Monday, August 09, 2010 – The loud mouthing off by British Prime Minister David Cameron, and that too in India, and in return earning massive military and trade orders to nurture the ailing economy of his country, plunged the Pakistani nation in a state of shock and dismay. That is why there is a unanimous condemnation of these irresponsible utterances by the newlyinstalled British Prime Minister, which were somewhat a departure from the traditional ethics of the British Foreign Policy thus trampling all the diplomatic norms of English culture of mature and polite talking. But one can really understand his outbursts in true perspective if viewed in the backdrop of what his ancestors did to Indian Muslims during the War of Independence of 1857. According to widely-read British newspaper, Daily Telegraph, William Low, his great-great-grandfather, a British cavalryman, played active role in suppressing the movement and collective hanging of civilians.
While speaking in Bangalore, Cameron said Pakistan must not be allowed to look both ways by publicly working against the terrorists while secretly supporting the militants. Of course, the young British Prime Minister’s uncalled-for expressions have not only infuriated the public opinion in Pakistan but, in my opinion, they will also go against himself ultimately and even may hurt vital interests of the UK itself. In any case, these are bound to cause disharmony in the British society and may as well promote extremism in the UK.
Despite extremely high angers in Pakistan and intense popular demand that the President should have cancelled his visit to London, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari proceeded ahead to enjoy the trip. As against this, Director General ISI Lt. General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, reacting like a self-respecting Pakistani and a true soldier, wisely called off his visit to the UK. The delegation that was to be led by the upright General Pasha was due to hold talks with their counterparts from MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham. A visit to Pakistan by a senior British security figure had also been cancelled. British counter-terrorist officials have made no secret of the importance they attach to security cooperation with Pakistan, although they admit the relationship can sometimes be difficult. There was a very strong and categorical message in it that intelligence cooperation cannot take place when Pakistan is going to be abused at will by the British leadership. It is Pakistan through which they operate in Afghanistan and whatever success they are achieving is because of the intelligence sharing and logistics support by Pakistan.
Some circles in Pakistan question how come the President, who is also Supreme Commander of the Pakistan Armed Forces, in his good wisdom thought it appropriate to visit the UK and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani-led Pak Army decided to cancel the all important tour of the ISI delegation? This column proposes to explain as to how the Army has somewhat different perception from some of the politicians regarding security-related issues facing Pakistan, and I will also briefly mention as to why it is so.
I think Pakistan’s military is particularly incensed at the ugly strategy that Cameron chose to make his comments in India, Pakistan’s traditional enemy. An ISI official said, “We are fighting this war with all sincerity. We work with over 50 foreign intelligence agencies but the biggest cooperation is with MI6 and the CIA. Up to now our cooperation with MI6 has been exemplary.” Despite this cooperation by Pakistani ISI and Army, the language used by Cameron has deeply hurt every Pakistani and so the Pakistan Army has allied itself with the sentiments of the nation and expressed its strong resentment by calling off the visit.
Anyhow, the judicious and praiseworthy cancellation of the visit to the UK by General Ahmad Shuja Pasha reminds me of the episode of Kerry-Lugar Bill when the Army distanced itself from the aid package. In the well-considered opinion of the CorpsCommanders as expressed by them in their meeting on October 7, 2009 certain clauses of the Bill were discovered to be intrusive and against the national interests and were, therefore, found to be unacceptable. A brief Press Release issued by the ISPR on the occasion, however, made it clear that in the considered view of the Corps Commanders forum, it was the Parliament that represented the will of the people of Pakistan which would deliberate on the issue. Parliament too in the debate rejected certain clauses of the Bill that referred to LeT, Muridke, Quetta Shoora and some others. But a President’s spokesman virtually snubbed the Corps Commanders’ findings by saying that the Army should have done so through proper channel rather than coming into the open. Leaving the spokesman aside, I would say that the well-considered stance of the Army on Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill received tremendous support from the general public which was highly appreciative considering it as an expression of upholding of national honour. Otherwise too, some of the terms and conditions were completely unacceptable and any nation having an iota of honour would have never digested it.
Again, in November 2008, immediately after the Mumbai attack, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, as advised without giving proper consideration to a demand of his Indian counterpart, hastily announced to send DG, ISI to India and it was projected by Indian media as if Dr. Manmohan Singh had summoned the ISI Chief for interrogation. Then too, the Pakistan Army rightly resisted the move and decided not to despatch the chief of our spy outfit to New Delhi, thus upholding the national honour and prestige.
Another instance which highlighted the difference of opinion and approach between the Government and the Army was the decision of the former to put the ISI under Interior Ministry of Rehman Malik apparently under pressure from the United States but the Army put its foot down and made the Government to reverse its loathsome decision.
Here, I am also reminded of the way General Pasha confronted the all-powerful CIA Director Panetta on November 20, 2009 with irrefutable proofs of CIA’s involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. This startling revelation came as a shock to Panetta and he was told that Pakistan had incriminating evidence about the CIA officials’ involvement in providing assistance to perpetrators of terrorist activities within Pakistan.
However, it is understood that the decision of DG, ISI not to avail a few days’ stay in the UK’s cool environment was a collective and calculated one taken by the entire Army Establishment led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Those who are aware of the process of decision-making in the Army, fully know that such decisions are collective and have the backing from Unit to Corps level. Pakistan Army has a highly integrated and dependable system reflective of the sentiments of the soldiers and the people at large. Therefore, this particular decision of cancelling the London visit is believed to be reflective of the Army’s collective will – from Jawans to Commanders.
Here it is pertinent to tell my valued readers as to what does influence the security-related decision-making in the Army and why at times this exercise is fundamentally different from the thinking in the Pak Secretariat. At the outset, the answer is that historically Pak Army has Islamic orientation and it considers this as its sacred responsibility to safeguard the interests of this State of Quaid-i-Azam and the people of Pakistan. The contours and dimensions of this Islamic Republic are deep. Sometimes, I think that Islam and Pakistan are in the blood of the Army from day one i.e. since 1947. It charted a course of action that was necessitated because of utterances of some arrogant Indian leaders that Pakistan would crumble down within days after the independence and they are still waiting for such a day. The 1971 conspiracy to dismember Pakistan lent credibility to the Army’s thinking and acts and utterances of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi proved beyond any doubt that there were serious and real threats to the security and solidarity of Pakistan.
What further inspired the Pak Army to revisit the early history of Islam and distance itself from India was the formula of ‘One Army, Two Countries’ floated by Britain and India which the Quaid-i-Azam rejected. Then a concept of ‘Two Armies, Single Command’ was mooted and it too was rejected. Instead Pakistan thought it appropriate to base on the infrastructure of Northern Command and establish its GHQ in Rawalpindi. Quaid-i-Azam on his visits to military establishments advised the Armed Forces to relate themselves with their past i.e. Islamic history. As soon as the foundation of Pakistan Military Academy had been laid, the founding fathers had to give names to the companies of the Academy. The names chosen were: Khalid (after Khalid-bin-Walid, whom the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) had given the title of ‘Sword of Allah’), Tariq (who began the process of conquest of Spain, and Gibraltar Jabal-ul-Tariq still bears his name), and Qasim (Muhammad bin Qasim the young, dashing and daring commander who conquered Sindh), and a little later Salahuddin (Ayubi, of course). That naming tradition still goes on as the PMA expands. For its motto, and cap badge, they decided upon the Quranic verse; ‘Nasr-um Min-Allah wa Fathuun Qareeb’ which can be translated as ‘With Allah’s help, Victory is Imminent’. The soldiers who fought in Kashmir without any directive from any Commander or competent authority started using phrases such as ‘Jehad and Ghazi’. The GHQ assigned a tactical number 786 to itself which is displayed on all military vehicles and signposts which is numerological equivalent to Bismillah.
So one can say without any doubt that with a view to drawing strength and inspiration from the glorious Islamic traditions, Pak Army made a conscious decision to turn itself into an Islamic outfit. Contrary to the Army which is a unified professional force, successive governments were established by a particular Party or a coalition of Parties, therefore, their policies and their orientation have to reflect the Party manifestos. Politicians and Political Parties have their own agendas. Some of the petty-minded can stoop so low that they may sell the country itself for their personal gains. Army’s training, indoctrination and commitment to Islam and Pakistan is so deep that every soldier will shed his blood for Pakistan and will never compromise Pakistan’s vital interests. The Army’s focused-attention is always on national security. That is why the Government and the Army don’t see eye to eye on some critical issues. Such a gap of perceptions is not only Pakistan-specific. Almost in every country, even in the USA, Army Generals have their decisive say in many matters. I think the apparent differences on some contentious issues will continue to be there and the Army in no way would give in to others’ dictates. I am confident that this orientation will continue for ever and will be further strengthened. It does not mean that the Army has an agenda of its own. But Pakistan’s Army has its own orientation. It is an Islamic Army and the day it ceases to be Islamic, it will not be Pakistan’s Army.