Change in Pakistan's Security Policy ?
Published in The News on Sunday
There are two issues with the internal shifts, if any, in the way military is proceeding with its strategic rethink. First of all, due to its structure and institutional culture it is not an open and engaging entity. Decisions are centralised and are taken by a coterie of top commanders. Secondly it is also learning to readjust its power and influence within the context of a changing Pakistan.
Secondly, after five years of civilian rule and emergence of new power centres (judiciary and media), its exclusive monopoly of power had been eroded. For instance, launching a coup though not impossible is a far more complicated endeavour. In this fluid political environment, the Army has yet to find a comfortable equilibrium with the political forces and the parliament. It might have been more useful had the army tried to engage with the national security committee of the parliament thereby giving its rethink more depth, public input and long term legitimacy.
Let’s not forget that the ideological propaganda of al Qaeda and its affiliates has penetrated various sections of the Pakistani society. Whilst the Pakistani population does not want a Taliban type regime that bans women’s education, a vast majority of the population considers the US as an enemy of Islam and the Muslim. More often than not the West — as a vague construct — is also employed in this xenophobic and violent ideology of resistance. This narrative has gained ground in the country whether we like or not.
Sadly the elements of the state, especially the military, have added to this paranoia by firstly allowing the torchbearers of this ideology to live safely in the country for over a decade and secondly to operate from within the country. In this lax environment, the al Qaeda and its junior partner, the Taliban, have made some local alliances and established more bases beyond the rugged mountains of the north. Media reports again inform us that sectarian groups are also in alliance with the Salafi Islamists and many places in mainland Pakistan such as Karachi, South Punjab etc are the new havens.
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