A View from Rawalpindi
By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Berkeley–April 10th–Interview of Brigadier General Hasan Khan (retd.) formerly of the Pakistan Army and currently a Visiting Professor at the Center for Contemporary Conflict of the (U.S.) Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
Before proceeding to his academic career, Gen. Khan spent 30 years ascending through the ranks of his army. Islamabad is trying to achieve internal and external stability. Although a military man, Khan is pro-democratic, and has a solid vision of what that is in relation to the armed services.
The real national threat is found at the Durand Line, he explains. The boundary between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier was drawn up when Pakistan was part of the old British Empire, and, thus, is not recognized by Kabul. The Pushtoon-speaking tribes do not accept the border either, for it splits a sub-nationality from each other. Therefore, they are angry, and, consequently, the Taliban is revitalizing itself in the Hindu Kush with the indigenous tribes support.
Pakistani Civil Society is growing, says Khan. This is optimistic, but Khan is of the opinion that uncontrolled it could become negative because if civil society violently protests against the government, it is hard to predict what will evolve, for he asserts that the army is the glue of the Fatherland.
Regarding the Balochistan issue, it has always been a bad blot upon the nation. It has, also, been a long-standing struggle between those sparsely scattered tribes in the west of the country and the central government.
The General served in that part of the nation earlier in his profession, and feels that the Balochis have legitimate grievances for the nationwide state refuses to give them their fair share of the natural wealth under their soil. Accordingly, the inhabitants of the province believe Islamabad is robbing them of their rights to their natural resources. The solution to the Baloch problem, he says, lies in development. The newly planned gas pipeline to the new super port on the Arabian Sea, which is being built for the Pakistanis by the Chinese, unfortunately, will bypass Balochistan on purpose. Further, Rawalpindi is considering allowing Beijing to have a permanent naval base next to the super port on the Arabian Sea. This is highly questionable to the total independence of Pakistan from foreign troops and sailors!
Other new super ports are being contemplated on the Pakistani seacoast, too. This will be the exit point for the wealth of Central Asia to much of the world, and Pakistan will get a considerable share of the profits.
Last week I saw a report that the president of Pakistan had made a deal with Dick Cheney to use Balochi tribesmen to make incursions into eastern Iran. A major American newsgathering organization (one I do not think is one of the better ones) reported this. From what we have seen of the Balochis, it is doubtful that the tribes of that area would work with the CIA against Iran. Their fight is with Pakistan. General Khan agreed with me that it was no more than gross propaganda. Feroz thought the film used was of Iranian Balochis (like most tribes, they straddle boundaries). Pakistanis have no grudge against Tehran, and Pakistan does not wish to encourage one.
Although there has been Indian involvement in the Baloch rebellion, there are only three to four problematic Baloch leaders still in revolt. He claims the upheaval has pretty much been suppressed.
His last job in the khaki was director for arms controlâ€“especially nuclear weaponry. â€œSecurity between India and Pakistan [is] not at a dangerous level [as in 2001-2002], but we have not achieved structural peaceâ€ since there is no formal treaty between the two nuclear powers on anything! Simla did not go anywhere! Lahore is stalled still. Yet some progress has gone forward, but not in constructive form. Nevertheless, it is positive that both India and Pakistan do not manage their nukes at the point of constant deployment. Fortunately, besides, there is a great interaction between Islamabad and New Delhi at the civil society and cultural levels despite a lack of a formal condition of concord between the two governments.
What is concerning is the creeping skepticism of the US with Pakistan. It is shakier than at any time in the past. Islamabad has had a history of abandonment by Washington although Mr. Feroz Khan feels that Rawalpindi on its part will not discard America.
Are strategic relations still good, though? Most Pakistanis do not wish to slaughter their own people in the mountains as the States are insisting we do. Because of Iraq, anti-Americanism is rampant throughout his country.
The Pakistani Military is chasing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda out of the hills. General Khan feels it will take from five to ten years to bring the frontier fully under the Centerâ€™s control.
The power of civil society will restore a democratic system except â€œI donâ€™t believe it will look like the Westâ€™s or [even] Indiaâ€™sâ€¦â€