Pakistan is going through such challenges, due to which internal instability can arise there. The displeasure of the people troubled by the backbreaking inflation is adding fuel to the fire. The growing influence of religious extremism and its manifestation in the form of attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is worsening the internal security situation. At the same time, Baloch separatists and the people of Balochistan are strongly opposed to Chinese neo-colonial ambitions to exploit the province’s natural resources as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
busy in casting the ballots
Instead of understanding the seriousness of these challenges before the country, the rulers of Pakistan are engaged in casting their votes in view of the elections to be held this year. The situation of the Pakistan Army is also no different. Contrary to public announcement, the army has also indulged in the old game of controlling domestic politics and commanding foreign policy by aligning with political leaders ahead of elections. Meanwhile, the economic plight of the country is not taking the name of going away.
At present, there is no way for Pakistan except to ensure the payment of the last installment ($ 1.1 billion) of the current relief package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the terms of increase in electricity rates and taxes attached to this loan can worsen the country’s internal situation. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also not got much scope left. He will either have to accept these conditions or leave the post. The army is ready to take such unpopular steps by setting up an interim government and negotiating with the debtors for new loans. But the IMF will not move even an inch until America gives it permission. The Biden administration’s focus is now on Ukraine, but it also realizes that Afghanistan is once again emerging as a base for terrorist groups that threaten American interests. India should understand that America and its allies will not lag behind in bailing out Pakistan as they cannot allow a nuclear nation to default or fail. Those who doubt this should look at recent statements from the US State Department, which have described Pakistan as a key ally in the region and warned that action will be taken if terrorist groups are allowed to flourish again in Afghanistan. . On the economic front, it has been said that the US is not only aware of Pakistan’s financial condition but is also strengthening its efforts to rebuild its national economy.
But Pakistan’s association with America has many other meanings as well.
US drones flying over Afghanistan have made it no longer a mystery as to which country is allowing them to fly over their airspace. Last year, the killing of al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri in a US drone strike in Kabul exposed the Pakistani government’s attempts at cover-up. Mohammad Yakub, the defense minister in the interim Taliban government at the time, accused Pakistan of providing its airspace to US drones. He warned both the US and Pakistan not to violate the territorial integrity of Afghanistan. The Pakistani army did not understand the seriousness of teasing the Afghan Taliban. Now he has to face the wrath of both Afghan Taliban and TTP simultaneously. The Pakistani security establishment has gone berserk to see that in the recent attacks, the TTP used weapons and equipment such as thermal sites, which were left behind by the US forces in Afghanistan. The question is how did TTP get these weapons? And also who freed more than 2000 TTP fighters lodged in Afghan jails instead of handing them over to Pakistan? With the economy in the trough, Pakistan Army does not have enough funds to launch operations against TTP and Baloch separatists and cannot blame India for helping these groups in Afghanistan. China also could not properly assess the ground situation while planning the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Now neither its investment nor its people are safe in Pakistan.
scope for fresh start
The crises that Pakistan is beset with are systemic and are not going to end in the near future. Nevertheless, by making peace with neighboring countries, especially India, it can begin to reduce military spending and encourage trade in the region. For this, the military has to be sidelined and space has to be created for the political leadership to frame policies and strengthen democratic institutions. The two main threats to internal security—TTP and Baloch separatism—can be easily dealt with by talking to the people of the region, addressing their grievances. People have opposed TTP in many areas, but they are also against military operations.
(The author is a former IB officer and was posted in Pakistan. Views expressed are personal)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.