Pakistan continues to play its own games
Former President Pervez Musharraf has publicly (perhaps not for the first time or the last time) praised the work being done by Hafeez Saeed, particularly for Saeed’s actions in Kashmir. This was preceded by Pakistan setting free, from house arrest Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. That the US has come out with a strong statement against the release is no way a surety that Pakistan will do anything about it. After all, Saeed was put under house arrest early in 2017 under the threat of international sanctions because the Financial Action Task Force took notice of Pakistan’s non-action against terrorists who had international financial linkages and threatened dire consequences. What Pakistan did was to cleverly use the domestic anti-terrorism law to keep Hafeez Saeed under house arrest. Note that Pakistan never charged Saeed with any crime!
It was therefore, not surprising that Pakistan let Saeed off the hook. The real reason for his being set free becomes apparent when one realizes that Saeed or at least the JUD intends to enter the political fray in the 2018 elections. Some signs of this have already been seen in the Lahore local polls and it is almost certain that the deep state in Pakistan will have the religious right in the fray by 2018. Let us illustrate this by putting this in context. In an effort to weaken the ruling PML-N in Punjab, the military actually got the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR), a Sunni Barelvi group headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi to stage a protest against the Election Bill 2017 at the Faisalabad Interchange. Just imagine, 2,000 people held off for three weeks against 8,000 policemen!
So at the end of the day, the Army managed to not only get the demonstrations called off by playing the role of mediator, but also paid all those who had been arrested and freed, a handsome Pak Rs. 5000/- each. What on earth did the DG Rangers think he was doing when he went around distributing money in envelopes?
Clearly, the Pak Army knows what it is doing. When the elected civilian government headed by PM Abbasi asks for military help to clear the demonstrators from the main arterial road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the Army actually refused! In hindsight it was clear that it was a set up. After all, there is a serving Major General of the Pak Army who has signed the pact as the go-between between the TLYR group and the government. To top it all, the TLYR gets to be on board an inquiry that will determine who was responsible for injuries caused to the demonstrators!
One needs to be thankful that the Army has not yet overthrown the elected government in Pakistan. It could do so anytime it wants. For the time being though, the target of Army action is the Nawaz Sharif party. The Army seems to think that if Nawaz wins the elections again in 2018, it would make him stronger then. That is precisely why the Army has chosen the judicial route to clip Nawaz’s wings. Part of the effort is to weaken his base in Punjab, which is why the TLYR is being promoted. The other objective is to create fissures with the PML-N. This is being done by nurturing constituencies like former Interior Minister Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan.
Let us face it. The US can do little to Pakistan as long as China backs Islamabad. China continues to support Pakistan in the UN on designating Masood Azhar as a terrorist. And therefore, it came as a surprise when some time ago, the Chinese actually contradicted a senior Pak Army official who claimed that India had set up a special cell with an investment of US$ 500 million to disrupt the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan Army’s Chief of General Staff General Zubair Hayat recently alleged that India had set up a special cell to disrupt the CPEC.
While there was silence from the Indian side for obvious reasons, because actually there is no such ‘cell’, the Chinese foreign ministry stated that they had “no such relevant reports”. What is this cell that Gen. Hayat claims to be in existence to target the CPEC? Gen. Hayat had alleged that India’s external intelligence agency R&AW has a special cell which has a budget of US$ 500 million to destabilize CPEC and also spread terrorism in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We have no such relevant reports,” in response to a media query on Pakistan’s allegations. Fair enough, but will the Chinese respond to the question of how their all-weather friend has given freedom to Mumbai attack mastermind Hafeez Saeed, even though the US has expressly told Pakistan that he must be charged? That is the billion dollar question that needs answering.
The basic contention here is that the deep state in Pakistan is promoting the religious right for political purposes. That is the most dangerous thing that could happen in Pakistan. One wonders if Pakistan’s founders ever imagined that their Army will actually take them in that direction. After all, Pakistan is controlled by the Army, Allah and America. One gets the feeling the last, America is on its way out, while the other two will get strengthened in Pakistan in the not so distant future.