside Pakistan, and lately within Pakistan as well. A prolonged spell of uncertainty and turmoil in Pakistan undoubtedly suits them. The point is that they cannot be curbed unless there is determination and will inside Pakistan to do so; more importantly, if the Pakistani psyche can allow that.

The current tussle in Pakistan may have something to do with internal politics. But it is decidedly not aimed at eradicating the country's 'terror infrastructure'—a fond wish of India and of the rest of the world. All that the Pakistani 'awam' (people) as well as its rulers--military and civilian, want is that its army of state-sponsored religious warriors should not operate within the sacred soil of the Land of the Pure; India alone should be their 'karam bhoomi' (scene of action), as some Indians will say.

Though the current crisis has ended with the recall of sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and egg on Zardari’ face, there is no sign that Pakistanis are about to reveres their past policy and decimate the armed bands of fanatics in their country. This is understandable because the majority of Pakistanis refuse to see Al Qaeda and similar outfits, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, as terrorist groups.

If there are acts of terrorism or armed rebellion inside Pakistan, these are always ascribed to the 'foreign hand'. The fire in Balochistan is the handiwork of RAW and the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore 'bears' a clear Indian mark. Not only the rabidly Pakistani nationalist TV anchors and 'experts' but also 'liberal' and 'moderate' elements also make the sweeping allegation. And, of course, by the country's senior officials, including the military brass, prime minister and his colleagues.

India may dismiss such accusations as unworthy of even a reply. But that does not change the basic premise that any change in the governing structure in Pakistan will not alter the way that country formulates its India policy or behaves at the international stage.

The fears being expressed in distant lands like the US about chances of Pakistan being taken over by 'Taliban' appear to be a bit exaggerated. It does not square up with their claims that relentless military campaigns on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas have put outfits like Al Qaeda and Taliban on the run. It also flies in the face of the hearty endorsement that Islamabad’s willing surrender before Taliban in parts of Pakistan has received in Washington and other western capitals. In any case, it is a country living next door to it that has to decide whether Pakistan is genuinely willing to move out of Taliban shadows.

Afghanistan is the only other country—maybe, one could include Iran too--that is affected by twists and turns in Pakistan. The thought that its 'strategic depth' on the west does not extend to Afghanistan makes Pakistan uneasy. An 'independent' Afghanistan, one that tries to maintain the traditional good ties with India, is viewed suspiciously by Pakistan—more like an 'unfriendly' act, instead of an amiable act by a 'brotherly' nation.

While the US and other major western nations have taken upon themselves the responsibility of sorting out Pakistan’s problems by pumping in millions of dollars and have assumed the responsibility of solving Afghanistan’s internal problems as well as its relations with Pakistan, India has to find its own ways of stalling any danger that may travel from the western borders into the country without getting too excited about the power struggle on view at the moment in the Land of the Pure.

- Asian Tribune -

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