Nukes, Pakistan and Taliban

Last updated on May 6, 2009

Posted on May 6, 2009

Proto sent me a tweet on an article written by Sumit Ganguly [2].  He is director of research of the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington.

The premise of his article: the Nukes in Pakistan can never fall into the hands of the Taliban.

The reasons:

“Unless the Pakistani Army”, starts to fragment, he says, “such fears are greatly exaggerated”.  He lays out three scenarios – (i) Taliban defeating Pakistani Army; (ii) Taliban sympathizers taking over in the Army; and (iii) Taliban getting the weapons in transit somewhere.  He, I think correctly, dismisses the first and the third scenarios.  However, what concerns me is the second scenario.  That one, is not so simple to analyze, but Ganguly gives a very simplistic answer:

The present chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was previously the head of Pakistan’s overweening and powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. With that background and connections in the intelligence service, there is little reason to believe that he does not exercise rigorous oversight of the Army from his present position. Indeed it strains the imagination to believe that the ISI-D—the very organization that spawned the original Taliban—would not be aware of lurking Taliban sympathizers in its midst.

Interestingly, he seems to be using Kayani as a proxy for Zardari. I think what he means to say is that Zardari would know if there was such a move.  For, what Kayani is upto, no one really knows for sure!  And as for what goes on – specifically in the Jehadi sector amongst the Army and ISI – no one really understands until it actually comes out… LEAST OF ALL, the Democratic Leader!

If you look at the history – ZA Bhutto brought in Zia ul Haq to make sure he could handle the religious right in the country.  Result: UNBEKNOWST to him, his protege became his nemesis.

Cut to Sharif.  He brought in Musharraf.  Without him knowing, Musharraf – ON THE BACK of Jehadi clique, which had orchestrated the Kargil etc, became the President and threw Sharif out, just when Sharif was about to change him as he WOKE UP to the threat of Musharraf.

Do we get an idea of the stealth and the speed with which the situation can possibly change in Pakistan and how Army seems completely in compliance until the real time comes?

To evaluate the mindset and the compliance of the Pak Army based on the demeanor of the Democratic leaders of Pakistan is a BIG mistake.  Vajpayee Government paid for it heavily!

It is because of this that I find Ganguly’s final conclusion naive and hillarious:

However, until the Pakistani military starts showing signs of disintegration, policymakers in Washington and elsewhere need not lose much sleep about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent.

I am happy that this guy is an ivory tower “researcher” and not a leader.  For, if leaders and real analysts of the world ever were to plan the way he lays it out… they would not even have the time to run for cover like Sharif did.

Nuke threat

Although many analysts have used the word Taliban – I am sure that this word is used more as a synonym to the Jehadi syndicate – which many commentators (specially Ahmed Rashid and Zahid Hussain) have defined as comprised of Al Qaeda/Taliban/Jehadi minds in ISI and Pak Army.

Now, there is obviously some independent objectives that are peculiar to each organization, there is one objective that I feel is common:  Victory over “enemies of Islam” by force. How one defines the term enemy is always unique.  But the traces are remarkably the same.  For example, if you were to look at how Lt. Saurabh Kalia and his jawans were executed (maimed, genetilia cut off, eyes pierced, and then killed), and how Daniel Pearl was executed, and then what goes on in Swat these days (there are many beheadings going on, I have a video of one such beheading) –  you would know that there is a very similar vein of cruel anger at the “enemy”.

Armies kill.  They are made to kill.  But cruelty and mutilation of the human body before or after the killing is symptom of a mindset.  That, is not the mindset of a professional Army.  Armies may kill those who are not supposed to be killed, but a professional Army officer never goes around mutilating a body before or after killing.

I believe that the core of Pakistan Army started turning Jehadi in its basic mindset during Zia’s time.  This fact has been recorded by many Pakistani commenters as well – Shuja Nawaz has also talked of Islamicization of Pak Army in his authoritative book “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within”.

Until this Jehadi core believed that Pakistan’s destiny is NOT the destiny that was a reality in Afghanistan, until then, there was no issue.  The day, the belief that Afghanistan under Taliban is indeed the future that Pakistan should be headed towards, then it does not matter whether “the” Taliban actually defeats or takes over the Army.  The Nukes would have “Gone”!

My argument uses the circumstances under which the Nuke was acquired and built and then proliferated.  If one were to dispassionately analyze AQ Khan’s Nuke Bazaar, which Rashid has argued many times was not done at the individual level but at the behest and facilitation of the Pak Army, then one understands that the Pak Army was not really as upright as it sounds.  Read the detailed account of Nuke proliferation from “Deception” by Adrian Levy to get more details.

So, why haven’t the Pak Army really used the Nukes if it was indeed Jehadi in mindset already and more than half way there to the Taliban-style Jehad?  The answer lies in the self preservation.  Until the Army was able to use the pretense of a modern state – and get money for that state – and share the spoils within it… it has been willing to play along.  The day the money flow stops, there will be an unrest.

I feel the summit today between Zardari, Karzai and Obama was significant in that respect.  One of the “specific” action items mentioned by Hillary Clinton was – establishment of the Borlaug Fellows training program – for Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Now, this time, when US Aid actually goes to Pakistan – it may still be “Greens” but NOT the Dollar Notes.. but seeds etc for the Green Revolution [1]**.  That is useless for Pakistani Generals and officers!  They have been used to getting the dollars and using it against India, as now admitted by the US as well.

** Btw, we at Drishtikone have been asking for just this.  I have said time and again, that what Pakistan needs is institutions and technology for development and NOT Dollars or Arms from the West.  Thank God! Some one is listening!

What does that mean?

My take from the hints that Clinton today dropped was that Obama administration is dead serious this time around.  It would not be business as usual anymore.  Which is good and bad.  Good, because Pakistani common man will have a shot at some normalcy in the long run.

Bad, because I believe it would have already started the Generals – current and retired – and the Jehadi outfits thinking.  Like, my friend and I discussed yesterday, I would be surprised if these guys haven’t already finalized a plan to do something on the scale of Mumbai attacks in India to take the heat off.

Pakistani Army is being forced to move from the Indian border to the Afghan border and the Taliban regions.  The Army is hitting the Taliban outposts in Buner.  It sets two “Allies” against each other.  That’s the classic Petraeus Formula, which he used very well in Iraq.  The only way out for both, Taliban and Pak Army?  To do something in India that sets the stage for a war.

If you remember, even after Mumbai Attacks, the Pakistanis were itching to attack India DESPITE the fact that Indian leadership has categorically denied any plans to attack.  Troops were amassed, TV stations were buzzing with controversy theories and calls for war, forums on the net were calling for war, even bloggers were going all out for the war.  But, in a remarkable poise, India deflected that and worked strategically instead!

Not fighting a war, in my opinion was smart and required.  But another attack and elections may not lead to a similar result.  What then?  If I were Chidambaran or Dr. Singh, I would be working overtime to analyze the buzz and the chatter and neutralize the next terrorist attack before it happens.  And try they will.  A terrible one too.  For they want a war… which can save them from the one with the US.

Reference Links:

1. No more lip service now: US tells Pakistan
2. Nuclear Nonstarter

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