Mapping the changes in Pakistan - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 21 January 2013

Mapping the changes in Pakistan

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Jan 13

During my travels in Pakistan last week, I could hardly miss the stark difference between Indian and Pakistani reactions to the killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. Oblivious to Indian jingoism, the Pakistani press covered, minute-by-minute, the Anna Hazare style reality show that was Canada-based cleric Tahir ul-Qadri’s challenge to that country’s political establishment.

This is a metaphor for a changing Indo-Pak dynamic. For decades, India looked inward while Islamabad tom-tommed the looming India threat. Today as Pakistan, while lurching toward a form of democracy focuses mainly on its burgeoning internal challenges, India increasingly obsesses about the terrorist threat from across the border. This even as the tide of Pakistan-fomented violence recedes and Indian police and intelligence officials shift focus to disaffection within the country.

But the fortuitous outcome of Pakistan’s single-minded focus on Tahir ul-Qadri’s so-called Long March was that New Delhi’s tough response to brutality on the LoC went almost unnoticed in Pakistan, allowing Islamabad (which has little appetite for roiling the waters) to settle for a pro-forma response. This avoided an acid exchange of tit-for-tat statements that would have united Pakistan’s divided anti-India constituency.

But that was luck, not design. New Delhi, which views Pakistan in the context of an outdated and intellectually lazy narrative of implacable hostility, needs a clearer understanding of a rapidly changing Pakistani playfield. The most important transformation relates to Pakistan’s most powerful organisation, the army; and the evolving relationship between Pakistan’s five key institutions, viz the army, the polity, the judiciary, civil society and the media.

While the India threat remains a convenient drum for the Pakistan Army to beat, especially when New Delhi issues hawkish statements, General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi is increasingly focused on the tribal areas of the north-western frontier, now called Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. As Pakistani generals admit, their ill-conceived juggling act --- which involved fighting the radically anti-establishment Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (the “bad Taliban”), while backing the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network (the “good Taliban”) --- has become unsustainable because of close linkages amongst jihadis. Tanzeems in the tribal area now coordinate closely with groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Lashkar-e-Toiba that are embedded within the Punjab heartland.

With the tribal areas already aflame, the generals worry that Taliban success in Afghanistan would inevitably blow back into Pakistan, first into the tribal areas and from there into the heartland.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a perceptive observer of the Pakistan Army, explains, “The army fears that Afghan Taliban success would embolden the Pakistani Taliban. Through their links with extremist groups in Punjab, this would raise terrorism, radicalization and extremism across Pakistan. Taliban success would also galvanize the Deobandi and Wahabi madrassas that do not today support the Taliban actively, like they did in the 1990s. The army believes that this would make the internal security situation in Pakistan unmanageable.”

This apprehension provides a crucial window for an Indo-Pakistan dialogue on Afghanistan. While both sides regard Afghanistan as a zero-sum game that has no winners, this gloomy outlook on a post-2014 Afghanistan could be brightened through a political initiative, preferably through back channels, to address both sides’ concerns. An agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad could backstop a mutually beneficial stabilization of Afghanistan.

Top generals who have retired from the Pakistan Army say it would be willing to support such a dialogue. Asked why GHQ did not signal its changed attitude, these officers retort that the Pakistani Army’s changing attitude towards India will never be reflected through public pronouncements, so New Delhi should not hold its breathe waiting for those. Instead India should scrutinise Islamabad’s recent public positions, which are broadly cleared by Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan army’s current low-key posture does not mean that it has ceased to be the country’s most powerful institution. But while it continues to exercise political influence, its methods are getting subtler because of the rise of balancing forces. These include an activist judiciary and a media that has given voice to a previously disempowered civil society. These alternative power centres make it difficult for the army to envision single-handedly managing Pakistan. 

Also deterring the Pakistani military from assuming more visible power is its understanding that the Pakistani economy is in trouble. GHQ possesses significant economic expertise, not only from managing its own considerable commercial empire but also because the generals study international thinking on Pakistan and interact reguarly with foreign experts. Currently, the economic mess can be blamed on the politicians; but not if the army assumed power.

And so the generals watched as Tahir ul-Qadri held the government to ransom, occupying an Islamabad square with 50,000 followers (he had promised four million). The fiery chief of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran had hoped to paralyse the capital, forcing the army to move in. But this hope was belied and the polity joined hands, forcing him to climb down and sign an agreement that had been offered to him a week earlier. This was a triumph for democracy, even though the politicians who sealed the deal were hardly men of spotless reputation. In earlier times, many of them would have asked the Pakistan Army to intervene.

Interestingly, even as Pakistan’s military dims its public profile, New Delhi has taken to citing the Indian Army as the basis for its policy positions. In choosing not to sign a Siachen Agreement (wisely, but that is another debate!), New Delhi holds up the army’s objections as a fig leaf. In hardening its condemnation of Pakistan after initially soft-pedalling the recent LoC incident, the government took its cue from the army. A disempowered Indian military probably basks in this show of concern, but it would do well to remember that in the aspects that really matter --- e.g. long-term strategic planning; equipment modernisation; and soldiers’ welfare --- the military remains out in the cold.


  1. a very intelligent review of situation. it will help us readers to follow Indo-pak relations better..

  2. Dear Colonel Shukla,

    In recent weeks Pakistan Army released a new doctrine wherein internal security challenges were given greater priority than the threat from India. Soon after that the beheading of the two soldiers on LOC created such hysteria that had the potential of undoing all that has been achieved through peace process.
    What if the Pakistan Army was not involved in the incident. The terrorist groups not wanting Pakistan Army to focus on Internal security, executed the task that would heighten tensions and force the Pakistan Army to remain focused o India. The kind of Islamisation that has taken place, the task could have been carried out by some of the pro Jehadi elements within the army on behest of the Jehadi groups.
    I feel that if Pakistan Army does manage to control the terrorist groups, it would do good to India as well. Going by Chanakya's wisdom, what we can gain from war or hostilities on the LOC will not be much greater than what can be achieved by letting Pakistan suffer from the monster it created in the first place. If tensions were to increase, the Pakistan Army would get back to doing what they were raised for. Even the terrorist and Jehadi groups would make peace with Army and offer their assistance in fighting India. A society that is tearing apart from it's seams will once again galvanise together.
    It is essential to maintain an upper hand against Pakistan. But in doing so, India should not give Pakistan Army any chance to move away from internal security duties. Herein lies the challenge before the decision makers of India. What in your opinion should be India's response?

  3. Not surprised by that. Why would the perpetrator want to draw attention? Some, I hope there are civil people, in Pakistan would say no smoke without fire! It’s not in their best interest to broadcast the barbaric crime. Killing an enemy’s soldier is understandable, but to mutilate the bodies is beyond the pale.

  4. ... "An agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad could backstop a mutually beneficial stabilization of Afghanistan." ... anywhere domestic or foreign... have put your... faith and trust... in the three forth's... come out nice and fine... only they know... to back stab...

  5. An incisive and perceptive analysis of the present Indo-Pak dynamics- by definition probabilistic! A shift in any of the 'fluxy' elements can convolute the flow.Leadership changes in 2014 could complicate further.The interesting part is the comparative valence of 'situational vs structural'factors/

  6. Col. Shukla,

    It is quite shocking to read here and elsewhere what this current Govt of India was prepared to give up (Siachen, Sir Creek) for the sake of non-existent peace and nebulous CBM between India and Pakistan.

    Even if the Indian Army is out of the loop atleast they have protested vigorously for the Govt. to have changed tack on these issues.

    Hopefully the next generation of politicians in India will have no direct knowledge of partition and can afford to view relations without rose tinted glasses that our PM seems to wear.

    I am sorry but as an Indian citizen and as a Hindu i cannot countenance peace between India and Pakistan given the absolute hate that is taught against both in Pakistani text books specifically against Hindus.

    The argument made by peaceniks about Pakistan's integrity and prosperity is self defeating for India. A strong and stable Pakistan will be an even more of a problem for India to handle than what it is now.

    I support Shiv Sena on this regarding sending back Pakistani artistes and players. To that i would add that we stop treating Pakistani patients in our hospitals too.

    We should be using the MNREGA funds to strengthen border security through better fencing on all land borders of India ie., Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal in my opinion. Get young people to come up with innovative solutions for them.

  7. Dear col Shukla

    If you consider the recent protests in Pakistan, nobody -- either the civil society, media or politicians knew who was behind Qadri. There were speculations that the army was behind him, ISI was behind him, propped up by the US etc. This was further fueled by the fact that nobody knew where he got so much money from.

    If you think about it, nobody in India, sane or insane would suggest that Indian army was behind Delhi rape protests or behind Anna Hazare protests.

    What does this indicate to you?

    Nobody in Pakistan trusts the army, or knows its intentions. They have been deceptive and manipulative in the past, conveniently blaming internal factions and retired officers (Osama was cooling his heels there)

    Are you suggesting that India should trust Pakistan army much more than Pakistanis trust their own army? Do you believe that India will do a good job reading the unstated intentions of Pakistan army -- something that Pakistanis, their media and their politicians themselves are unable to do?

  8. The good changes if any in Pakistan666 are going to be frivolous and surficial only. It is in the ultimate interest of India that the internal strife in Pakistan in any form or essence must grow to its culmination.

  9. Shuklaji

    Since you are now a keen observer of " All things Pakistan " ; I hope that you HAVE UNDERSTOOD the Internal power struggle that is happening and WILL happen in a more
    bitter way in the future

    ALL the players are basically interested in more and more power

    They have seen that WHY THE PAK ARMY has so much power

    Because it has GUNS

    ALL these Religious / sectarian /
    Militant organisations are basically ARMIES WITHOUT UNIFORMS
    But armed with weapons

  10. Shuklaji

    Pak economy is doomed

    Before Pakistan splinters or implodes ; IT will FIRST become completely bankrupt latest by
    15 AUGUST 2015

    Nice isnt it

  11. Mr. Ajay Shukla
    Sir it is necessary and important that we should not always hold hate and a narrow outlook when we factor pakistan in our view and the way we take our relation further, yes negotiation is the only way which is present in the current time and situation considering our military capability too..
    But for those who preach peace and a change of heart of Pakistan they should also not hold a parochial outlook of seeing that pakistan have stabbed us every time we talked peace but the most important we should also see as caution that pakistan is showing its softness also because its also facing the biggest threat of USA shifting more to India than Pakistan and that at a time when China is also want a friendlier India as it faces problem in South China sea, and i do not agree there is a change in pakistani establishment as you see i do not know whats going inside pakistan but when recently Mr. Rahman Malik visited India he left no stone unturned to spill the poison in the way they have been doing so, Mr. Zardari in his speech made comment about Kashmir as a UNSC failure and so on...
    Mr Shukla its nice that you hold a different view like our PM but ask yourself what if everything that you and our PM preaches goes as they want even the India public accept it not willingly of course to add a cherry on top and then you like our PM is wrong...what will become of Indians then?????
    Mr. Shukla there is not just hate its also a fear that we cannot trust a country who's trying everything they have got to destroy us since its inception as a country and trust is something which is earned not bestowed and when they have earned it like the distrust they have earned no one would be required to vouch for them.

  12. And you believed what they have told you..... all the best,

  13. Even when we have dozens of instances of Pakis breaking every single agreement and treaty, how can we have talks with Paki army ? The same Paki army which fought along side with Taliban till 2001 and is still providing barely covert support to terrorists in Aghanistan and India. Have you forgotten the wars of 1947, 1965, genocide of Bengalis in 1971, misadventures in Siachen, ceding of Aksai Chin to China, support for Khalistani and islamic terrorists, backstabbing in 1999, torture of PoWs and so many other instances of back stabbing so easily ? Are you really serious when you talk about negotiations with Paki army ? Paki army may be fighting with a faction of terrorists, but they will not hesitate for one second to gang up against kafirs. Not even god if he exists can help us if people like you write this kind of Arundhati BS.

  14. India and Pakistan could not be friends ever, but Pakistan has to stop terrorism.

  15. Debajyoti Mandhata23 January 2013 at 13:31

    The last time India was smug about Pakistan, we had to face `Kargil'. I hope you will agree with when I say `complacency may lead to more trouble than help'. I believe that extrapolation of this train of thought suggests that we keep viewing the Pakistani foreign policy (read 'Pakistani Army') with a suspicious eye at least until the time they haven't clamped down on the last terrorist facility housed in their soil. Pakistanis must understand that lending `ideological support' is one thing and using it as an excuse to spread terror among innocent civilians is an altogether different thing.

  16. A disempowered Indian military probably basks in this show of concern, but it would do well to remember that in the aspects that really matter --- e.g. long-term strategic planning; equipment modernisation; and soldiers’ welfare --- the military remains out in the cold.

    So you are offering terms to Armed Forces to fall in line... or else

    Not stopping just short of black mail...

    Good Shukla Ji...

  17. @ Ashish

    "What if the Pakistan Army was not involved in the incident"

    Pretty amazing as someone would say this. Do you really think these Jehadis would be able to carry out such action without the knowledge of PA (yes all the way to GHQ)? Do you have any idea what it takes to launch and execute such attack? My God!

  18. My goodness -- I read the first 17 responses and am reeling with shock. Some agree and others disagree, but no one has yet accused you of being in the pay of the ISI, CIA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin or pseudosickularistCONgress...

    Kya ho raha hai -- have Internet posters turned rational all of a sudden?

  19. Shuklaji,

    Welcome back (with your head firmly attached to your torso).

  20. @24 January 2013 08:00...
    Generals are generals... air marshals are air marshals... if not on a tight leash... BM Kaul happens... Sukna happens... adharsh happens... ravi rishi happens... natarajans happens... Lt Gen (Retd) Tejinder Singh happens... barak missile scam... nda scam... ofb scam... as said by former... rbi governor... given a cance to err... people will err... not the other way round happens... because... absolute power corrupts... absolutely... ...

  21. Shuklaji

    Next time you go to Pakistan
    PLEASE try to meet ZAID HAMID

    Then LATER ON meet the LIBERALS and so called " Peace loving " people like NAJAM SETHI ; ASMA JAHANGIR KAMRAN SHAFI etc etc

    between these TWO TRIBES


    The War Mongers DO NOT CARE even if Pakistan is destroyed in the process of GETTING Kashmir

    The moderates say LET US FIRST SAVE PAKISTAN from the Extremist Monsters who are eating up Pakistan

    Unless this OBSESSION with Kashmir ends There will never be peace

  22. election in 2014 in pakistan... will there be any positive change after that? or will the radicalists come to power like what is happening now after the arab spring? if the so called good taliban come to power( i did say so called) then that will be really bad for us. them armed with nuke is worrying indeed.

  23. Anonymous 10:06

    You make a point that was good for many decades... but is now outdated and superseded by events.

    It seems pretty clear to me (and I talk, believe me, to the radical fringe as well as the liberals and also the ones who fall in between) that many of the liberals, and a significant percentage of the Aam Pakistani have realised that they have paid too high a cost for the pursuit of Kashmir. And those people have begun to question that fruitless quest.

  24. @ Bhanja

    Yeah, I'm staggered. I'm quite happy to reply to people who disagree with me. But it's a bit tough to reply to accusations sans arguments!!

    She: You're a pseudo sickularist Kangress desh-drohi!

    Me: Er...

  25. Dear Shuklaji

    I am the Anon at 10: 06

    Thanks for replying to my post

    Please READ this article from
    Mr PERVEZ Hoodbhoy

    Here is an excerpt

    Pakistan bleeds from a thousand cuts. If things had gone according to plan it is India that should have been hurting now, not Pakistan. The army’s 25 years-old low-cost, high-impact strategy of covert warfare would have liberated Kashmir and secured Afghanistan from Indian influence. Instead, a fierce blowback has led to a daily pileup of shaheeds, the casualties of a plan that went awry.

    Mr HOODBHOY is perhaps the most liberal Paki you will ever get


    "If things had gone according to plan it is India that should have been hurting now, not Pakistan."

    This SHOWS that ALL Pakis were
    UNITED in the PROJECT to HURT India

    But unfortunately for Pakis their Plans and dreams backfired Post 9 /11

    Sir PLEASE try to do some FACE READING of the LIBERAL Pakis that you meet


    You will see Massive FRUSTRATION
    Anger Grief

    IMAGINED that their Country would be in such deep shit as it is now

  26. The problem may be more complex than what meets the eye. When one talks about Pakistan, one must keep in mind the ethnic calculus inside Pakistan viz. 1.> Baluchistan and its inhabitants who would not mind breaking away from the country 2.> Punjab-where the real power lies and again 3.> Sindh- which is not really this way or that way. Unless the decision makers inside Pakistan and the Pakistani Army start coming up with pragmatic decisions, it will be very hard for Pakistan to prevent its balkanization. What the world doesn't yet know is whether or not a balkanized will be more difficult to handle than the present day Pakistan.

  27. BS.. few days in Pakistan and you are talking in their language. India's attitude towards that country is not based on few days of interaction. Its based on 70 years of hostilities.

    Till few years ago I used to think of all this BS, but now both countries are past that save point.

    Only option is to leave them alone and let them do as they wish, heck even give them whatever land they want. Just let India live in peace.

  28. @Shukla - You mean to suggest Pak establishment will give up wahabism and embrace sufism??? Probably, Zardari's visit to Ajmer was process to Kick-Start that strategy. But, and with lots of buts, why will Arab Shura allow them to do that????

    Let's all of us understand that as Afghanistan is strategic depth of Pakistan. Pakistan itself is strategic depth of Arab (Sunni) princely states. By propagating and encouraging wahabism in host countries, Pakistan in this case, they get easy and extremely motivated resources for their comfort and pleasures. Islamic bomb and Pakistan Army are gift from Arab Shura for embracing wahabism.

    So, Shukla Pakistan cannot give up wahabism and embrace sufism as middle path. It's investors just need to top up a little to dislodge this strategy. For them it does not make any difference, if not Kayani they can fund Hafeez Saeed. What difference does it make it to them? Both have scalable resources and are excellent executioners of masters plan.

    Your hypothesis would have been correct if and only if Pakistan would have independent strategy and policy making will power and resources. They are extremely dependent on benevolence of Arabs, Americans and Chinese.

    Classic example of 65 years of efforts wasted to achieve differentiation from India. Probably, it should be good example to people in Kashmir and Bangladesh.


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