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Monday, June 3, 2024

Pakistan in the eye of storm

The situation in Pakistan is being closely watched and analyzed by our friends and foes alike. However, save for the traditional rhetoric, a detailed appreciation of the train of thought of India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, is nowhere in sight. What are the Indians thinking about the present situation in Pakistan?

Pakistan is again in the eye of the storm. This time after the controversial regime-change operation in March/April 2022. The present chaos in Pakistan can be likened to China’s Cultural Revolution which was a socio-political movement launched by Mao Zedong in 1966, and lasting until his death in 1976. However, whereas Mao and the notorious Gang of Four were blamed for destabilizing China during the Cultural Revolution, in Pakistan’s case the smoking gun points at ghost players many of whom are not yet definitively pinpointed. It is because there is a yawning gap between the opposite narratives.

The Cultural Revolution massively destabilized China, and so has the present socio-political-economic chaos in today’s Pakistan.

Read more: How Pakistani-Taliban tensions can lead to another never-ending war

The situation in Pakistan is being closely watched and analyzed by our friends and foes alike. However, save for the traditional rhetoric, a detailed appreciation of the train of thought of India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy, is nowhere in sight. What are the Indians thinking about the present situation in Pakistan? And what might be the courses of action open to them? We can draw a picture by basing our conjectures on the historicity of Pakistan’s relationships with India and the United States, the two countries that greatly impacted Pakistan during the last seven decades. For this to happen, I will use past events as the benchmarks for concluding the future.

We go back to October 1968

A cloudburst agitation against Ayub Khan’s eleven-year “Decade of Development” sparked up when a group of Rawalpindi’s Gordon College students, on their way back from a sight-seeing tour of the former NWFP were roughed up at a customs check-post near Attock. The agitation lasted till April 1969 when Ayub Khan handed over power to General Yahya Khan who slapped the second martial law in the country. As a result of the country-wide agitation, MujiburRehman and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto emerged as the two main beneficiaries.

There were general elections held in December 1970 in which Mujib’sAwami League emerged as the majority party. The election results were not accepted by Bhutto and the junta, followed by the army action against the Awami League in March 1971. There was a massive flight of Bengalis into India, giving Indira Gandhi the excuse to interfere militarily in East Pakistan. The insurgency in East Pakistan continued for nine months, culminating in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war that resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh.

In 2023, there is no flight of refugees into India. However, an almost decade-long insurgency is going on in the restive Baluchistan province, fully supported by India. While the Pakistan Army is embroiled in fighting against the India-funded and abetted BLA and BRA militants, the U.S. looks the other way. Pakistan’s present political turmoil will not result in India attacking across the international border, but the growing instability may result in an implosion.

I have mentioned in my earlier writings that both India and the U.S. are trying to destabilize Pakistan for a long time. A relatively unknown map of a redrawn and restructured Middle East, identified as the “New Middle East”, has been circulating in the world media and governmental/private think tanks and policy-making circles since mid-2006. This redrawn map has been, by design, allowed to surface from time to time in public, maybe in an attempt to build consensus and to slowly prepare the general public for possible, maybe even cataclysmic, changes in the Middle East and on its periphery.

Read more: Survey shows Imran Khan is Pakistan’s last hope?

The map is showcased and presented as the brainchild of retired Lieutenant-Colonel (U.S. Army) Ralph Peters, who believes the redesigned borders contained in the map will fundamentally solve the problems of the contemporary Middle East.  In the “Blood Borders” map, Pakistani and Iranian Baluchistan is shown as a single independent state. KPK is shown as part of Afghanistan, and AJK and GB amalgamated into India. Here is where the Indian and the U.S. strategic goals converge.

In December 71, Indira Gandhi declared victory after the fall of Dhaka and, despite the advice of many hawks in her cabinet, accepted a cease-fire in the western sector. This was because 1) The Soviet Union did not want India to finish West Pakistan as it would make India too powerful;2) Indira Gandhi was apprehensive that the war in the west would drag on and may result in a stalemate. For the time being, she was content with basking in the glory of India’s military success in changing the geography of united Pakistan.

At Simla, India wanted to convert the Cease-Fire Line in Jammu & Kashmir into an international border. However Bhutto, wary of the backlash back home, did not agree and India only succeeded in re-designating the Cease-Fire Line into the Line of Control. Since the Simla Agreement, the successive Indian governments limited themselves to paying lip service to recover AJK and GB from Pakistan. This changed in 12014 when Modi became PM of India. Since then, Modi’s government has many times declared his goal to 1) Reintegrate AJK and GB into the Indian Union;2) Abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty.

In August 2019 India abrogated Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian constitution that granted cosmetic autonomy to the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu &Kashmir. Rajnath Singh, India’s defense minister, reiterated BJP’s stand a few weeks ago about recovering Pakistan-administered J&K, including GB.

There was no significant movement in the Indian-held Kashmir throughout Zia’s more than the ten-year rule. The Valley, even as its lakes, remained placid. It was India, which disturbed the status quo by occupying the Siachen glacier in 1984. Capturing the Siachen glacier does not make any sense unless it is used as a jump-off point to advance further west to threaten Skardu or recover Shakgam Valley from  China. A chaotic situation in Pakistan may embolden India to embark on another Siachen-like operation.

Read more: Pakistan asks IMF for restructuring ‘pause’

What is the way forward?

While the politicians are at each other’s throats, the army and the judiciary should assume the leading role in tying up Pakistan’s loose ends. After this happens, the future governments in Pakistan should look inward for most of the 21st Century and consolidate the country, even as the Japanese did after Commodore Perry blockaded Tokyo Bay on 8th July 1853. It was only after building up its industrial and military power that Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan was defeated during WW2 because at that time America was the sole nuclear power.

Talking again about China’s Cultural Revolution.,a Red Guard sent this situation report to his superior authority :

There is great chaos under the heavens, and the situation is excellent –

The rotten fruit will fall down the branches, making way for the fresh buds to appear.  


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.