Event ReportsPublished on Sep 21, 2007
Brigadier V R P Sarathy (retd) initiated a discussion on Political Developments in Pakistan and Impact on India on Saturday 22, 2007 in ORF Chennai. He started his discussion on Pakistan's political development with Stephen P. Cohen's words: 'Pakistan is cursed by history but blessed by geography - always at the right place at the wrong time'.
Political developments in Pakistan and Impact on India

Brigadier V R P Sarathy (retd) initiated a discussion on Political Developments in Pakistan and Impact on India on Saturday 22, 2007 in ORF Chennai. He started his discussion on Pakistan's political development with Stephen P. Cohen's words:  ‘Pakistan is cursed by history but blessed by geography – always at the right place at the wrong time’.

Pakistan wields major influence in the growing Islamist movement in Central Asia and is an important centre of gravity for both terrorism and even counter-terrorism efforts worldwide. The threat is that weakening Pakistan could render its nuclear arsenal vulnerable to terrorists. The main scope of discussion was the present political scenario against the past political history followed by army’s dominant role in Pakistan, with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto as the major political players. General Pervez Musharraf's role and the recent problems were analysed by factoring the two former prime ministers who now want to return to active politics in Pakistan. The implications of Bhutto-Musharraf deal, role of minor political parties with militant ideology and its implications for India in the short and long term were analysed. The outcome did not look very encouraging from the point of view of stability in Pakistan. With the detailed analysis of important milestones from 1947 to date, Sarathy drew the attention of the participants to the violent political history of Pakistan.  Among Pakistan's prime ministers one was shot in public, one was hanged and two are now exiled. One of the Presidents had a mysterious death, and the Constitution of Pakistan was amended thrice. There are several events leading to present political crisis, which was discussed in two phases -- pre-9/11 and post 9/11. Like in the past this crisis too is basically between the military dictator and a set of politicians against the backdrop of increasing fundamentalism and jihad’s militancy. Kargil War triggered the crisis between Sharif and the Army Chief Musharraf. One of them had to go and it was Nawaz charged with high treason. In the Post 9/11 period Musharaf tried somewhat changing the political direction and strategy of Pakistan. He promised all help to US in its fight against terror and professed friendly relations with the new US sponsored Afghan Govt. The Pakistan Army has ruled the state for about 33 years out of 60 years of its existence. The army was and would continue to be the major political player in all power struggles. Military rule or martial law was imposed in 1955, 1958, 1969, and 1977 and in 1999 on an average once in every decade of existence. The Army is all powerful and is obsessed with the idea of having “matching capability” with that of India which is eight times bigger in size and resources – man to man, weapon to weapon. Even then the Pakistan Army proved itself too powerful and too heavy to be kept out of National Politics. Islamabad based physicist – Pervez Hoodbhoy – has been quoted as saying, “All countries have armies but in Pakistan things are reversed. Here the Army has a country.’’ To appreciate the mindset of institutionalised Pakistan Army the discussion was split into two phases -- 1971 Indo-Pak war where Pakistan Army had humiliating defeat with the breaking up of the country in to two parts. Since then, Pakistan has been obsessed with the thought of breaking up India by proxy war and by fomenting trouble in Kashmir and other vulnerable parts. Regrettably, the fragmentation of India appears to be the only viable strategy for Pakistan’s very survival. Pakistan feels that India should be fragmented (like the erstwhile USSR) so that it no longer poses a threat to Pakistan.

Pakistan   is at crossroads today.   The crisis commenced with the assertive role of religious parties in theocratic Pakistan. Though the Two-Nation theory had lost its relevance after the Bangladesh war, the Shias feel threatened in Sunni-dominated Pakistan. The fundamentalism with increasing ‘Talibanisation’ is spreading its head across the whole of Pakistan.

The speaker very critically discussed the role of two politicians -- Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan Politics. An ethnic Kashmiri settled in Punjab, Nawaz Sharif, two times prime minister of Pakistan appeared secure in power at the beginning of 1999. But he became unpopular then and seems to be unpopular even now. He did not really get large crowds to receive him on his return to Pakistan recently. B. Raman, political analyst, says "Nawaz took his decision to return without taking into account the US discomfort and Saudi Arabia's worry that weakening Musharraf might play in to the hands of Al-Qaeda, which is determined to overthrow Saudi Monarchy." The general public reaction of 1999 coup by Musharraf was in a way for the military to prevent rampant corruption and to prevent consolidation of power in the democratic arena. The problem was neither Islam nor corruption, rather the balance of power in civil-military relations that had gradually begun to shift toward the civilian arena.

Benazir Bhutto, who heads Pakistan People's Party started by her late father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, is the first woman ever to lead a modern Islamic nation. She has been accused of marinating status quo, rather than challenging the feudal and the rich man's policies under pressure from the military, bureaucratic establishment. She is also declared as an absconder by courts for failing to appear before them for charges against her. Ultimately none of the two political leaders was successful. Ms Bhutto is determined that General Musharraf should be out of uniform and step down as an army chief. Commenting on the progress of the deal, she has said that 80 percent of her deal with the military leader had been completed. By this statement one can understand her anxiety to return to Pakistan to gain power. The question that has been raised is that would this be at the expense of democracy?

Implications for India

Pakistan’s political situation is in a flux. "Wait and watch" seems to be the best policy for India. The Musharraf regime seems to be enjoying backing of Saudi Arabia, its own army, some political parties and the US. From Zia's time, the nuclear button is in the hands of Pakistan Army. Fragmentation of India being the accepted State policy of Pakistan, India may have to go for a total approach to tackling terrorism from Pakistan in all its manifestations. As KPS Gill said: "For India Kashmir is not the core issue, Jihad against India is.''

Sarathy drew extensively from the observations of late Mr. J.N. Dixit, National Security Adviser to Government of India, in his book Indo- Pakistan in War and Peace said that Pakistan is not likely to agree to any political solution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue.  It will continue its political campaign over military and terrorist operations against India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan, on the basis of ground realities, unalterable objective is to capture Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan will also engineer violence and terrorism in other parts of India in support of its proxy war in Kashmir. India should remain politically sensitive to these prospects at the policy level and should maintain continuous military alertness vis a vis Pakistan along the Line of Control as well as the International Border. India will have to locate troops and security forces to the maximum extent possible on the Line of Control around the year. Firmness in dealing with Pakistan at the operation level combined with restraint will get India international support. India should be alert about the strategic implications of this development. He concluded by saying: "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.” The views from Pakistan - irrespective of who comes to power the army will be the real power behind the throne. Benazir Bhutto "Nothing could conceal the truth: Kargil had been the biggest blunder. The country had lost its eastern wing in 1971. That defeat could be passed on to the Indians. But the regime in Pakistan alone was responsible for the Kargil blunder.''

During the discussions after the presentation by Brigadier Sarathy, issues of Talibanisation of Islamic community in Pakistan and the danger it portends to stability and peace came up. Speakers   mentioned about the twists and turns in the calendar events of Pakistan. While drawing attention to the inevitability of not being in a position to choose one’s neighbours, in real time the embittered relation governed by the boundaries in South Asia should be eliminated for universal peace and prosperity. There appeared to be a sense of despair in the trustworthiness of our western neighbour. It was generally agreed that the Pak Army and its Generals would continue to have a say in the matters of the Nation. It was brought out that this might indeed be a factor that may prevent the fundamentalists from taking over despite their growing influence in the country.

The army is the institutionally a stable institution. The Army and the elite should forge partnership for peace and political development in Pakistan. Pakistan is not only religious; the state does not even have secularism. Sectarianism rules the nation. Democracy will not solve the issue even if there is an election in Pakistan the result will be futile-

For India the recommended strategy would be to: 'Wait and watch, and hold a stick if necessary'

List of Participants: -

  1. Admiral Mohan Raman IN (Retd)
  2. Professor V Suryanarayan
  3. Colonel HariharanIndian Army (Retd)
  4. Mr.Ravi Samuel
  5. Mr.Visa Ravindran
  6. Mr.Sripathi N Student, Madras University
  7. Brig Subramaniam(Retd)
  8. Mr.Nitin A Soman, Student Pondicherry University
  9. Mr.SN Chari
  10. Mr. S Ramesan Journalist
  11. Ms. Piroja Belgaumvala
  12. Mr DM Belgaumvala
  13. Mr L V Krishnan
  14. Captain H Balakrishnan IN (Retd)
  15. Mr Sathiyamoorthy,ORF
  16. Ms Dhanalakshmi Ayyer
  17. Ms Pramila,ORF
  18. Commodore RS Vasan IN (Retd), ORF
  19. Ms Maheswari Rana, ORF

Report compiled by Ms Maheswari Rana of ORF

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