The IPCS, as part of its 2015 Forecast Series, published three projections titled ‘Pakistan in 2015’ (authored by Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, VIF; Salma Malik, QAU, Pakistan; and Dr D Suba Chandran, Director, IPCS) addressing specific questions with an aim to bring to the table a comprehensive understanding of the situation from the points of view of both India and Pakistan.
On 28 January 2015, the IPCS conducted a panel discussion where Amb TCA Rangachari and Mr Rana Banerji reviewed the reports in a session chaired by Amb Salman Haidar.
Amb TCA Rangachari
Former Indian Ambassador to France and Germany, and Member, Executive Committee, IPCS
There is a lot of uncertainty, and nobody really knows what is going to happen. There are three identifiable issues:
I. Institutions and governance (military courts etc.)
II. Political parties (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Tahirul Qadri etc.)
III. Extremism (domestic and international militancy) and Indian foreign policy (vis-à-vis Kashmir and Afghanistan)
What these reports do not speak about is the state of economy that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power on. At 4 per cent, 2013-14 saw the highest growth rate in the country since 2008. The investment in their economy has increased, but not too much. The rate of manufacturing has risen. The services sector has taken over 50 per cent of the GDP growth. However, public debt has also risen immensely. 47 per cent of the revenue is spent on servicing public debts, which leaves them with little money to invest in themselves.
Furthermore, there is an energy crisis: 480 billion Pakistani rupees of circular debt owed to electricity and independent company PSUs has been cleared, but the same problem has resurfaced. Unless they solve their structural problem, this problem will keep reappearing.
The rates of growth achieved in the 1950s have never been repeated. The official Pakistani rate of growth for the next year is approximately 4 per cent but it is likely to be around 3 per cent.
Vis-à-vis terrorism, the conclusions derived are likely to be the same. Insofar as jihadi outfits are concerned, during 2014, a fair amount of negotiations on whether or not to launch military operations took place, and Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched. More important is the declaration that was supposed to have been made on non-discrimination of good and bad Taliban. India wants this attitude to be applied to all terrorist groups, not just Taliban. This brings us to Afghanistan, which is witnessing various changes, and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state. The Afghan government is showing signs of what former Afghan President Hamid Karzai did in his earlier years: trying to see if Pakistan is willing and considering to fight against issues faced by Afghanistan. The visits by Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Afghanistan and Pakistan are interesting, but a signal like either country releasing Fazlullah or Omar to each other would indicate something concrete.
Regarding J&K, it is quite puzzling what Pakistan wants to achieve in the region. There has been no substantive discussion on J&K whatsoever. Two things are clear: there will be no physical change. Also, the campaign has cost Pakistan more than it has gained. It is Pakistan not India that is trying to change the status quo. The existing ground reality is likely to continue in 2015. 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with some variations such as lower violence across the LoC, and depends on talks.
Mr Rana Banerji
Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and Member, Executive Committee, IPCS
The entry of military courts in Pakistan will bring about an erosion of post-Peshawar consensus on the need for these courts. There are factors against this consensus, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, and the so far undeclared Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (The LeT will talk about it when the consensus breaks). Pakistan is currently in the process of madrassa reforms, finance reforms, prison reforms etc., but nobody is talking of the real issue: protection of witnesses. Nobody is talking about lower judiciary reforms via institutional means. This trend may be indicating a return to the Doctrine of Necessity. How long this will last? The judges may support the sense. The civilians will not feel too bad if the military goes ahead with military courts - they will acquiesce. However, the army may have gamed it through.
In a war against terror, the situation will get worse before it gets better. However, the NACTA may not come to a definitive conclusion by the end of 2015.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur is mentioned in the present tense in the paper. There are reports that he has been killed in a drone attack. Is the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Mohmand Commander Umar Khalid Khorasani going to be closer to al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri? That’s not going to be very important. There is a new leader from Orakzai. However, it is a correct assessment that the TTP remains splintered and fragmented and may not put up too much of a resistance to a targeted operation by the army, which is likely to happen. The Punjabi Taliban would not become powerful by coming back from FATA or elsewhere. They will be cut off there and eliminated. The real problem is the Taliban already in Punjab. It is an inevitability that the army will come against the JuD and the LeT. This will have huge consequences. To what extent the army will go against them is yet to be seen, but they will come to the fore in 2015.
Amb. Salman Haidar
Former Foreign Secretary, Government of India, and President, IPCS
Broadly, the choice of subjects analysed in these papers highlight the recent developments in Pakistan. Dialogue between India and Pakistan has to be spoken about. Essentially, Pakistan is not a basket-case, but is a country that is struggling. Vis-à-vis Kashmir, there is somewhat of a fatigue that has set in in the region. The Kashmir question has not been discussed in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, but there have been back-channel discussions.
A lot of scepticism has been expressed around the table on the nature of the army’s crackdown on the militants. With regard to the split within various non-State actor groups in Pakistan, there may be divisions, but despite that, the threats these groups pose are still huge. The running theme of these papers and the reviews is that things are unpredictable at the moment.
For India, it would be more challenging and worthy of our attention to have a broader approach towards the India-Pakistan issue. We need to focus on our own country, and globalise our thinking.
• Reconciling the Pakistani economic data is a nightmare. It is not a pretty picture. However, the country can be rescued, but that will need a lot of work and structural reforms that are unlikely to happen. The fall in oil prices could have helped the situation but the lack of payments has created problems. Military courts are supposed to be summary trials. But since they are military courts, there has to be procedure involved. If they plan to fix the terrorism problem within two years, it is an unrealistic deadline. That the TTP is breaking down is good news. Nonetheless, it was an umbrella organisation. The command and control office has been destroyed so it works for the smaller groups. The split was anyway a turf war and not on ideological grounds.
• If the larger relationship between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani State and the al Qaeda changes, there will be a larger change on the ground level. The Pakistani Taliban may implode, but would that implosion be good for Pakistan? The Islamic State (IS) may not be able to intrude. They may not even be looking for resources from this part of the world. They have a better supply chain from elsewhere. There are no networks available through which the IS can gain access. Also, the Pakistani State has no or little connection with the IS. Without their acquiescence, the IS will be unable to get a grip in Pakistan. Those militants who went to FATA etc earlier are likely to come back instead of fighting in lands not their own. Suicide bombing etc will increase. There is a generational change among the militants.
• Most things have been written with a nationalistic prism in mind and may therefore not be so optimistic. Pakistan views it optimistically. Every time Nawaz Sharif comes to power, there’s an economic jolt in the country. People start investing. There needs to be more objectivity while dealing with news on Pakistan in India. India is losing time. People are now interested in the 4 Point Agenda while previously India had rejected it. Over the past five years, there has been a consensus among the Pakistanis for better relations with India. Indian media should start highlighting positive things as well. Now, the Pakistani news channels have begun emulating those Indian media outlets that are hawkish.
• In Pakistan, the armed forces are the decision-makers. They have immense control and are beneficiaries of the State’s resources; the Pakistani army more than their navy or air force. If they seek to find a solution beneficial to both them and us, that would reduce their work. The IS may not be too powerful in this area yet, but they have demonstrated intent and do have takers in this part of the world. Unless the Pakistani army agrees to come closer to taking a constitutional role like the Indian army does, then India-Pakistan relations will just have to be managed, because a solution cannot be found anywhere in the near future.
• It is good that former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari completed his term and incumbent Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won a majority. But unfortunately, Sharif’s entry had its problems, not because of Sharif himself but because of other parties and issues such as the PTI. The country remains a weak State and a weak government. Sharif has made reforms etc, but has he taken them forward? This is partially due to circumstantial reasons. Is there any alternative to deal with terrorism for Pakistan today? How can one expect so much of a judicial system in such a weak State at such a point in time? Unfortunately, the military will be unable to control it any longer. These groups were raised with the support of the army but today are autonomous it. The courts will not be able to solve these problems; military courts even. Will the Pakistani State be able to dominate its people? The State that has become weaker and its ability to carry out its duties effectively has shrunk. There are a lot of contradictions visible in Pakistan. It is a mysterious economy where the people have money but the State does not. Although there is an indication that Pakistanis have realised that there is a problem, it is unlikely that this will be articulated.
• The Pakistani military did not have any other choice but military courts. If they were able to execute 55 militants in one go now and not before, it is because something was holding them back. But when incidents like Peshawar happen, they have no choice but to execute them. However, Pakistan is more likely to gain than lose via military courts. They have to apply the same rules that apply to international terrorism courts. These courts will culminate on 17 January 2017 (giving them a 2 year life span). The civilian courts might feel relaxed thinking, “let this pass.”
• If only executing a certain number of terrorists was the issue, then they have done more during Zarb-e-Azb and the Global War on Terror. What are the broader steps taken by the state to control the phenomenon of terrorism?
Rapporteured by Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, Research Officer, IPCS