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Time for Sharif’s survival script

Having suffered another humiliating military defeat, Pakistan has much to learn from its strategic blunder in Kargil. Never before has Pa...

Written by Gurmeet Kanwal |
July 22, 1999

Having suffered another humiliating military defeat, Pakistan has much to learn from its strategic blunder in Kargil. Never before has Pakistan been heaped with so much international opprobrium and seldom has an elected civilian government, in itself a rarity in Pakistan, looked so much out of control.

It is inconceivable that a nation with a divided polity, riven by internal dissension and insurgencies, plagued by a tottering economy and on the verge of becoming a failed state, hatched a nefarious plot to send its regular army to occupy high mountain ridges across the Line of Control (LoC) with India. Though the intruders achieved initial tactical surprise, Pakistan’s hare-brained grand strategy, designed to cut off India’s lifeline to Ladakh and to focus international attention on Kashmir, was foredoomed to fail.

Pakistan must acknowledge the fact that it has been deplorably let down by its army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must have accorded hisoverall approval for the intrusions in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). However, the ill-fated operation could only have been conceived and executed by the army and ISI as they have been directly engaged in providing funds, arms, ammunition and equipment, military training, intelligence, junior leadership through regular officers and covering fire for infiltration to Kashmiri militants and mercenary Islamic fundamentalist fanatics for terrorist activities in India.

Over the last decade, the civilian rulers of Pakistan have perhaps gone so far with the latitude given to the Pakistani army and the ISI to wage a `proxy war’ against India that they are now unable to control the Frankenstein monster. For Pakistan’s survival as a nation and the success of democracy, the civilian rulers have no option but to rein in the army, with the help of the United States if necessary.

Surely, the Pakistani establishment can comprehend that their sponsorship of insurgence in the neighbouring countries and theirpassionate support for virulently fundamentalist organisations like the Taliban militia and the Markaz-e-Dawa Wal Irshad, will eventually boomerang on Pakistan itself.

The Taliban militia is a potent cocktail of petty minds, repressive and spiteful religious teachings, Kalashnikov culture, narco-terrorism and an unbridled lust for power. Since it is being allowed to grow unchecked, it does not require the power of prescience to predict that Pakistan is set inexorably on a course of self-destruction.

Rather than concentrating its energies in destabilising India, the Pakistani establishment should first contain and then eliminate Islamic fundamentalism from its land. If the international community has recoiled in horror from Pakistan’s military adventurism in Kargil, it is largely due to the international rejection of state-sponsored terrorism.

Pakistan has now been firmly established as the `mother nation’ of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. It had earlier come close to being named as a terrorist stateby the US state department. The adverse diplomatic fallout from its Kargil predicament should serve to convince Pakistan that the world’s patience with it is wearing thin.

Pakistan’s continued failure to appreciate the adverse long-term impact of its sponsorship of terrorism and insurgencies on its own security can only lead to its eventual break-up. In Benazir Bhutto’s memorable description during an interview with the Star News channel a few days ago, “Nawaz Sharif must stop running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.” Though votebank politics may sometimes result in personal advancement, it is almost invariably detrimental to national security interests.

With his brute majority in the National Assembly, Mian Nawaz Sharif can still rise from the ignominy of defeat and make Pakistan’s destiny by weaning the army-ISI-fundamentalist organisations combine away from destructive terrorist activities. He is the only politician in Pakistan who can harness their demonstrated organisational skills fornation building. Should he venture on such a course, almost all Indians will wish him well.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

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