President Trump finally did a good job. He stalled the so called humanitarian aid of $250 million to Pakistan. The military is now calling the shots in the troubled country. But the army is now under pressure. General Bajwa is now ready to support the side-lined civilian government’s initiative to sort out issues with India. It is timed to defuse the trenchant criticism levelled by several US Generals in the past, and by President Donald Trump recently. Otherwise, Bajwa’s actions and past statements show no deviation from the Pakistan Army’s unambiguous policy of enmity towards India….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
The statement made by Pakistan Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa that the army would support the civilian government’s efforts to resolve issues with India through dialogue deserves simply to be dismissed as a lame excuse to sidestep the critical issue of dealing with terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT).
General Bajwa’s statement is also timed to defuse the trenchant criticism levelled by several US Generals in the past, and by President Donald Trump recently. Otherwise, Bajwa’s actions and past statements show no deviation from the Pakistan Army’s unambiguous policy of enmity towards India. In fact, Bajwa and his team are planning to give more space and influence to terrorist groups like LeT in the upcoming elections in Pakistan.
Last time he spoke about India, it was a warning. It was last year that he asked his troops to respond with full-force an Indian violation of ceasefire when in fact it was the Pakistani troops which were violating the ceasefire often, damaging civilian property on the Indian side. In August this year, he said India cannot be trusted with any role in Afghanistan. He was trying to defend the US position that Pakistan was one of the reasons for the continuing instability in Afghanistan.
There are more reasons why General Bajwa’s statement deserves to be dismissed. The foremost is that the Generals, faced with difficult situations as Bajwa is currently in, find it convenient to make such noises. Recall what his predecessor, Raheel Sharif, said about tackling terrorism when terrorists killed 140 school children besides several others in Peshawar. He said there was zero tolerance for terrorists but when he handed over his baton to Bajwa, terrorists were more ensconced than ever before. Hafiz Saeed was busy expanding his terrorist empire and influence; the Haqqanis were safely sheltered, Jaish-e-Mohammad and his chief Masood Azhar were enjoying freedom in Bahawalpur; so were countless others.
Sharif’s predecessor, Ashfaq Kayani, similarly hoodwinked the international community by making some noises about dealing with terrorism. But the way he masterminded the Mumbai attack and similar attacks in Afghanistan and India showed his true colour soon after. He was nevertheless able to win over the international community by his posturing till al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad. The world then realised what a fraudster Kayani has been. His boss, General Pervez Musharraf, need no further elaboration—he even today sings praises of Hafiz Saeed.
So when Bajwa makes noises of reconciliation with India, it is merely an excuse to get out of a tricky situation vis-à-vis the Trump administration. The US has been critical of Pakistan’s role in fomenting instability in Afghanistan and in India and has time and again warned Pakistani leadership to cooperate. In fact, only recently, the Trump administration made it clear that they were not happy with Hafiz Saeed’s entry into mainstream politics. This is the pet project of Bajwa.
How can Bajwa say that the army would be willing to help the civilian administration in re-opening the dialogue process with India when he and his army were busy preparing Hafiz Saeed and other extremist and terrorist leaders to enter the National Assembly? India has for long been, especially since the Mumbai attack, asking Pakistan to arrest and charge Saeed with terrorism-related cases. Instead of doing so, despite overwhelming evidence of Saeed and his terrorist group’s role in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, Pakistan has enabled him to be `freed` by a high court and set up a political outfit called Milli Muslim League. Today, as Bajwa and his advisors has planned, Saeed and his men are poised to become members of the National Assembly.
Another reason why Bajwa’s statement is frivolous, and misleading, is that there is no evidence of any change, even miniscule, in the official position of Pakistan Army towards India. A short statement made by the General to the parliamentarians, leaked by his spin doctors, is not an indication of any change of heart in Rawalpindi. The very existence, and justification, of Pakistan Army is the enmity with India. A friendly India would prove to be the death-knell for the Generals. Without the bogey of India, and Kashmir, the Generals would have no power to manipulate the people, justify their grand lifestyles, their brutalities on the civilians, especially minorities and to broker national resources for self-aggrandisement.
The only way Bajwa could make the world believe in what he said about India would be to first put Hafiz Saeed behind bars, try him in a military anti-terrorism court, deny his party official recognition, and start dismantling the widespread terrorist infrastructure created by Saeed and his men, with the active connivance of the army. In short, stop patronising him and his group and that would prove to be the end of Hafiz Saeed. Let General Bajwa and his army take such a decision, then it would be time to take him seriously.