By Zubair Khalil Khan
Followings are the few excerpts from the news recently appeared in media reports encompassing tense situation which unfortunately has propped up between USA and Pakistan. Few days back, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pressurized the Pakistani government to crack down on Haqqani network, saying, “Our biggest concern right now is to put as much pressure as possible on the Pakistanis to exercise control from their side of the border. We’ve continued to state that this cannot happen. We cannot have the Haqqanis coming across the border attacking our forces, attacking (Afghans), and then disappearing back into a safe haven. That is not tolerable and we have urged them to take steps.” Similarly, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also stepped up the pressure in recent days. In a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart this past weekend, he told Gen. Ashfaq Kayani that the Pakistani government should stop sheltering the Haqqanis. Mullen and others have said the United States believes elements of the Pakistani intelligence service are supporting Haqqani attacks. Mullen was equally blunt when he publicly called on Pakistan to do more to rein in the Haqqani network.”The Haqqani piece of this has got to be reversed, period,” he said in a speech in Washington. He added that the ISI, the Pakistan intelligence service, has to stop what he called its long practice of funding extremist groups.”The ISI has been doing this, supporting proxies, for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future,” Mullen said. One of the US sources said Panetta is not signaling that U.S. troops will move against the Haqqanis inside Pakistan. “No decision has been made on that, but all options are on the table always,” he said.
As a reaction to this blunt language and mounting pressure, Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Kayani summoned Corp Commanders emergency meeting on 25th of Septmeber-2011 which lasted for 6 hours. Along with few other points, this emergency meeting was to consider against the backdrop of sharp US allegations that the Pakistani army’s powerful spy agency supported the Haqqani militant group Washington blames for the recent attack on its embassy and other targets in Kabul. All the Pakistani military commanders, present in the meeting, agreed to resist US demands for a Pakistani army offensive in North Waziristan, where the United States believes the Haqqani network is based. The anonym military source said “We have already conveyed to the US that Pakistan cannot go beyond what it has already done.”Meanwhile, civil government of Pakistan, in order to show its harmony with actual rulers of the Pakistan, also made some cosmetic movements and contacted few political party leaders. However since everyone knows it is the Pakistan Army which controls the foreign and security policies of the country as such whole attention remained diverted to the communiqué of Pakistan Army. In addition to above mentioned statement, Joint Chief Gen Wyne also reasserted the will of Pakistan Defense forces to counter any attempt against the sovereignty of Pakistan. However here, one has to keep in mind that in the past such lip serviced reassertions were also made before the debacle of 1971. The stand point expressed by the Pakistan Army, this time also proves to be only a lip service or otherwise, one has to wait until count down by USA comes to an end.
A critical analysis of current tense situation points towards following possibilities.
- Possibility Nr 1. Long term aim of US is to directly handle the reconciliation process with the all the factions of Taliban including Haqqani Group and set its terms, without involving Karzai and Pakistan. Departure of Burhan has further facilitated the job of US as he was effectively advocating the role of Karzai and Pakistan in peace process of Afghanistan. Few fingers point at US/NATO for his elimination. In his last interview with Russian channel, Mr Burhan narrated the fact that US wanted to sideline Pakistan from reconciliation process. He also admitted to have received assistance as well as certain commitments from Pakistan. He further explained, “A lot depends upon Pakistan’s attitude … As soon as the government of Pakistan decides that it is time to seriously tackle the issue of peace in Afghanistan and undertakes the task of providing their assistance and protection to our country, I’m sure the peace process will be out of the deadlock.” Along with safe and respectable with drawl of US/ NATO forces and, agreement for extended stay of US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 are two main objectives to which, US wants, all the factions of Talibans to agree. Such a scenario does not fit in to the strategic depth/ threat doctrine of Pakistan Army. Resultantly, Taliban factions controlled by ISI are continuously tipped not to agree to these terms and conditions of USA, rather motivated and supported to create havoc for the US/NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. Contrary to the aforementioned conceived strategic/threat perception of Pakistan Army, many Pakistani intellectuals these days are exerting pressure on defense analysts of Pakistan military to review its threat and strategic doctrines. As a result, Pakistani Military top brass perception of supporting Taliban on the pretext later to use them as strategic asset is also evaporating quickly. Within the army if some upcoming General grasps it could cause a coup and can take over the rein of military power thus putting the Pakistan Army on an entirely new real strategic/threat perception track resulting in to a complete new era for the Pakistan.
- Possibility Nr 2. On forwarded defended localities, inspection to ascertain the efficiency of deployed artillery pieces by US/NATO top brass, in military terminology, is an indicator for hostile intentions of the forces deployed there. US/NATO forces are probably planning to utilize long range field artillery to augment the pounding of Waziristan which basically will be bombarded through drones. War planes can also support this mission through strategic bombing. Counter artillery fire by Pakistan Army and interception of US/NATO air planes will definitely escalate the tense situation. Further worsening of the situation can induce Army chief to declare emergency in the country and he can grab the power from President/Prime Minister. What ultimate result will be coming up from such a scenario, nation should not forget the 1971 situation.
- Possibility Nr. 3. Since top brass of USA explicitly expressed the aim of its anti Pakistani oratory to put the Pakistani rulers under pressure to do more against Haqqani Group as such likely chances are that after showing some resentment and aggressive postures, few cosmetic actions will be coming up by Pakistan Army against the Haqqani Group thus facilitating the US to cool down its temperature. Mainly it will be stop gap arrangements and will not end the tug of war being pursued by both the countries. Gaining of time by Pakistan might be utilized to explore the possibility of some help from its allies like China and Saudi Arabia in retaining substantial say for any peace solution of Afghanistan.
In order of priority possibility Nr. 3, then Nr 2 and lastly Nr 1 are likely to come in to play as current top Pakistani leadership lacks vision and the incompetency of this leadership will ultimately result in to the further chaos and confusion in the country.