Author : Vikram Sood

Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Sep 19, 2019
Pakistan: Life after articles 370 and 35A

India - Pakistan relations have been marked by four wars initiated by them, unending Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, brief spells of fake cordiality and long periods of high decibel animosity. They are in the last mentioned state these days, and likely to remain there for some time. One might say that the immediate provocation for Pakistan has been the Indian decision to revoke Articles 370 and 35A. This is something the BJP had mentioned in its election manifesto, and should not have surprised Pakistan. The decision on the revocation of the articles was not a sudden ‘inspired’ stroke; it would have been worked out months in advance, including the worst-case scenarios. This would have included political and media reactions at home and abroad, and that of the diaspora. The security dimension and the need for restraining some individuals and institutions also would have been taken into account. Perhaps only the exact timing would have been left undecided. Possibly the nature of Imran Khan’s meeting with Donald Trump in relation to Afghanistan and Trump’s off the cuff remarks about Kashmir decided the timing.

It is important to remember that whatever their people may want, Pakistan’s military leaders are obsessed with India. They want equality if not superiority; they seek revenge for having lost four wars, for the breakup of their country in 1971. Increasingly, this revenge takes the form of terror in Kashmir that has spread out into other parts of India. This obsession has meant converting Pakistan into a truly Islamic state equipped with nuclear weapons that they threaten to use. It has also meant that their country is being pushed back into the medieval ages while the economy lies shattered. International organizations such as FATF are examining Pakistan’s role in terrorism and Pakistan’s future as an abettor of terrorism will be decided in October.

We kept taking losses despite provocations, such as the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993, the attack on Parliament in 2001, train bomb blasts in Mumbai in 2006, and finally, the Mumbai carnage of 2008. These were some of the major provocations outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The world appreciated New Delhi’s remarkable restraint and we congratulated ourselves for this responsible inaction. Appeasement never satisfies neither the greedy nor the predator; it leads to further appeasement. Pakistani rulers feeding on their own propaganda had convinced themselves and their people, that Indians did not have the ability to fight back, and that their theory that one Muslim is equal to ten Hindus was proving correct.

These short spells of bonhomie between elected leaders in Pakistan and India were taking place at a time when the Pakistani rulers (meaning the Army) were getting decidedly uncomfortable that democracy might at last be taking root in the country. Asif Zardari had completed the PPP’s five-year term in 2013 - in itself a record in Pakistan – and had handed over power through the ballot box to Nawaz Sharif, which too was bad news as Rawalpindi was not consulted; the people had decided. It was beginning to appear that Nawaz might last his full term and worse, he might succeed in winning another term, as there was no viable opposition at that time. Even worse, his daughter might succeed him later if this trend continued and Pakistan could be in for dynastic-democratic rule. This simply had to stop. Therefore, the massive terror attack in Uri killing 19 soldiers in September 2016 to push back any possibility of peace with the enemy. Unexpectedly, India retaliated ten days later and the government made it known that its Special Forces had carried out this attack. Pakistan did not read the message that the Modi government was going to play the game differently. It was under the watch of the new Prime Minster Imran Khan that terrorists struck again in February 2019 killing more than 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama. The Indian retaliation with an aerial attack in Balakot was another message that India had changed the rules of the game. Terror would invite retaliation.

These short spells of bonhomie between elected leaders in Pakistan and India were taking place at a time when the Pakistani rulers (meaning the Army) were getting decidedly uncomfortable that democracy might at last be taking root in the country.

However, search for a suitable successor outside the Bhutto-Sharif cliques had already begun some years earlier taking into account that it takes time to spot and build a leader, just as they had tried with Nawaz Sharif after Zia’s assassination in 1988. They needed a person who was unencumbered by family so there would be no dynastic successors. An Islamic bent of mind and a national charisma would be an added bonus.

After retiring from cricket, Imran Khan initially moved towards philanthropy and in the process came under the influence of former ISI chief and a cult figure in that organization, Brig. Hamid Gul, father of the Afghan Mujahedeen, a great friend of the CIA, hater of India and later an admirer of the Taliban. Imran’s other patron was Pasban’s Muhammed Ali Durrani, formerly of the Jamaat Islami.  The three of them claimed their agenda was to form a “third force”, a pressure group that would represent the middle class. Imran Khan was the poster boy of this campaign that gradually became increasingly political under the guidance of Gul and Durrani.

The Pasban had taken Imran under its wing and organised a Jashn-e-Fatah in Lahore after the cricket World Cup victory in 1992, followed by fund raising shows for Imran’s hospital project and then the show became distinctly political. Speculations about Imran’s political ambitions became common. Gul helped Imran create his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996, but did not win a single seat in the 1997 elections, and just one seat in the National Assembly in 2002.

Possibly influenced by Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism of Gul and Durrani, Imran had begun to call for peace with the Taliban.  He began to support the Taliban-linked insurgents in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa region, as he wanted to give PTI political space in the province and lead his party to form the provincial government. He succeeded but not before he had earned the nickname of ‘Taliban Khan’ when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) asked him to represent them at negotiations with the government. When the TTP shot and killed 150 schoolchildren and teachers in the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, the brave Imran Khan did not comment.

On a visit to the US last July, Imran Khan admitted Pakistan still had about 30,000 to 40,000 trained terrorists who had fought in some parts of Afghanistan or Kashmir. A startling admission by a Prime Minister. He also admitted that 40 different militant groups were operating from Pakistan, and that past governments had not admitted this to the U.S.They would have to be deployed somewhere soon. Unable to deploy these out-of-work jihadis under its own Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) flags would push them to use false-flag operations with an ISIS or Al Qaeda banner.

Many critics of the Modi government seem to think that the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A will eventually lead to an Intifada in Kashmir, and the state could become like Palestine. As it happens this is also the Pakistani propaganda line. Others say Article 370 had been diluted, hence there was really no need to revoke it and we could let it be there in the Constitution. Wrong again, because if something is irrelevant why keep it on our statute books especially when it was meant to be temporary in the first place?

Some months ago, writing elsewhere, this author had said Pakistan would launch a Ghazwa-e-Hind after the Americans leave Afghanistan.  Events there will have a bearing on India’s security and we need to be better prepared to handle this. Pakistan may be unable to resort to terror so long as it cannot satisfy the FATF members about its action on the ground against banned outfits and their leaders.  Pakistan has also failed to comply on at least 32 of the 40 pointers. Since then, they have been under immense pressure to ensure compliance before October 2019, when FATF will take a final decision on Pakistan’s fate in its listings. Should the Paris determination be adverse Pakistan’s economic distress will worsen further.

Pakistan may be unable to resort to terror so long as it cannot satisfy the FATF members about its action on the ground against banned outfits and their leaders. 

Inevitably, Pakistan will try to create trouble and India will have to deal with this while it simultaneously seeks to bring normalcy in Kashmir. Both will have to be dealt with separately, and it is unthinkable that Pakistan will help bring about normalcy in Kashmir. Sometimes, we tend to deal with Pakistan as a ‘normal’ country. It is not quite that. After every war that Pakistan fought with India, and lost, their self-serving introspection led them to the conclusion each time that their Islam was not strong enough, nor the Army equipped well enough. Thus, both became stronger after each war. After the Afghan mujahedeen with help from America and Pakistan had pushed the Soviets out, jihadi terror became a cost-effective and favourite weapon against India.  Hatred for India cultivated for long among citizens from their childhood and a desire among the military rulers to be equal to India and Kashmir, became the single point reference for every successive political and military ruler. Imaan, Taqwa and Jihad fi sabililla became the Army’s motto and they were free to pursue terrorism under the nuclear umbrella for glory of Islam.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s intemperate tweets that spew venom against Narendra Modi are a new low in bilateral relations. His Independence Day speeches in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad where he spoke of jihad and establishing Riyasat-e-Madina (Charter of Madina) in Pakistan were an exhibition of Islamic belligerence while at the same time accusing Modi of ushering in ‘Hindutva’ in India. Imran sounded like the 7th century in the 21st century.

Obviously, Pakistan’s leadership has lost its way and it is now left only with religious hyperventilation, largely alone except for some support from the New York Times, the Mayor of London  and BBC. Studied silence from Pakistan’s friends in West Asia is another indication of their isolation.

Pakistani society still has a moderate and rational section that recognizes the need for peace and normalcy with India. Over the years, extremist cacophony and fear of reprisal has drowned these groups. The street is increasingly under the control of extremists although their strength is not reflected in parliament nor the other elected provincial bodies. This segment backed by the military establishment will not allow for any peace with India and we will have to live with this reality of Pakistan.

Instead of looking for any short cuts to peace and tranquility with Pakistan, India should   wait for Pakistan to reset itself. Meanwhile New Delhi should concentrate on restoring normalcy in Jammu & Kashmir, mainstreaming the population, especially the youth, encourage investment in the state and keep a careful watch on what China might be planning to help its only true friend and dependency.

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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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