A26 WHAT IS PAKISTAN UP TO India Abroad May 22, 2015
While it has been customary to use the media grapevine or pliable journalists to blame Indian intelligence agencies for whatever goes wrong in
Pakistan, the Inter Services Public Relations May 5 press
release, issued after the corps commanders conference the
same day, ‘taking serious note of RA&W’s involvement in
whipping up terrorism in Pakistan,’ is certainly unusual in
the sense that such a direct charge proximate to domestic
events has not been made in the recent past.
Defence Minister Khwaja Asif — who descends from a
notable Muslim League family close to Jinnah, and who is
currently engaged in a factional squabble within the ruling
PML (Nawaz) party against Interior Minister Chaudhry
Nisar Ali — duly weighed in with a Geo TV cameo, alleging
that RA&W had been ‘formed to undo Pakistan’ and ‘wipe
it off the map of the world.’
The Pakistan foreign office duly followed up on the
ISPR charge on May 6 by stating that it had ‘reminded’
India several times in the past to avoid interfering in
Pakistan’s internal affairs, though Dawn quoted the new
foreign office spokesman, Qazi Khalilullah, as admitting
that they ‘were unaware’ of any ‘fresh proof’ against
R&AW other than the alleged involvement in FATA and
Baluchistan, which had been brought to the notice of the
Indian authorities in the past.
The ISPR statement could be indicative of new pressures
on the Pakistan army chief’s team from within the senior
collegiate generals’ lobby in the army to take a more hard-line position on India policy.
After General Raheel Sharif took on the Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan militants in FATA under the Zarb-e-Azb operation, some sections of the military establishment may have
felt unease as to whether the crackdown could be extended
against other friendlier ‘non-State’ actors like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or even the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who are
still deemed valuable.
As Cyril Almeida explained (Dawn, May 3), this may have
necessitated a ‘balancing act’ to increase ‘hawkishness on
India and Baluchistan’ by ‘several notches’.
If the recent army promotions are examined, this impression of collegiate army generals’ pressure on Pakistan army
chief General Raheel Sharif to undertake course corrections seems to get corroborated.
Soon after he took over, General Raheel Sharif took the
unprecedented step of appointing a serving general,
Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat, as the director general of
the Strategic Plans Directorate, SPD, easing out the legendary professional, Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai
(retd), who was well regarded in the West as a responsible
nuclear proliferation proponent.
General Hayat’s positioning at the was seen by some military analysts in Pakistan as a possible side-tracking, with
General Sharif’s blue eyed boys — Lieutenant General
Ishfaq Nadeem, chief of the general staff, and Director
General, ISI, Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar emerging
as favorites for succession as the next army chief when
General Sharif’s term ends in November 2017.
General Hayat has now made a comeback as chief of the
general staff, a post traditionally regarded as very impor-
tant in army career planning. An artillery officer, he
remains in the race for army chief, having already complet-
ed a brief tenure as corps commander in the 31 Corps,
His brother Omar Hayat, who is from the ordinance
corps, also makes it as lieutenant general, going to the
Pakistan ordinance factories, Wah post, as chairman.
Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem goes as the new II
corps commander in Multan, though he is not from the
armoured corps, but hails from the Azad Kashmir regiment. Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil, the erstwhile military secretary and also an artillery officer, has moved as
the new director general, SPD.
General Sharif is now almost mid-way through his term
as army chief. In overall terms, his actions seem to have had
general popular endorsement, especially in regard to the
war against terror.
He is seen as not being afraid to take big decisions, and
quickly enough, marking him out differently from his
dithering predecessor, General Ashfaq Kayani. Yet he may
face some constraints in regard to moving strongly against
entrenched right of center conservative radicals, both in
civil society and internally, within the army and the ISI.
There may be other compulsions. On April 11, unidentified gunmen shot dead 20 labourers working on a bridge
construction site near the Sohrab dam in the Gagdan area
of Turbat district in south west Baluchistan.
This revived the spectre of insecurity for outsiders working in the province, especially the Chinese, on the eve of
President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan and forcing the
army chief, on a Quetta visit, to accuse ‘foreign spy agencies’ of arming terrorists in the province.
After the raid on 90, Azizabad, MQM leader Altaf
Hussain’s home in Karachi, on March 11, Malir
Superintendent of Police Rao Anwar accused RA&W of
training MQM militants.
This has been an oft repeated charge, but the Karachi
police officer was promptly suspended for exceeding his
brief. Yet the charge was allowed to float around till
Altaf’s own sarcastic speech, and subsequent emotional
apology, about why RA&W had not helped the MQM
The crackdown on the MQM is seen very much as a
continuation of the DG, ISI General Rizwan Akhtar’s
policy from his erstwhile assignment as DG, Pak
It received only grudging political support from the
Pakistan Peoples Party-dominated Sindh administration
and also from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There have
been rumblings of discontent within other sections of
the political and military establishment on ties with the
MQM, some woven during General Pervez Musharraf’s
honeymoon with the latter, which still reflect sympathy
for the beleaguered Mohajirs.
(Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist) Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi’s
release on bail by the judiciary remains an embarrassment internationally for Pakistan and generates some
unease in both the political and military establishment.
Though the Lashkar-e-Taiyba has been asked to lie low
at present, there is a lurking apprehension that its cadres
may not like to remain braided indefinitely and provoke
some incidents against India.
This could needlessly raise the ante and force the army to
face a hostile two front situation at a moment when it is
engaged in crafting a fragile peace negotiating arrangement between a recalcitrant Afghan Taliban and the new
Ashraf Ghani dispensation.
The calculation to warn RA&W could have stemmed from
a pre-emptive motive to ward off any such eventuality.
Rana Banerji is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet
Secretariat. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow at The
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
Why did the Pakistan army warn R&AW?
After General Raheel Sharif took
on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,
some sections of the military
establishment may have felt unease
as to whether the crackdown could
be extended against friendlier
‘non-State’ actors like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba,’ says Rana Banerji.
Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif, third from left, introduces Secretary of State John Kerry to some of his top generals before they gave Kerry a military briefing during his visit to Pakistan’s army headquarters in Rawalpindi, January 13. THE S TATE DEPAR TMENT