Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf is under pressure.
For the first time since he seized power on October 12,1999, there are indications that he and some of his Lts.General, who constitute the real source of his power and not the people, are not on the same wavelength.
There are reports---persisting, but as yet unconfirmed---of differences over his handling of Pakistan's proxy war against India over Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the steadily deteriorating situation in Balochistan.
Pakistani military officers---Musharraf is no exception to this--- are in the habit of misjudging India. One has seen this ever since it was born as an independent country in 1947. It was this misjudgement, which led to the loss of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. It also led to its Kargil misadventure in 1999.
When former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee dropped his pre-conditions for a dialogue with Pakistan and invited Musharraf to India for the Agra summit in 2001 and unrolled the red carpet for him, there was euphoria in the headquarters of Pakistan's military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). They thought that battle fatigue had set in the Indian Army and that it was under its pressure that Vajpayee had invited him. He came to Agra thinking that the Indian Government was coming to terms with what he saw as the ground reality in J&K and would be amenable to a territorial compromise. To his surprise and shock, he found that this was not so.
The result: His orders, on his return to Pakistan, for an escalation of jihadi terrorism not only in J&K, but also in other Indian territory outside J&K. The various incidents that followed such as the attack on the J&K Legislative Assembly in October,2001,on the Indian Parliament in December,2001, on the Indian security guards outside the American Centre in Kolkata (Calcutta) in January, 2002 etc were in implementation of his orders to step up jihadi pressure on the Indian security forces and political leadership in the hope of thereby convincing them that there is no alternative to a territorial compromise if India wanted to be left in peace.
The sudden overtures once again made by Vajpayee during his visit to Srinagar in April,2003, and the subsequent indications of an Indian desire for a fresh dialogue, which culminated in the Islamabad agreement of January 2004 for a composite dialogue on all bilateral issues, including J&K, again led to a misjudgement in Pakistan Army's GHQ, of battle fatigue in the Indian Army and a consequent pressure on the political leadership to do a territorial deal with Pakistan.
The course of the composite dialogue during the last one year and the Indian stand, as so lucidly explained by Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on more than one occasion, that any bilateral agreement should not involve the re-drawing of the maps and any fresh partition of territory, have once again brought home to the GHQ that there is hardly any battle fatigue in India and that India is not prepared for any territorial compromise.
In pursuance of the Islamabad agreement of January 2004, under which Musharraf had given a commitment to India that he would not allow any territory under the control of Pakistan to be used for acts of terrorism against India, he did take some measures to impose limited control over the Pakistani jihadi terrorists operating in India. He advised them to keep their terrorist activities confined to Kashmiri territory and to avoid acts of terrorism in other Indian territory outside J&K. The jihadi terrorists have followed his advice. There has been no major act of jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside J&K since August 25,2003, when two explosions in Mumbai (Bombay) killed about 30 innocent civilians.
He has also reduced the infiltration of jihadi terrorists into J&K either across the Line of Control (LOC) or through Nepal to a scale adequate to keep the terrorism sustained at a moderate level without indulging in spectacular acts.
The disappointment in the Pakistan Army's GHQ over India's continued adherence to its traditional stand against any territorial compromise has come at a time of growing concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan due to the fresh freedom struggle launched by the Baloch nationalists. The strength of their freedom struggle and the motivation and tenacity of the young Balochs, who are behind it, have taken the Pakistani Army by surprise.
The situation in Balochistan is going from bad to worse. The remarkable success of the Baloch freedom-fighters in disrupting the supply of gas from the production fields at Sui in Balochistan to the rest of Pakistan and railway services to and from Balochistan has rattled the Army.
Musharraf finds himself in a dilemma. His instincts as a commando are to go for the military option immediately before the situation in the State slips out of control. His political instincts as the President advise caution and against misadventure. No political or religious party, including his own stooges in the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), is in favour of the military option. They are advising him to control his commando reflexes. The Muttahida Qaumi Mouvement (MQM) of Altaf Hussian, whose continued support is necessary for the survival of the federal Government in Islamabad and the provincial Government in Karachi, has warned against military intervention in Balochistan.
The efforts for a negotiated political solution to the demands of the Baloch nationalists have not made any progress despite offers of an increase in the gas extraction royalty payments to the Government of Balochistan and to the Bugti tribal leaders in whose territory the gas fields are found and an economic package for the province to reduce unemployment. The Baloch freedom struggle has moved long past the stage where economic palliatives and some hush money to tribal elders might have put out the fire.
The Baloch youth behind the present freedom struggle has tasted success and feels that it is "now or never" for them if they really want to achieve an independent Balochistan. Musharraf has, for the present during the last 10 days, rushed about 20,000 members of the security forces, about 5,000 of them from the Army and the rest from the para-military forces, to Balochistan to prevent any further deterioration of law and order.
The reported instructions to them are to strengthen protectice security for the gas filelds and pipeline and means of communications and for the Chinese-aided projects such as the Gwadar port construction project. A decision has not yet been taken for an offensive operation to crush the Baloch freedom-fighters.
There are reports of differences at the senior levels of the military leadership (Majors-General and above) over the advisability and timing of an offensive operation. The older pre-1971 batches of officers, more retired than serving, with painful and embarrassing memories of the consequences of the mishandling of the Bengali freedom struggle by Gen.Yahya Khan and the likes of Gen.Tikka Khan, are reportedly advising caution. The post-1971 batches of officers, not burdened or moderated by any such memories, are reportedly urging the immediate launching of offensive operations to crush the Baloch freedom-fighters before it is too late.
It is believed that Musharraf himself, though a pre-1971 military product, agrees with the younger officers that the time for action has come. At the same time, he has always had the reputation of trying to take all his Lts.General along with him before taking any major decision. He has maintained his control over the Army through his policy of consensus and avoiding the imposition of his will over the other senior officers. He is working for such a consensus and once he achieves it, he is likely to launch an offensive operation against the Baloch freedom fighters, with no holds barred.
Though the Pakistan Foreign Office has been avoiding and discouraging any talk or speculation of an alleged foreign hand in the deteriorating situation in Balochistan, many military leaders do not exercise such restraint. They are not prepared to admit the possibility that the new crop of Baloch freedom fighters could have organised and motivated themselves so well without any external inspiration, if not support. In their perception, the needle of suspicion points at Iran and India. At Iran because of its perceived unhappiness over Musharraf's collaboration with the USA in its efforts to mount an operation against Iran's nuclear capability. At India, because of its unhappiness over Pakistan's continuing proxy war against it.
It is in this connection that the advisability of Pakistan's continuing to adhere to its policy of self-restraint and non-use of terrorism against India has reportedly come up for discussions in the GHQ. The Pakistani correspondent of Asia Times Online, who is quite well-informed on military matters, had reported recently that at a meeting of the Corps Commanders held last month under the chairmanship of Musharraf, a decision has already been taken to re-escalate Pakistan's proxy war in Indian territory. The Asia Times correspondent had connected this reported decision with the Pakistani disappointment over what it perceives as the lack of progress in the bilateral dialogue process.
He had not connected it to the Balochistan situation, which had not assumed such alarming proportions at the time of last month's corps commanders' conference as it has presently. The pressures now faced by Musharraf in Balochistan have become an additional factor, in the eyes of the Pakistani military leadership, for re-escalating jihadi terrorism against India.
If Musharraf decides to launch an offensive operation to crush the Baloch freedom fighters, he would be tempted to combine it with a re-escalation of jihadi terrorism against India in the calculation that he would thereby prevent India from taking advantage of the resulting situation.
There is a need for a heightened alert by the Indian security forces and counter-terrorism agencies. The recent violations of the more than a year-long ceasefire along the LOC by the Pakistan Army and its allegations of violations by the Indian security forces appear for now as isolated incidents, but to treat them totally as without much significance would be unwise. They could be the indicators of a Pakistani re-thinking and forerunners of a re-escalation of terrorism. (27-1-05)
* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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