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Will Pakistan Attempt Suicide?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Pakistan’s civil government is in trouble. After the Memogate scandal and the Osama killing its relations with its Army have taken a nosedive. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are understandably desperate. There are indications that they are poised to make political moves intended to help them retain power that would be suicidal for Pakistan in the long term. There are two steps being contemplated by the government.
First, the government seems to have decided to advance the election to this year instead of 2013. The Senate elections will take place in February and the National Assembly election is expected to be held before October. The poll fever might postpone if not divert attention from the Memogate affair. The Supreme Court has appointed a judicial commission to probe the entire Memogate affair which could make President Zardari very vulnerable. The President has claimed constitutional immunity from any court proceedings. Instead he has appointed a Parliamentary National Security Committee to probe the Memogate affair and submit its finding which alone he will accept. The composition of this committee is heavily loaded in favour of the ruling party. Its findings are foregone.
The second step by the government to safeguard itself is much more sinister and could spell the doom of Pakistan as we know it. According to media reports an Intelligence note submitted to the Indian government by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has claimed that Islamabad has reached secret understanding with Beijing to establish a military base in Pakistan’s Northwest FATA territory and a naval base in Baluchistan’s Gwadar port. If this report is correct Islamabad in all likelihood calculates that with US-Pak relations at their lowest ebb support from China will ensure the regime’s continued survival. In the long term this would spell suicidal for Pakistan.
The two bases will be established in regions where separatist movements are strongest. Islamabad might be right in concluding that China’s military presence would prevent any secession of territory. But both NWFP and Baluchistan would become stable like Tibet. Public opposition to Islamabad and Beijing will escalate to new heights and control would be exercised only through ruthless suppression. It will be curtains for any prospect of a united democratic Pakistan. Blind political ambition may persuade Pakistan’s civil government to persist with this suicidal move. But General Kayani and the Army should reflect. Would they really want this to happen?
Pakistan as we know it will cease to exist. Beijing will safeguard its access to the Middle East through the Gwadar port and protect its mining operations in Afghanistan that neighbours NWFP. The people of both regions will be permanently and irrevocably alienated from the very concept of Pakistan. Eventual secession, however long that takes, would become inevitable. The prospect of a united Pakistan will be shattered forever. Beijing’s diplomatic successes in India complement its moves in Pakistan. The shameful surrender by the Indian government to send a military delegation to China, after first canceling it, by dropping an officer from Arunachal Pradesh is sickening. New Delhi is as contemptible as Islamabad when it deals with Beijing.
However, President Zardari’s and Prime Minister Gilani’s game plan may not succeed. General Musharraf will reach Pakistan January end to contest elections. He has announced support for a separate Hazara province. Acknowledging identity aspirations is the best antidote to separatism. Mr. Imran Khan has gathered considerable political momentum. There are indications that both will team up to stake claims for the posts of President and Prime Minister. Earlier Mr. SM Quraishi as Vice President of Mr. Imran Khan's party had stated that a tie-up of his party with General Musharraf's party would be considered on the basis of prevailing circumstances. Subsequently Mr. Imran Khan ruled out a tie-up. Eventually it will depend upon the prevailing circumstances. It remains to be seen what attitude the Pakistan army adopts towards General Musharraf's return to Pakistan. The election planned for later this year could boomerang and throw the ruling party out of office. In the event all its plans could come to grief. It would depend upon the new possible Musharraf-Imran Khan team to determine whether creating Chinese bases in Pakistan is desirable. That seems unlikely. Mr. Imran Khan’s frequent statements designed to appeal to the hardcore may be attributed to his former wife being Jewish. He would like to lean backward to prove that he is everything that he really is not. Mr. Musharraf’s past efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute and his recent interview to an Israeli newspaper offer hope that he too will take a realistic view and recognize the crucial importance of the cultural nationalism of the South Asian region.
However intractable may appear to be the mess created by to the past policies of the Pakistan establishment through encouraging terrorism, the culture and identity of a people honed over thousands of years cannot be easily obliterated. The common people of Pakistan would prefer peace and harmony with their Indian neighbours. On January 4th The Statesman published an article by a Pakistani journalist, Mr. Wahood Mushtaq, which described in graphic detail the harrowing and bloodcurdling conditions under which the media has to operate in Pakistan.
Two days later Pakistan’s leading Editor and columnist, Mr. Najam Sethi, wrote in The Friday Times a scathing commentary against the Pakistan military for not adequately protecting Pakistani journalists who are victims of fundamentalist intolerance. During last year alone 11 Pakistani journalists were killed for holding on to their views. Journalists who raise their voices against legitimate grievances are dubbed as American CIA agents. One cannot but salute the print media in Pakistan. The journalists of Pakistan through their courage and integrity offer the best lifeline for preserving a united and democratic Pakistan.
It would be tragic if General Kayani and the government in Islamabad do not acknowledge this. Their concern to preserve and protect Pakistan is understandable. What is not understandable is their failure to perceive that this can be accomplished only by creating conditions that allow joint defence, common market and free movement between the peoples of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
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