Pakistan ArmyThe military is a dynamic institution. It has to be to remain abreast of the evolving situations and threats because trying to catch up is not an option. Various analysts in their eagerness or perhaps to be the first to break sensational news discuss ‘doctrines’ espoused by different ‘Chiefs”. They forget that an institution like the military has an institutional memory that enables lesson learning, course correction and forward planning. This is true for all militaries and the Pakistan military is no exception. What the Army is doing today is because the preparation for it was underway much earlier.

Take Zarb e Azb. The military learnt from their experience of using Civil Armed Forces, peace accords and various operational engagements including interaction with the US, NATO and others — and came to the conclusion that sooner or later something like Zarb e Azb would have to be undertaken but the timing had to be right so that it was undertaken on political direction and with total or at least significant public support. The preparation for this eventuality was a long process. It involved a reevaluation of the threat from the East and redeployments based on a revised strategy as well as ensuring force strength and capacity for what had to be done in the West. This process was completed after extensive war gaming and subsequent strategic directives. The military was also prepared mentally by ensuring adequate compensatory packages, rehabilitation arrangements for those crippled and family security for those martyred during operations. This made the military and the civil armed forces under its command a cohesive highly motivated force and this process was speeded up by the atrocities committed by the insurgents. So now we have Zarb-e Azb rolling on and on.

In the absence of any initiatives by the government to establish capacity backed civil administration in FATA the military had to progressively undertake infrastructure development as well maintain a physical presence in FATA to isolate and contain the Zarb e Azb objective and give relief and placement to the local population after the inevitable displacement. Besides the northern and southern corridors a central communication corridor was planned to open up FATA for more development and progress. Now this process has been taken further by the military with the announcement of plans to induct youth from FATA into the military as well as give them opportunities for vocational training for jobs within and outside Pakistan.

The talk at the National Defense University by the retiring Commander of forces in the west is of great significance. He said that in tandem with the operational push in the west there was a need for ‘intelligence led capacity backed operations’ in those parts of the country that were infested with militants, insurgents, criminals and sectarian extremists. He obviously knew that such a vulnerability if not addressed promptly and forcefully could lead to external exploitation and manipulation — a process that is obviously already underway. Such operations in the urban heartland are of course best undertaken by intelligence agencies, police and other law enforcement resources available to the government. His words implied that there was no time for fresh capacity building or policy formulation — this job had to be done by harnessing and orchestrating existing resources under competent leadership — since no real preparation had been carried out over the years while the threat grew and grew.

For the last several days there are reports of cease fire violations by the Indians along not only the Line of Control in Kashmir but also the Working boundary in the Sialkot sector. Pakistanis have died. The excuse being offered is that the new Indian Prime Minister is consolidating his support base with this belligerent stance against Pakistan after having refused dialogue over a flimsy reason. Another reason being proffered is the upcoming state election in Jammu and Kashmir that the BJP wants to win to further its agenda of revoking Article 370 that grants special status to the part of Kashmir still under Indian occupation. If the optics of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the US and the bonhomie generated with the US President has encouraged this aggressive behavior then the most flabbergasted individual should be no other than the US President himself. There has been restraint from the Pakistan military and the government has at last called a meeting of the CCNS/NSC ( Cabinet Committee on National Security/National Security Council) — something that should have been institutionalized by now for decision making and policy formulation. It is never too late to set strategic direction. Afghanistan now offers an opportunity for US, Afghanistan and Pakistan cooperation based on a convergence of interests and the emergence of a new common threat in the Middle East. Fortunately for Pakistan its military must have catered for this scenario during its extensive preparation and reorientation phase. Unfortunately a course correction response to the prevailing political instability and uncertainty has not been generated by the government so far possibly because it would involve a change of faces and the induction of a competent and credible team.

So fly on the wall type of dramatic views of military decision making are great reading but the solid long drawn out work to prepare, plan and execute gets missed out because this spans at least a decade of hard work by many. Uncharitable opinions about the military’s mindset in not wanting a normal relationship with India or calling all the shots on security and foreign policy will of course continue because of the mindset of a few but the reality is dawning on people that this is a military in tune with reality — not because of a sudden u turn but because of a long drawn out evolutionary turnaround based on an understanding of economic and internal realities. It is time for the civil and military to come together to face the future by trusting each other.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)