Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa made an excellent statement that the military supports free, fair and timely elections in the country. In the same vein, COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has categorically stated: “The army supports democracy.” Indeed, this is the need of the hour and it should lay to rest all speculations about the delay in elections or military coup.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is right in his demand for timely elections. The people must decide their future. With the army, government and main opposition party on the same page, democracy should proceed ahead. But there is more than that. A secure and prosperous national environment also contributes to democracy. For this, all elements of national power need to be employed and there are some key issues that Pakistan has to deal with before this happens:
US-Nato exit from Afghanistan: The withdrawal of the occupation forces from Afghanistan will be a positive development for Pakistan. So, it is in our interest to facilitate their exit strategy that should be accompanied by a negotiated settlement.
The USA’s major concern is that Afghanistan may be used against it after the troops’ exit. Hence, Islamabad must ensure that anti-US and anti-Pakistan forces do not find solace there. Pakistan has suffered enough during the Afghan war; it must not suffer more, once it ends.
The US-Nato exit will be good for America, Pakistan and, of course, Afghanistan. Misgivings between Washington and Islamabad should be removed and friendly relations should prevail. President Barack Obama’s new team, especially with Secretary of State John Kerry, should help strengthen the Pak-US relationship.
Gwadar and China: The management of Gwadar Port has rightly been handed over to a Chinese firm. Indeed, it will change Pakistan’s destiny. Connectivity with China from Gwadar, in the form of road, rail, pipelines and later to Central Asia, will bring great wealth to the state. Also, it will bind Pakistan geoeconomically and geo-politically with China, Central Asia and West Asia. It is a multi-regional state and not merely a South Asian state.
Despite the fact that Gwadar is a force multiplier of economics and security for Pakistan, yet a word of caution is necessary. Balochistan needs to be stabilised and made peaceful, so that the Gwadar concept reaches full potential. China’s presence at Gwadar has deterred India. It is because it will bring Pakistan and China more closer.
Besides, China through the port will have access to the Indian Ocean. With this, India’s hegemonic dreams stand challenged.
Moreover, Gwadar will make Pakistan prosperous and secure that the Indians dislike. So, the terrorist attacks in Balochistan and Gwadar may have Indian linkage. The latest attack at Pasni is a case in point. Pakistan, therefore, should respond accordingly.
President Valdimir Putin, while denouncing terrorism in Quetta, had termed it an effort to destabilise Pakistan. Obviously, he was not referring to local extremists, but an international game plan. Gwadar has to be built, but it also needs to be guarded against foreign funded and backed terrorists.
Similarly, Iran’s gas flowing into Pakistan will somewhat reduce the latter’s energy woes. The IP gas pipeline, like Gwadar, will have to be protected from the country’s enemies.
The army is non-political and professional: By distancing itself from politics and supporting timely polls, the military is maintaining a non-political stance. The ISI under its dynamic leadership has contributed a lot to maintaining peace in Afghanistan and consequently in Pakistan.
Our military must plan for the future. That should include peacemaking with the Taliban and Baloch dissidents for peace in Pakistan in particular and South Asia in general.
Further, after US-Nato’s exit, the army should shift its focus to the eastern frontier and resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan’s clash with India may extend to Afghanistan (due to Indian ambitions) and Gwadar-Balochistan (due to Indian interference). All things considered, Pak-India relations will not improve; cold peace is the most optimistic view.
Needless to say, Pak Army by supporting democracy is also freeing itself to concentrate on its basic task, i.e. to defend the country’s borders. Not only is martial law as a concept obsolete, but it also diverts the military from its primary duty. Already with patience, vision and courage, the army’s Afghan policy is paying dividends. Pakistan is poised as the winner in Afghanistan; and a stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest.
A peaceful and prosperous Pakistan is the wish of all Pakistanis. The entire nation must work to that end.
The writer is a retired brigadier and has authored a book titled Gwadar on the Global Chessboard. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: wwwpakistangeopolitics.blogspot.com
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