The final results of the Pakistani elections are yet to emerge. However, the unofficial indications till now are that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Mr.Asif Zardari, the Pakistan Muslim League of Mr.Nawaz Sharif (PML(N) ), the Muittahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain and the Awami National Party (ANP) of Mr.Afsandyar Wali Khan have been doing well. They are likely to play an important role in the Government formation and in policy-making—the PPP and the PML (N) at the national level and the other two at the provincial levels—the MQM in Sindh and the ANP in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Of these, the MQM is closely identified with President Pervez Musharraf, while the other three are strong critics of him.
2. What was the stand of these four parties on various national security issues of interest to India during the election campaign? Their views as expressed by them are given below. This is based on a collation by Mr.Qudssia Akhlaque carried by the “News”, the daily of Pakistan, in two parts on February 17 and 18,2008.He posed the questions on various national security and foreign policy issues, among others, to Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, MQM Deputy Convener Dr. Farooq Sattar, and Afsandyar Wali Khan .
3. Nawaz Sharif’s replies are particularly interesting. He has been guarded and his views on issues such as the command and control over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the security of the arsenal, action against Dr.A.Q.Khan, the role of the army in national security policy-making, control over the Inter-Services Intelligence, and the perceived inadequate progress in the dialogue with India on the Kashmir issue have been framed in such a manner as not to make the Punjabi Generals of the Army uncomfortable. Nawaz Sharif and particularly his brother Shahbaz Sharif have been in touch with many of the serving and retired Punjabi officers and he has kept in view their sensitivities. Of all the four leaders, he is the only leader who has given equal priority to Pakistan’s relations with India and China. On the question of relations with the US, there has been a certain lack of enthusiasm in his replies.
THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
ANP: There is no need for a National Security Council or any other supra constitutional bodies. Matters of National Security should be debated in the Parliament and a parliamentary body formed for it.
MQM: The Parliament of Pakistan is the supreme body and in its presence the concept and existence of the National Security Council is rather redundant; most certainly the very presence of the NSC looks upon the democratic institutions with distrust and questioning their validity. However, the NSC was a bitter pill that had to be swallowed but with conditionality through an amendment introduced by the MQM, that all decisions taken by the NSC have to be ratified by the Parliament and this was accepted by the coalition. The NSC cannot be looked in isolation, independent of certain hardcore facts namely: (1) The history of covert and overt actions and State oppression, such as against the MQM; (2) The post 9/11 scenario and (3) To avoid situations like the imposition of the emergency. The positive political involvement of the MQM with the coalition de-clawed the NSC and brought it under the political umbrella of parliamentary democracy.
PPP: The PPP does not support the National Security Council. The NSC would be abolished and replaced with a Defense Committee of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.
PML-N: It has expressed two contradictory views. In his reply to the questions, Nawaz Sharif said that the NSC should always be headed by the Chief Executive which is the Prime Minister and not the President, but in its manifesto, the party had said:“ The National Security Council will be abolished. The Defense Committee of the Cabinet will be reconstituted as the Cabinet Committee on Defense and National Security and will be chaired by the Prime Minister.”
SHOULD THERE BE A MILITARY REPRESENTATION IN THE NSC IF IT CONTINUES?
ANP: The question does not arise as it wants the NSC to be abolished.
MQM: Security no more consists of only traditional concepts of external threat or aggression. It also addresses internal threats and aggression as well. Similarly, the much neglected and rapidly emerging economic, trade and natural threats need serious attention. Military has an important role to play, but under the official subservience of elected government.
PPP: As it does not support the NSC, the question of military representation in it does not arise. However, the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) under the Prime Minister should continue to have the military’s representation.
PML-N: If the NSC continues, the Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff ,and the chiefs of the three Services can be represented at the NSC, but it should also include the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister, the Interior Minister and the Finance Minister, but not the four Chief Ministers as at present, if the Council is to perform genuine security functions and is not meant to oversee the political system of the country.
SHOULD THE INTER-SERVICES INTELLIGENCE (ISI) BE HEADED BY A CIVILIAN?
ANP: There are a number of concerns and questions about the role, structures and accountability of the ISI which need a critical review and reform to make it an effective, accountable and useful body working for the national interest. The body needs to be made accountable to an elected government with a professional civilian setup.
MQM: Absolutely not. The ISI historically speaking was created to collect, research, analyze and manage intelligence from the services that come under the Armed Forces. Unfortunately it was a civilian Prime Minister who created the political wing that was subsequently used to spy on politicians for blackmailing and buying their loyalties and has since then become a norm. The MQM condemns and abhors all such activities that ISI’s political wing practises. We would like the ISI to revert back to its original role and focus its eyes, ears and energies onto the military instead of civilians.
PPP: It is not very important who heads the security agencies. The important thing is that all security agencies, including the ISI, should be answerable to the elected Prime Minister and the Parliament. It is also important that the functioning of agencies like the ISI is regulated by legislation.
PML-N: No. The ISI, as an inter-service organization, has to be headed by a military Director-General.
THE COMMAND AND CONTROL OF THE NUCLEAR ARSENAL
ANP: The past perpetual military dictatorships have weakened every institution in the country and placed the entire nation at a serious risk. Thus it is difficult for anyone to have confidence in a command and control structure managed under such dictatorial regimes. Also, the Party strongly believes that Pakistan should support international moves for arms reduction and abolition of nuclear weapons on an universal and non-discriminatory basis.
MQM: We have faith in Pakistan’s command and control structure to safeguard our nuclear assets but we are concerned by all this unwanted attention it is getting in the foreign press. No system is 100 per cent fool-proof and we need to be vigilant 24/7, 365 days a year and to effectively weed out elements and threats who pose a threat to our nuclear assets. This is the price one pays to have these very expensive and deadly toys that supposedly bring strategic balance and peace. Pakistan more than anything needs peace of mind, social and economic development. No nuclear arsenal is strong enough to protect us if the supreme will of the people is not there.
PPP: The present command and control structure of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is under the President. The PPP has demanded that the Nuclear Command and Control be placed under the Defense Committee of the Cabinet under the Prime Minister.
PML-N: Yes. Satisfied with the existing command and control
ARE PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS VULNERABLE?
ANP: Pakistan is the only nuclear power in the Islamic world. Given the present tensions in the world, this nuclear capability can present a grave threat to the country’s security rather than guarantee it, which was the reason for going nuclear in the first place. The country’s foreign policy has, therefore, to be finely adjusted to guard against these dangers while at the same time, it must serve to further the national interest in terms of economic and commercial progress.
MQM: This is a technical question and since being no security expert or having no access to privileged information I may not be able to answer this question. But in this age and all things considered, nothing is invincible or inviolable. If nuclear faux pas and serious security breaches like 9/11 can happen in the West, how can we be so confident in this over-crowded country of 160 million people?
PPP: Musharraf has in his biography accused some Pakistani scientists of setting up a clandestine international market of nuclear weapons. If one were to believe his claim that the nuclear weapons were being sold in the black market by some individuals it would appear that our nuclear arms are vulnerable. However, we have received international assistance for putting in place a nuclear command and control structure. Therefore our nuclear assets ought to be safe. But God forbid, if the country begins to fall apart and armed militants march on to Islamabad supported by another Red Mosque type mutiny, the situation would be extremely dangerous. This is why, as the democratic alternative,we believe it is essential to restore democracy, mobilize the strength of the people and create political stability to secure the integrity of the country.
SHOULD THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY IN VIENNA BE GIVEN DIRECT ACCESS TO DR.A.Q.KHAN?
MQM: Dr. A.Q. Khan affair was handled unprofessionally and was humiliating for Pakistan as well as the person who was instrumental in Pakistan’s nuclear program. But no person should be above the law and there are procedures to handle such situations. There was no need to have public circuses. The establishment created this hero culture for its own ulterior objectives. Pakistan can do better without this lame culture; what this country needs more than anything else is men and women of substance.
PPP: The regime has already allowed IAEA access to A. Q. Khan by transmitting written replies of Dr. Khan to the Agency. Parliament is the best forum for considering direct access to Dr Khan if ever such a demand was made.
SHOULD A.Q.KHAN BE RELEASED FROM HOUSE ARREST?
ANP: Yes. However, if Dr. Khan is guilty of a criminal offense, he should have been charged and allowed a fair trial.
MQM: Dr Khan is under protective custody. But again the Government should be clear, straightforward and take people into confidence but not procrastinate. If Dr AQ Khan is guilty then do the necessary under the law and if he is innocent then do the necessary as well. Individual & State can both make mistakes. We need to move on.
WOULD YOU ACTIVELY ADVOCATE HIS RELEASE?
ANP: Yes. He or any other citizen should not be held without a charge.
MQM: If he is innocent why not.
PPP: We advocate a parliamentary probe into the nuclear proliferation and due process of law. The PPP has called for a parliamentary inquiry because Pakistan cannot afford to endanger its own nuclear system by smuggling and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.
TERRORISM IN PAKISTAN
ANP: There are different forms of terrorism and militancy in the country which can be traced mainly to the state policies and patronage.
MQM: Terrorism is not merely a problem any more. The dark reality is that it will soon be touching epidemic proportions if radical measures are not taken immediately and with the utmost sincerity. Everyone talks of democracy and how it will eradicate the evil of terrorism without bothering to take into consideration the root causes that have prevailed and need equal attention and importance as terrorism as well. The fact is that with over160 million people, decadent feudal practices, over centralization of power, limited resources, high illiteracy, shifting rural-urban dynamics and widening gaps between haves and have-nots, the increasing sense of deprivation will only breed fanaticism, sectarianism and extremism. These terrorists are cashing in on the poverty struck people and exploiting their sentiments and handicaps. Every underprivileged and socio-economically disadvantaged person is a potential Al Qaeda recruit in this world today and by default West with all its success and its allies becomes the hateful target. A lot needs to be acknowledged, understood and corrected besides radical measures and this means political changes and reforms in Pakistan and the Muslim world as well. With specific reference to Pakistan we have to place special emphasis on fundamental reforms in FATA (Federally-Administered Tribal Areas) and bringing them in the national and political mainstream.
PPP: Yes, terrorism is a serious problem facing the country. In her last political testament, Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto said that she feared for the future of Pakistan at the hands of militancy and exhorted the Party to ‘continue the fight against extremism’.
PML-N: Yes. ( It is a serious problem).
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF PAKISTAN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE WAR ON TERROR?
ANP: We cannot see any positive impact of such an illegal war which has directly targeted the Pukhtuns and caused severe threat to peace and security in the region.
MQM: We have been on the receiving end. We received aid worth 12 billion US dollars and we received the wrath of Al Qaeda and Taliban and the hate of the masses for the rulers’ for siding with the US in spite of being the target of bomb attacks as well. We certainly won’t call it the best bargain especially so since this war is bringing terror now to GHQ doorsteps and cantonments across the country. As if this is not enough, we are now earning the suspicion of Americans regarding the sincerity of our intentions. It is rather unfortunate that it had to take a 9/11 like incident to wake us up. What we are doing today is sorting our house that should have been done long ago; if we had done so, we could have very well prevented the shame and unnecessary attention that Pakistan had to face because of the myopic and visionless policies in the past. It’s not a question of negative and positive impacts here; at that time (after 9/11) it was a matter of choice between the devil and the deep blue sea and the best possible decision under the circumstances was taken in Pakistan’s interest. These Johnnies who are critical of Pakistan’s decision are still living in a fool’s paradise and need to get a reality check. Every dark cloud has a silver lining and we need to find ours; as long as we take home a lesson and apply it for an egalitarian, democratic Pakistan then we have hope. If nothing, 9/11 has opened our eyes to the reality we had been avoiding for so long. 9/11 is a wake up call for us as much as it is for rest of the world.
PPP: It is in our interest to participate in the war on terror and root out the scourge of terrorism from Pakistan. On the negative side, however, the dictatorship has manipulated the war on terror to perpetuate itself and deny the people their democratic rights. The regime seems to be running with the hare and hunting with the hound and thus invited incalculable damage.
PML-N: The negative consequences of Pakistan’s participation in the war against terror far exceed any positive (economic) impact it may have yielded.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR POLICY TO DEAL WITH TERRORISM IN PAKISTAN?
ANP: We firmly believe in finding peaceful and non violent ways of addressing external and internal threats. The party will seek political solutions to such problems rather than use of force. Much of the problems of extremism have exacerbated in the country because of extended periods of military dictatorships and total breakdown of state institutions. The situation can only be reversed by a legitimate and democratically elected government with a focus on needs, interests and aspirations of the people. Uphold democracy, rule of law and independence of the main pillars of the state, protect rights and freedoms.
MQM: Terrorism today is the culmination of the political processes and strategic seedlings planted jointly by one man and a superpower namely, Zia-ul-Haq and the US in their passion to bleed the heathen Russians in Afghanistan. Thus it is a joint moral responsibility of Pakistan and the US to bring sustainable political solutions to redress the mess we are in today. Pakistan’s counterterrorism measures have to be carefully balanced against long term domestic and foreign policy goals in order to get maximum advantage. For Pakistan to be a strong self sufficient nation, it will need to rethink its current spending of Western aid, shifting resources to improving the country’s socio-economic strata while defending itself against potential threats and a new class of radical groups. Any effective policy will have to be based on a multi-pronged approach with critical appreciation, acceptance and analysis of historical facts, mistakes made and the ground reality today before we embark on any new policy making adventure. Essentially, the political leadership will have to be taken into confidence. The Civil, Military and Feudal troika (Establishment) can no longer be trusted with what is national interest and defining our future. It has to be a participatory exercise for it to be effective and of consequence.The MQM is aware of as well as deeply concerned over the lack of any reforms in FATA and how these critical political gaps are being used by extremist elements as launch pads to strike deep into Pakistan and to spread terror, fear and hate. The political parties should be given free access to the FATA and allowed to practise as well. The black FCR (Frontier Crime Regulations) law in FATA needs to be abolished and a solid socio-economic reform package introduced encompassing wide scale and meaningful madrassah reforms to bring them into the national mainstream with proper audit and regulations.Healthy and educated people are less likely to become the cannon fodder for terrorists. We have neglected education & health for far too long and it needs urgent attention with an increase of 10 % each of GDP within the next ten years. Of equal importance is population control which is a demographic termite that will erode us from within if not snipped in the bud.
PPP: The Party is committed to vigorously confront militancy and terrorism. We do not support appeasement or dialogue with the militants who have taken on the state. We will talk with those who will lay down arms and accept the state and the Constitution. The military government has relied solely on the use of force in dealing with extremism in the tribal areas. We believe that alongside the use of force, we also need to take political steps and improve the socio- economic conditions of the people in the tribal area.Poverty and social isolation also breeds militancy. We will address issues of poverty and social isolation in the tribal areas. The PPP has already filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court seeking the extension of the Political Parties Act to the tribal areas. We want to bring the people of the tribal areas into the 21st century and make them stake- holders in fighting militancy and extremism. We would interrupt the flow of drug funds that finance militancy as well as spread education and employment.We need to bring in education and development in the tribal areas, which have remained cut off from the rest of the world since the last PPP government was dismissed in 1996. But we will not compromise with the extremists. We have prepared a blue print for the socio-economic development of the tribal areas in which the elected Agency Councils will have administrative and financial powers to undertake development activities. We also plan to give them an independent judicial system with the right to appeal.
PML-N: The use of force is and will remain necessary against foreign and local terrorists who take innocent lives and also to prevent infiltration across the Pakistan border. But it is even more important to win the hearts and minds of people who support them, through a concerted process of political engagement. PML-N is committed to pursue this dual track approach and take resolute steps to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism. During its previous tenure from 1997 to 1999, the PML-N government took a series of measures to control terrorist groups and counter their activities. It also supported the efforts of the international community to deal with this threat. In keeping with this policy, the party will intensify these efforts by: strengthening the capacity of law enforcing agencies to detect and control terrorist groups and their supporters; influencing the groups which directly or indirectly support terrorism, through political intermediaries and civil society organizations to adhere to basic Islamic principles of peace, moderation and justice. Also, promoting the rule of law, tolerance and mutual respect in the country to overcome the sense of desperation; taking steps to mainstream the tribal areas into the political, economic and cultural activities of the country and accelerating the pace of economic and social development in these areas.
WHICH ARE THE COUNTRIES TO WHICH SPECIAL ATTENTION SHOULD BE GIVEN IN FOREIGN POLICY?
ANP: Pakistan needs to pay special attention to building its relations with all its neighbours especially Afghanistan and India. In view of the commonalities in culture, faith, language and history between the people of Pukhtunkhwa and those of Afghanistan, determined efforts should be made to promote cooperation in every field including economic, commercial, educational and cultural. Similarly, establishment of peaceful, cooperative good neighbourly relations with India should be given high priority. All issues including Jammu and Kashmir should be solved through peaceful negotiations and open dialogue. Bilateral relations with any country should be conducted strictly on the basis of sovereign equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs.
MQM: Pakistan and India have been bitter enemies from day one since independence and spent more time in propaganda and destabilizing each other than developing their people and countries. India was better in managing open fronts as well as managing hot spots due to internal and external reasons and threats. Also, it was not burdened by the religious fervor that messed up our foreign policy and resulted in delusional and divine agendas of questionable validity and poor reflection of our global needs. There is no reason that we cannot have a South Asian Fraternity like EU in certain areas like trade and travel to be followed by a No War Pact as well as agreement to totally destroy respective nuclear arsenals by a certain date. We favor a Nuclear Free South Asia.Most importantly, if India and Pakistan can bilaterally settle all issues amicably, Pakistan will have no more issues with Afghanistan or Iran either and this will be a big victory for our foreign policy.
PPP: We need to improve relations on priority basis with the SAARC countries and more importantly with India. The PPP policy is to improve relations with India without prejudice to the Kashmir dispute. It is manifest from the signing of the Simla agreement in 1972 and December 1988 agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear installations. The PPP had been called a security risk for its farsighted vision, which was now being embraced by all its then critics.
PML-N: A peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues with India, in a spirit of fairness and equity would be accorded special priority by the Party. Also, every effort would be made to strengthen and enhance the relationship with Pakistan’s time tested friend China so as to make it truly strategic, by imparting greater substance and depth to it.
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE CURRENT LEVEL OF INDIA-PAKISTAN RELATIONS?:
ANP: Same as the answer to the previous question.
MQM: Certainly relations with India are better than ever before. But a lot more needs to be done and for it to be sustained. There is better interaction between the people of the two countries and you are seeing the emergence of a social dialogue between the intellectuals, academics, think tanks, artists, NGOs and others besides the government to government interactions as well as track II diplomacy in the sidelines. Yes, we do need to resolve issues like Kashmir and water before we can put a closure on past, but it should not deter us from seeking peace and prosperity.
PPP: The PPP has welcomed the regime taking a leaf from its manifesto for the normalization of relations with India. However, we are not sure whether it is merely tactical in nature or it is a strategic shift in policy thinking.
PML-N: On the whole ‘Yes’ but there is still considerable mistrust between the two countries which has to be removed.
THE KASHMIR QUESTION
ANP: Same as above….
MQM: It is high time and we both need to move towards a resolution. Pakistan and India cannot afford to have this bleeding sore forever. Most importantly, the Kashmiris need to take a front seat and claim it from Islamabad and New Delhi or stay confined to headlines forever. There have been human losses on both sides and billions of dollars wasted on expensive military hardware, upkeep of forces.It is time to go beyond Shimla summit & Lahore yatra, and work towards a permanent and lasting peace and let us make it happen within the next two years.We fully endorse the joint statement between Pakistan and India at the SAARC Summit on Jan 6, 2004 for a composite framework and dialogue. The spirit has to continue and materialized for the benefit of the two countries and in the shortest possible time.
PPP: We think that without compromising our position we still can take step by step measures that will enhance confidence and create an environment for the people of Kashmir to determine their future. Some measures that can be taken immediately are facilitating meeting of divided families, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Bus Service ,a seminar of lawyers from both sides of the LOC at Muzaffarabad and Srinagar to discuss existing laws against basic Human Rights, organizing Intra Kashmiri dialogue and a seminar of businessmen from both sides of the LOC to discuss the possibilities of promoting business within the State.
PML-N: India has not so far responded positively to the flexibility shown by Pakistan for resolving the Kashmir issue. More intensive dialogue is needed which hopefully would be possible with the revival of a democratic government after the next elections.
RELATIONS WITH THE US
ANP: The relations with the US need to be characterized by dignity and self respect and must result in mutual benefit. The basic principle of sovereign equality and non-interference needs to be instituted. The main focus of the relationship needs to shift from military to social and economic development.
MQM: There is no shortcut to achieving Pakistan’s interests’ better with the USA. Both the US and Pakistan are deeply disillusioned with each other due to bitter experiences on our part and non satisfactory relationship complaints on their part in the past. It is very important that US-Pakistan relationship extends beyond the relationship between the Pentagon and the Pakistan Army. It has to be a people to people contact and relationship that will establish trust and bridges that will last. The Pentagon-Pakistan Army relationship is a vestige of cold war that should not come in the way of exemplary relationship between the two nations. The US needs to realize that linking aid with war on terror is not enough; it has to identify the root causes that have led us to this situation today and link aid with effective measures towards sincere steps towards implementation of provincial autonomy. True democracy and democratic reforms are a farce in a feudal setup that only thrives on clans, tribes, race, ethnicity and sectarian issues. The US needs to study these root causes and address Pakistan’s predicaments and grievances accordingly.
PPP: The foreign policy must be shaped by the Parliament and the Cabinet.The PPP would discuss and debate the foreign policy issues in the Parliament to bring them in consonance with the nation’s aspirations.
PML-N: The new government that takes over, after the next elections, will have to undertake a thorough review of its relationship with the USA keeping in view the following objectives: i) Convince the US that while Pakistan will continue to cooperate with the US to curb cross border activities into Afghanistan, dealing with the extremist threat within Pakistan will remain Pakistan’s own responsibility.ii) There is need for a deeper mutual understanding of the causes of extremism in this region and for a new strategy to deal with it, on the basis of this understanding.iii) Urgent steps have to be taken to mainstream the tribal areas in the political, cultural and economic life of Pakistan.iv) It will be necessary to spell out the rights and obligations of being a non-Nato ally for Pakistan, to put the US – Pakistan relationship on a firm and sustainable basis.
SHOULD PAKISTAN HAVE A DIALOGUE WITH ISRAEL?
ANP: The matter needs to be debated in the Parliament to build a consensus on the issue. The party doesn’t believe in the clandestine dialogue process with Israel pursued by the present and any past governments.
MQM: Holy Prophet and his wife Bibi Khatijah used to trade with Yehudis (Jews) besides the social and intellectual interactions. Pakistan’s national interest should not be subservient or linked to any other country’s national interest.
PPP: Pakistan supports the Peace Plan proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. We believe in taking whatever steps are necessary to implement that plan efficaciously.
(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )