Dangerous expectations from Pak Army

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Farooq Ganderbali

With a new General taking over as the Chief of Pakistan Army from the rabidly anti-India and overambitious Raheel Sharif, there has been lot of frivolous talk about how the new incumbent was “pro-democracy“ and how there could be a possibility of a reconciliation between India and Pakistan. These opinions are not only naïve but also gravely fallacious. They spoke of deep ignorance as well as mischief.

To put it simply, the new chief is merely a new cap in the bottle of old wine. There will not, and cannot be, any change in the malevolent attitude of the Pakistan Army towards India, and these talks of cease-fire are mischievous simply  they are merely smokescreens to give the new chief a breathing time to take control.

If anyone had any doubt about what lay behind the smokescreen, the Nagrota attack would have  come as a shock. The attack, as is now becoming clear, is part of the Pakistan strategy to keep India engaged in a low intensity but debilitating conflict along Line of Control, in Kashmir. The torchbearer of this new game plan is General Qamar Javed Bajwa who comes to Rawalpindi GHQ with years of experience in fiddling with terrorism in Kashmir and keeping the Line of Control open for terrorists and conflict.

Bajwa as a Corps commander and commander of the Forward Command Northern Areas (FCNA) would have dealt with the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin and Azhar Mehmood on a daily basis. He knows how useful these terrorist leaders are to Pakistan Army and its strategic goal of hurting India. He is certainly not giving up this potent weapon.

Under his watch, rest assured, terrorists will continue to flourish and their infrastructure will expand, more closer to the Indian border. With India responding with strong, unprecedented action to terrorist attacks, the new General is going to rely more heavily on the stable of terrorists the army has been protecting and sponsoring all these years. The layout before him, as he sits on the chief’s chair, is not difficult to see—on the west, the army has the Haqqani Network and other allied groups to bolster the chances of the Taliban holding ground in Afghanistan and on the east, the set of sponsored actors can challenge the Indian security forces now and then.

Weighing heavily in his calculations might be how his predecessor was humbled by the sudden display of covert offensive by the adversary in response to a terrorist attack. He also might have been acutely aware how his predecessor, who hoped to remain in the saddle for another term, lost his battle with the Indian surgical strike. He could not recover thereafter and left with ignominy. Common sense tells that to avoid such a turn of events, it is better not to repeat the same mistakes—in this case, sponsor terrorist attacks against India. But the Generals in Pakistan are not known to be paragons of this virtue and have followed what has been drilled into them from the day they join the military academy—to hate India.

Kashmir is another issue which General Bajwa is not going to keep aside; in fact it will be the top item on his list of things to do. His immediate two successors, Raheel Sharif and AshfaqKayani, could not do much in Kashmir or in Afghanistan, which, both had boasted, were in their control. Meddling too much in Afghanistan, General Bajwa would find out, attracted the attention of Washington where there is a new incumbent, not exactly enamoured by Pakistan or its Generals.

So it is towards the east, the new General would turn his attention to and it is so easy to fool the gullible in Pakistan with “K“ word. All the Generals since 1947 have been dishing out the dream of getting Kashmir for Pakistan and almost all had a bloodied nose or tooth to hide. Not that General Bajwa would learn any lessons from such a sobering outcome of the army’s misadventures. Without doubt, the new General would up the ante in Kashmir, just to prove the point that he is better than others and to reaffirm the myth that it is the army alone, represented by its chief, which is the saviour of Pakistan.

Whatever might be the compulsions and calculations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in selecting General Bajwa as the new chief, he is more than ever likely to depend on this General for his political future in the next 12 to 18 months. The new General will have a key role in deciding who will be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan and hence he is bound to have the political class kow-towing to him, be it the Sharifs (already in the cloud over the Panama papers) and Imran Khan, or even the Bhuttos.

There is no way, General Bajwa is going to fritter away the chance of playing God, at least in Pakistan, for the next three years by keeping the terrorists locked away or extending the olive branch to the adversary. It is more likely that he would intensify instability both within and outside Pakistan. India must be extremely wary of this new General in Rawalpindi.

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