Originally Published 2013-02-07 00:00:00 Published on Feb 07, 2013
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is due to complete his term in office after the elections later this year. The role of General Kayani, the Army Chief who is due to complete his extended term this year, remains to be seen. It is to be noted that the ISI is also under the Army.
Pakistan facing many crises
Pakistan is engulfed in a series of crises both on the external and internal fronts. Taking up the external crisis to begin with, Pakistan’s jawans carried out a series of attacks in the Mendhar region of Poonch across the LoC which led to a serious situation across the border. In particular, the beheading of Indian Lance Naik Hemraj and mutilation of his body were serious violations of human rights and rules of war. This led to an uproar in India, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to warn Pakistan that it should not treat the matter lightly and there could not be business as usual.

Though initially Pakistan treated the cross border incidents casually, the Pakistani authorities soon realised that the situation was serious and that they should carry out an investigation into the incidents, including the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Pakistan was prepared to look into all the allegations and she called for a meeting with her Indian counterpart to discuss all the issues involved. The Indian Foreign Minister, Mr Salman Khurshid, however, ruled out a meeting with the Pakistani counterpart until Pakistan restored normalcy and peace across the LoC and the situation returned to normal. Inhuman acts like beheading of soldiers seem to have found acceptance by the Pakistani Army, after it allied with fanatical jihadi groups to avenge a proxy war in Kashmir and the rest of India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is rocked internally by various problems. A Canadian born Barelvi cleric named Tahir-ul-Qadri suddenly appeared in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad in the third week of January, gathering large crowds and leading big processions and all the times thundering that the Pakistan Government should resign immediately. Tahir-ul-Qadri has an interesting background. He is said to be a Sufi scholar and had lived in Saudi Arabia for many years. He is also said to have visited the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer Sherif quite a few times. In his various speeches, Tahir-ul-Qadri had threatened to unleash a mass movement to overthrow President Asif Ali Zardari and clean up national politics. Qadri demanded electoral reforms, a bar on corrupt politicians from holding office and ushering in of a caretaker government headed by an honest person ahead of the elections scheduled to take place later this year. The Government of Pakistan got alarmed and sent a 10- member delegation consisting of federal ministers and leaders of Pakistan’s political parties which held discussions with Qadri and signed an agreement.

It is believed that Pakistan Army Chief Pervez Kayani is in sympathy with the Barelvi’s movement and that he is quietly backing him in his activities.

As if these problems were not enough to rock the boat of Pakistan, the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court suddenly came out with an order for the arrest of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on allegations of corruption while he was working as Power Minister earlier. The judicial order of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was described by observers as a judicial coup and deliberately timed to coincide with the mass movement of Tahir-ul-Qadri. President Asif Ali Zardari meanwhile called a meeting of his Cabinet to discuss the developments. Imran Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Insaf, added to the confusion of the internal situation by calling for the immediate resignation of President Zardari and dissolution of the government, followed by the appointment of a caretaker government until the elections are held later this year.

Yet another problem of law and order was reported from Karachi in the third week of January. A Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader and three others, including two policemen, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi which led to a series of protests by the party’s workers. Manzar Imam, a member of the Sindh Assembly, and a bodyguard were also killed in a shootout in Karachi. The attack on the Imam was considered serious, since he had been assigned security men for his protection. The attackers, who were riding motorcycles, escaped after the shooting incident.

A well-known expert of Pakistan affairs, Bruce Riedel, has stated that Pakistan’s time bomb is ticking away. The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 will unsettle the border situation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, thereby creating a fluid situation in that country and the border region in Afghanistan. According to Riedel, the US intelligence community rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030. He goes on to state that Pakistan remains a patron and state sponsor of terror. Three of the five most wanted on America’s counterterrorism list - LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda head Ayman al Zawahiri - live in Pakistan. It is well known that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is large, larger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals since the civilian government has only nominal control.

President Asif Ali Zardari is due to complete his term in office after the elections later this year. The role of General Kayani, the Army Chief who is due to complete his extended term this year, remains to be seen. The ISI is under the control of the Pakistan Army, and its role and activities during the election period would also be of great interest.

America’s relationship with Pakistan deteriorated dramatically during the first term of President Barack Obama. His second term has just begun. According to observers, the situation remains to be carefully watched. They believe that Washington and New Delhi need to be vigilant, but they should also be supportive of Pakistan’s efforts to become a normal state after decades of coups and assassinations. The people of Pakistan have been the victims. Now more than ever, 2013 could be a transformative year for Pakistan and indeed it would be a battle for the soul of that country.

(The writer is an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation. He is a former Governor of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal)

Courtesy: The Tribune,

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