In the driving seat

Sep 8, 2017
Pakistan’s civvies have yet again found themselves playing second fiddle. To the men in khaki. Our Foreign minister had pulled out all the stops to rebuild the trust with Afghanistan. Going as far as picking up the phone to Kabul to assure it of Pakistani support in all things bilateral.
Yet in swoops the COAS to steal the show. And steal it, he did. Without having to call a friend or otherwise.
Gen Bajwa’s talking tough was directed primarily at the US, with a little reserved naturally for India. Pakistan has, he noted, been paying the price for the US-fuelled flames presently engulfing the region — regardless of who started the fire and why chose to jump into the flames. And then the kicker: “a monopoly of violence should only be the prerogative of the state”. This is not simply a forceful reminder to the US that the security establishment remains firmly in Pakistan’s policymaking driving seat. It is also very likely an indirect pledge from the man-who-can that those behind the wheel are going to end their ‘policy’ of supporting certain proxies; that is, non-state actors. Though this, of course, refers largely to those acting in Afghanistan. Meaning that this seeming call to peace doesn’t extend to India. Indeed, for the latter comes the warning to stop meddling in Balochistan. Though let’s hope the world’s largest democracy doesn’t take this to mean a sanctioning of Indian state brutality in held Kashmir. It is also a warning to those waging the separatist insurgency in Balochistan.
That being said, we welcome the COAS’ comments on the way forward in Afghanistan. Like it or not, in today’s ‘democratic’ Pakistan, the security apparatus deals with the larger picture. Namely, that our geo-strategic importance as a gateway to the Central Asian market is wholly dependent upon a stable and secure Afghanistan. We offer the only viable access in and out of that area. True, there is always Iran. But even a fantastical thawing of US-Iranian relations would not displace Gwadar as the largest deep sea port of its kind in the world. Thus is it also in the US interest to have an equally stable and secure Pakistan on side. It will not want to push us too far. For we know as well as the Americans that we are their best bet. Unless of course Washington wants to risk reliance on China, the nation that represents the greatest challenge to the uni-polar world order and thus US supremacy.
Thus the COAS has offered Donald Trump an olive branch of sorts: we will rein in certain non-state actors, we will afford you access to our trade routes in return for an end to all this bullish talk, including threats to have us diplomatically isolated at the international level as well as holding our economy to ransom. Fair enough, really.
The question remains: just how much do you want peace in Afghanistan, Mr Trump?
Daily Times, September 8, 2017

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