By: Manzur Ejaz, Wichaar.com
The other day a very respectable political analyst made a surprising claim that Pakistan’s military is the only institution genuinely concerned about prevailing conditions of the country. Clearly he was specifically referring to dead-locked Pak-US relations where political parties, numbed or scared by anti-America populism, cannot come together to find a viable solution. One can assume that such sentiments must have been communicated to him by the highest level of the core state. However, the problem is that the fearsome anti-US jinni was created by the military and now it wants the civilians to put it back in the bottle.
Anti-US rhetoric was amped-up much before the Osama killing, Memogate or NATO’s attack on a Pakistani military post, Salasa, last November. A concerted, rather furious, campaign against the US was undertaken by the military against the Kerry-Lugar bill’s provisions demanding civilian control over the armed forces. The media campaign dubbed the provisions an ‘intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs.’ The military had initiated this campaign mainly to reassert its monopoly over Pakistan’s foreign policy, to enhance bargaining power with the US, and to appease Taliban for stopping suicidal attacks. The deep state was successful in pulling off an absolute take-over of country’s foreign policy, and partially scaling down the Taliban suicidal attacks, but the objective of ‘enhancing bargaining power’ did not materialize because of misplaced assumptions at the start.
In response to a frantic campaign against Kerry-Lugar bill, apparently, the US backed off to some extent but started limiting the release of funds. The US was using the money as leverage to force Pakistan’s military to cleanse Waziristan of Al Qaeda, Taliban and other jihadi sanctuaries. Therefore, angered by the US reluctance to release appropriate funds, the military further accelerated an anti-America drive after the Raymond Davis case. In the following period, the US continued pressing Pakistan while holding on to the purse and the military wratched up anti-Americanism in the media and public. After the killing of Osama in Abbotabad, protests against US intervention had reached new high levels. By the time the attack on Pakistani military post took place in November 2011, Pakistan was bound to stop NATO supplies.
In the process of building up anti-US populism, Pakistan’s military was seemingly working on following assumptions:
(i) Anti-US populist fever can be heightened for bargaining purposes and can be brought down when target seems achievable.
(ii) The US cannot survive in Afghanistan without supplies through Pakistan.
(iii) The US defeat in Afghanistan is quite close and it will leave the region for good.
(iv) The US has only one choice to seek assistance from Pakistan for a face-saving defeat.
Some of these assumptions may seem plausible but taken together they become delusional. The US has survived in Afghanistan without using Pakistani routes for supplies, although at a much higher cost. However, the US, NATO and their allies, including Arab monarchies supplying funds on demand, can live with these higher costs if push comes to shove. The anticipated US defeat still seems immature while it is signing strategic partnership with Afghanistan after its declared time frame of 2014. Most likely the US departure will be partial and it will stay in the region for sometime.
To increase the pressure on the US, Pakistan’s military made another grave mistake of using the parliament for its foreign policy objectives: it is well known that military uses civilian government and parliament to validate its demands from the US. In the backdrop of anti-Americanism at its peak, as expected, the parliament demanded transparent Pak-US relations, better compensation for cooperation, apology for November NATO attack and termination of drone attacks.
The fallacy was that military was demanding so-called transparency while its actions and motives were/are not very transparent withreference to Taliban sanctuaries in Tribal belt, particularly, in North Waziristan. Again, the assumption was that the US is so squeezed in Afghanistan that it will bow down to every demand to reopen the NATO supply routes. As matter of fact, this unrealistic assumption became so delusional that Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, declared that ‘a simple apology’ is not acceptable.
The US refused to oblige to all these demands formulated through Parliament. It seems to be a surprise for the establishment because it was not properly reading the US signals that were being sent after the Raymond Davis case. From the arrest of Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, a professed Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) operator, to exonorating of NATO force of any wrong in Salasa attack, the US was indicating that it was no more in ‘Pakistan-pleasing’ mode. On the contrary, the US was tit-for-tat in dealing with Pakistan. The Pakistani military should have pondered why the US was declaring head-money on Hafiz Saeed while the parliament was putting forth hard demands against them.
The establishment never entertained the question of what they would do if the US decides to bear the higher costs of alternative supply routes outside of Pakistan? Or what if the US defeat is not imminent and it never stops using drones unless tribal areas are cleansed of anti-US militias. Further, what if the US declares Pakistan an enemy state and squeezes it from every side with its allies’ help? It is dangerously delusional not to assume the worst scenarios in dealing with an arrogant sole superpower. Pakistan’s military having absolute authority over Pak-US relations has put the country in an extremely difficult position.
By encouraging Defense Council of Pakistan (DCP) and similiar fronts to provide public platforms for rabid anti US and anti-India proponents like Hafiz Saeed, the military has cornered the political parties. Now, it is impossible for governing or opposition parties to defy the raging anti-Americanism and make rational decisions to stabalize the relationship with the U.S. Although political brawls and inter-party fighting has further complicated the rational decision making ability of Parliament, the situation will not be different even if they were united on certain points. As a matter of fact, they are all united in their touting their anti-Americanism to gain public suppoert: they are competing to pick-up the anti-US trophy. But that is the problem for the military now looking for a bargain with the US. What military wants is that political parties should come up with compromising position with the US while it [military] can maintain the position it adopted after the Kerry-Lugar bill. The military can’t have their cake and eat it too.
Foreign policy controlled by the military has utterly failed: Pakistan has never been this isolated in nation’s 60 year history. We can thank the military wizards who think they know better than everyone else for this compromised position for the country. They have put Pakistan on a self-destructive suicidal path and no one knows where will it end.