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In this April 17, 2017 file photo Pakistan's army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor addresses a news conference in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Pakistan's military backed off on Wednesday, May 10 after publicly questioning the prime minister's decision to sack an adviser over an explosive newspaper article alleging a rift between the country's civilian government and the military. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
All is well that ends well. Dawn Leak controversy that caused an implosive situation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government and the military has been defused by a retreat by the army.
What had come to be "Tweet-ul-Fissad" has been withdrawn by a glum-faced DG ISPR with an announcement that Pakistan army is totally supportive of and subservient to democracy. That's definitely a good news and adds another feather in the cap of our confrontationist Prime Minister who never hesitates to take on the praetorian institution whenever it challenged the civil authority. However, this is for the first time he forced it to retreat.
Head of Iranian army alleged Jaish-al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, had shot its guards, fired from Pakistan in the border area that has been since long festered by unrest from both drug smuggling gangs and separatist militants. "We cannot accept the continuation of this situation," Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the head of the Iranian armed forces was quoted as saying by the news agency IRNA.
"We expect the Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases. If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are," he warned. Further to this warning Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who visited Pakistan recently had asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve the border security and Pakistan assured Iran that it would deploy additional troops along its border.
Jaish-al-Adl is a Sunni militant group that is reputed to have carried out several attacks against Iranian security forces with the aim of highlighting what they say is discrimination against minority Sunni Muslims in Iran, where the majority are Shias. The group claimed responsibility for attacks that killed eight border guards in April 2015 and 14 border guards in October 2013. Pakistan summoned Iranian ambassador in Islamabad to the Foreign Office to lodge a protest against the strong language used by the Iranian army head in warning Pakistan.
On October 6 last year Cyril Almeida of DAWN published his controversial 'leak' and indeed it was exclusive since it was based upon what is supposed to have happened inside a meeting of the top civil and military brass. It stated that the government conveyed to the generals that enough was enough and it was time to correct the ways of operations to avert Pakistan from being declared a rogue state.
India was already at it. While accelerating its military operations inside Kashmir against what Delhi calls Pakistan backed revolt by the Kashmiri youth, its diplomats had been put in top gear to malign Pakistan with the objective of seeking its diplomatic isolation.
While the situation had shown no signs of de-escalation, trouble broke out on our western border. On May 5, 2017, Afghan border security forces carried out unprovoked firing across the Chaman border killing 11 Pakistani civilians including one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier and injuring 50 people. This attack took place when national census teams accompanied by FC troops were busy carrying out national population census in two Pakistani villages in Chaman area that Kabul was already informed of. Kabul had given full assurance of cooperation. As if this attack was not enough, Afghan forces continued the offensive across Torkham border. As a consequence Pakistan had to close the Bab-e-Dosti Chaman border gate as well as Torkham gate. The situation continues to be tense.
Naturally Pakistan could not take it lying down. It has responded effectively causing huge loss on the Afghan side among those who had been acting as agent provocateurs. Several border posts were destroyed and around 30 Afghan soldiers killed. Pakistan has reasons to believe that this uncalled provocation from Afghan side had been engineered by NDS-RAW in collusion with drug baron Gen Abdul Razaq Achakzai to undertake a wider disruption plan to destabilise the region.
Despite the praise of British generals for Pakistan's successes in war against terrorism and good-goody meetings that our Ambassador Aizaz Choudhry has had recently in Washington, the fact is that one must not be optically eluded and be pragmatic. Pakistan needs to review its foreign policy objectives, take corrective measures internally to have a better and more forceful presentation of the country that has suffered enough for the so-called friends.
With our complex population composition and geo-political situation we cannot afford to look sectarian. Our position has already got compromised by our former Army Chief taking lucrative job of heading what is popularly perceived as a Sunni army raised to counter Shia Iran. Pakistan needs to dispel this lethal perception. It should correct its position since there is a big question mark as to what has been wrong with it that out of its four neighbours, three are hostile to it.
The writer is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, Advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and a veteran journalist
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