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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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  US- PAKISTAN RELATIONS
 
 

During the past couple of months the state of relations between the Leader of the Global War on Terror and its Frontline Ally has once again become a hotly discussed subject in the international media. The chain of events which led to this development began with the sweeping success scored by the Democrats in the 7 November 2006 US elections which transferred the control of the US House of Representatives, and the US Senate to the Democrats. The election was largely viewed as a rejection by the US voters of the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq war and resulted in quite a few changes of personnel in the key positions starting with the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his eventual replacement by former CIA Chief and member of the Iraq Study Group, Robert Gates. John Negroponte former Director of National Intelligence became Deputy Secretary of Defense.

USA'S WOES AND WORRIES

Even before the elections, rumblings of discontent were heard from time to time among US analysts that despite receiving liberal aid Pakistan's President Musharraf was not doing enough to suppress the Jihadist structures within his country. This feeling gathered strength after Pakistan Government's Sept 2006 agreement ostensibly with the tribal representatives of North Waziristan virtually ceding control over the territory to Islamic militants. While feeling uncomfortable with the agreement, USA maintained its policy of public support for Musharraf government's actions. But the marked rise in Neo-Taliban violence in Afghanistan in the months following the North Waziristan agreement forced the US and its allies to go public with their dissatisfaction with Pakistan's performance. The newly elected US House passed a bill seeking to link US aid to Pakistan with the results. In hearings before Congressional committees and elsewhere US intelligence and military officers have openly criticised Pakistan's contribution. Several important US government executives visited Islamabad culminating with the carefully guarded visit of US Vice President Dick Cheney on 26 February 2007. With the situation in Iraq showing no signs of improvement and reports of Neo Taliban's vigorous preparations for the expected spring offensive, USA appeared keen to ensure that its Afghanistan venture does not become another disaster.

MUSHARRAF'S PROBLEMS

While Bush, on the last leg of his second Presidential term finds himself mired in the quick sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the stars of his professed buddy Musharraf too seem to have landed him in arguably the worst crisis ever of his stint as the President of Pakistan. In the first place, his smart act of simultaneously nurturing the Jihadis and keeping the Americans pleased (and happily milked) is threatening to come unstuck. The Neo Taliban seem to have become strong enough to be able to follow their own agenda in Afghanistan and FATA, irrespective of the consequences it may involve for the Musharraf regime. At least some of the Jihadis seem to be working to extend their sway beyond the Tribal Areas into some parts of NWFP including Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu etc. On the other hand, Musharraf's own constituency, the serving and the retired members of the armed forces, seems to have suffered a split and the diehard Islamiststs led by retired former ISI heads Generals Hamid Gul, Mahmood Ahmed, Javed Nasir etc. seem to have decided to take their opposition to Musharraf's pro American policy to the streets.

To add to Musharraf's miseries, the head of Pakistan's ever pliant judiciary, Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary, in a surprise departure from well established norms followed by generations of his predecessors, decided to assert his independence. His handling of the cases pertaining to the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills as also the cases relating to missing Pakistan nationals seems to have annoyed Musharraf to the extent of moving him to lodge a complaint against the CJ to the Supreme Judicial Council, placing him under suspension and trying to force the CJ to resign even without waiting for the outcome of his reference to the SJC. Justice Chaudhary refused to be cowed down and returned Musharraf's intimidatory moves with dignified defiance. This in turn sparked off an agitation by Pakistani lawyers marked by unprecedented unity and tenacity in support of the suspended Chief Justice .

The scene has been muddied even further by the challenge mounted by the clerics of Islamabad's Lal Masjid and the lathi wielding female students of its affiliated seminary Jamia Hafsa to the writ of the state in Pakistan's capital city demanding the residents of the area to submit to their version of Islamic morality including closure of shops selling audio/video cassettes deemed to be un-Islamic and arresting of women suspected of being prostitutes. Even though the political parties have distanced themselves from the clerics, and some Islamists led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman of JUI have opposed the Cleric's threat to impose Sharia by force the response of Musharraf government has been to go to extraordinary lengths to placate the clerics . The fact that many members of the Armed Forces use the Lal Masjid for their prayers and many of the students of Jamia Hafsa are the daughters of serving members of armed forces could be the main reason inhibiting the government from using force against the clerics and the offending students.

SPECULATING MUSHARRAF'S FUTURE

During his tour of USA and UK in September 2006 Musharraf felt confident enough to admonish his critics saying "You will be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn't cooperate with you. That is all that I would like to say. Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not with you, you would not manage anything. Let that be clear…,"

"And if the ISI is not with you, you will fail. Let that be very clear also. Remember my words: if the ISI is not with you and Pakistan is not with you, you will lose in Afghanistan."

Domestic developments during the last few months have cumulatively worked to Musharraf's disadvantage. His image as a ruler capable of handling difficult situations stands tarnished, his "Enlightened Moderation" stands exposed as a hoax and his swagger seems to have gone. The demonstration of support for CJ Chaudhary and increasing assertiveness on the part of the Judiciary are capable of creating difficulties for Musharraf who is keen to be re-elected President for another term without shedding his uniform. It however does not appear that his chances for survival have vanished altogether. The Americans, having queered the pitch for Musharraf with Cheney's February end tough message have quickly returned to their usual line that Musharraf, in spite of his faults, is their best bet against a jihadi takeover of nuclear armed Pakistan. Many analysts find this hypothesis deeply flawed but that seems to be the line that the US policy makers for some mysterious reason, seem to be unable to move away from. It is also well known that no change in the ruling dispensation in Pakistan (except for a takeover by the Jihadis) is likely to come about without the approval of USA. The other factor in Musharraf's favour is the non- existence of a political party capable of becoming the vehicle for the expression of the people's discontent with the regime. The major achievement of Musharraf's seven and half years tenure has been the systematic decimation of all political parties which could pose a challenge to the military dictatorship and dividing the civil society into mutually antagonistic factions thereby making the emergence of a nation wide protest movement highly unlikely. The only genuine political party viz. the PPP continues to be in disarray and its credibility is being further eroded with conflicting reports of a deal calculated to facilitate the reelection of Musharraf for another term. The closure of the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) section pursuing cases against the Bhuttos and withdrawal of Red Notices by Interpol seem to indicate progress towards some arrangement between Benazir and Musharraf. At least some of the backers of the protest movement against the suspension of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary, which many observers fondly hope to be the beginning of a mass uprising against the army's dictatorship are those who have had a long history of collaborating with the armed forces and whose pro-democracy slogans are bereft of credibility. Some observers even believe that the Lal Masjid Mullahs are playing out a charade scripted by Musharraf's strategists to serve the General's ends.

According to a common saying, Pakistan is ruled by the Trinity of Army, America and Allah. The current developments till now do not seem to contain any threat to the essential truth of the dictum.

……………….JP SHARMA

 


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
     
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