According to the New York Times Pakistan’s army chief General Kayani is struggling to preserve his post against growing opposition from within his army. According to the Washington Post relations between America and Pakistan are the worst since 9/11. Resentment flared after Osama bin Laden was killed by the Americans in Abottabad. This should cause little surprise. It was foregone. Readers might recall what I wrote immediately after Osama’s death.
After the US attack against Osama within the heart of Pakistan I wrote:
“The question that will be asked sooner rather than later is: did General Kayani collude with the Americans or was he totally in the dark? If he colluded it will be dubbed as gross betrayal of Pakistan by the hardcore elements inside and outside the army and could lead to serious confrontation. If he was in the dark it would expose unacceptable incompetence having damaging implications for nuclear Pakistan’s future security.”
Feeling the heat from within his ranks Kayani desperately approached the Chinese. Along with ISI chief General Shuja Pasha he tried to persuade Afghanistan’s President Karzai to dump America and totally embrace China. It was a gross blunder. The story leaked out. He lost the trust of the Americans without gaining the requisite support from China. The Beijing government in any event is now heavily focused on the economy and seeks acceptance from the West. Kayani must have been banking on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which had been bolstering the Pakistan army for decades.
It is likely that even in making that calculation he may suffer a rude shock. The PLA generals are hard headed strategists. The benefit they have derived thus far from covertly aiding the Islamist terrorists as cannon fodder for use in destabilizing the West and India may be over. Now the PLA has arrived at the stage of playing a global power game. It will seek strategic access through land and sea to protect its interests. It will enhance its cyber warfare skills. It will build a nuclear arsenal to balance America. A terrorist supporting Pakistan is passé.
The PLA would know that the world will not tolerate cash strapped, nuclear, terrorist backing Pakistan for long. Pakistan is a failed state. It can either preserve its identity through membership of a new South Asian Union with soft borders, common market and joint defence with its neighbours. Or Pakistan could balkanize.
What would the PLA prefer?
A South Asian Union could pose a balancing force to contain Beijing in the long run. A balkanized Pakistan would result in an independent Baluchistan that could help Chinese access to Iran and facilitate land and sea trade links from Xingjian to the Indian Ocean through Gwadar port. An expanded Pashtun consolidated Afghanistan would ensure stability for Beijing’s mining operations in the region as well as help stabilize its growing clout in Central Asia. The residual truncated Pakistan would be of little value to Beijing.
General Kayani faces his moment of truth. Either he can dare to risk confronting his opponents within the army, or he can surrender to them. He can choose to prevent the division of his army, or he can choose to prevent the division of his nation. Or, he can even pretend that the Pakistan army is the nation. In that event he will never be part of the solution. He will always be remembered as the core of the problem.