Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It’s a civil war situation in Pakistan: Doval

It’s a civil war situation in Pakistan: Doval
On RecordIt’s a civil war situation in Pakistan: Dovalby Rajeev Sharma
(Courtesy: Tribune India, Dec 30, 2007)

Ajit Doval, former Director, Intelligence Bureau, and currently Secretary-General, Policy Perspective Foundation, New Delhi, says that in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, it is the last chance for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to succeed.Excerpts from an exclusive interview to The Sunday Tribune with India’s most decorated spy czar:

Q: What will be the impact of Benazir’s assassination on Pakistan politics?

A: The process of restoration of democracy will receive a serious setback. What Benazir referred to as forward movement through “transition” may now get into a reverse gear. Within PPP, there is no political leader of her stature who can sustain this nuanced forward movement. Nawaz Sharif has already withdrawn his PMLN from the fray. No free and fair elections can be held in an environment vitiated by militants.

The attacks on Interior Minister Sherpao on the Eid day, Nawaz Sharif’s rally and Benazir’s murder have created a situation of civil war. Their cumulative effect may be derailment of democracy manifesting in (i) a very weak government working under Islamists’ pressure; (ii) phony democracy pandering to the Army diktat; and (iii) sliding back to a totalitarian military rule.

Q: Will it affect the Indo-Pak peace process?

A: Terrorism and government’s response to it will assume added momentum. The people would like to be reassured that the government is firm on taking meaningful pro-active and preventive measures. VIP security will also receive high priority. Internal security, if not addressed resolutely, can destabilise the nation. All political parties in India subscribe to the view that democracy in Pakistan will not only bring stability in that country and the region but also make it easier for India to deal with them bilaterally and multilaterally. If democracy gets weakened in Pakistan, as appears most likely, it will be a setback to this process.

Q: Is Pakistan again hurtling down the road to becoming a failed state?

A: Post World War II, internal instability has been the primary cause of failure of states. In Pakistan where most state institutions, except the Army, have weakened, this threat gets dangerously compounded. If Pakistan fails to control terrorism, sectarian violence, inter-regional conflicts and other serious law and order problems, the country may plunge into a near civil war type situation. The Army, which once commanded the people’s respect and was seen as the last bastion of national interest, has lost much of its image.

Q: Can Pakistan go ahead with the January 8 elections?

A: Musharraf, with the Army’s support, can go ahead with the electoral process, but elections will not carry much conviction unless the major parties participate in it. If major parties boycott elections, the new government won’t be able to generate the national will to fight terrorism and violence.

Q: How do you look Nawaz Sharif’s political future after the ban on him from contesting elections for life?

A: Sharif will now strive to oust Musharraf. He is aware that his party, even minus him, if voted to power, will have a short life given the President’s powers to dismiss an elected government. Moreover, the pliable judiciary will support Musharraf in any confrontation with the latter. Taking advantage of the present turmoil, he will try to polarise public opinion to demand Musharraf’s ouster. It may, however, not be an easy task.

Q: What will be the security implications of Benazir’s assassination?

A: I wish Pakistan the best. I hope that this process of liquidating political leaders stops immediately. The country’s security and intelligence agencies have the expertise, equipment and resources to provide foolproof security to the threatened political leaders and it should be done. Otherwise, it will be tragic. As for India, terrorists’ success in political assassinations will set a very bad precedent.

Q: All eyes are on Musharraf now. Can he deliver?

A: Musharraf is seriously handicapped in dealing with the present situation. However, when the primary need is to ruthlessly fight terrorism, there are not many options open. Today, no political party is in a position to give a determined fight to the jehadi forces. If he decides not to pursue the policy of calibrated response to terrorism but martial all his resources and energies to suppress terrorists of all hues, he may have a chance to succeed; and that may well be his last chance.
The writer is a former director, Intelligence Bureau.

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