An unintended fall out of the Mumbai Terror Strikes 26/11 has been the confrontation between the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Army. The power games between the Army and the Government in Islamabad began with consolidation by the PPP through political maneuverings. President Asif Ali Zardari swore in 40 new members to the federal cabinet, including 22 federal ministers and 18 state ministers. While this created a gigantic cabinet at the Centre, it has accommodated a large number of possible dissidents including Fahim who was one of the Prime Ministerial candidates of the PPP. However elements of the MQM and the JUI F remain unhappy with distribution of portfolios.
On 8 November a dinner meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif led to meeting of minds and possible joint strategy formulation by the two leaders. An increasingly aggressive PPP is now facing off with the army on various administrative issues. The first indication was announcement by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that the political wing of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been closed. 'The ISI is a precious national institution and wants to focus on counterterrorism activities,' he claimed. This was hotly denied by the representatives of the ISI/Army stating that the political wing had not been closed but only not given any new assignments. A small concession no doubt.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared on 28 November that the National Security Council (NSC) constituted during former president Pervez Musharraf's regime has been dissolved. The decision was supported by the President and in principle by the key opposition leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif. However it was not clear if the okay of the Army brass had been obtained or the government would have to retract the order in the same manner as placing the ISI under the interior ministry earlier. The NSC is seen as an instrument used by President Musharraf to impose Emergency from time to time and its abolishing would ensure that the military cannot dominate the political leadership but this remains a small victory.
The Mumbai terror attacks on 26 November also ironically brought into focus the divide between the army and the government. Indian authorities demanded that the chief of the ISI should visit India to share intelligence as a number of clues indicated complicity of the agency. Pakistan's Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gillani agreed to send the Director General (DG). Pak Army spokesman, Maj. General Athar Abbas however indicated that there was no consensus on this decision and said that there is a need to avoid the blame game. Gradually Pakistani authorities have diluted the requirement from the DG ISI to a Director and finally come down to sending a Director only if there was a credible case made by the Indian government.
It is apparent that while the government was willing to send the ISI Chief, the invisible hand of the Army under whom the ISI functions has finally had its say. With the army and the government speaking in two voices, there is little hope that the situation would be resolved and this may only increase the cleavage between the two. Abolition of the NSC at this time may also raise many differences. Thus civil military relations would suffer another road block in the process of transformation in Pakistan, probably an unintended consequence of terror attack on Mumbai.
While much is made of the tensions between the two states, Indo Pakistan tensions are reaching an inflection point and may lead to possible mustering of troops on the borders and a high level of alert. However it is unlikely that there would be any confrontation or moves beyond rhetoric by both sides. The reasons for such an assumption are as follows:
While the Indian side would have collected evidence over complicity of Pakistani agencies, establishment of links with the government would be difficult. Particularly so when the Foreign minister of the country was in India unless this has been used as a decoy which is unlikely.
The civilian leadership on both sides would have limited stakes in a confrontation. During 2001 when the Indian parliament attack led to mobilization of forces on the borders, there was a military led government led by then COAS and President Musharraf in office. The economy of Pakistan is also not favoring an open confrontation with India.
Commitments of the Pakistan Army on the western frontier and linkages with NATO and US operations would ensure that no redeployment takes place for which these governments would take measures to diffuse tensions.
Indian rhetoric is likely to die down after the election phase is over, for it was essential for the Congress not to display any signs of weakness particularly with terrorism forming a key issue in the campaigning.
Ironically this has removed the very basis for intervention of a special envoy in Kashmir proposed by some of Obama's advisers for the key issue between India and Pakistan remains sponsored terrorism.