The headlines in every Pak newspaper last week was the press conference conducted by the Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DG ISPR), General Asif Ghafoor. In his press conference he covered all issues, political and military, conveying the message that the army remains in control and are the decision makers. These included the ongoing agitation by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), reforming the Madrassas and the future of the CPEC. These aspects are clearly the role of the political government and the military should have avoided them.
The worst comments were marked for the PTM, active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. He directly accused them of being traitors and anti-nationals. He openly stated, ‘How much money did you get from the NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) to run your campaign? How much money did RAW give you for the first Dharna in Islamabad?’ He threatened them directly stating, ‘Their time is up.’
The DG ISPR ignored the fact that the PTM had declared on their website the sources of income from Pashtun’s abroad. The army has already ensured that all protests of the PTM, no matter how peaceful, would face media blackout. However, what it has missed is that in this age of social media nothing much can be hidden from the national public.
The PTM is a peaceful movementdesiring de-mining of former tribal areas, greater freedom of movement for the locals by reduced check posts, end to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions. They demand those responsible to be held accountable within a truth and reconciliation framework.
It simply means that a peaceful movement, seeking a right to live, is being turned into a spectacle, accused of working for a foreign agenda and receiving funds from hostile intelligence agencies. This is a counter to the comments of their own Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who just a few days ago had publicly endorsed their demands. His party had even offered party tickets to top leaders of the PTM, which were turned down.
A further indicator of interference in political issues is that this stern warning also comes at the time when a Senate Committee invited Pashtun leaders, including its head, Manzoor Pashteen for a hearing. This indicates that the army has scant regard for its own PM and its Senate who are seeking a political solution. By accusing the PTM leadership, the DG ISPR indicated who calls the shots.
The Pak army has had a habit of terming anyone who questions them as a traitor and anti-national. The most recent case is that of Nawaz Sharif who faces sedition charges for admitting that the Mumbai attackers were launched from Pakistan. Imran has officially not been accused of the same for admitting that the anti-Iran terrorist groups were based in Pak and had official backing. He is presently safe as he has army backing.
In 1971 Mujibur Rehman was declared a traitor and jailed which led to the Bangladesh war of independence and the creation of a new country. Had this action not been taken by the them military dictatorship of Pak, the country would never have split. It was the military leadership which was responsible then and will be responsible again for the next split.
Zahid Hussain writes in an article in the Dawn on the remarks of the DG ISPR, ‘Political leaders accused of treason were often allowed to take the political centre stage after they mended fences with the security apparatus.’ He added, ‘It may be true that in this age of hybrid war, hostile foreign intelligence agencies are exploiting discontent for their own vested interests. But the inept handling of the situation will only help their agenda. Any rash action could be disastrous for the country. Warnings of the sort given at the briefing can only make people angrier.’
Baluchistan is seeking independence as it was never amalgamated into Pak but forcibly annexed. Thus, instead of attempting to resolve issues which most Pak strategists, politicians and academicians consider genuine and simple, the army considers the opposite and attempts to subdue even peaceful movements.There have been no comments from the Indian or Afghan Government on Pak’s actions and accusations in Baluchistan.
Compare this with the manner Pak acts and reacts whenever India takes a decision in Kashmir. Recent comments by the BJP on removing articles 35A and 370 bear merit. There is no press conference addressed by any Pak leader, where the issue of Kashmir is not raised. There is no address in the international arena where India is not accused of its actions in Kashmir. Every encounter where a Pak trained and infiltrated militant is killed, Pak spokespersons call them innocents. Burhan Wani was praised by the Pak PM, Nawaz Sharif, even in the United Nations.
If India was to adopt the same approach on Baluchistan as Pak has done in Kashmir, then it would be a different story across the globe. India’s international standing is far higher than Pak in every international forum. Subjugation of human rights, forcible killings, rape and disappearance can be raised across international bodies and Pak shamed and disgraced. Demanding UN Human Rights access to Baluchistan to listen to their grievances and obtain first hand information on missing persons, military brutality andpresence of mines can embarrass Pak across the world.
India has so far avoided supporting any terrorist movement against Pak. Nor has it interfered in Pak’s handling of its minorities, except where its handling of Hindu’s is concerned, while Pak has regularly poked its nose where not required. In time, Indian patience would run thin and it could begin providing support to such movements. The day it does, the very survival of Pak as a nation would be in jeopardy.
Presently the Pak army is chopping its own foot by their comments and actions. They are themselves alienating their own. They do not need any enemies. On Kashmir, they are testing Indian patience. A time may come when India would decide to pay them back in their own coin. Pak should realize that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.
(The author is Major General (retd)