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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2340

Who Rules Pakistan – Civilian Govt Or Army?

By Ashok Handoo - Syndicate Features

Judging by the way things move in Pakistan and decisions are taken, there is every reason to believe that it is the army rather than the civilian government that rules the country. It is much more so when it is relations of Pakistan with India.

We need not go back to the historic and path- breaking visit of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore in 1999, when the Lahore Declaration was signed ( between Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif in his second term as PM) and a number of steps taken to bring the two countries together. All of us know that the massive diplomatic effort was brought to a naught by one Army General called Parvez Musharraf who secretly organized the Kargil attack sending shock waves among all peace loving people on either side of Radcliff Line.

That is history now. But what has been happening afterwards is nothing different. The latest instance of two Indian army Jawans being beheaded after killing them in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir is a clear message from Pakistan army that it does not want relations with India to improve. Just two days before, the Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Bajwa had visited the LoC from where he made a statement that Pakistan would continue to support the people of Kashmir. Where was the need to make such a statement if he had gone to the LoC to inspect his forces?

The fact is that the incident took place in the backdrop of the reports that a leading Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal met Nawaz Sharif and discussed the possibility of organizing a Nawaz-Modi meeting in Kazakhstan when the two Prime Ministers would attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting. This led to panic in the Pakistan army which interpreted Jindal sojourn as yet another attempt to resume the dialogue process between the two countries. So it devised a sinister plan to intrude into the Indian side of the LoC, kill some army men and mutilate their bodies to arouse rage and anger in India which would result in scuttling any attempt to begin the dialogue process. The plan was executed meticulously and the results too would obviously be exactly as desired.

In between 1999 and 2017, there have been multiple attempts to restart the dialogue process but the Pakistan army has never allowed the attempts to succeed.

Look what happened after the meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Modi in the Russian city of Ufa when a joint declaration was signed on July 10, 2015. Both acknowledged that it was the “joint responsibility of India and Pakistan to ensure peace and promote development”. The declaration condemned terrorism in all its forms and decided to hold discussions on all outstanding issues. But did all this happen? No, because the Pakistan Army made it sure that nothing of this sort happened.

Later, the meeting between the two National Security Advisors in Bangkok raised hopes of New Delhi and Islamabad restarting the dialogue process but even before some beginning could be worked out, the Pathankot airbase was attacked. Everything crumbled down once again.

Isn’t that enough to conclude that while the civil government in Pakistan does make occasional attempts to streamline relations with India, Pakistan Army plays the villain each and every time.

Why does it do so? There could be many answers. One, that after Pakistan became a nuclear country it thinks it is at par or even ahead of India in its military prowess and can therefore dictate terms every time. Secondly, tense relations with India serves its purpose within the country as it makes it possible for it to maintain supremacy over the civil government and meddle with its decisions. Anyhow the reality is that the Pak Army will never allow the civilian government to take credit for resolving disputes with India.

So the permanent script for the Pakistan army is to keep the pot boiling all the time by inciting disturbances in Kashmir and stoking “the Azadi” rage in the valley by all possible methods. A part of the same grand plan is the recent diktat of a top Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Zakir Musa to the Hurriyat leaders that they should stop calling Kashmir a political dispute since their mission is to set up an Islamic state in Kashmir. This gives a new dimension to the unrest in Kashmir fueled and sustained by Pakistan and its proxies.

Both the Pakistan Army and the civilian government have to realize that perpetually tense relations with India are not going to serve their interests in the long run. Notwithstanding the damage it has been able to inflict on India over the last several decades, Pakistan has itself become a victim of terrorism and religious extremism.

The just released report of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission for 2016, should serve as an eye opener. The Land of the Pure, as Pakistan loves to describe itself, saw the highest number of 728 persons go missing, a euphemism for people picked up and detained at undisclosed places by intelligence agencies and the police. Crimes against minorities, women, forced conversions and honour killings are continuing unabated. The economy is in the shambles and if terrorism and religious extremism are checked, things will worsen in Pakistan.

It is now for the civilian government in Islamabad to think whether it should continue to act as a lame duck regime. Its choice is between behaving like an assertive and responsible government elected to take care of the people or be a subservient to the army for the heck of completing its five-year term.

- Asian Tribune –

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