Stories by General (retd) Khwaja Ziauddin

Like in 1971, Pakistan today is again confronted with difficult choices. Any wrong move or ill-considered decision by its government at this stage can result in the repeat of the history of dismemberment of Pakistan. It is time to call a spade a spade and not live in a fool’s paradise.
Pakistan was created as an Islamic state and not a Muslim state.
All non-Muslims have equal rights in this country. All sects must refrain from criticising one another. The army belongs to the state and the country does not belong to the army alone. Thus, military takeovers are a heinous crime which must not go unpunished. Democracy has been uprooted too often and not allowed to reform itself through experience. Our public seems to be quite tolerant of corruption, poor law and order, inflation, poor health facilities, shortage of electricity and gas, bad education, lack of civic facilities, inadequate housing facilities, absence of clean drinking water and a host of other ills. However, they are extremely intolerant of beliefs and views of other sects and want to impose their own version of beliefs on others by force.
Pakistan’s security environment is a cause for serious concern. The size of India’s armed forces continues to grow. New inductions of weapons, equipment, aircraft and ships are continuing and cannot be ignored by Pakistan. The combat ratio of conventional forces vis-a-vis Pakistan’s armed forces is greatly in favour of India: the Indian Army is three times, the Indian Air Force five times and India’s navy seven times that of Pakistan — and the gaps are widening. Pakistan has enjoyed friendly relation with Afghanistan in the past, but of late, ties have deteriorated. The reason is the so-called ‘war on terror’ where Afghans have become implicated because of unwise policies of the Taliban government of the 1990s when it provided shelter to Osama bin Laden. The Afghans are now fed up with 30 years of war and blame foreign powers like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan for their woes. Despite the fact that Pakistan has accommodated five million Afghan refugees for decades, the educated Afghan elite in Afghanistan and abroad put all the blame for their miseries on us. At present, Afghanistan is raising an army of around 400,000 soldiers, financed and equipped by America. Such a large force is out of proportion to the size of the country with a population of around 30 million. Since threat perception is based on capabilities and not intentions, such a large army on its western flank is a source of concern for Pakistan.
Today, the internal threat to Pakistan is far more serious and lethal than the external one. The so-called ‘war on terror’ has created a serious insurgency situation inside the country. The fight against terror cannot be termed war since it cannot be won by military force. It is basically a dialectic of ideas, beliefs, convictions and perceptions, which can best be countered by negotiations, discussions and arbitrations. Lack of communication between the antagonists draws them into an armed confrontation, which creates a climate of insurgency. Non-state actors are another internal threat who challenge the writ of the government. They operate as gangs, mafias and underground crime cartels. Karachi today is in the grip of such elements. There are other elements who take law into their hands in the name of religion. They are extremely lethal since they are highly motivated and go for the kill even at peril to their own lives. These are misguided youth who can be reformed through indoctrination. Other than that, the weak moral fibre of law-enforcement personnel, who are prone to accepting bribes for ignoring terrorist activities, also magnifies the internal threat. We must try to improve our ties with both Afghanistan and India. And as for Balochistan, the killers of Nawab Akbar Bugti should be tried, Quetta airport should be named after the Nawab and all missing persons must be traced, recovered and rehabilitated.
Dictators have not allowed Pakistan’s political institutions to mature. Repeated military takeovers and abrogation of constitutions by the army have been the bane of our times. The problem lies with the people who accept military hegemony and do not revolt against it. This may be due to poor awareness of the advantages of democracy. However, one cannot totally blame the public since the political leadership accepts military coups initially and welcomes dictators with open arms. It is only after the noose tightens around their necks that they start denouncing dictatorship. Once democracy is restored politicians become hyperactive. In their effort to grab power, they deride one another and don’t seem to care too much about the very important issue of law and order. Thus, a democratic rule leads to another military rule once the image of the democratic government is tarnished. Therefore, the blame for military takeovers is to be equally shared by the military and politicians and both must be made answerable to the public for the failure of democracy in Pakistan. The political opposition, for its part, also does not do its job properly. For instance, policy matters are not debated diligently by the opposition, nor are position papers written on economic, defence, diplomatic and financial policies. Pakistan’s enemies, from within and without, are taking advantage of this state of affairs. Clerics of different sects have no tolerance for one another’s views and are quick to label one another an ‘infidel’.
The way forward for Pakistan is that the civilian government should directly take charge of the ‘war on terror’ and appoint a committee of experts to direct the effort. The experts should be drawn from the general public but should have requisite experience and knowledge to be able to guide and steer the war effort. This war should have been fought as an intelligence operation with the military standing by as a force in being. The military should now gradually extricate itself and hand over operations to the intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces. The army, however, should be tasked to prevent infiltration from the Afghan side by maintaining a fence line 10 kilometres east of the Durand Line or as decided by the command. Fata should be declared a province and its administration handed over to elected representatives. Since we are a nuclear power, we must drastically reduce our defence expenditure and divert the resources freed up accordingly to other uses.


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