WASHINGTON DIARY: The military’s risky game —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\23\story_23-3-2011_pg3_3

WASHINGTON DIARY: The military’s risky game —Dr Manzur Ejaz
Each time an-anti American spell is created, the religious right becomes stronger and bolder. It may not have fatally bitten the deep state directly but it has created havoc with Pakistan’s economy

It is likely that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies have been involved in whipping up the Raymond Davis case and then getting him released on quasi-legal grounds. Now, the military has put its foot down to stop drone attacks after several years of silent acquiescence. The push-back against the Americans could be a smokescreen to attract the anti-American fervour of the nation’s public and eventually enter North Waziristan (NW), but the rhetoric may further empower the religious right and extremist groups.

Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ — that is what some people have started calling the sum total of the military and its agencies — has been playing the anti-American game through the religious right and wandering patriots like Imran Khan to pursue its policy objectives. Seemingly, the strategy has worked in the short-run but the monster of religious extremism and irrational nationalism has been growing and taking on a life of its own.

It is reasonable to assume the highest levels of US leadership would have contacted the Pakistan military’s top brass and ISI chief to have Raymond Davis released immediately after his arrest. Obviously, not only did the military refuse to intervene but it also prompted its media auxiliaries to hype up the matter. Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other religious parties, keen to provide some kind of political cover to the Taliban and other jihadi groups, picked up the issue and created anti-American street hysteria in Pakistan. Arguably, the deep state may have done this to assert itself against its American partners, some cynics saying this was a ploy to get more money.

The sudden release of Raymond Davis has probably come after the outstanding issues were resolved. We know what amount of diyat (blood money) was paid to Fahim and Faizan’s families but we have no information on what the deep state got in return. We do not want to belabour this point too much because the Pakistan military may have very genuine issues that the US was not listening to, and using the Raymond Davis card meant protecting the state’s interests. But, immediately after the Davis deal, the US foolishly caused the death of citizens who were holding a jirga in Datta Khel. Pakistan’s military chief reacted sharply and, according to recent reports, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has begun patrolling the Pak-Afghan border to repulse future drone attacks.

Pakistan’s military may have been genuinely angered by US ungratefulness; the dust from the Raymond Davis case has not yet cleared and the US has bombed citizens in an area where anti-Americanism is already a serious threat to the establishment. However, it is hard to believe that Pakistan will begin shooting down US drones to stop the attacks that it has silently condoned and cooperated with for years. Due to economic and other needs, Pakistan is not in a position to alienate the US to the extent that it is perceived as a hostile force.

In all probability, the Pakistani military is getting ready to go into NW and take charge instead of leaving it to the drone attacks. Before heavy deployment in NW, Pakistan’s military wants to win over the common people of that area through assuming the mantle of anti-American rhetoric for which it was using the religious right brigade in the past. Furthermore, the US logistically cannot use drone attacks in NW once the Pakistan military has a heavy presence in that area. Such factors lead us to believe that the patrolling of the Pak-Afghan border by the PAF is a precursor for a South Waziristan-like military operation in NW.

The Pakistan military has to cleanse NW whether it likes it or not. However, the question is how long it can afford to assume to leadership of anti-America rhetoric. Probably not for long and, eventually, it will be inclined to revert back to the religious jihadi brigade to keep the US on its toes. This is what the deep state is accustomed to, but it has a price: each time an-anti American spell is created, the religious right becomes stronger and bolder. It may not have fatally bitten the deep state directly but it has created havoc with Pakistan’s economy.

In the years prior to these recent developments, the Pakistan Army has maintained that it could not send troops on the ground in NW because it would be an overextension of their forces. This fact, along with the figures of the thousands of young Pakistani soldiers who have died fighting against extremism, should not just be rhetoric for the Pakistan Army, but a sign that their plan has backfired. This plan has always been to utilise the religious right wing to drum up sentiments that favour the shortsighted goals of the military, not the nation as a whole. Indeed, the nation has suffered greatly due to this myopic view of governance. The military must realise that using chips like Raymond Davis to create public support will only hurt their long-term survival and empower their enemies.

Furthermore, if Pakistan’s economy keeps on tanking due to religious extremism while India, China and the rest of the region keep on growing, how can Pakistan pretend to be a genuine and recognisable regional power of the kind that the deep state is obsessed with? Put simply, who, from inside or outside the country, will invest in a religiously intolerant nation? One can afford Salafi Islam and other forms of theocracy if one has oil reserves like Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, if livelihood is going to come from human efforts then the deep state had better start thinking about how the religious brigade affects this process and whether it is appropriate to use it for policy goals in the future.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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