External threat looms large

CONTOURS of growing and deepening security danger for Pakistan have started emerging with some regional and global players hurling threats and response to them by the national leadership, firmly but responsibly. The news briefing of Director General ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday should be an eye-opener as he plainly and categorically referred to threats both from eastern and western borders, enunciating also resolve of the nation to defend itself at all costs. What the military spokesman referred to and commented upon during his comprehensive briefing should leave no doubt in the mind of any Pakistani that it is not the question of whether there is any danger to security of the country but when and in what form. Expectations that things might improve because of interaction between Pakistan and the United States at different levels seem to be falling flat on the ground.
In a clear reference to the United States that calls repeatedly upon Pakistan to do more and the latest statement of its Vice President that the country was on notice, the DG-ISPR said Pakistan has been working with friends and would continue to do so but would never compromise on national prestige and honour. He also emphatically stated that Pakistan has done enough for everyone and will not do more on someone’s dictation. The spokesman warned India against any misadventure emphasising that domestic difference notwithstanding the entire nation is one when it comes to defence of the motherland. The sum total of the briefing was that there was real and genuine threat from both fronts and the nation will have to demonstrate unity to thwart designs of the enemy.
All this puts in right perspective what Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said during his address to the recently held six-nation Speakers Conference in Islamabad when he mentioned nexus among the United States, India and Israel and warned that Pakistan was not in the habit of being put on notice. This statement, which was intriguingly and immediately disowned by the PPP, speaks volumes about the sorry state of national unity and consensus on issues that deserve urgent attention of the national leadership. Similar warnings have repeatedly been issued by former Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan that the country was facing grave threats and we should bring our internal fight to an immediate end and promote reconciliation but unfortunately no one paid heed to his saner advice.
No one would differ from the DG-ISPR when he made it known that the armed forces were fully capable of taking care of any challenge. However, dangers can never be addressed by the armed forces alone until and unless the entire nation is on one page as it was during war against terror. The hints dropped by DG-ISPR about dangers to national security must be in the knowledge of quarters concerned much before and with this in view one fails to understand why they allowed the situation to deteriorate to a stage where the society is badly divided horizontally and vertically. There is general impression of worst kind of stress in civil-military relations, some politicians have gone berserk to get to the corridors of power through every mean, some religious pressure groups are bent upon imposing their will on the entire country, sectarian monster is also raising its head and rule of law and writ of the state has become a laughing stock. It is all the more regrettable that there is no towering and undisputed personality in the country who could heal the wounds and promote national reconciliation which is need of the hour.
Strategists fear that a grand conspiracy is at work and as a first step the country was pushed towards political and economic instability and a state where masses are frustrated over what is happening around them. Such conditions are created before physical aggression against a country so that there is least resistance to the implementation of nefarious designs. We firmly believe that those adding to prevailing tension and polarisation in the country are doing no service to the nation and are instead facilitating the job of the enemy. Therefore, the first thing that we need in the prevailing circumstances is to have an immediate cease-fire domestically by all stakeholders. How can we confront external challenges if there is anarchy, confusion and uncertainty in the country?
We have now started moving towards general election and the Election Commission is making preparations for the conduct of the polls. Gen Asif Ghafoor has asserted that the Army wants political stability and elections should be held as per timeframe envisioned in the Constitution. Therefore, no attempts should be made by any player to disrupt or undermine the process in any manner. Instead of fighting among themselves, the political parties should make security and foreign threat an electoral issue and rally the nation around on this issue. Army Chief did well by briefing the Senate on the security environment but we would suggest that a joint session of Parliament should be convened immediately to discuss the overall security situation and a national response is firmed up following input by the elected representatives. We cannot afford to make Parliament dysfunctional or irrelevant in the face of a challenge that can only be addressed through collective efforts and response.
A process of urgent consultations should also be initiated with friendly and influential countries, putting across our perspective in a logical manner so as to counter propaganda against Pakistan. Free for all border crossings on the Durand Line and presence of Afghan refugees are complicating the threat of terrorism but Afghanistan is not cooperating for resolution of both the problems. While Pakistan is persisting with its plans to barb the border despite financial constraints, it would be naïve to expect that the United States and the Afghan government would create pulling factors for 2.7 million refugees to return to their homeland on their own. We have repeatedly and unnecessarily extended their stay on our soil despite legitimate complaints of their involvement in anti-state activities and crimes. It is time to take a firm decision on their repatriation, as nothing should be dearer than the security of the people and the motherland. We have narrowed down our options in our dealing with foreign countries mainly because we have been making decisions on personal level without caring for institutions and people of Pakistan. In future no deal or agreement should be concluded without a nod from Parliament, as is the case in democratic countries.

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