Changing paradigm

Despite realising that our biggest problem originate from within, army shouldn't be spared criticism on other...

Editorial January 03, 2013
Pakistan army has amended its doctrine to recognise domestic militants as a larger threat than neighbouring India.

There may be some truth in the maxim ‘better late than never’ but the Pakistan Army has stretched just how late one can be. More than a decade after the country, and indeed, the rest of the world, recognised the obvious fact, the military has finally realised that internal terrorism is a greater threat than India. Its new Green Book, laying out various threats the country faces, finally includes domestic militancy, in a sign that the military may now take this existential threat seriously. It took the loss of tens of thousands of civilian and military deaths, estimated by some to be as high as 40,000, for the military to classify this as a greater threat than India, which has killed no Pakistani civilians in that period. Furthermore, it also needs to dispense with the dangerous business of classifying Taliban members as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the death of Mullah Nazir (apparently one of the ‘good’ ones) notwithstanding.

Welcome though this shift in focus may be, we should not simply take words at face value. Translating rhetoric into reality will require a number of steps that the military should take immediately. The first should be to redeploy at least a fraction of the soldiers posted on the Indian border to the Durand Line. Since the military itself has now admitted that the greater threat is in that area, there is no reason for this shift not to take place. In fact, the section on domestic terrorism in the Green Book specifically mentions that many militants are taking refuge across the border in Afghanistan. Currently, about 60 to 70 per cent of our 500,000 active duty personnel are posted on the Indian border while only 100,000 patrol the Afghan border. Rectifying this skewed ratio should be a priority for the military.

More than

Another consequence of this potential shift is that it may nudge the peace process along. The military has often been seen as a roadblock in the quest for permanent peace and India is fearful that it may scuttle whatever little progress has been achieved. If the military does indeed follow through and concentrate more resources on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it could leave our politicians free to negotiate with India without having to continually look over their shoulders.

On the home front, this change in focus also needs to be accompanied by concrete measures. That will likely mean the military will have to take the one step it has been avoiding for years: a sustained military operation in North Waziristan that specifically tackles the Haqqani network. It would be unfair to say that the military has done nothing to go after the militants since it has fought and continues to fight in the tribal areas and in Swat. But its singular focus has been the Pakistani Taliban. There is considerable overlap and cooperation between the two, as well as a shared murderous ideology, and so, if the threat of domestic terrorism is as pressing as the military now claims, it has no excuse for making this distinction. That would also require discarding the discredited and flawed theory of strategic depth, which has achieved little for Pakistan.

Despite the welcome realisation that our biggest problems originate from within our borders, the military should not be spared from criticism for other changes in the Green Book. The reference to foreign proxies being a threat to Pakistan is based on denial. It is not made clear if the proxies in question are meant to refer to the alleged Indian-backed separatists in Balochistan or is an affirmation of conspiracy theories that the TTP is a CIA concoction. Either interpretation reflects poorly on the military’s ideology. Its tendency to look outwards rather than examine itself has been one of the main reasons militancy has thrived. Introspection is sorely in order to overcome the militant threat. This new military document should be seen as a belated attempt at that but much greater awareness will be needed as well as for this awareness to seep through to the general population to eliminate the threat and recognise that the war we are fighting is for our own people.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2013.


Z.Khan | 11 years ago | Reply

@Robert: With due respect I beg to differ as it is your perception. Recently I visited Onida and went in big as well small cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Agra, Amritsar etc. The moment I revealed my Pakistani origin I could feel the changed attitude of not only normal but even every highly educated Indians. Who has created such hatred amongst both the nations is debate able. Which country is to blamed more is also debate able. Study, paper analysis and researches depict different perceptions but when one goes on ground then finds very different and hard realities. Specially when one Indian or Pakistan visits each other and mixes up in routine things of both the countries.

Robert | 11 years ago | Reply

@Z Khan With all due respect, @Dr. V.C. Bhutani was making the point that anti-India sentiment of Pakistan Army and the larger society was on a scale that needs paradigm shift where as the fact that most people in India don't subscribe to the theory that India is Pakistan's enemy. It means that anti-Pakistan sentiment is, by an order of magnitude, that much smaller. So, somebody making noise about Miandad (who has astonishingly married off his daughter to the son of an internationally known thug who plotted to kill many Indians) is not on the same scale as what the article is talking about and what Bhutani is talking about.

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