Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps saying that for the first time the civilian government and the military were on the same page regarding India. His claim is laughable given the fact that he owes his position to the army which thought he will be pliable enough to do the khaki’s bidding…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Army is more powerful than the prime minister in Pakistan. Its public face these days is Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General, Inter-Services Public Relations. He keeps speaking on matters political which cannot be normally the domain of a military spokesman. And the media pays special attention to Ghafoor even though the maximum news space is reserved for the army chief in the Naya (new) Pakistan that Imran Khan has promised to usher in.
Ever since the Balakot airstrike on a Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) training camp by Indian Air Force (IAF) some 60 kilometers inside Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Ghafoor has been making statements – false and misleading to outshine the civilian leaders. Pak army does not find the required aggression against India in the civilian leadership. This is clear from Ghafoor doing most of the ‘tough’ talking while Prime Minister Imran Khan has mixed his ‘stern’ messages to India with a plea to India for resuming dialogue.
At a different level, the Pakistani army spokesman warned a Pakhtun nationalist party that its days are ‘numbered’ and alleged that it was being funded by the Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies without presenting even a semblance of proof—a standard Pakistani practice. It hardly seems to matter to the Generals that the world does not believe most of what they say. In fact, they are oblivious of the fact that the world is aware of the brutal oppression of Pakhtuns and many other minority communities by the army which uses gunships and helicopters to target nationalist elements in various parts of the country.
In the name of fighting indigenous terror, the Pakistani army has killed thousands of Pakhtuns and Baloch nationalists, including those who had served as loyal Pakistani ministers. Balochistan’s demography is being changed by settling Punjabis and others in the province which is Pakistan’s richest in natural resources.
Prime Minister Imran Khan never misses an opportunity to express sympathy for the suffering Pakhtuns and to promise to address their problems. The men in Khaki are not pleased; they have now conveyed their distrust of the prime minister by issuing direct warnings to the Pakhtuns.
Major General Asif Ghafoor has announced that the army will be taking over 30,000 Madarsaas in the country to incorporate modern education in their syllabus. Madrasa reform ought to have been announced by the civilian government. But it did not. Talking of the need to introduce ‘modern’ education in Madarsaas amounted to admitting that these institutions have been preaching jihad and hate. To save deep embarrassment, the army statement said that only about 100 of the Madarsaas were imparting lessons in jihad.
It was not the first time that overhauling the jihadi system of education in Madarsaas was promised.A similar tune was sung by the dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, who as the ruler,used to lament that the populace in his country lacked ‘enlightenment’.
Asif Ghafoor has been constantly trying to underplay the purported Indian message after the Balakot strike: India will not hesitate to penetrate Pakistani territory. That is not surprising. But what makes it ridiculous is the offer he is now making to let Indian journalists visit the airstrike site—weeks after the airstrike. A few days ago, he conducted a tour of the area, escorting a group of foreign journalists none of whom was allowed to talk to local people.
It is odd that while being habitually belligerent towards India, the Pakistan army spokesman talks of resuming dialogue with India. The army decided long ago that there will be only a one-point agenda for any dialogue with India–Kashmir. It is the ‘core’ problem which can be settled only on Pakistan’s terms. That leaves no meeting ground between the two countries.
In recent years, some of the civilian leaders—Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif—tried to defy the army diktat by relegating Kashmir to the background while taking up trade and related matters. Both of them are now in political wilderness. The present and past civilian governments of Pakistan have knownthat resumption of dialogue with India will be difficult without ending the uninterrupted export of terror by Pakistan army to India which has continued since 1989.
It has finally dawned on the Generals that their fascination for terror has created huge problems for the country. But they think they will get away by bluffing on terror. The Pakistan army has made the incredible claim that the country is rid of ‘all’ terrorists! The Generals seem to believe that as in the past they can continue to fool the world.
Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps saying that for the first time the civilian government and the military were on the same page regarding India. His claim is laughable given the fact that he owes his position to the army which thought he will be pliable enough to do the khaki’s bidding. Will the strain of economic and financial duress force Imran to do the unthinkable of making a move to mend ties with India? This is a fear that appears to haunt the real rulers of Pakistan. Imran Khan is under their surveillance therefore. And the army spokesman is making many political announcements to upstage the civilian government.
The Americans have noticed it and expressed their displeasure. The men in Khaki might pretend that they do no care for the US but for how long when Pakistan is knocking at the US for an IMF bailout. The US might rescue Pakistan as it did several times in the past but will extract a price that the army might not like.