Janus in the Dock
It is well known that the Pakistan Army is like the two-faced Janus. It binds the nation and destroys it. The drama being played out now in Pakistan seems to be the destroyers face. As it is emerging, the Judiciary in Pakistan with a back-stiffener dose from a set of Generals has taken the historic step by putting a severe conditionality on the extension of tenure of the COAS to six months only. It has set a tom cat among cats. This is a landmark case as per Dawn. Unprecedented questions have been raised on a well-established status quo. After all, four army chiefs have given themselves extensions while two others were so favored by the government of the time without anyone questioning the legality of these actions. All eyes are now on Pakistan. Once this entire process is gone through, the Army would be shackled by the Constitution and have lost its iron grip. The Army with a nation, might soon be without a nation in two senses. One the Army might end up being without the nation since Janus itself has struck back through the Judiciary. Two the ensuing chaos could lead to the nation itself disappearing. Some will scoff at this thought; however, the possibilities exist. Both these conditions have a direct impact on India and the region and need some understanding to handle the fallout.
The Six Month Deadline
The Supreme Court order says, “The current appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS shall be subject to the said legislation and shall continue for a period of six months from today, where after the new legislation shall determine his tenure and other terms and conditions of service”. It was also remarked that “If legislation is not done within six months, the appointment will become illegal”. In pronouncing this judgement, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has considered the Law, the Procedure and grounds for granting an extension. Where does it leave things?
Mutual Backscratching Time
For the next six months the COAS will have to depend on a bumbling Government to draft a Law that has not even been thought to be required in 72 years. So, a great mutual backscratching between the Army and Imran Khan is on the cards. If in six months a law cannot be enacted the COAS will be bundled out and a new one instated. Will both these processes go on simultaneously? Afterall there is no guarantee that Mr Imran Khan will be able to deliver on the necessary legislation. He might not be able to deliver on the legislation on three counts. Firstly, the Government could stumble due to lack of political consensus. Though some feel it is a cake walk, there are enough indications to the contrary. A two thirds majority is needed to amend the constitution which means the opposition will have to be on board. There will be wheeling – dealing. Secondly, inability to amend the law due to procedural reasons stemming from plain incompetence is a high possibility. Lastly, the way political events in Pakistan are panning out, the Government might collapse any time and there will be no one to draft and legislate a new law through a constitutional amendment! So, what then? Coup? If all things must go right for the COAS, he must hold this Government by the tail for the next six months, ensure it stays on course and stays in power for his survival. Obviously, other governance will suffer when going through this process. It will further compound Pakistan’s already complex problems.
The Cabal Strikes
It is well known that the real power in the Pakistan Army rests in that Cabal of the Corps
Commanders. As per reports which are emerging, there is a clear power struggle going on. Firstly, they do not like extensions being ‘granted’ since it is infra-dig on their being the real authority in Pakistan. It also erases chances of most of them for a crack at the mightiest office in Pakistan. That means problems. The last extension granted to General Kayani caused resentment even in rank and file. It is believed that after getting his extension he never had the grip on this Cabal as earlier. In this case, many within the cabal perceive that the Army under Gen Bajwa’s watch has been left twiddling its thumbs when Article 370 was abrogated by India. Space for Pakistani maneuver in Kashmir has been reduced with the added threat of water denial by India. The Cabal is unhappy with any form of extension to a COAS who has lost the unfought war with India. That leaves Gen Bajwa without the full support of the Cabal, unless there is a purge. The six-month extension is the tom cat. All these worthy gentlemen of the Cabal will; now be purring in different tones for their lick at the saucer of milk. Each will be plotting and promoting his chances of guiding Pakistan to its further misfortune. Some will plot to limit the extension to Gen Bajwa to six months only. Some will pursue for the full three-year extension. Some will plot for a coup – yes – make no mistake. All possibilities are on the cards. However, till such time the cookie crumbles, this Cabal will be forced to look inwards. A game for the throne will commence. Greed. Plain greed and self-preservation will prevail. One should expect a massive outreach to the politicians and judiciary (on the sly). This puts the Army, Politicians and the Judiciary of Pakistan on the same pedestal to promote self-interests and vying for power. In the process, all will not be in absolute control of the nation. What is the effect it is going to have on Pakistan’s slide down the chute? Is the Pakistan Army losing the nation?
What does it mean for India? There will be two shades which we could see. One shade would be added belligerence on the LOC and in the Valley. It could also lead to maverick actions elsewhere to externalize the situation. These need to be expected and tackled firmly. The other shade would be that, Pakistan’s internalization will intensify in the next six months. It gives a great window of opportunity for India to set things right in Kashmir. There are not many references to Kashmir in Pakistani media these days and I doubt if the self-proclaimed Ambassador of Kashmiris will have any time for them. He will be busy surviving from one crisis to the next. This six-month window needs to be utilized- politically and executively. Kashmiris should be made to realize the futility of hoping that Pakistan will save them when it cannot save itself. That can only be done if the political process commences and a visible outreach is made. Development alone is not the answer. If we can use this window to take Kashmir one step closer to integration, it will be a great achievement. The catch is leadership vacuum. Kashmir like any other part of the country needs a leader.
Disintegration on Cards?
Pakistan’s raison d’etre for existence is “Not Being India’ and that is an unnatural reason. The unnatural state is going through unprecedentedly tough times. To recount, the economy is tanking. Foodstuff is getting out of reach of the common man with tomatoes touching Rs 400 per kg. Inflation has been in double digit zone for three months now and not abating. Hot money is propping the economy. IMF mandated actions are jacking up interest rates. Generally, things are getting to be more difficult for the common man by the day. Growth is not happening and not expected to happen in future also. It is also now clear that CPEC will change Pakistan’s fortunes for the worse. It has not met people’s aspirations but is leading them into a debt trap. Incidentally, even the Chinese are not happy with the way CPEC is going. They are not getting their pound of flesh. The Army hierarchy might not be able to salvage the Project though it has taken charge of it; given the current situation. That will leave China adrift. Pakistan is slowly becoming the battle ground between USA and China. The first shot was fired by the US warning to Pakistan on CPEC. The USA is clearly looking at how to secure its interests in the region and contain increasing Chinese influence. The Chinese are looking at their mega interests and agendas. In the meanwhile, separatism and militancies are increasing, TTP is waiting in the wings and its home-grown terror outfits are biding time. The FATF sword is dangling. Water is getting dearer without a solution in sight. The neighborhood of India, Afghanistan and Iran spell only trouble for Pakistan in the long and short runs. The Middle East seems to have given up on Pakistan. The people are clearly disgruntled. That can be made out in any editorial or opinion piece in any Pakistani paper. The litany of woes is huge. The Pakistani Army known as “the best Army in the world which has not won a war” has outsourced all its fighting to non-state proxies. It will continue to be busy making money through the Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation or other myriad entities. This is a period when the divided Pakistan Army leadership, the binder of the nation will be the weakest and totally unstable. Examine all this holistically and ask yourself what is that additional ingredient needed for disintegration. The answer in all probabilities will be mass unrest. A ‘rasta roko’ by JUI was just averted from being catastrophic. The ‘left wing ’students have just held the first nationwide strike. The PTM is still active. All these could be the tip of the iceberg of the unrest to follow. The question which people must seriously consider is – what if Pakistan disintegrates? Disintegration of Pakistan will change a lot of geopolitical equations. USA and China which have far too many interests in Pakistan will not to let it go down easily. However , can USA and China stabilize Pakistan? No. Their concept of a stable Pakistan differs vastly due to their competitiveness and divergent interests in the region. This will preclude any meaningful efforts at stabilization. Till Pakistan achieves some semblance of stability the danger of disintegration will be omnipresent.
What would be the prognosis for Pakistan? The chances of achieving stability in the next six months is out of the equation due its economic, political and geopolitical factors discussed above. After that? Pakistan could reach some state of political stability if the diarchy of Gen Bajwa and Imran Khan can hold on. Economically it will continue to regress. Neighborhood geopolitics will not improve. Pakistan will lurch from one crisis to the other. It will continue to be a failed state in a state of decaying instability. Will Pakistan Disintegrate? Could happen. At present the chances might seem low. However, as events unfold, things could change. If the Army loses grip, the state is gone especially if there is mass unrest under rampant inflation and an economic free fall. The next milestone would be when absolute water scarcity sets in and repayments are due for all the massive loans which the nation is happily sponging in now. As far as India is concerned, we must deal with the current instability as it is served to us and must be prepared to deal with disintegration when it happens.
The last few articles of mine on Pakistan and China have drawn a lot of attention from across the border, Some enthusiastic Pakistanis have even taken to trolling me on Twitter. I would like to put across a few issues in this regard.
I do not understand why Pakistanis get upset, when I point out that India will give a bloody nose to China if it attempts any rash action. Downright humorous. Take care of your house it is on fire! The Fire Fighters are in disarray!
My message to Pakistanis
Take care of yourselves. Your Army has lost half your nation in 1971. The rest is in the danger of disappearing. Thanks to your own Army. I would also like to remind all Pakistanis of all shades, India has beaten Pakistan in all wars at a time and place of Pakistan’s choosing.
Choose the next time and place, we will guarantee a repeat of the result.
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