An Observation – I

As a departure from regular programming, here is a note: Pakistan is overplaying its hand.

As a background, It is customary for Pakistan’s “establishment” to react vehemently when one of three things happen:

1. The establishment perceives that their relevance and power in Pakistan (in relation to the civvies) is being eroded: The last time this happened was when the US, in a not so subtle way, tried to set up a framework for strengthening the civilian set-up by tying the aid money under the Kerry-Lugar bill to conditions such as (i) Not having coups (ii) Transparency in disbursement and expenditure (iii) Progress along the democracy front etc. The KL bill was greeted by shrill debates in the media, manufactured outrage and public mobilized through the usual “establishment channels” to make the displeasure of the establishment known.

2. Vital surrogates in Afghanistan are attacked: An example of this was when NATO helicopters attacked terrorists of the Haqqani faction in the Kurram agency. Pakistan perceives that the Haqqani faction best serves its interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s desire to control Afghanistan is a primary national security objective – even though it is cloaked in the “acceptable” language of keeping India out, the fact remains that the gravest threat to Pakistan’s territorial integrity arises from Pashtun nationalism, which is a far greater threat to the unity of Pakistan than even the unrest in Balochistan. Ofcourse Pashtun nationalism in border areas could easily be exploited by India which could strike grand bargain with the Pashuns along the lines of Bangladesh-Mukti Bahini. Pakistan retaliated to the attacks in Kurram by blocking NATO convoys and subsequent attacks on the tankers with tens of tankers set on fire.

3. Vital surrogates fighting India are attacked: The latest Raymond Davis spat arose due to CIA’s unilateral expansion of its activities to include the surveillance and penetration of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. This CIA action is most likely due to a realization of three things (i) Western cities are just as vulnerable as Mumbai to commando-style attacks. This problem would be much worse if there are multiple commando-style attacks* (ii) The full extent of the complicity of official agencies in the funding and training of LeT has become apparent due to the confession of David Headley (Dawood Gilani). The CIA probably realizes that Pakistan’s security apparatus will not move against the LeT (iii) LeT is increasingly becoming a potent threat in Afghanistan, with the attacks on Indian embassy in Kabul traced to LeT operatives. Pakistan retaliated by arresting Davis, and demanding the withdrawal of CIA operatives in Pakistan whose primary brief is to keep tabs on “other” terrorist organizations.

Pakistan’s strategy seems to be three fold. It is a mixture of (1) Drastic and audacious steps such as blocking NATO convoys and arresting CIA agents. This is done for short term advantages and signaling to the Pakistani public that the Army/ISI do and can stand up to the US. Pakistan’s assessment is that these drastic steps would work due to American compulsions in fighting the Afghan war (2) Gaining the initiative in the civilian discourse by whipping up passions through shrill TV anchors and columnists. This was evident in the KL bill, where swathes of protestors had no idea or were misinformed as to what the real issues were! As part of this strategy, Pakistan is increasingly trying to convert the LeT into a Hezbollah-type organization with charity and political wings thereby deeply embedded into the civil society itself (3) Vastly expanding the nuclear arsenal to guarantee that American drone attacks (and other intensive attacks like air-strikes and cruise missile strikes) do not happen in the heartland against Army and Army-surrogate establishments.

The danger** in these assessments and strategy is two fold

1. Pakistan has no short-term and definitely no long-term leverage against the US: Pakistani economy is unviable. This gives rise to several pressure-points that the Americans can exploit vis-à-vis IMF an the world bank. Combined with the unrest in the middle east and sluggish economy in Europe and the natural disaster in Japan, Pakistan has very few allies to turn to. Even China is short of cash after increasing social spending. In any case Chinese money will come with far greater cost (and social unrest like the recent Reko Diq fiasco) than American money. In the best case scenario, Americans will meddle increasingly in the political and economic setup of Pakistan, trying to install a pliant civilian and army leadership. In the worst case, Americans will assassinate key Army and political figures. If one thinks this is a fantastic proposition, one needs to take a fresh look at the Zia case.

2. Pakistan usually misreads democratic governments with disastrous effect: This happened with India in 1965 (where Shastri was considered to be a “short dark man in a dhoti with no will to fight”) in 1971 where obliviousness to popular displeasure against Pakistan in Bangladesh was followed by a thorough misreading of US & Chinese support and Indian will to fight, in 1998 where International mood and Indian will to fight in Kargil was misread. Many more examples come to mind. In the current context, Pakistan has misread American domestic compulsions. The greatest danger to Pakistan today is a terror attack in the US being traced to Pakistani soil***. A successful attempt will drive the American public opinion against Pakistan and to prevent democrats from looking weak on national security Obama will be forced to retaliate militarily.

Frequent spats such as the spat over Raymond Davis is not winning Pakistan any friends among the US public in a time when Obama is due for re-election. Terror attacks originating from Pakistan certainly will not win any. In any case, the Afghanistan and Pakistan “problem” is due for a thorough “examination” in the upcoming presidential debates preceding the elections in 2012.  Pakistan should also realize that the Americans are innovative as well. The drone attacks have started primarily as a result of Pakistan’s unwillingness or inability to take on militants in the border areas. This is deeply embarrassing to Pakistan and a far bigger headache than joint operations in the region. Last but not least, Pakistan seems to forget that the money, media and muscle available with the Americans is far in excess of what Pakistan and her allies have and it is best to not test American patience and goodwill or to stretch Pakistan’s luck till the next terror attack on US soil.

*Spectacular terror attacks against India are invariably replicated in the west. This includes the IC 814 hijack where the very same people were connected to the 9/11 hijack as well.

**I will not go into the dangers of the society getting radicalized as exemplified by the recent Salman Taseer and Bhatti case. That is a separate thread.

***This nearly happened with the failed times-square bombing attempt of Faisal Shahzad (the son of an Air Vice Marshal!!)


Thorough Brosecution Of Mumbai Attackers in Pakistan

Gautam Gambhir’s recent statement that the Indian cricket world lota victory was dedicated to the 26/11 victims rightfully raised outrage in Pakistan. Before heaping blame on Pakistan for Pakistan-trained terrorists who commit terror acts in India, Indians should realize that Pakistan too is a victim of Pakistan-trained terrorists. In any case, viewing India-Pakistan relationship through the one-dimensional lens of terror is quite unfair to the world’s foremost front-line ally against terror. Pakistan has time and again tried to rescue India-Pakistan relationship from falling prey to 26/11 issue by first insisting that Kasab was not Pakistani, then by insisting that the terror attack was planned in a ship in international waters and finally when Indians nitpicked based on confessions of Kasab, insisting that the terrorists were non-state actors and terror did not have a nationality. When the Indians complained that the terror organization responsible for 26/11 attack was registered in Pakistan, Pakistan went the extra mile to declare the LeT as a charity organization. Despite all this, Indians insisted in Judicial action, indulged in state-sponsored tree-terrorism, sent pages and pages of dossiers and defamed Pakistan.

Pakistan reciprocated positively even for this grave dossier provocation. Nowhere in the world have terrorists been dragged through the courts for such extended period of time with such meticulous prosecution. Consider the chronology:

      • March 4, 2009: The trial starts!! AK Phyrr!! (in camera of course)
      • May 24, 2009: How can there be a trial without a judge, hain ji? (not our fault)
      • July 18, 2009: Chargesheet filed!! (Going to Sharm-al-Sheikh, have to show brogress!!)
      • July 25, 2009: Case adjourned for 1 month (Back from Sharm-al-Sheikh!!)
      • Aug 29, 2009: Adjourned for 1 month (Still digesting the food eaten at Sharm-Al-Sheikh!!)
      • Sep 26, 2009: Adjourned again (Still digesting)
      • Oct 3, 2009: Adjourned again (digesting…)
      • Oct 21, 2009: Judge wants to leave the case for “unavoidable reasons” (400% sure it is a gastric problem)
      • New judge, many adjournments, case put off till accused plea for acquittal is considered (I yam no judicial exbert, but isnt this what the case is about?) fast forward to Feb 13, 2010
      • Feb 13, 2010: Case adjourned because the judge is “busy”
      • Feb 20, 2010 to Apr 19, 2010 (heated debate whether Kasab is an absconder, a fugitive or a proclaimed offender) Adjourned till July 03, 2010 to find out whether Yindia will send Kasab to Pakistan (Riddal: Blease to guess Yindia’s answer)
      • July 31, 2010: Judgement on Lakhvi’s bail plea reserved till August 7 (“reserving” is a judicial activity 400% distinct from “adjourning”)
      • Aug 28, 2010: Reserved judgement is adjourned till Sep 18. (Did I naat tell you “reserving” is different from “adjourning” hain ji?)
      • Nov 13, 2010: Pakistan has determined that Yindia will not hand over Kasab (then what happened on July 03, 2010 you pooch? Just making 400% sure)
      • Dec 17, 2010: Defence lawyer has fake degree. Case adjourned.(imagine how long the case would have dragged on if he had a real degree!!)
      • Jan 8, 2011: Adjourned
      • Jan 22, 2011: Adjourned
      • Feb 5, 2011: NOT ADJOURNED!!! (heh heh, just kidding. Also adjourned)
      • Feb 17, 2011: Take a guess!!
      • Feb 26, 2011: Guess again if you made a mistake last time!!
      • March 05, 2011: One more chance!!
      • March 26, 2011: Last chance for guessing!!

As you can dekho, even before examining a single witness over 2 years, look at the thoroughness of Pakistani Judiciary! Then why do Indians complain? Pakistanis have chosen to move on and forget the trauma to the national Image the 26/11 has caused and tried hard to forget. Maybe the tiny hearted Indians should take a clue from large hearted Pakistanis and move on too. Regular statements to the media about the 180 odd killed in Mumbai will only serve to keep their memories alive.

In conclusion, what I am trying to say is….

(artecal adjourned till later)