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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Anatomy of Pakistan’s chronic political instability

Even before the No-Confidence Motion was introduced in the National Assembly, Khan said that a US undersecretary of state called Pakistan's ambassador to Washington and threatened Pakistan with terrible consequences if the motion failed. This, Khan surmised, was comparable to a joint conspiracy formed by the US and Pakistan's adversaries.

DG ISPR addressed a press conference on Thursday, 14 April 2022. Replying to a question, he remarked that the word “conspiracy” was not mentioned in the communique issued last month by the National Security Committee (NSC). In reply to yet another question, de said the demarche given to the US Ambassador in Islamabad was for “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s internal affairs. DG ISPR’s replies during the press conference were in the context of the No-Confidence Motion against the former PM Imran Khan.

Even before the motion was tabled in the National Assembly, Khan had alleged that a US under Secretary of State summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington and threatened dire consequences against Pakistan if the No Confidence Motion failed. This, surmised Khan, was tantamount to a conspiracy hatched by the US and Pakistan’s combined opposition.

Read more: What’s next after the regime change in Pakistan?

Understanding the debate of “conspiracy” and “intervention”

As expected, an animated debate has started on the etymologies of “conspiracy” and “intervention”, with rival political players, their respective beneficiaries, and vested interests trying to interpret these words according to their perception. They will keep hair-splitting this issue for times to come. This is not something new in our society. Even half a century after the 1971 debacle, we are still divided on who was responsible for the breakup of Pakistan – Yahya, Bhutto, Mujib, India, the US, or the Soviet Union, individually, or collectively? This is because, while focusing our attention on the tactical dimension, we tend to ignore the big picture.

We remember that the countrywide agitation against Ayub Khan’s “decade of development” started as a result of economic stagnation, cronyism, and a sense of deprivation among the Bengalis and West Pakistan’s ethnic minorities against Punjabi chauvinism. Economic upheavals, racial discrimination, and social fault lines exist everywhere in the world. But except in the case of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and maybe a few other countries, these contradictions have not resulted in the country’s dismemberment.  What were the undercurrents in 1965 that spawned the 1971 War and led to the separation of East Pakistan?

Ayub Khan’s decline had started in the wake of the 1965 War between India and Pakistan. Ayub Khan, advised by FM Bhutto, Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmed, and Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, GOC 12 Division, sent infiltrators into IHK. He was assured by the Foreign Office that sending infiltrators will not result in India attacking Pakistan across the International border. The 1965 War ended in a stalemate, but the US was angry with Ayub Khan. Since the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947, for a brief period, the US had wanted to prop up independent India as the Asian pivot of America’s global reach. It could not do so because of Nehru’s grand ambition to be the leader of Asia, independent of both the superpowers. The 1962 Sino-India War and 1965 War provided the US  an opportunity to increase its influence without coercing India into a formal military pact. To this end, the Agartala Conspiracy surfaced a few weeks after the cease-fire.

Read more: The Boulevard: US launches its first drone attack on Afghanistan

The 1971 War was choreographed by the US, India, and the erstwhile USSR

To bring East Pakistan’s separation into fruition, Bhutto, Major General Hassan, and Air Marshal Rahim Khan, wittingly or unwittingly, acted as facilitators.  Bhutto was hanged for abetting the murder of a political rival. On night 3-4 April 1979, when told that he would be hanged after about an hour, the startled Bhutto asked the commander of his security detail “Are you joking”?

Indira Gandhi created Bhindranwale. She was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards because they believed she was responsible for the massacre at the Golden Temple. And finally, Mujib, along with his family members (less Hasina, who was in India at that time) was murdered when an army contingent stormed his house. They wanted to take revenge for a young girl who was raped and murdered by an Awami League politician. He came down the stairs and said, “Why do you want to kill me, you are all like my children”.

We fast forward to the present situation. Even almost half a century after losing its eastern wing, an event first of its kind after WWII, Pakistan is still in a precarious situation. Applying a filter to peep through the haze of political uncertainty, an almost economic meltdown, and grave dangers to its territorial integrity, we try again to feel the undercurrents.

Pakistan’s nuclear program is a fat pain for India and the US. In 2008, An American newspaper columnist had proposed a $100 billion buyout of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals, saying these weapons had become “an inviting target” for Jehadists.”

Read more: How America lost Pakistan?

“Let’s buy their arsenal,” wrote Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal in an op-ed article, published on 16 December 2008, in which he highlighted the problems Pakistan’s atomic program has caused, especially the situation resulting from the export of nuclear technology by the AQ Khan network.

“…Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad’s Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over.”

“Since President-elect Barack Obama has already committed a trillion or so in domestic spending, what’s $100 billion in the cause of saving the world,” the columnist had suggested.

Stephens, who interviewed Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in September when he was participating in the UN General Assembly session, said despite some gains after acquiring a bomb, Pakistan didn’t gain greater security.

What are US plans for the extended Middle East that will include Pakistan’s Balochistan province?

The term “New Middle East” was coined in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It aimed at sweeping the “Line in Sand” drawn by Sykes and Picot during WWI and replacing it with newly drawn Middle East borders.

Read more: Looking back at the US politics in Afghanistan

Secretary Condoleezza Rice stated during a press conference that “what we’re seeing here (in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon), in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs—of a ‘New Middle East. This Anglo-American- Israeli military roadmap is the plan to use the Middle East as a marshaling area for entering Central Asia. The Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are stepping stones for extending U.S. influence into the former Soviet Union and the ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.