Sovereignty at stake

I have been in Cairo where I had arrived two weeks ago to talk to the Arab intellectuals of strategic and Islamic affairs. Regrettably then on May 27, 2009 the third major terrorist attack in three months occurred in Lahore. Since then there have been more blasts in the country including the destruction of a five star hotel in Peshawar and the brutal murder of a pro-government highly respected cleric in Lahore. Recent hostilities in the country concerning the war events in Swat have already initiated a debate in many regional and international influential media and intellectual quarters if Pakistan could survive this newly created reality, in which serious questions about the policies and decisions of the government are manifestly involved. This debate revolves around the painful topic of the very survival of the country; it is a subject of tremendous significance for the entire Muslim world. This inquiry is of highest strategic importance but in terms of fundamental realities of contemporary transnational political facts entails two connected but separate and clearly distinct matters. Firstly, we have to see if this eventuality is theoretically possible and not raised just rhetorically by our foes or disgruntled friends; secondly, we have to determine and evaluate the relevant circumstances to see if God forbid, a collapse on the basis of the identified criteria could happen. The first question is whether it is considered a rationally justifiable inquiry that should be examined; I would have thought that it is really being melodramatic to even raise the question that a nuclear-armed nation possessing about the fifth largest military can just collapse as a result of domestic skirmishes. However, that such a scenario which has been now circulating for months at least raises the concerns to a level in which the matter needs to be objectively analysed. In this context three composite factors need to be listed in the causation of this particular phenomenon dealing with the government. * The over-excessive official followed by private tours abroad have exposed our ruling leadership to the world negatively. His choice of key advisors and ambassadors is perceived to be unwise; it is also simply disturbing that in taking stock of the country's woes, more than the majority of them are lumped up with the current incumbent of presidency. * The continued touting of the now worn-out mantra, which is really embarrassing for any sovereign state, particularly one of a nuclear capacity, that seeks and accepts getting more and more money, presumably for the country, for fighting this current war against terrorism. Many in Pakistan are now alarmed that it has effectively become a mercenary establishment. * Whether or not these wars are of Pakistan's choice or in its long-term interests or is it simply the inability of the current leadership of Islamabad to speak up to the powers that may be external or internal. This last point is really reaching scandalous proportions when one sees the articulations of several key members of the US Congress; it is maintained by leading Congressional members, particularly of the Republican Party that it is naive for Washington to handover a billion plus dollars to the incumbent Pakistani government. I have yet to find any credible with evidence which might suggest that people in the country are convinced that it is not Washington's war that the army is fighting for a heavy and pricey interest. I find that except Imran Khan, no one has the courage to speak the truth for fear of alienating some perceived US support. Simultaneously it can hardly be denied that the Pakistani government is really not operational. It is said the Swat operation is for maintaining the writ of the government in tact. Whatever was the efficacy of such a writ, it was in tatters after the lawyers long march. Besides this, what is more perplexing to me as constitutional jurist is that the Office of the President is not expected, by conventional norms or indeed by the letter of the constitution, to do any such a thing. It is the country's government and the PM who is supposed to carry such negotiations. In the process of this current wave of fighting the insurgency, the army has been definitely put in a position to gain nothing except political ascendancy in national affairs but at huge cost to its well being. As such when recently the entirety of national column writers of any note were citing with tremendous appreciation the briefing given by the COAS to the PM and then to other leaders of the nation May I ask what is the purpose of such pretence when it is trite knowledge that if the army is genuinely under the civil leadership as proclaimed by the constitution. This kind of charade would hardly be necessary. In the most recent of such briefings, a number of political leaders in the government coalition protested publicly, albeit somewhat timidly, that this briefing was simply in the nature of being told that this is what we have done and you better endorse it In Afghanistan, the US after wiping out the Taliban by use of massive air power at its disposal, in the early phase of the war in October and November 2001, now the Taliban are back in control of most of that country. It is a lesson of the classic variety. I maybe the only one to point out but I do not think that the Taliban can militarily be entirely ousted from the region. Without a real rapprochement, the timely winning of war by a conventional army against a guerrilla force is neither here nor there. The locals, whether they be contemporary Taliban or the erstwhile mujahideen of the eighties decade of the last century, are more than likely to prevail knowing in the end it is their land and outsiders would have to leave one day some time. Great Britain learnt this lesson a long time ago when it fought the two Afghanistan wars in 1842 and 1844. However the armed forces are thus now committed, one hopes, to the elimination of a military threat to the civilian authority of the country. But in this process, it is the civil society that has to erode and then eliminate the ideological threat that has been allowed to grow. Few questions however must be raised. One cannot cite many illustrations when a war was launched against its own people and territory and then created over two million refugees within the country? It is very difficult not to fault the government in this operation as their own forces are responsible for this terrible calamity. It maybe sheer coincidence but I must also point out that in the international field, the matter of IDPs has been taken quite seriously since the last year Is it a mere coincidence that the international community's key humanitarian agencies had already done some basic number crunching about Pakistan for how they would deal with the IDP crises towards the end of 2008 Or is it a conspiracy of giant international proportions seen through by others but not by Pakistanis? The possible answers are quite chilling. With Pakistan in view, I have seen some startling figures The international donor community had already estimated that the armed conflict in Bazaar and Mohamed agencies would likely drive the numbers of these Pakistanis who are refugees in their own country to about 600,000. To cater for such people, it was estimated that roughly $36 million would be required to provide shelter, water and sanitation, food, basic health care, and schooling needs for the IDPs. As I write these words, and the long overdue military operation to eliminate Taliban from Swat, Buner and Dir scorches more and more of the earth, it is becoming a reality that original estimate of 600,000 is exploding into ever larger numbers. The end result looks very uncomfortable to me from any perspective. Pakistan's troubles are indeed greater since Nawaz Sharif also does not seem to know what to do in these circumstances. Recently while in London I attended a function in the House of Lords in which Nawaz Sharif's otherwise able representatives had no clue about the seriousness that we face. Also to be kept in mind is the fact that although there is a functioning Parliament, the action against the Taliban has been undertaken on the consultation of the APC and other non-permanently constitutional institutions. Why? I am afraid no one in authority has the slightest knowledge. The APC held in Pakistan recently, remained divided on the issue of endorsing the ongoing military operation in Swat, but was unanimous in condemning the US drone attacks. The PM reluctantly agreed that this is the case and tried in vain to convince these three big parties JI, JU and TI to drop their campaign against this government policy. It was the government that had proposed a draft resolution, which was clearly endorsing the ongoing military operation, but it was later rewritten in view of certain political leaders' clear stance that they would not support the military operation. So, it remains to be seen how far these matters get resolved to enable Pakistan to survive this present crisis. Last but not least, two important points should be mentioned: First is the impact eventually of international conspiracies to which reference is made above. In this context, inter alia, the political intentions of some parties would require constant oversight. Secondly is the stark fact ignored by everyone that there still remains the continued matter of the Durand Line and its efficacy as a boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan after 1993 when the Treaty of 1893 expired and the Rawalpindi Treaty of 1921. In the same context is the legal status of the Northern areas itself which under the circumstances could be used against Pakistan's continued existence in its current formation. The writer is a barrister and professor of Law & International Affairs at the Harvard University

The writer is barrister at law (US and UK), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University.

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