'Friendless Security Establishment in trying time in Pakistan'
Newsclick Production, June 25, 2011
Fahim Khan, of the Dawn Group of Newspapers, comments on the conjencture that the Pakistani security establishment finds itself in - under pressure from the US demanding action on fundamentalists (some of whom it is closely allied with), hardly any support for its actions from the people of Pakistan and a political establishment that is attempting to assert its independence. A Newsclick Production.
Prabir Purkayastha (Prabir): Today, we have with us Fahim Khan from the Dawn Group in Pakistan. Fahim, good to have you with us.
Fahim Khan (Fahim): Thank you Prabir. Good to be with you.
Prabir: There is a feeling that the Pakistan is heading towards a failed state, lacks legitimacy, it's state apparatus is not functioning. Recent events,particularly Abbottabad and other incidents which have happened seems to confirm lot of people that this is the trajectory that Pakistan seems to follow. What is your take on this because I don't think Pakistan state is really that weak.
Fahim: I really don't understand this political science mumbo jumbo about failed state and otherwise. Yes, in my living memory last for 25 to 30 years what I have noticed is that the state of people of Pakistan is constantly going from bad to worse. We are not improving. We have been hit by the one crisis after the other. Specially in Zia Ul Haq days, we are really what I should say in a back jam. Now today, previously the Pakistani establishment meaning the civil military bureaucracy and someone they used to accommodate some kind of some form of political government all that is coming to or not. The Pakistani Military establishment when cautiously used the word security establishment is essentially used to have one good ally are masters of Pakistan. The US of A. Today, it appears that the priority of US of A has changed. The Pakistani security establishment always have it's own agenda, it's own vested interest once in clash with the American interest in this region vis a vis Afghanistan, vis a vis Iran, vis a vis India, vis a vis even China. Pakistani security establishment is coming under increasing pressure. Now, suddenly, they are becoming democratic. They are even approaching the parliament. Something they have never been. I mean no parliament could have passed the ISI or the chief the Pakistani Military to come in and report to the Parliament. They are coming from all pressure from all sides and you find themselves you know increasingly isolated, they want to go back to the people of Pakistan. Now, people of Pakistan literally had a good laugh. What problems do we see for Pakistan. Now, people of Pakistan literally had a good laugh. What problems to be seen with Pakistan. Pakistan is a economically viable state, it's a politically viable state. It's a geographically contiguous and a viable state. So why should it revert It needs to get it's priority rights.
Prabir: The security establishment is in a state of crisis and particularly the Abbottabad incident where it is almost very clear that the Pakistani security establishment either failed in it's efforts to know where Bin Laden was or connived with it and also and also allowed Americans to come in and do an operation in their air space. All these seems to have put security establishment in the back foot. Do you think this is good, this should continue or do you think it is a temporary issue will again come out on top as it has in Pakistan earlier.
Fahim To be honest for the people of Pakistan, this is very good.. Our security establishment coming under pressure from all sides forces them to come and to put some kind of a civil democratic face there. To believe that the Pakistani security establishment is suddenly very weak and all is in a state of complete disarray. That's not correct. What they are trying to do is to renegotiate their equations with Americans. Once they are able to do so, then they will be all powerful and all mighty again. The problem is the way we look at, the way people of Pakistan look at is that American's agenda has drastically changed. Their priorities have changed. This time around the very notion that the Pakistani security establishment thrives out meaning it's hostilities towards India, hostility towards Afghanistan and even towards Iran. Now Americans are not going to reconcile at least in near future with those priorities of the Pakistani security establishment. So we really don't see a quick fix between Pakistani security establishment and the American establishment.
Prabir: Basically, you believe that the security establishment of Pakistan and the United States. The contradiction between the two are real and it's not going to be easy to fix this. Don't you think the Americans really need the Pakistanis to get out of Afghanistan which is really their short term or medium term agenda and therefore, while the conflict of contradiction that stay the larger issue is really if the Americans want to get their tail out of Afghanistan they need Pakistani help and that's why Pakistan really in the long run has much more influence over the United States and vice versa. Fahim: The thing is Americans want to get out of Afghanistan. Americans have tonnes and tonnes of money. Afghanistan is a tribal society. Once, Americans get out of Afghanistan there will be a million in fights in Afghanistan taking place right way. As soon as you remove the Americans out of NATO or Western forces do you think that Afghans are going to reconcile among themselves very easily. As soon as they start fighting among themselves very easily. As soon as they start fighting among themselves, it serves the Pakistani security establishment interests and Americans, the strategic change, the American interest in India has more to do with India than Afghanistan. The Al Quaida, the Taliban. Taliban will not really pose in the long term. If you go to Khyber Pakhtoon and speak to the elite, the intellectuals, the landless, they will tell you the Taliban is not really interested in long time fight with the Americans. They just want their pound of flesh, they just want Americans out. Now, that is not a big deal for Americans. So for Americans to use Pakistan's security establishment has a local watch dog. I mean the leash is going to become shorter by the day. The American need for the Pakistani establishment of 1980s and 90s is not the same. Now said that, why should Americans try to strengthen the Pakistani security establishment when they have larger strategic interest with India or so to speak they would rather have some kind of accommodation in this region. Now, the Pakistani security establishment has one powerful tool. That they have been tantalising the people of Pakistan and that Islam and hostility towards India. Americans in the long term will not want that. Chinese in the long term will not want that. Now, if you take that away from that Pakistani security establishment, what is that left with. Increasingly, Pakistani economy is in dire states, Pakistani economy is unable to suPrabirort Pakistan. So increasingly Pakistani establishment is going to come under pressure and will continue to come under pressure.
Prabir: That's a very good point that you make. I think that's a very interesting issue that with particularly of the killing of Shahzad, the Asia times online editor, what we saw in a video in which the Pakistani ranger shot down the ranger shot in broad day light may be a local thug but whatever it is, shot down in cold blood. All these seems to show the Pakistani establishment really coming under some kind of public pressure. Do you think this in the long run will lead to a change of equation between Pakistani people and Pakistani security establishment or do you think after some time once the furore dies down it will be business as usual.
Fahim: No, I think the change is already taking place which you see in form of Salim Shehzad and you know Salim was a very dear friend of mine was like a kid brother to me and working for Dawn group from 1994 to 2007. I knew him inside out. Now, Salim was a very brave journalist. He was a constantly under pressure from intelligence agencies and not only from intelligence agencies but also Al Quaida, Taliban, he was kidnapped and arrested by Taliban, Al Mand. He was sort of given free passage to Al Mand there. All said and done. Similarly, you talked about Sarfaraz Shah, the boy who was killed in a broad day light in a Karachi Park . Now, if you have seen the video on you tube or on Pakistani Channels the most interesting part is even after those rangers what is supposedly our Border Security Force which shot this nineteen year old thrice, there was no remorse on their faces, it was business as usual. It wasn't something, it was done by six jawans on ground. It came down all the way from top. That has been our business in this country. Even you talk to the security establishment they say because our criminal justice system is really weak, we can not really get judgements from the court so it's better to eliminate such criminal elements. Now that thing is changing with the advent of media, free press in Pakistan, security establishment, intelligence agencies is coming increasingly under pressure, equation is changing. There was time when the free flow of money in the name of Afghan war from United States to Pakistan and Pakistani Security Establishment, Pakistani General, they were having great time. Now, that flow of money is not there, there is increasing threats by the Parliament audit committee. The old habits die, they don't die easily. These things continue to happen, they will continue to happen under pressure. People of Pakistan has never seen a security establishment as the way they see it today. Nobody is there to give them a shoulder. Nobody is there to walk them to their grave. Everybody said, you did it, please go and find your own. Prabir: Security establishment is also the one which fostered the fundamentalist in the belief that strategically, it would help them strike against India. Do you think this alliance is also coming under pressure or do you think this part of alliance, the fundamentalist and the security establishment will continue in their effort to seek greater legitimacy for themselves. Fahim: I think it's a predicament for people like me liberal, progressive lot in this country. The reason I see that because there is a genuine struggle. There is a genuine battle if not war going on taking place right now because there is fundamentalist element our security establishment created and security establishment itself, there is a very very genuine thing. The Jawans are getting killed. The Brigadiers and Colonels are getting killed. The Generals, I mean it's amazing finding themselves under pressure, under threat. There is genuine tussle battle going on. The Pakistani security establishments consider with these elements also as a very strategic asset. They think once the Americans move out, once the Americans dies out then their enemy, their contradiction will only be India and that is the time they will need them. This is the war they have trained or developed or generated these security asset. So they don't want to surrender these assets in a hurry either. So they are looking for the good fundo or the bad fundo. They are trying to create wedge or they are trying to look for that divide within them. Now we keep telling them there is no such thing as good fundo or the the bad fundo. Either it's you are a fundo or no fundo. It's very difficult for them to understand. The reason I said that the problem with people like us is now we see them fight a real battle with these hardcore right wing militant element. Should we continue to demolish this security establishment which you have been trying to do last sixty two years and not really successful. But this time you have an opening so you attack them so they come under more pressure or you suPrabirort them against their battle vis a vis whether the Taliban whether the bad fundos etc. Times have changed. I am sure for one thing even the Pakistani security establishment that I have always considered completely insane. Even they may not be insane enough to realise this monster that they created have come back to bite them.