Till 1971, Pakistan’s internal security threats arose from India in its Eastern wing and from Afghanistan in its Western wing. After the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, it no longer faces any internal security threats from India even though its army and intelligence agencies imagine without basis that it still does.
2.The traumatic effect of the Indian role in the birth of Bangladesh, which continues to influence the thinking and assessment of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, makes them see an Indian hand in every internal security problem they face----whether in Balochistan or in Sindh or in Khyber-Pakhtoonwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province NWFP).
3.Its internal security fears from Afghanistan arise from the strong feelings of Islamic and ethnic solidarity between the Pashtuns on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While the Pakistan Army feels confident that it will be able to crush separatist movements in Balochistan and Sindh despite the imagined Indian role, it does not have a similar confidence with regard to the Pashtuns. The fact that the Pashtuns constitute about 20 per cent of the total strength of the Army adds to its apprehensions.
4.Its past quest for a strategic depth in Afghanistan was motivated by military calculations---- the need for a greater elbow room for its Army and the Air Force in the event of a military conflict with India. Pakistani military leaders should know that the acquisition of a nuclear weapon capability by the two countries and the expected US presence in the Af-Pak region for some years to come have considerably reduced the chances of a direct military conflict.
5.Its present Afghan policy is influenced not by the perceived need for a strategic depth in the conventional sense, but by the newly-felt need to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a spring-board for destabilizing operations in its Pashtun belt. Its past quest for a strategic depth in Afghanistan was a defensive reaction. So is its present quest for the re-establishment of its influence in Afghanistan.
6.Deobandi extremism in Pakistan, which is at the basis of many of its internal security problems, was a product of the policies followed by the late Zia-ul-Haq between 1977 and 1988. His attempts to protect Pakistan from an overflow of the newly-triumphant Shia Revolution in Iran led to the aggravation of the ever present Shia-Sunni divide in the country. Terrorism in Pakistan was initially a bye-product of the Shia-Sunni violence. Many of the terrorist leaders of Pakistan today earned their jihadi spurs in the anti-Shia movement. They subsequently drifted away from anti-Shia violence and gravitated initially to the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and then to the jihad against the Indian presence in Jammu & Kashmir.
7.However, a hard core of the anti-Shia elements in the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SES) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) has persisted with the anti-Shia violence. They allied themselves with the Afghan Taliban when it was in power in Afghanistan and subsequently with Al Qaeda when it moved over into North Waziristan after 9/11. Suicide terrorism was brought into Pakistan by the anti-Shia elements.
8.Zia’s genuine conviction as a Deobandi, who believed that Pakistan’s salvation lie in more and more of Islam and not less, strengthened the role of the religious clerics in Pakistani society and eliminated whatever secularist influence was there in the country and its institutions. The use of Islam as a destabilizing weapon against India, with a large Muslim population, started under him. Islam acquired a military significance and potency in the eyes of the post-1947 crop of military officers, who grew up to middle and senior levels of leadership under Zia.
9.Islam was also used as a domestic weapon against political leaders who sought to challenge the pre-eminent role which the Army had assumed for itself. Islam as an ideological and military weapon, which Zia in a well-calculated opportunistic move placed at the hands of the US for use against the Soviet troops and communism in Afghanistan, served the US well in the humiliating defeat and withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
10.More than 20 years after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, neither the US nor Pakistan has been able to put this weapon back in its sheath. There are new non-State wielders of this weapon----Al Qaeda and its associates against the US and its perceived allies even in the Islamic world and the Talibans and their allies against the Pakistani State and the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
11.Those who live by militant Islam shall fall by militant Islam. That is the spectre threatening Pakistan today. The threat to Pakistan’s existence as a State arises no longer from India, but from militant Islam. Just as communism started swallowing its own children, militant Islam has started swallowing its own children in Pakistan.
12.The fight against terrorism in Pakistan has a military and an ideological dimension. The Pakistan Army is paying attention only to its military dimension. It is avoiding countering its ideological dimension. Unless Islam is demilitarized and sent back to the mosques and madrasas where it belongs, Pakistan stands in danger of being weakened and destabilized by its own creations. A Frankenstein’s monster is difficult to control. It is even more difficult to control a religious Frankenstein’s monster.
13.Pakistan was born in the name of Islam. Unless it is able to control this monster, it stands in danger of being bled to death in the name of Islam. Zia thought Islam would be Pakistan’s salvation. Instead, Islam as fashioned by him could become its curse. (14-5-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Directror, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )