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Tag Archives | Peshawar school tragedy

Why Pakistan might not head for a coup in the near future?

In spite of all the indications of severe cracks in the civil-military relations, Pakistan may not have a coup simply because the army does not want it in the near future

Grave scenarios are being visualised in the present tumultuous conditions in Pakistan. The catalysing event was the suicide bomb attack on March 26 at a crowded park in Lahore. Reportedly, Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter group of Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast. The blast left 69 people dead and 300 people injured. The Pakistani military and security agencies quickly swung into action by taking over the counter-terror operations even before PM Nawaz Sharif could finish an emergency meeting with his ministers. He had to even cancel a visit to Washington.

The tensions between the army chief General Raheel Sharif and the PM have been see-sawing since Nawaz Sharif got elected in 2013. There were allegations of rigging by Nawaz Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League, PML (N). Coupled with charges of corruption against his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is the chief minister of Punjab, public sentiments culminated in an Azadi (freedom) march, a series of marches from August to December 2014.  A Muslim cleric, Tahirul Qadri also gave active support to Imran Khan, whose party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) organised these protests. Though Imran Khan asked the Pakistan army to stay neutral, the protests could not have taken place without the tacit support of the military-jihadi complex (MJC), which has a finger in every pie. Tahirul Qadri can be considered to be one of the cogs in MJC. Though, Raheel Sharif supported Nawaz Sharif publicly, there were certain undercurrents in their relationship.

The Pakistan Army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb after in June 2014 after an attack on Karachi airport by the jihadist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This operation was aimed at all jihadist elements in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), whether foreign or native. A retaliation to this was the attack on army public school in Peshawar by TTP on December 16, 2014. The importance of this attack on the institutions is gauged from the fact that the army took on itself the task of running the courts dealing with terror operations. In a way, this showed a lack of confidence in the judicial process in Pakistan.

Zarb-e-Azb has been claimed as a great success with over 2500 militants killed in 2014 and had support of political parties and people. As a result, Raheel Sharif is hugely popular army chief. With success of counter terror operations along with control over the judicial process against militants, he is in a very comfortable position. Nawaz Sharif is having the tough task of taking the brickbats for whatever wrong is happening. Based on the current events and lessons from past history, three possible scenarios can be forecast for the next six months or so.

First, sensing the rising discontent against Nawaz Sharif and massive corruption in public life, the army stages a coup. Sharif is jailed/exiled to Saudi Arabia and martial law is established. Raheel Sharif appoints himself as President. Second, the army stages a soft coup by installing Imran Khan as a caretaker PM and continues to hold the levers of power. Third, the army does nothing to upset the present political set up and plays wait-and-watch game. Of all the three, the third scenario seems most plausible due to a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that Raheel Sharif would want to ‘hang his boots’ on a high. He wouldn’t do anything to dilute the goodwill that the army has gained over the last two years. He hinted the same in a recent interview where he categorically stated that he won’t seek another extension on his tenure. Second, the army is in the best position by consolidating its hold over the security and foreign policies of the country. An indication of this was the appointment of General Nasir Khan Janjua as the National Security Advisor (NSA) in October 2015. Therefore, with its stranglehold over crucial levers of security, foreign policy and judicial process for jihadists, the military is firmly ensconced. Raheel Sharif will retire with his reputation intact and pursue golf. Pakistan will meander through remaining 2016. Nawaz Sharif is probably aware of this and he will do everything to reinforce his power before the new army chief is anointed in November this year.

 

Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar.

Featured Image: Lahore Fort Badshahi mosque by Wasif Malik, licensed by creativecommons.org

 

 

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Time to end lists

India’s endless handing over of lists of wanted terrorists has become something of a joke with continuing shifting of focus and redlines which can be mitigated by establishing a hotline between ISI & RAW

Each time there is a terror attack, India adds new list of terror suspects on the most wanted list. This list is handed over to Pakistan after much hullabaloo. Much is being made of reported arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) after the recent Pathankot attacks. What we seem to be missing is that Pakistan arrested the 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi within a week. He became a free man in no time. Masood Azhar is an interesting case because it was India who handed him over after the infamous swap after Kandahar hijacking in 1999.

The Multi Agency Centre (MAC) of India coordinated a two week effort with various other agencies to hand over the latest list. Former Research & Analysis Wing(RAW) chief Vikram Sood says that India is tracking so many groups and attacks that we lose focus. Another RAW chief AS Dulat has a different view who says that let us forget Dawood Ibrahim and we should focus on getting Masood Azhar for the Pathankot attack now. There is merit in what the RAW chiefs say having had the ring side view of talks and diplomatic initiatives at the apex level.

My colleague, Pranay Kotasthane in his analysis has laid out some assumptions one of which is that Pakistan can be brought to target militants of all hues and colours (Peshawar school tragedy in December 2014 altered its calculus). The perpetrators of that massacre have been hanged after due process of law.  Presently, there is a hotline existing between the DGMOs of both the armies. This hotline pertains to matters which are more of operational nature pertaining to infiltrations on the border.

Establishing a hotline between ISI & RAW can be one of the policy options. If a hotline between ISI & RAW is realised, then the question of these endless lists will no longer become salient or generate the emotive appeal that they do at present. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) & Russian KGB maintained contact with each other. Otherwise, the US could not have exchanged its spy pilot Francis Gary Powers for captured Soviet agents. All the indications are that such arrangements do not exist at present. Even if it exists, it does not seem to be working. A hotline between the spymasters shall surely keep the escalatory matrix in check. Because both know what their own ‘boys’ are up to. This is not to argue that just by establishing a hotline, we can expect peace. The spy chiefs, after all further the national interests of their own countries. The aim is to ensure stability in a highly volatile environment.

 

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image credit: Spies at ajcann.wordpress.com licensed from creative commons.

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