By Sajjad Shaukat
It is in response to the article of Rabia Ahmed, published in ‘Pakistan Today’ on January 16, 2012 under the caption, Why this army?
In her illogical criticism of Pakistan Army, Rabia Ahmed has also shown contradictory approach. At the same time, she has, in other words, realized that army should exist, but rejected its need. In this regard, in the article, while expressing views about 1965 war, and other related-wars against terrorism, she writes, “Mehdi Hassan and Noor Jehan’s songs held the public in thrall during the war of 1965…many jawans lost their lives in Pakistan’s several wars and skirmishes against enemies within and without its borders. However the armed forces cannot claim to be alone in their losses here.”
While indicating the figures of deaths during war against terrorism, from 2003 to February 2012, Rabia reveals, “All in all, 9,620 civilians died in seven years and two months in this country, while 3,443 SF [Security Forces] personnel and 20,150 terrorists lost their lives, a staggering total of 33,213 lives all…either the armed forces are no longer effective, or unable to be so.” Nevertheless, in these terms, the writer forgot that it is a different war between sovereign and non-sovereign entities, and there is no way out to completely eliminate this different enemy and suicide attacks. Even western high official and think tanks agree in light of subversive attacks in UK, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Philippines etc., and a continued wave of the same in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia in the aftermath of the 9/11 that fight against this new brand of conflict needs cooperation of all the people, intelligence agencies and security forces.
Even then, Pak Army proved successful in coping with terrorists. While indicating hostility for the sake of hostility, Rabia ignored that when the well-trained and heavily-equipped Taliban had occupied Swat, Dir, Bunir and other adjoining areas, continuing their criminal activities like kidnappings, beheadings, hostage-takings for ransom etc.—Police or Frontier Constabulary was not in a position to handle the situation. It was due to Swat and Malakand military operations led by Pakistan’s armed forces which had broken the backbone of the Taliban insurgents in the related-regions and South Waziristan. Notably, what the US-led NATO forces, equipped with sophisticated weaponry could not do against the Afghan militants in ten years in Afghanistan, Pak Army did within ten months. So as to how Rabia claims the performance of our armed forces ineffective.
Confused with her own thoughts, Rabia Ahmed also criticizes the each successive government, the present one, and its president as “highly corrupt.” She allegedly points out, “Can the same question be asked about the armed forces? Dare I ask if an army is really necessary in this country, at least in the shape, size and form it takes today?”
In this context, Rabia Ahmed must grasp reality. She should know that past experience shows that democracy which has proved to be a success in the west has been a failure in Pakistan. We cannot blame the system of democracy itself, because “any instrument can be misused.” And wastage of time in retaliation, allegations of corruption against each other, hostility for the sake of hostility, alliances and counter-alliances to change the government are characteristics of our politicians. She should also take note of the fact that during the Musharaff era, National Accountability Bureau had recovered billions of Rupees from the politicians and bureaucrats including Admiral Sarohi. Besides, if any official of the armed forces is found involved in corruption, he is punished through court martial without any discrimination.
Journalist Rabia must remember that during the regime of Nawaz Sharif, WAPDA was going to be bankrupted, and he himself had invited the army to manage its affairs. By collecting the electricity bills impartially, even from the influential persons, army’s personnel had saved WAPDA from bankruptcy. Besides, Pakistan Army has performed innumerable services during floods—desilting of canals (Bhal Safai), particularly during the Earthquake of 2005, entailing restoration of law and order on many occasions, resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and so on.
In her article, Rabia misperceived without any rationale that Pakistan’s “defence budget for the year 2011-12 increased, and now stands at over Rs 495 billion…any organization that finds itself running out of jobs has to create them. The huge American arms industry has been doing so by creating the need for weapons around the world…the Pakistani establishment too is implicated in supporting terrorism in the entire South Asian region…. the ineptness/involvement of the Pakistan army in the Osama bin Laden case begs the question why such huge amounts of funds are being diverted from the crucial needs of a poverty stricken nation into military coffers.”
Rabia must know that army’s defence budget is very essential as no army can fight without training, suitable infrastructure, food, weapons and so on. It is the duty of civil government to fulfill the necessities of the armed forces, while also providing the general masses with the requisite services through the concerned departments. In this connection, writer Rabia Ahmed miscalculates that Pak army is a burden on the country’s budget. She must pay attention to the factual position in the region. India which has imposed three wars on Pakistan, has rapidly been increasing its defence forces and its defence budget, while its military purchases have no bounds. Does Rabia know that during Musharaff era, Islamabad had offered New Delhi to resolve the thorny dispute of the Indian-held Kashmir and to reduce the forces in both the countries? But New Delhi flatly rejected the offer. Besides, history of Pak-Indian talks proves that India has always used delaying tactics in settling any issue with Pakistan. Notably, under the pretext of parliament attack by the militants in 2001 and that of Mubmbai carnage of 2008, India had concentrated troops across the Pakistani border. And Islamabad was also forced to follow the suit. Such war-like occasions prove that Pak Army is a necessary evil for the country and not burden on it as conceived by Rabia.
In fact, Journalist Rabia Ahmed has totally ignored the ground realties. While speaking in the tone of Pakistan’s foreign enemies, she has presumed that Pakistani establishment or its army is supporting terrorism in South Asia for keeping its existence. In this regard, she must better divert her attention towards India’s state terrorism in Kashmir, and that of the US-led NATO in Afghanistan.
Just like Pakistan’s external enemies, Rabia has also accused involvement of the Pakistan Army in the Osama Bin Laden case. In this regard, ISI DG Ahmed Shuja Pasha has already made it clear that Osama was living in a residential area in Abbotabad, and it was not in the knowledge of the agency. Here, question also arises that equipped with eavesdropping technology and much resources as to why American CIA failed in capturing Osama in nine years. The writer also ignored the facts that during war against terrorism, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI captured renowned Taliban commanders besides foiling a number of suicide attacks through pre-arrests of the insurgents.
It is of particular attention that in the last few years, failed in their misadventure, US top officials and their media have perennially been blaming Pak army and ISI for supporting the Afghan insurgency and Haqqani militancy in Afghanistan. Some Indian rulers and Karzai-led puppet regime in Afghanistan also expressed similar views. As part of the foreign plot, Pakistan has become special target of the internal and external crises created by the United States, India and Israel through their secret agencies, CIA, RAW and Mossad which are in connivance to destabilize Pakistan as it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World. Therefore, these agencies have been sending well-trained agents and militants in Pakistan, who commit various subversive acts in the country.
One can find no difference between the blame game of Pakistan’s foreign enemies and that of Rabia Ahmed’s views as expressed in her article. It seems that she lacks vast knowledge on international relations and geo-strategic aspects of the region. In this context, She must be aware of the fact that Pakistan is not Switzerland which does not require armed forces. At this critical juncure, she is advised to follow a realistic approach as Pakistan’s armed forces are coping with internal and external enemies by facing new kind of aggression. Army is still facing pocket resistance in some tribal areas and Indo-US-backed militants’ attaks across Pak-Afghan border intermittently.
Instead of following the baseless approach like human rights activist, Asma Jehangir and media anchors, Hamid Mir or Najam Sethi, Rabia must keep it in mind that Pak Army has become a necessary evil for Pakistan in wake of all the above mentioned drastic developments the country has been facing.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations