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PAKISTAN SURVEY 2012 – OUTLOOK 2013

PAKISTAN SURVEY 2012 – OUTLOOK 2013

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PAKISTAN SURVEY 2012 – OUTLOOK 2013

Pakistan has had a turbulent 2012, while 2013 is set to be another defining year with the possible first ever democratic transition to power in the country. Yet if the first few days of 2013 are any indication challenges are mounting with sectarian violence in Balochistan spiraling out of control and Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) back to old tricks in tribal areas, a defunct administration and tensions rising with India on the Line of Control.

There have however been many positives in 2012 which should lay grounds for hope in fact all spheres except terrorism and violence. There has been much progress, be it relations with India or the US, successful fight back by the political leadership against the Army and the ISI and exceptional institutional strength displayed by the judiciary. While there were a number of attempts in 2012 to upstage growing strength of political parties through dubious means as the Memogate scam which rocked the country’s polity in the first few months of the year the remarkable fight back by a weak kneed Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led government under the astute leadership of Asif Ali Zardari who has combined the role of President as well saw the government surviving though just so. Even though one Prime Minister was sacrificed by the PPP to save the President, it had to finally give in demands of the Supreme Court to write to Swiss authorities to open the corruption cases against Mr Zardari. The Court also came strongly against involvement of the Army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in elections in 1990 against a petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan. The forthcoming elections in 2013 may be an acid test of the ISI as well.

The next major concern for Pakistan in 2013 is containment of violence. Key vectors of the violence in Pakistan are deep rooted and include ethnic separatism, religious extremism, sectarianism and criminal terrorism. The general lowering of security in the country has resulted in brewing of multiple conflicts even as the power structure is busy in engaging in a struggle for supremacy be it the army and the political parties, the parties within themselves or the PPP and the judiciary.  Surprisingly the government continued to indulge the terrorist groups. Interior Minister Rehman Malik even talked of delisting some of the more than 30 banned militant outfits, including al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). “If the proscribed organisations assure us that they have closed down their militant wings and abandoned extremism, then we would like to meet them in next few days,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in a media interaction on 12 March 2012.  While none of the groups have shown any inclination of toning down not just their actions but also rhetoric the move by the government to even consider removal of ban on some of the outfits is downright defeatist. The government would have to face up to these challenges with a heavy hand for these cannot be wished away with possibility of instability in Afghanistan likely to increase the same further.  While the Army has reportedly added a new chapter to the Green Book on sub conventional warfare there were no indications that it is ready to meet the threats from terror. On the other hand there are questions on the role it is playing in the ongoing political crisis in the country led by maverick cleric, Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri. In all probability the army is unlikely to let go attempts to control political sphere in the country. Uncertainties on the military leadership front are also rising with General Pervez Ashraf Kayani due to leave office in 2013, whether he will get another extension or a successor takes over in the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi will also be on the radar. On the whole thus 2013 may yet be a mixed bag and thus a detailed survey of the year gone by may provide the right perspective.  For a comprehensive research paper email rkbhonsle@gmail.com

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