Dr Manzoor A Naazer
THE security situation has improved in Pakistan in the last three years but it is prone to deterioration in the near future. There are several factors that contributed to its improvement and numerous causes can lead to its corrosion. Sustained democratic dispensation, political dialogue and civil–military equation in Pakistan and friendly nations particularly China have to play vital role in stability of Pakistan. The security situation has significantly improved in Pakistan in the last three years. A dramatic decline in terrorist attack was observed in the months following Nawaz Sharif came into power though some high profile and deadlier attacks had also occurred in this period.
The situation further improved after the government launched military Operation Zarb-e-Azab (OZA) in North Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region of the country in April 2014. The operation destroyed the hideouts and safe heavens of terrorists in the area and it was buttressed by intelligence driven actions (IDAs) against sleeping cells and suspected supporters of terrorists in parts of the country. The success of this operation is evidenced from the fact reflected in a recent report which claimed that terrorist attacks had declined by seventy percent over the last two years.
This marked improvement in security and law and order situation coupled with current government’s investor’s friendly policies, revived economy, emerging middle class and huge market of about 200 million people make Pakistan one of the most attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI). This improved security situation is generally attributed to the highly successful OZA and the military high command particularly Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, who has the credit to launch this campaign two years back. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s relatively better relations with Afghanistan and to some extent with India too, had also positive impact on security situation in country.
Yet another downturn in Pak-Afghan and Pak-India relations and tension in Pak-US ties besides power game in the country can have adverse impact on security situation in Pakistan. Now, it is an established fact that intelligence agencies of both Afghanistan and India, with tacit or implicit approval or even support of the US authorities, support various terrorist groups including Baloch separatists and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
This support is part of their “tit for tat” strategy aimed at intimidating Pakistan ultimately to force it for an action against the militant groups, such as Afghan Taliban particularly Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (Jamaatud Dawa) and Jaish-e-Muhammad, allegedly operating in Afghanistan and Indian held Kashmir. Recent statements by the leadership of Afghanistan – India – the US (AFINDUS) reflect their frustration towards Pakistan. Their expectations that OZA would also target these groups apparently did not materialize as they still demand Pakistan to take action against them. This frustration can compel AFINDUS to shore up their support for insurgencies and terrorist attacks in Pakistan to teach the latter a lesson and to force mend its bahaviour.
Yet there is another reason that reinforces these apprehensions and it is linked with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Some regional and global players seem on edge to the idea of CPEC and perceive it detrimental to their geo-strategic, economic and political interests for one reason or other.
They are bent upon to sabotage it at any cost. India ranks top among them which also enjoys the US backing and already uses Afghan soil to foment disturbances in many parts of Pakistan. This triangular alliance (AFINDUS) can go to any extent to do whatever it can to derail CPEC that apparently negate the US strategy to contain China. Possible Chinese access to and presence in Arabian Sea, can frustrate Indo–US ambitions in the region. The areas lying on the eastern route of CPEC in Pakistan already face turmoil due to ongoing insurgencies and terrorism in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Though military operations and ongoing political process have helped improve the security situation in the two provinces yet it can revert back to previous position if not sustained in diligent way. Foreign powers, particularly AFINDUS can exploit the potential threats and use disgruntled elements to advance their respective agendas.
Modi-led India has already indicated its intentions several times while Afghanistan also seems willing to help New Delhi to achieve its designs. Obama’s chagrin towards Pakistan and admonition of latter’s possible instability in the coming years, coupled with rapidly changing alignments and US policies and interests in the region, clearly signals future’s negative American intent towards Islamabad. In sum, AFINDUS can join hands once again and recourse to their earlier strategy, after an apparent pause due to improved relations with Islamabad during most of the time in the last three years, to revive and enlarge support for insurgent and terrorist groups in Pakistan that can severely worsen security situation in the country. This would be the price that people and government of Pakistan would have to pay for giving China access to Arabian Sea through CPEC.
Those on whelm of affairs both in Pakistan and China must be aware of the risks and dangers linked with implementing CPEC project. Islamabad should convey it to Chinese authorities which must be aware of the fact that Pakistan might be put to pay a heavy price for allowing Beijing to have access to Arabian Sea. The Chinese working on the projects associated with CPEC or otherwise in Pakistan can also be targeted. In both cases, Chinese government, people and investors will have to stand shoulder to shoulder by the people and govt of Pakistan. CPEC will obviously bring benefits to both China and Pakistan but Islamabad alone is likely to face threats. In such a situation, Chinese friends need to steadfastly support Pakistan politically, diplomatically, economically and even militarily to enable Islamabad to confront all challenges and to help get project done.
Meanwhile, on domestic side all stakeholders in Pakistan need to be vigilant and must pay due attention to foil hostile’s intentions by AFINDUS. The US in particular can egg on and seduce those power hungry to politically destabilize the country that may drag Pakistan into a deeper crisis. In view of above, sustained democratic dispensation, political dialogue, balanced and stable civil – military relations and unrelenting support for current political process and the system as a whole, are the conditions seem highly indispensible for security and stability of Pakistan.
— The is freelance columnist.