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K a s h m i r

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Eighth Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

December 02'



Romeet K WATT


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 S T A T E C R A F T 

Pakistan: Looking into the crystal ball

Romeet K WATT

George W Bush, in recent times, has earned the dubious distinction of radicalising Muslims into anti-American postures, to set in motion, the arrangement for pro-Islamic forces to assume dominant role in government formation, in two Muslim countries – Turkey and Pakistan. The all-encompassing victory of an Islamist party in secular Turkey is a vivid case in point of up-and-coming disposition. This facilitation has come about due to her (US) one-upmanship, in the world-order, resulting in sharp ‘polarisation’ of countries into Islamic and non-Islamic blocks, an event, which had died its natural death in the aftermath of the break-up of erstwhile USSR. But with the US pursuing an agenda, perceived in the Islamic world as being anti-Muslim, the recent set of setbacks does in no way come as a major surprise.


The broad electoral victory in Turkey of Justice and Development Party (JVP), a party with Islamic roots, characterizes a journey into ‘unchartered waters.’ The fact that its leader, Receptayyip Erdogan, is a practicing Muslim, who once was active in the Islamist movement, just completes the grim picture for Western countries. JVP has assumed absolute majority to the Turkish Grand National Assemble (TGNA) but the only ray of hope for the Western establishments is the all-powerful military elite in Turkey who have, in past, played a pivotal role in arresting the rise and growth of Islamic forces, unlike Pakistan, where a large section of the omnipotent military has facilitated the growth and rise of Islamists.


US has provided a wonderful opportunity to the fundamentalist Islamic forces, in Pakistan; Maulana Fazlur Rahman - the Prime Ministerial candidate of MMA - wouldn’t have dreamt in the wildest of his imaginations, that one day, thanks to Uncle Sam, he would be a serious contender to assume the mantle of governance in Pakistan. MMA, the religious alliance, comprising of the Jammat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam of Maulana Samiul Haq, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Pakistan (JUP) of Shah Ahmed Noorani, the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith (MJAH) of Sajid Mir and the Tehrik Islami of Sajid Naqvilost, lost no time in translating the opportunity to convert anti-America sentiments into votes, and thus emerged as a strong force on the political scene.


MMA has earned 45 seats, an unprecedented 18 percent of the National Assembly, in addition to control of one provincial government and sharing in a second. This makes them a major political player rather than the marginal party they have been in the past. Strong showing of these religious parties raises serious doubts about how the government will deal with a ‘political force’ that is antagonistic to its ties with the United States and will press on a hard line toward India.


MMA, analysts believe, will do their best to lessen government manacles on the country's Islamic militants and push continuing Pakistani support for the Kashmir insurgency. They will press on Musharraf to limit the role of U.S. law enforcement agencies in pursuing Taliban and Al Qaeda fugitives, particularly in districts where the MMA is in the provincial government. Should the US fail to see the writing on the wall, and against wise council, pursue war against Iraq, the world-order may not remain same for many a time to come. War against Iraq, as and when, it takes place, will surely consolidate the anti-US sentiments, and may even lead to the toppling of Musharraf by some hardliner Islamist military General.


The victories of the MMA, analysts also argue, could make available to Musharraf an alibi to discourage the USA from pushing to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure engaged against India. These elections are likely to hearten Musharraf’s endeavour to revitalize the old alliance between the army and the religious right. MMA, without doubt would also like to further strengthen its fundamentalist influence in Kashmir and persuade military elite to continue Jihad in Kashmir.


The elections pose little threat to Musharraf's dominance of decision-making but in the long term, MMA could have an important bearing on Pakistan's domestic stability, sectarian violence and radical clout inside the armed forces, something, which would be an issue of alarm for him. However Western analysts, regard Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as just another in the long line of inept opportunists – military and civilian alike – who have governed Pakistan over the past half century. Analysts also predict that Musharraf will be able to retain power as long as he wishes, unless he is assassinated, but will not be able to clean the country.


Musharraf has kept ace up his sleeve by establishing the National Security Council (NSC) by decree before the election to serve as a forum for consultation on strategic matters pertaining to the sovereignty, integrity and security of the State. This institution, many believe, is central to his and the army's strategy for keeping control over national security and foreign policy, and over major aspects of domestic politics.


Musharraf took a calculated gamble, not that he had much choice, to kowtow US, in the post 9/11 scenario on the consideration that the implied monitory benefits would help revive Pakistan’s sagging economic condition. With her economy in shambles, Pakistan grabbed the opportunity to ally with US to bring about a transition on the economic front, not that there is much hope, given that her troubles are so deep rooted and systematic that nobody could lead the country out of them.


Pakistan, now in its sixth decade of independence, has its economy and prosperity heavily dependent on agriculture but is already forced to import food grains. One of the major stumbling blocks in the agricultural sector is the water storage problem, which has depleted to one-third of its original volume, since 1947. Socio-economic conditions have worsened so much in the past 15 years that occurrence of poverty has accelerated, raising the figure of people below the poverty line from 17 million in mid 1980’s to nearly 50 million in a total population of 140 million. According to Pakistan public-policy group, approximately 38% of the population lived below the poverty line. World Bank states in its 2000 report that 54% of the population above 15 million was illiterate – a whopping 46 million. Healthcare, according to WB (1999) report, the mortality rate for children under five years of age was 126 per mille.


However no sooner did Pakistan join the US war against terror that Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves have shown remarkable upsurge trend, unheard of, in the past. The reserves have dramatically risen five-fold from US $ 1.5 billion before September 11 to US $ 7.5 billion and all indicators point that the upward trend will continue. The transition has been facilitated, analysts point out, by rearrangement of the essential ingredients of the external debt (US $ 32.5 billion), with liberal grace periods, by the creditor-countries, consequently ensuing a decline in cash outflow towards debit servicing obligations. Speculations are rife that US played a pivotal role in IMF’s approval of a long pending Pakistani call for a generous loan under the poverty reduction and growth facility, which involves a lesser rate of interest than loans for economic support and structural reforms.


In order to placate their respective domestic constituencies, US allies in its war against terror – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Kuwait have expressed reservations about the use of its military bases by the US troops in its war against Iraq. War against Iraq undoubtly; compounds the domestic problems of Pakistan, which may even lead to the banishment of the US forces from Pakistan. The volt face of Pakistan on Taliban has cost her dearly with the rejuvenation of Islamic forces, depriving her of any hope to translate herself into a progressive democratic republic, something, which the ordinary Pakistani looked forward to. Should MMA head the government, it could pilot Pakistan en route to its own version of an ‘Islamic’ revolution backed by Islamic hardliners, and extreme elements in the army.


America’s pressing goal, analysts concede, in the region is to eliminate the terrorists who pose a danger to American lives and interests and to make certain the stability and durability in Afghanistan of an administration responsive to the West and acquiescent to Washington. However, whatever may be the outcome, US interests may be seriously hampered should MMA assume the mantle of governance in Pakistan.


Reports emanating from Washington point out that US has actively engaged its machinery to broker a deal between Benazir Bhutto’s PPP, and Musharraf’s PML – QA, with the singular objective of keeping MMA outside the government formation. US exactly know how to exploit a state beleaguered by violence, illiteracy, corruption, poverty, religious extremism, and tribalism, to serve its purpose in Southeast Asia. US, would in no way impede its relations with Pakistan whom it looks down as an over modestly nuclear armed small-time partner, that carries out low-end military tasks on the its agenda.

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