By Bhopinder Singh
29 May 2018
Nawaz Sharif’s confessional interview has busted the traditional duplicitousness of Pakistan’s official positions. The truth is: In Pakistan, every institution needs an ‘enemy' to sustain relevance for itself
The confessional interview of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has the Pakistani establishment in knots and squirming in its seat to cover up for the embarrassing candour and plain-speak by the three-time Prime Minister who has busted the traditional-duplicitousness of the official Pakistani positions. From confirming the Pakistani hand in terror infrastructure, facilitation process, dilly-dallying and specifically its nefarious role in 26/11, the rooster of honest self-goals by Nawaz Sharif was unprecedented in its admission.
The expected fallout included disruption in distribution of the concerned media house which initiated the interview, red-faced denials by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) spokespersons, including Nawaz Sharif’s own brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who said, “The report has incorrectly attributed certain remarks to PML-N Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, which do not represent the party policy.” Above all, he hurriedly, called a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) to consider the situation arising from Nawaz Sharif’s damaging remarks.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, the official spokesperson of the Pakistan Army tweeted a cryptic: “NSC meeting suggested the Prime Minister to discuss recent misleading media statement regarding the Bombay incident.” However, the cat was out of the bag and for once, the entire spectrum of the Pakistani ‘establishment’ and Opposition leaders were united in slamming the obvious shame coming out of the spilling of sovereign beans — this time from the longest serving Prime Minister of Pakistan and the ‘Quaid for life’ (leader for life) of the ruling party, PML-N in Pakistan.
Sophistications of terror infrastructure aside, the concept of ‘non-state actors’ that Pakistan routinely pedals to rationalise terror that is invariably traced back to it, is riling the sub-continental neighbourhood and the global community committed to the ‘war on terror’.
The martyr-syndrome on terrorism that Pakistan has appropriated for itself in recent times has very few takers as the background and the continued involvement of the Pakistani establishment is well-documented. Calling the bluff on track of Pakistani victim-card, the Assistant to the US Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs, Dana White, clarified at a briefing held at the Pentagon that Pakistan was both a victim of terrorism and guilty of “sponsored terrorism”.
On Nawaz Sharif’s specific revelations, White agreed that Pakistan was now at an “inflexion point” of choices that it needs to make. Such disconcerting observation from the US Administration aside, almost daily accusations from both New Delhi and Kabul on Pakistan’s insincerity and complicity in terror is acquiring a global chorus that usually falls on deaf ears in Islamabad, which still attributes all wrong doing to the convenience of ‘non-state actors’.
Earlier in February, it was not India but a combine of the US, the UK, France and Germany that co-sponsored a move to put Pakistan on the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for international money-laundering and terror-financing. The convenient charade of ‘non-state actors’ that seeks to absolve the state of Pakistan from the blame-game in all terror attacks from Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri among others, was fully exposed much before Nawaz Sharif’s soul-cleansing act of clever politics.
Deep down, the entire Pakistani establishment knows the deceitful logic of ‘non-state actors’. Following the Uri attack, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Aitzaz Ahsan had slammed the Pakistani Government when he said, “The Government has been completely unsuccessful in imposing restrictions on non-state actors according to the National Action Plan.”
He further deplored the rote move to blame ‘non-state actors’ by saying that the standard position that Pakistan has no hand in the Uri attack is not a categorical denial. He added that the phrase implied: “We don’t know if our non-state actors are behind it.” Similarly, Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan wondered at the establishment’s unexplained laxity by saying, “Why the Government is helpless before non-state actors?”
However, Pakistan’s only practical recourse to relevance in its so-called ‘jugular vein’ of Kashmir is through these home-grown and nurtured ‘non-state actors’. This tactic has offered the Pakistani state to claim plausible (though no longer believable) deniability for the violent acts of terrorism by these ostensible ‘non-state actors’ — this tact fits in perfectly with the previous dictator General Zia-ul-Haq’s infamous doctrine of “bleeding Indian through a thousand cuts.”
The more direct and head-on approach of the sort in 1965, 1971 and more recently ‘Kargil’, resulted in humiliating defeats for Pakistan and it is only through these covert proxies or ‘non-state actors’ that the Pakistani establishment has been able to keep the violence and unrest brimming.
This practice was first deployed within days of Pakistan gaining independence when it slipped in tribal raiders and marauders into the Kashmir valley, in its first of the multiple failed attempts at taking Kashmir.
Even the precursor to the full-fledged 1965 Indo-Pak War had seen Pakistan sending jihadis in the mistaken belief that they would be able to instigate a local uprising. While this practice was fine-tuned to an art in the Afghan war of the 80’s, nurseries and infrastructure continue to bedevil both New Delhi and Kabul till date. Despite the unbelievable human price that the Frankenstein monster of Pakistani terror industry has afforded on the Pakistanis, the establishment still pursues running with the hare and hunting with the hound, on terrorism.
Afghan President unequivocally pointed fingers at Pakistan’s benevolence and hospitality to these ‘non-state actors’ when he said, “Some still provide sanctuary for terrorists. As a Taliban figure said recently that if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month.”
The ‘non-state actors’ manifest in the form of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network for Kabul and Delhi continue blaming Islamabad for propping the likes of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizbul Mujahideen etc, and politically, even the Hurriyat parties.
In Pakistan, everyone from the revivalist clergy, the over-fed military to the opportunistic politicians needs an ‘enemy’ to sustain relevance for itself and that is the invaluable service provided by these ‘non-state actors’ who do the Pakistani establishment’s bidding even if occasionally the embarrassing truth spills out, like it did in the case of Nawaz Sharif.
Bhopinder Singh, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Puducherry