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Message to the West: Don’t Just Focus on Pleasing Pakistani Generals

The West doing more to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government will help the fight against terrorism.

April 2, 2016

The West doing more to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government will help the fight against terrorism.

After yet another gruesome terrorist incident in Pakistan, this time in Lahore, it is clear that successfully tackling terrorism in the world’s sixth most populous country involves a very complicated game of chess.

In this broader context, it is important for the United States and other Western countries to stop granting aid and reflexively falling for what can only be deemed as blackmail by Pakistan’s security forces. (“Support us or the terrorists and mullahs get nuclear weapons.”)

As a general rule, no third power should be expected to take sides. It should have a consistent stand on terror. And Western countries, which tend to lecture on democracy, should seek to do the same rather than coddling the military and the generals.

Rethink reflexive military aid

The first step which the U.S. government needs to undertake for its own — and even more so in Pakistan’s — interest is doing a more thorough appraisal of the aid which it provides to the Pakistan military.

Second, under no conditions should Washington itself kowtow – or expect any other country to kowtow – to the diktats of the Pakistani generals.

The latter have had, for a very long time, a field day milking their geo-political importance, without bothering to consider the ramifications of their often shortsighted policies.

The bigger picture

Other countries tend to exercise far more caution than the United States when managing the public angst and machinations of Pakistan’s security forces.

One hopeful sign, if it indeed materializes more fully, is the growing trend of a number of countries, including erstwhile allies of Pakistan such as Saudi Arabia, not wanting to be caught in the fraught bilateral relationship between Pakistan and India.

There are a number of reasons for this changing approach of countries in the Muslim world. Firstly, economic relations have strengthened between India and GCC Countries, as well as India and Iran.

Second, India has also managed to find strategic convergence with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh helped India in extraditing dreaded terrorists such as Abu Jundal, one of the handlers of the 26/11 attacks.

Military and naval cooperation is also increasing between both countries, and is likely to be high on the agenda during Indian PM Modi’s visit on April 2nd and 3rd to Saudi Arabia.

India’s civilian approach

Yet, it is still not the case that the outside world has begun to see India’s viewpoint precisely.

One major difference between the Indian approach towards Pakistan and the approach of the outside world, including the United States, is that India is keen to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government.

Currently, the latter is led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He has made some efforts to mend ties with India and has so far made some of the right moves to address India’s concerns against terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil.

In contrast, Washington – due to its strategic objectives in Afghanistan – generally falls for the blackmail of the Pakistani General Headquarters about both countries being “nuclear powers.”

The United States is also worried about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands, if it does not strengthen the security forces.

Military over civilians

Pakistan’s Army is also successful in showcasing counterterrorism actions such as the “Zarb-E-Azb” against the Tehrik-E-Taliban. Overlooked is that groups like LeT and JUD, which have targeted India, are still treated with kid gloves.

Troublingly, Pakistani General Raheel Sharif during his U.S. visit received a warmer welcome than civilian Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

There is no doubt that Pakistan’s civilian government, with Nawaz Sharif at the helm, has offered to cooperate with India in the aftermath of the Pathankot terror attacks and has sent a joint investigation team.

But according to many, this attack was carried out not just with the knowledge, but also the support of Pakistan’s Army.

Undermining Sharif’s conciliatory actions further, the Pakistan army at the same time released a video of an individual, Kulbhushan Yadav, whom the army alleged was working for Indian RAW in Balochistan

According to the Indian intelligence agencies, the businessman was abducted from Iran and had nothing to do with any of the intelligence agencies.

Many on the Indian side believe the announcement was purely intended to sabotage possible progress between both civilian governments.

To make real progress in stabilizing Pakistan – and to help bring peace to Pakistan-India relations, the United States and other Western countries must stop fawning over the Pakistani generals.

They must also stop turning a blind eye to Pakistani security forces’ disruptive, anti-democratic actions and continued support for terrorism.

The blackmail of threatening to allow nuclear weapons to fall into the wrong hands cannot continue to cut off progress in resolving the region’s very serious issues.


The Pakistani generals have for a long time had a field day milking their geo-political importance.

Between Indian and US approaches to Pakistan, India’s is the one keen to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government.

Washington falls for blackmail of the Pakistani Generals on terrorism and nuclear weapons.