Our strategic blunders

Kashmir war was a victim of confused military planning and bad timing resulting unfortunately into what turned out to be a perpetual bone of contention between India and Pakistan

The following excerpts from Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s speech at the 54th Munich Security Conference held last Saturday pinpoints the blunder that we committed under the misguided leadership of General Ziaul Haq when according to General Bajwa the Frankenstein (terrorism) was actually created by the liberal free world, with “willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.”

To put the emergence of terrorism in its correct historical perspective General Bajwa had elucited: “In Pakistan,… jihad has definitely been used to radicalise fairly large tracts of population. However, this phenomenon is not a recent creation or started after 9/11. The Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Therefore, we all are responsible for making the world population in general and Muslim population in particular, hostage to this extremist ideology.

“Times have surely changed since the noon of March 10, 1982, when, President Ronald Reagan, dedicated the March 22nd launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle to the valiant Afghan Mujahideens or Jihadis and termed their struggle against the Soviet occupation forces as a representation of `man’s highest aspirations for freedom.

“When I was young, Pakistan was as normal a country as any other on the earth. Jacqueline Kennedy flew to Karachi, the Beatles visited us, Queen Elizabeth went to the Khyber Pass to chat with the tribesmen. We were a favourite tourism destination for many. We were hosting world cups of hockey and cricket, besides many other multi-national events. World Bank had termed Pakistan in 1963 as one of the most progressive and dynamic developing countries in Asia.

While who did what, at which point in time makes it abundantly clear that the so-called free world, led by the US was the real inventor of ‘jihadism’ alias terrorism

“The seventies were nothing less than a disaster for us, but even the separation of the Eastern part of our country and the political upheavals thereafter, did not change the society as deeply as the events of 1979, the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution happened, next door. It was only then that we started learning that we were not only Muslims, but were Sunnis and Shias. It was also the time that we were drawn to conviction of fighting Soviet invasion and also challenging communist ideology.

“With the able intellectual assistance of free world, a syllabus was designed in one of the Western Universities for Madaris wherein jihad was fed to young minds in a concentrated dose without context or explanation. An exception was created, using a self defence clause to justify declaration of jihad by Non State Actors. Young men were recruited from all over the world, radicalised and then left and disowned after they had delivered us, the success.”

While who did what, at which point in time makes it abundantly clear that the so-called free world led by the US was the real inventors of ‘jihadism’ alias terrorism, General Bajwa, has very rightly did not absolve our late military ruler, President General Zia and his close coterie, of course without naming names, of being myopic enough to become an active partner in this short sighted game which has now become an albatross around Pakistan’s neck.

But this was not the first blunder of our military high command. Scores of books have been published based on sources direct from official military archives, that throw into bold relief the blunders that were committed while planning and executing the 1965 war which ended in a stalemate in the short run but served as the precursor for the 1971 war of separation in the medium term.

And the first Kashmir war too was a victim of confused military planning and bad timing resulting unfortunately into what turned out to be a perpetual bone of contention between India and Pakistan forcing the two into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation from day one of their respective histories following independence from colonial rule.

Notwithstanding the fact that India created a never-ending problem for itself by throwing the Kashmir imbroglio under the carpet of Article 370 of its Constitution, Pakistan made its claim on the Indian occupied part of the disputed territory the main fulcrum of its foreign policy.

And until about the military misadventure of Kargil in 1999 launched by yet another misguided COAS, General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf the world at large was on our side on the Kashmir issue. But we lost this support and with it our Kashmir case in the global court of public opinion when in full public glare our troops withdrew from the Kargil heights on the orders of Musharraf because he had not anticipated while planning the Kargil campaign what would be the international fall out once he had captured his military objective.

For what is being attempted to be expounded here about these blunders one can glean in full detail in many erudite books including Shuja Nawaz’ Cross Swords, a profound, multi-layered, and historical analysis of the nature and the role of Pakistan Army in the country’s polity as well as its turbulent relationship with the United States, India and Afghanistan.

And this brings us to the ISPR’s latest announcement  that we have decided to send almost one full division to Saudi Arabia which is engaged in a war with Yemen. This is in addition to the 1600 Pakistani troops already stationed there.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgiron Monday stunned the Senators by refusing to disclose the location of the deployment of the troops being sent to the Kingdom even in an in-camera session beyond that the troops would be located within the geographical boundaries of Saudi Arabia.He also claimed that the decision was taken within the confines of the joint parliamentary resolution of April 2015 which had proposed that Pakistan “should maintain neutrality in the conflict (between KSA and Iran which is alleged to be supporting Yemen Houties)) so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis”.

Perhaps this is Pakistan’s too quick-fire response to Tehran leasing to New Delhi the other day operational control of part of the Iranian Chabahar port for 18 months. If that is what is it then perhaps a second look at our decision would not be inappropriate just to calculate its strategic cost-benefit ratio.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014

Published in Daily Times, February 22nd 2018.