By Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain
Pakistan will survive, its weak political and economic status notwithstanding. Voices from within Pakistan also express the same sentiment. The fissiparous trends within have hit it several times in the past but with time they tend to blow over.
Internationally no one wishes to witness the meltdown of a state of 220 million people and a bag full of military wherewithal, including nuclear weapons, carrier vehicles and launch platforms; plus the potential for providing scores of terrorists to fight in alien lands. At the first indication of existential crisis big powers would preferably step in, not to resolve internal conflict but primarily to safeguard the nuclear assets from some potentially very nasty players.
For the last three months we have been hearing of the failing state of Pakistan but somehow it continues to survive, riding on the back of those big powers who have the money and the intent to remain in influence in the area and keep Pakistan’s head above water.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic location invariably comes to its rescue because instability here would mean its conversion to the happiest hunting ground for future terror movements within Pakistan, all with potential to cascade to trans-national levels. Given its history of internal strife, its territories will always need to be under surveillance.
With its head just above water, what course will Pakistan chart for itself under the current circumstances?
That should be everyone’s concern because there is no guarantee that perceptions and interests of those who keep Pakistan afloat match ours in India, or that the arrangement is in any way permanent in nature; after all strategic interests change based upon national interests.
The one aspect which Imran Khan has been depending upon has been early elections. These are unlikely in the foreseeable future until the economy sees some northward movement. That gives the Pakistan Army enough time to erode his base even further and reduce PTI to a non-entity.
There is no longer any doubt that the Pakistan Army is coming back into its own executing what it has always been very good at. What is being enacted is not a ‘Triple One Brigade’ type coup d’etat. It’s a slow and steady erosion of the power of a political personality that the current Pakistan Army leadership wants nothing to do with.
In a couple of months General Asim Munir will have a majority of the nine Corps Commanders who have been appointed under his orders. Loyalties will be surer and the power of the Army will exponentially increase as the Chief becomes more secure.
In all probability Pakistan will amble along at the same pace with hardly any major initiatives. As the economic situation probably worsens or fails to recover, societal tension will only enhance and the political environment will also get more tense.
Limited bailouts by Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US have been made recently and some are on the cards from China. From all indicators Pakistan’s head will yet remain above water but if a flood is created by political turbulence, societal upheaval or economic crisis, it will drown in a self-created cesspool of subterfuge, deceit and mismanagement.
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd), PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM former Commander of Indian Army’s Srinagar Corps, focuses on trans-national and internal conflicts in Asia and the Middle East with particular emphasis on issues revolving around radical Islam.
(Text Courtesy: Chanakya Forum)