Pakistan’s Security - Today and Tomorrow

Posted on : Monday 02 May 2011

A conference of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service jointly sponsored by Canada’s departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, National Defence and Public Safety

This report is based on the views expressed by presenting experts and other participants at a conference organised by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as part of its academic outreach program. Offered as a means to support ongoing discussion, the report does not constitute an analytical document, nor does it represent any formal position of the organisations involved.

Table of Contents


In light of the volatile security situation which has developed in Pakistan in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), joined by Canada’s departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, National Defence and Public Safety, hosted a two-day conference in Ottawa on the topic of Pakistan’s Security Today and Tomorrow. Held at the CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, the conference featured presentations by leading Canadian, Pakistani, American and European experts drawn from academia, the media, think-tanks, as well as government. The objective of the conference, attended by upwards of ninety people, was to expose participants to a variety of expert views on Pakistan’s security, enabling them to identify key drivers influencing the country’s security, and to discuss alternative futures for Pakistan. It also supported the development of an informal community of interest on Pakistan’s security within the government of Canada.

The conference was facilitated by Peter Jones, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. The event was divided into five modules, each of which consisting of a series of expert presentations, followed by a panel discussion and a question period. The agenda also included discussions in small groups to encourage interaction amongst participants and generate new insights. The five modules focussed respectively on: salient issues in Pakistan today; the country’s internal security; Pakistan and its neighbours; Pakistan in world politics; and three alternative future scenarios elaborated and presented by retired Lt.-Gen. Talat Masood, whose career was spent in the Pakistan army. Participants also benefited from remarks made by Canada’s High Commissioner in Pakistan, Randolph Mank, as well as international affairs specialist Janice Stein, and CSIS Director Jim Judd.

This report presents highlights and key ideas from the conference. In support of future discussion, it generally follows the agenda of the conference, summarising the broad themes raised and identifying drivers of change likely to influence the future of Pakistan’s security.
Finally, the report includes Lt.-Gen.’s Masood’s three alternative future scenarios.

Executive Summary

Considerations for Canada

Pakistan faces several complex and interdependent challenges: the country’s history has been marked by political instability, sectarian and tribal violence, as well as regional conflicts with lasting negative effect. Today, economic difficulties and, again, political instability present problems; Pakistanis do not appear united in tackling these issues, with sub-nationalism and ethno-linguistic regionalism dominating everyday life. These problems are exacerbated as the rule of law and democratic civilian institutions remain underdeveloped, while the central government’s weakness in comparison to the military results in the latter dominating politics generally. Currently, large areas of the country are beyond the control of government, with different groups having taken advantage of a porous border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s frontier and tribal areas have been used by insurgent movements, including the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to support their terrorist activity in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite its wide-ranging powers, the military has been unable to counter rising insurgency and cross-border terrorism into Afghanistan and India.

A wide variety of regional issues further complicate the situation. Chief amongst these is Pakistan’s complex and mostly antagonistic relationship with India. In the latest episode of this relationship, India alleged Pakistani involvement in a series of terrorist attacks on Indian targets, including the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. Given the history of conflict as well as the nuclear capabilities of both South Asian states, rising tensions between the two are of serious concern.

For Canada, the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan has several critical implications, as described below:

1) Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. Canada has approximately 2500 troops stationed in Afghanistan. As long as Pakistan is not internally stable and secure, the Taliban can utilise the lawless frontier regions of Pakistan to coordinate attacks on allied troops in Afghanistan.

2) Pakistan as a supply route for Canadian and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is a landlocked country, roughly 75% of supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan.

If the frontier and tribal regions that border Afghanistan are not secure and convoys come increasingly under attack, the ability to fight successfully against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan could be compromised.

3) Pakistan as a safe haven for international terrorists. Both Osama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in the frontier regions of Pakistan. They and likeminded individuals can plan attacks on international targets, including Canada.

4) Risk of India-Pakistan nuclear war with global repercussions. As long as tensions between India and Pakistan remain, the risk of a nuclear conflict will persist. Tensions between Pakistan and India are more likely to be diffused if Pakistan is internally stable.

5) Extremists’ access to, and control of, nuclear weapons. Beyond conventional state-to-state warfare in South Asia, analysts must also consider the considerable security challenges associated with a nuclear state losing control of its nuclear capability to a fragmented set of extremists. The radicalisation of growing segments of Pakistan’s army, noted by an expert at the conference, is therefore also of concern.

6) Pakistani diaspora in Canada. Canada has benefited from the presence of a large South Asian diaspora across the country. Solving the problems that are dear to Pakistanis, such as the Kashmir issue, sectarian violence, as well as inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts, will be instrumental in ensuring continued harmony amongst South Asian Canadians. In the eyes of many observers, the confluence of the factors and realities described above has made Pakistan “the most dangerous country in the world today”. To encapsulate the ideas of the conference, the results of the discussions have been used to highlight a list of drivers of change, which will influence Pakistan’s future security.

These drivers were defined by the conference participants in plenary and during break-out group discussions. They can be grouped in the following four categories.

Drivers of Pakistan’s Security

a) Terrorism and State Integrity

Drivers of change

  • The efficiency of the Afghanistan campaign and the possibility of controlling the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border;
  • The demobilisation of the jihadi sector and reintegration of jihadists into the mainstream;
  • National unity, identity and nationalism;
  • Ethno-linguistic diversity and Islamabad’s ability to evoke a national politics that creates stakes for all groups, including differing tribes and classes.

The insurgency in Pakistan has taken a stranglehold of the country, as the Taliban have gradually taken control of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and are now slowly spreading east. The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) may be lost to the Taliban, as terrorist attacks there are increasing and the Taliban are spreading their control of the area. The Swat Valley, in NWFP, once a paradise for tourists, is now controlled by the Taliban, who appear to have secured from Islamabad the freedom to enforce sharia law. Taliban violence as well as militancy by other groups demanding more autonomy are also spreading to Punjab and Baluchistan. Today, Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader of the Taliban, is widely believed to be living in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

Whether and how the problem of rising insurgency will be contained is vital to how Pakistan will develop over the next years. If Islamabad does not succeed in securing the country from insurgents, the de facto integrity of Pakistan may be at play and international terrorism will continue to emanate from the country, while coalition troops deployed in Afghanistan continue to be the targets of terrorist attacks conceived in Pakistan. The country’s economic situation will worsen significantly, as foreign investments disappear.

Several ideas were introduced during the conference to understand these issues. These emphasised that the insurgency can only be halted through a concerted effort by Pakistani security forces and the international community. Moreover, some participants stressed that Pakistan needs to understand that this is now “Pakistan’s conflict”, rather than an American problem being fought on Pakistan’s territory. In addition to military engagement, experts offered that economic and political development should be a priority for all parties concerned with the country’s stability. However, Pakistan needs to develop a national identity while balancing the interests of its regions. This would strengthen Pakistan’s unity, moving away from tribal sub-nationalism and ethno-linguistic identities.

b) The Economy and Development

Drivers of change

  • socio-economic development and poverty alleviation;
  • education reforms, amongst others to equip citizens appropriately for economic life;
  • approach to international development aid: focussed on the long term and reaching all parts of the state, not just the armed forces;
  • foreign investment and international trade;
  • the successful (re)integration of jihadists into the national economy.

In 2008, Pakistan's economic outlook took a dramatic turn for the worse given its political instability and security concerns, which have led foreign direct investment (FDI) to decline dramatically. The global financial downturn has exacerbated the problems, leading the country’s stock market to dive while the Pakistani rupee decreased significantly in value. In the light of massive trade and budget deficits, Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on a US$7.6 billion loan in November 2008 to stabilise the country’s finances and stave off a balance of payments crisis and possible default on its foreign debt.

Logically, persisting economic difficulties will have immense repercussions on Pakistan, as it attempts to solve its other problems. In support of this view, some indicated that the Taliban today appear to have a more vibrant economy than the state itself. While Pakistan may indeed benefit from foreign aid, several participants indicated that an increase in foreign aid money would no longer suffice. Instead, participants suggested that aid programs have to be tailored to meet Pakistan’s needs. Those participants also argued that the international community needs to hold the Pakistani government accountable for the aid money it receives. This could be achieved by conditioning aid.

The completion of the 2700 km India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline (IPI) will also depend in large part on the security situation in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan. It is unlikely that investors would invest the US$7 billion required for the project, given the uncertainty surrounding the security of workers and the pipeline itself. Nonetheless, the IPI is a project on which India and Pakistan are in principle dependent in order to fulfill their ever-growing need for energy. Similarly, the expected economic gains from the development of Gwadar, a deep-sea port on the Baloch coast of the Arabian Sea which was inaugurated by then-President Musharraf in 2007, depends on the security situation in Baluchistan. Gwadar sits at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, and thus by the Persian Gulf, through which 30% of the world’s daily oil supply moves.

c) Governance and Civil-military Relations

Drivers of change

  • institution-building and the stability of existing institutions;
  • the role and power of the military in everyday life;
  • whether the national interest will broaden and not be solely driven by security;
  • the rule of law and accountability of the judiciary;
  • the strength and authority of the police force.

The conference heard that the Pakistani state apparatus is marked by structural inefficiencies stemming from patronage politics, competing elite interests, corruption, as well as a lack of civilian institutions. Further, the Pakistani military wields a great deal of power, as the legal, political, and constitutional roles of the military remain virtually undefined and unchecked today. This has created a situation in which the national interest of Pakistan is defined almost exclusively in terms of security.

In this context, good governance has remained an elusive goal. Civilian institutions will have to be created or fostered to hold government accountable for its actions. However, institution-building is a long and arduous process that will require a significant commitment by many. On the other hand, Pakistanis overwhelmingly want democracy.

To establish an efficient system of governance, respect for the rule of law, a reliable judiciary and the existence of a professional police force are imperative. The conference heard that transparent and accountable governance would require a restructuring of the entire state apparatus, which would place the military under the control of the civilian government. Because the military have alienated parts of Pakistani society through its actions, and it is thus up to the people of Pakistan to take the initiative to effect change. However, since Pakistan’s national identity is frayed, this will prove to be a monumental task, especially since the military is unlikely to surrender voluntarily to civilian authorities.

d) Geopolitics

Drivers of change

  • the protracted tensions between Pakistan and India;
  • the Kashmir conflict and its implications for regional security;
  • nuclear weapons and issues of nuclear deterrence;
  • the United States’ involvement in the region;
  • regional balance in Central and South Asia.

The rivalry between India and Pakistan, rooted in several factors, including disputed control of the Kashmir, has changed significantly over the past years, causing observers to be cautiously optimistic that a rapprochement between the two states could lead to lasting peace. After the 2002 crisis following the attacks on the Indian parliament, both states appeared actively to seek to normalise relations after more than half a century of conflict. In November 2003, a ceasefire was signed regarding the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, ending years of fighting there. In January 2004, then-President Musharraf and then-Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee met in Islamabad, where the former stated that he would not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism. Based on this promise, the two countries agreed to start a composite dialogue in February 2004, tackling issues of bilateral concern.

Nonetheless, the situation remained volatile as real progress on the most pressing political issues – Kashmir and nuclear confidence-building – remained rudimentary. This was first illustrated when a series of train bombings shook Mumbai in July 2006, leading Indian police immediately to point the finger at Pakistani terrorists backed by Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), i.e. the Pakistani intelligence service. In May 2008, India then alleged that one of its soldiers had been killed by firings across the LoC, the first clear violation of the 2003 ceasefire. In July 2008, troops from both sides traded gunfire across the LoC, followed by the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. This led India once again to accuse Pakistan of not doing enough to curb terrorist activity, while directly accusing the ISI of involvement. The Indian foreign secretary promptly asserted that relations had deteriorated to their “worst level in four years”, illustrating the explosive nature of the situation despite the improvements in the relationship. From the Pakistani side, the reasons for this freeze in relations were India’s nuclear deal with the U.S. and a perceived obsession with global power status on the part of New Delhi. The Mumbai attacks of November 2008 negated much of the progress that had been made over the past years. In parallel, the presence and actions of the U.S. in Central and South Asia may have also heightened already palpable anxieties in a region known for its frail geopolitical balance. Observers widely agree that the India-Pakistan relationship is now worse than it was at any point since 2002: as both sides have put diplomatic relations on hold in the aftermath of the attacks, while incendiary rhetoric increased, especially in India. Various sources have indicated that both sides had put their armies and air force on high alert, and that plans for Indian attacks on Pakistani targets had been made. Many analysts now agree that another major terrorist attack on Indian interests could well lead to a forceful retaliation by India.

While the possibility of war between India and Pakistan is deeply worrying, a deteriorating relationship will also mean that Pakistan’s army will continue to focus on India, rather than concentrating on curbing the insurgencies previously referred to. An improvement in India-Pakistan relations would therefore have a direct impact on how Pakistan will deal with its many other problems.

How to Look at Pakistan Today

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, along with India, became an independent country in 1947. At the time, Pakistan’s territory was divided into two segments, namely West Pakistan, which is identical to today’s Pakistan, and East Pakistan, which was separated from West Pakistan by approximately 1600 kilometres of land across India. In 1971, East Pakistan became independent, establishing the state of Bangladesh. With a population of around 170 million today, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country on the globe, home to the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.

The history of the country has been one marked by frequent if not constant turmoil: political instability and sectarian violence have been ongoing, conflicts in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan have had frequent spill-over effects, and the military has had direct rule over the country on four occasions. As noted above, also, relations with India have been strained as the conflict over Kashmir, the root cause of armed conflict on at least two occasions, has evaded resolution for over 60 years. In addition, economic growth has been erratic, poverty is now widespread, and inflation high. Nonetheless, partly due to its rapidly growing population, Pakistan is projected by some to become one of the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. However, the country is often seen as a failing state. In 2008, Foreign Policy’s Failed States Index, which uses twelve social, economic, political and military indicators, ranked Pakistan ninth on the list of states most likely to fail. In 2007, Pakistan had been in twelfth position on the same index.

These statistics, as well as the historical anecdotes presented above, unfortunately reflect the current realities in Pakistan quite well. Over the last years, a faltering economy, growing levels of poverty, a weak government unable to assert control over its territory, as well as a nuclear arsenal shrouded in uncertainty, have made Pakistan a central concern to policy-makers around the world. These concerns have been exacerbated by a powerful Pakistani military that remains dominant in domestic affairs, yet is unable to contain growing insurgency and terrorist activity. Pakistani terrorists attacking targets at home and abroad have dominated headlines over the past years, in the process making the deteriorating situation in Pakistan a security crisis with effects far beyond its borders. Examples of this are the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, the attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel in September 2008, as well as the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, which analysts believe were conceived in Pakistan and carried out by Pakistani nationals. Moreover, as emphasised by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs’ Laila Bokhari, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Turkey all uncovered terrorism plots in the last few years with some connections to Pakistan. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright observed that Pakistan has everything that “gives you an international migraine”. Equally pointed, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and a South Asia adviser to Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, recently stated that Pakistan is “the most dangerous country in today’s world.”

While many observers around the globe have tended to see Pakistan’s deteriorating security situation through the prism of the war in Afghanistan alone, the country’s situation has now become a flashpoint in its own right. To support this assertion, the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies reported that, in 2008, an estimated 8000 lives were lost in the country to terrorist attacks, as well as in drone attacks and military operations against militants. This is only roughly 600 fewer than the number of lives lost in Afghanistan in the same period. An objective look at the situation reveals that the chief reason why Pakistan has been lifted to the top of the international community’s agenda is not necessarily its precarious internal situation, but rather its critical geostrategic location next to Afghanistan, considered by many to be the central front in the fight against terrorism. In December 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama asserted that “we cannot solve Afghanistan without solving Pakistan”. This statement, echoed by many, is based on the fact that there are intricate linkages between a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and the volatile internal security situation in Pakistan, which has allowed the Taliban to establish bases in the frontier areas of Pakistan, from where it coordinates activity in Afghanistan. Approximately 75% of NATO supplies headed for Afghanistan have to transit through Pakistan, where such convoys have repeatedly come under attack from Taliban forces. It is in this regard that Pakistan has also become increasingly important for Canadian foreign policy.

Understanding Paradigms

It is useful to discuss the consequences associated with the different frames, or paradigms, which we use to understand the country, as those may be constructive or misleading. In this regard, the frames describes below, put forth during the conference by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies director, Janice Stein, are examined for their potential to help understand Pakistan’s security. In sum, a qualified appreciation of those frames, together, depicts Pakistan as a deeply fearful state.

1) Pakistan as a failing state. Pakistan’s alternating civilian and military governments have failed to provide effective governance and the state does not extend its authority throughout its full territory, specifically in the FATA and NWFP. However, because such control was effectively never secured since the birth of Pakistan, the country could be said to have been a failing state for more than 60 years already.

2) Pakistan as an unstable nuclear state and a proliferating state with poor nuclear safeguards. Prof. Stein indicated, however, that concerns about proliferation have also been raised about the former USSR when it collapsed, and that they are therefore not exclusive to Pakistan. Additionally, worries about the country’s nuclear weapons being used accidentally or stolen, while they cannot be dismissed, are no more valid than in the case of other nuclear powers. Using that frame is hence perhaps “too facile”, asserted Prof. Stein.

3) Pakistan as a fearful neighbour, obsessed with India’s capabilities and intentions. Rooted in Pakistan’s anxieties about being encircled by India, this frame may be useful to analysts and policy-makers in that it stresses the crisscrossing nature of regional politics and indicates that a stable Afghanistan is dependent on a secure Pakistan.

4) Pakistan as a society threatened by its own intelligence service and army, which have supported militants and are believed to have the necessary means to carry out their own strategy. However, it is easy to exaggerate evidence of “rogue intelligence” activity and very difficult to ascertain what is authorised and what is not.

5) Pakistan as a safe haven for global jihad. This is a useful frame, says Prof. Stein, which should be examined seriously. In what she qualified might be a controversial statement, she mentioned that the challenge of dealing with jihadism in this part of the world was one of “world-wide policing and intelligence”, as opposed to a military one.

6) Pakistan threatened by Talibanisation, as militants already control large parts of the country (FATA, NWFP) and continue to spread their influence. This is a society that has been used to the reality of autonomous regions, and that frame is useful in emphasising the development and governance needs of the country.

7) Pakistan and Afghanistan as hostage to the Pashtun community, who sees the border as an inconvenient line separating artificially Pashtunistan, the homeland of Pashtuns extending across the Durand Line in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This frame is not persuasive because it ignores the sense of national identity that Pashtuns in both countries may feel, and the possibility of multiple loyalties.

Canadian Perspectives

Canada’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, Randolph Mank, agreed that domestic security has been steadily deteriorating over the last year in the country, with the 20 September 2008 Marriott hotel bombing in Islamabad representing a watershed event in what appears to be an unstoppable downward spiral. The bombing, while not singularly the worst attack in recent history, carried with it a symbolism that made it a breaking point for Pakistanis and international workers in Pakistan alike. The attack not only killed several foreigners; the Islamabad Marriott is as much a favourite amongst Pakistanis and is located near government buildings and diplomatic missions. The deadly attack hit the psyche of the international community in Islamabad, serving as a stark notice that nobody is safe.

As mentioned before, Canada, as other Western countries, has tended to look at Pakistan through the prism of the theatre of conflict in Afghanistan. Canada currently has approximately 2500 troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (NATO-ISAF), making it the biggest Canadian military engagement since the Korean War. Since internal instability in Pakistan has been exploited by the Taliban to plan attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan, targeting Afghan and NATO coalition troops and thus costing Canadian soldiers’ lives, High Commissioner Mank highlighted the urgent need to understand concretely the situation in Pakistan, while working to strengthen the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Other Canadian government officials joined HC Mank in reiterating the importance of the topic for Canada. As CSIS Director Jim Judd remarked, Canada’s ties to Pakistan extend far beyond its current role in Afghanistan. Canada was involved in finding a resolution of the Kashmir issue as early as the 1950s, while Pakistan and Canada have cooperated on several UN peacekeeping missions. Trade and economic relations between the two nations is also important to both sides. Moreover, the Pakistani diaspora has played an important role in Canada, where it represents the fourth highest source of immigration. Pakistanis living in Canada, as well as Canadians of Pakistani origin, have made significant contributions to many aspects of Canadian society, many of them having succeeded in politics, finance, the public service and other fields.

Retired defence analyst Tony Kellett and Carleton University’s distinguished senior fellow Elliot Tepper highlighted that Pakistan deserves attention from Canada because it combines dangerous elements: a potentially unstable government in Islamabad and an offensive nuclear capability. Because of the potential consequences of nuclear weapons theft or the inadvertent use of those weapons resulting from an unstable government having lost control over its nuclear stockpile, the experts contend it must be the objective of the international community as a whole to work together to stabilise the country.

The threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan and affecting Canadians at home and abroad is another major concern that cannot be underestimated. Until recently, Canada’s experience of jihadi terrorism has had a North African face (symbolised by Ahmed Ressam). However, of the two convictions to date under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act of December 2001, one was a Pakistani-Canadian. Momin Khawaja was convicted in October 2008 for bomb-building, facilitating terrorism and receiving terrorism training. Like Khawaja, other Canadian residents have received terrorism training in Pakistan, and the ease with which extremists in the West can travel to that country greatly facilitates al-Qaida plots against Western countries. Mr. Kellett said that the training, organisational and networking support available through Pakistan greatly amplify the threat posed to Western countries by homegrown extremists in their midst (and was epitomised by Khawaja’s links to a group of mostly Pakistani-Britons who were convicted on charges of plotting to bomb targets in the London area). Since 11 September 2001, some fifty Pakistan-origin residents of Western countries have been convicted on terrorism charges, with the incidence of conviction gaining pace. This demonstrates that the security problems associated with Pakistan are not confined to South Asia.

Dr. Tepper offered three suggestions regarding Canada and Pakistan.

  • Concentrating on the Pakistan-India nexus. The Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship is now in policy focus and observers must bear in mind that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are closely linked to its relations to India. In Dr. Tepper’s view, Canada would benefit from paying more attention to New Delhi: does India wish to be the “Elder Brother” or “Big Brother” on the subcontinent? Calls for a regional approach to Afghanistan are valid but can be too general. There is not one regional complex but
    several which affect Canada’s interests.
  • Increasing strategic exchanges between Canada and Pakistan. New entry points are necessary for working with Pakistan and, as stressed Dr. Tepper, an “architecture” has been lacking for us to do so. He pointed to the Parliamentary Democracy Project as a useful measure to address this gap. This and other measures, in his eyes, would strengthen elements of a stable democracy in Pakistan.
  • Wrapping initiatives into a comprehensive Pakistan strategy. Canada would benefit from an all-of-government approach which is integrated and cohesive. This would draw on government and other capacities.

A participant contended that solving the issue of Kashmir, as well as other bilateral India-Pakistan subjects, would not solve all problems. Developmental indicators have been extremely low across Pakistan, and the challenges arising from the global economic crisis have been particularly acute. Democratic institutions are still at an embryonic stage, national unity is fragile, and the rule of law, which was never firmly rooted, is still generally absent since then-President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan in November 2007. This pessimistic account of realities leaves room for speculating whether the “India factor” is indeed still as relevant to Pakistan’s internal security as many believe.

What is clear, however, is that a roadmap for Pakistan cannot treat Pakistan, India, or Afghanistan as isolated entities. Several speakers at the conference indicated that the provision to Pakistan of developmental aid, technical training, expert advice in several areas, and assistance with issues of federalism and institution-building would contribute to the stability of the country. At the same time, some analysts agreed that diplomatic initiatives would need to target India-Pakistan tensions, whether or not the issue is the key to stability in Pakistan. The appointment of Richard Holbrooke as U.S. President Obama’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan was welcomed, although it must be noted that the issue of Kashmir is not part of Mr. Holbrooke’s mandate.

Pakistan Today: the Key Issues

The first module of the conference analysed the key issues facing Pakistan today. In a first presentation, an account of Pakistan’s international identity was provided. The second key issue identified was the current freeze in relations between Pakistan and India, which has followed the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. A discussion on civil-military relations, followed by an exploration of Pakistan’s civil society and public opinion completed the first morning of the conference.

Pakistan’s International Identity

Speaking about Pakistan’s international identity, the New York University’s Center on International Cooperation senior fellow, Barnett Rubin, indicated that the principal security threat emanating from Pakistan today is the confluence of Islamabad’s poor record pertaining to nuclear proliferation, which is the worst of any nuclear weapons state in the world, as well as the issue of terrorism, since Pakistan, as a geographical entity, is the major source of global terrorism today. The expert blamed the security doctrine of the Pakistani military for the convergence of these factors and the resulting threat to global security, asserting that Pakistan’s military still sees its primary mission as balancing and defending Pakistan against larger countries such as India or China, thus operating on the basis of a security doctrinewhich includes three ways of fighting. These are (a) conventional forces, (b) the use of deniable asymmetrical warfare, and (c) the possession of a credible nuclear deterrent.

The purpose of this doctrine may be to realise what some Pakistanis see as their country’s destiny to become a “Muslim empire” (which may not necessarily be the army’s point of view), while attaining certain specific military and security objectives, such as a favourable settlement of Kashmir. The doctrine is based on the fundamental belief that Pakistan’s neighbours do not accept Pakistan’s right to exist, a deeply entrenched paranoia that results from the often made assertion that Pakistan is an “artificial state”. On this issue, Dr. Christine Fair (RAND Corp.) added that the idea of an Indian threat may have been inflated and in part nurtured by the Pakistani military to ensure that it does not lose power and influence, and that it can continue to secure a large percentage of the country’s budget.

One may wish to note in that regard that President Asif Ali Zardari recently made several statements that are effectively antithetical to Pakistan’s security doctrine. Most notably, he stated that India has never been a threat to Pakistan’s security, further advocating that Pakistan ought to move away from current policies and embrace a no-first-use policy for its nuclear deterrent. The fact that these words have not resulted in any specific policy changes demonstrates the power that the military wields in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities as well as its asymmetrical tactics, namely the statesponsored use of armed militants to pursue foreign-policy objectives, have at different points in history received the support of different states, such as China and the U.S. The conference heard that the U.S. has thus far considered the nuclear deterrent the bigger threat to global security, traditionally almost ignoring the issue of insurgency. Dr. Rubin stressed that there is a need for a policy reversal to cause Pakistan’s military to stop using armed militant groups as tools of foreign and security policy.

Concurrently, the exact nature of the relationship between the jihadists and the military, which controls the nuclear assets, needs to be clarified. The Pakistani military and the ISI have so far relied on asymmetrical warfare to pursue foreign-policy goals. A demobilisation of the “jihadi sector”, however, would hold the Pakistani state accountable for its actions, while adding transparency and eliminating any plausible denials. The eradication of the jihadi sector would carry with it an obligation to reintegrate the demobilised militants into the economy, as well as into society more generally, since jihadi activity has become an economy in itself. This economic complex, which according to Dr. Rubin is intrinsically linked to jihadi activity, would most likely prove a major hurdle in this effort.

The Fifth India-Pakistan Crisis and the Pakistani Army’s Strategy

The India-Pakistan relationship remains one of the most potentially explosive bilateral relationships in the world. In addition to the three wars which the countries have fought, several minor conflicts have been contested, while skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir, are the norm. Assessing the India-Pakistan relationship, the Brookings Institution’s Stephen Cohen explained that the two states have been involved in four major crises over the last eighteen years. In each of these crises – the so-called “Brass Tacks” crisis of 1987, the 1990 Kashmir conflict, the 1999 Kargil conflict, as well as the “Twin Peaks” crisis of 2002 – there were significant policy and/or intelligence failures on the part of at least one of the players involved.

These four crises, all of which came close to full-fledged war, could be replicated today, said Dr. Cohen. The current chill in bilateral relations, after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, reminds observers dangerously of the other four scenarios, and a major conflict – or even war – could grow out of this crisis. While no military engagements have occurred since the Mumbai attacks, incendiary rhetoric has increased, and both states at least temporarily put their militaries on heightened alert. Dr. Cohen sees that this tension could lead to conflict in case of a renewed terrorist attack on Indian soil. The relatively weak government in New Delhi would be forced to retaliate, while the even weaker civilian government in Islamabad would be helpless as the military would monopolise decision-making and move towards war, seeing a perfect opportunity to justify its enormous budget, political power, as well as the abovementioned security doctrine.

Dr. Cohen sees three major obstacles to an improvement in bilateral relations. First, India’s indecision towards Pakistan has persisted, ranging between wanting to annihilate its neighbour to developing a fruitful political and economic relationship. Second, Pakistan’s incoherence also poses a major obstacle to improved relations. While Pakistan now once again has a civilian government, this government has its hands tied due to its fractious inter-party politics as well as its inability to rely on democratic institutions. At the same time, the military has maintained at least some of its grip on power, and terrorist activity has increased significantly since 2001; as many analysts would argue, this latter development has been a product of the close ties that exist between militants, Pakistan’s military and the ISI. The third major obstacle to long-term rapprochement is the fragmented international approach to the issue. While most countries have expressed serious concern, a concerted effort to resolve or ameliorate the issue does not exist.

Civil-Military Relations and Civil Society in Pakistan

The Pakistani military remains the most powerful institution in Pakistan today and, according to Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, hinders democratisation and institution-building. She envisages one of three possible scenarios for the future of civil-military relations in the country, ranging from the military’s gradual loss of power to the Zardari administration, to the ousting of the current government by a political faction that nurtures closer ties to the military – if not the military itself.

In the first scenario, the military loses some of its power because President Zardari succeeds in implementing tactical change through a constitutional shift, taking power away from the military. In the second scenario, the military loses some of its power in the short-run as President Zardari succeeds in asserting himself as the legitimate leader of the country, and thus out-manoeuvres the armed forces to gain more power. In this case, the empowerment of political forces depends on the government’s ability to strengthen civilian political institutions and fill the legitimacy gap between the public and politicians. In a third scenario, Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government is replaced by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistani Muslim League (PML-N), a party that nurtures a closer relationship with the military and which has historically been suspicious of the PPP’s intentions.

The factors at the root of the military’s dominance of Pakistani politics are to be found in structural inefficiencies in the Pakistani political infrastructure. These inefficiencies are the result of a system of patronage politics, elite interests inherently tied to this two-way patronage system, as well as a lack of civilian institutions. This leads to a military hegemony in the country, which has allowed the legal, political, and constitutional roles of the military to remain undefined, with no proper checks or control mechanisms. At the same time, the military is present at all levels of the formal and informal economy, thus enjoying a presence in the Pakistani national market which cannot be quantified due to what Dr. Siddiqa referred to as the “kleptocratic distribution practices” of the army.

Due to the immense power which it wields, societal perceptions are largely shaped by the military, which through its ideological influence defines social discourse and leads people to subscribe to its “right-wing point of view”. Dr. Siddiqa said that this growingly conservative perspective – which has strengthened a “right-wing security state” – is detrimental to civil society and prevents the emergence of a human security perspective. It also benefits the military, the religious parties, the conservative political parties and the militants. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s public opinion differs between different regions, social classes, and tribes, which means that a generalisation of the Pakistani “street”, i.e. the general public opinion, is not possible. The Group Executive Director of a leading media group highlighted that there is no national unity in Pakistan, and that a Pakistani ‘street’ does not exist. Instead, Pakistanis feel an allegiance to Allah, and fault-lines are drawn along sectarian and social divides. This notion is further explored in the following section.

Pakistan’s Security

A Framework for Understanding Pakistan’s Security

The second module of the conference focussed specifically on Pakistan’s immediate security situation. U.S. Army War College Prof. Larry Goodson provided a succinct framework for understanding Pakistan’s security, remarking that five interacting and interlinked factors, described below, shape Pakistan.

Ethno-linguistic Regionalism

Pakistan does not have one single national interest. Rather, several sub-national groups hailing from four ethno-linguistically constructed provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and NWFP), the FATA, and three other federal territories make up a federal republic. This republic is dominated by Punjab, which is home to about half of Pakistan’s population and is by far the most prosperous region.

Demographic and Socio-economic Realities

Pakistan is one of the most populated countries in the world, home to approximately 170 million people, of which 61% are under 24 years of age. The country is subject at times to extreme economic hardship, and corruption is still widespread. Pakistan’s Human Development Index (HDI), an indicator combining measures of life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita, ranks the country 139th in the world, with up to 40% of Pakistan’s people living below the poverty line. These numbers, exacerbated by the current-account crisis and the economic crisis, prompted a US$7.6 billion IMF bailout in November 2008. In spite of these realities, the budget for education in Pakistan in 2007 was only US$400 million, while defence spending remained the single-largest budget item at US$4.5 billion. This, in Prof. Goodson’s view, clearly reflects the state’s priorities.

Political Pendulum

The Pakistani political pendulum swings between weak and underdeveloped civilian institutions on one hand, and a very strong army on the other. The federal system concentrates the majority of the power at the centre, making for a dominant executive and a legislative and judiciary that are generally feeble, at times even entirely superfluous. For its part, the military – the world’s seventh largest standing army – has ruled the country on four separate occasions for a total of 35 years. It has an institutionalised position in politics, civil society, as well as in the economy and industry, and as previously mentioned often dictates foreign policy directions, especially with regards to India.

Geopolitical and Geostrategic Position

Pakistan finds itself in a critical geographic location: India has been the “resented big brother” ever since partition in 1947, while Afghanistan has proven to be a perennial source of trouble. China, despite the military assistance which it has provided to Pakistan for decades, is often regarded with scepticism. The United States, a traditional ally of Pakistan, is far away geographically and seen by many to be a “fair
weather friend”.

From Islam to Talibanisation

Pakistan was founded as an Islamic republic and the homeland to the Muslims of South Asia, as a country separate from its Hindu-dominated neighbour. Islamist militancy was not always a threat to Pakistan’s security. Many regard the Afghanistan war of the 1980s as having created the conditions that opened Sunni-dominated Pakistan to deeper religious violence. Since then, militancy has gradually expanded in Pakistan. However, it was not until the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, in December 2001, that the Taliban began to shift to the frontier regions of Pakistan, from where they have since coordinated their activities. Since 2001, these regions have become the epicentre of the global jihad, with the Taliban gradually taking control of the FATA, before slowly moving eastwards to NWFP, as well as Punjab and Baluchistan in the south. Since then, sectarian, anti-secular, and anti-Western violence emanating from these regions have become a serious issue in Pakistan and abroad. In 2008, a CIA official referred to a near-mathematical “incrementality” in fatalities when a terrorist attack originated in the FATA.

The Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

A presentation an official of the government of Canada assessed that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are more vulnerable than any other nuclear country’s atomic weapons have ever been. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s nuclear program is expanding, thus increasing the chance that Islamabad will lose control over at least some of its nuclear weapons. The official, whose presentation was based on publicly available information, reported that Pakistan has approximately 60 to 80 nuclear weapons, as well as large amounts of highly enriched uranium (heu) and plutonium, which could be turned into weapons-grade material.

In light of the internal weaknesses of Pakistan’s state apparatus, corruption and the military’s close ties to Islamist militants, Pakistan’s nuclear program has become a significant preoccupation in several capitals, most notably in Washington D.C., where the current and previous administrations have had serious fears about the security of Pakistan’s weapons. While then-President Musharraf stated in 2007 that his country’s nuclear safeguards are “already the best in the world”, the U.S. has invested almost US$100 million since 2001 to protect Pakistani nuclear weapons from theft and subsequent use by terrorists.12 This aid, says the official, includes training and technical assistance, to enhance what is known in atomic energy circles as nuclear surety, i.e. the material, personnel, and procedures that contribute to the safety, security, reliability, and control of nuclear weapons, thus assuring no nuclear accidents, incidents, unauthorised use, or degradation.

While these and other measures have prompted officials such as Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, to assert that the security of the weapons is not in jeopardy at this point, many are not convinced. One of the reasons for this is that one of the principles of nuclear surety stipulates that weapons are to be concentrated in few places, rather than having them scattered across several locations and storage facilities, as was the case in the Soviet Union. However, Pakistan has practiced the opposite tactic, namely a dispersion of its weapons, in order to make it harder for India to destroy its nuclear stockpiles and thus increase its own second-strike capabilities against a possible Indian attack.

Untangling the Militants’ Many Agendas

The intricacies and complexities of terrorism and militancy in Pakistan cannot be understated. Militancy is not the result of terrorist outfits pursuing the same or even similar objectives. The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs’ Laila Bokhari aimed to untangle the militants’ many agendas, before Sciences Po’s Mariam Abou Zahab provided details about insurgency groups in FATA and NWFP. Pakistani insurgents may be grouped into four categories, according to Ms. Bokhari. However, individuals have been shown to move from one category to another for ideological and pragmatic reasons, creating diffuse mixes. The four categories are:

A) Cross-border terrorist groups, including those who attacked targets in India or in Afghanistan. A prominent example is Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group allegedly responsible for the Mumbai attacks;

B) Sectarian groups, both Shiite and Sunni, have traditionally been active on a more local basis;

C) Traditional jihadi groups, some linked to al-Qaida, have increasingly and predominantly attacked Western targets;

D) Groups targeting symbols of the Pakistani establishment, in the process attempting to challenge the legitimacy of the state itself. Such groups are protesting the “apostate” leadership as well as Pakistan’s armed forces.

Grouping terrorist outfits into different categories may be useful to create an analytical framework, but it may also create a dangerous precedent by oversimplifying the matter. Ms. Bokhari argued that the fault-lines between these different groups must be analysed further in order to understand the ideological nuances and the differing agendas and purposes at play.

Extremist Networks in FATA and NWFP

The FATA, which includes North and South Waziristan, has been described as today’s nucleus of the Pakistani Taliban movement (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) as well as a critical safe haven for the Afghan Taliban. The area is home to an estimated six million people, and serves as a training ground and main sanctuary for the Taliban, which benefits from the lawlessness of the region to plan cross-border attacks on coalition and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. The FATA is so dissimilar to either Afghanistan or Pakistan that it is often referred to as Talibanistan, a lawless frontier region far beyond the control and influence of anyone.

The militancy in the region is not limited to Taliban activity and recruitment. Ms. Abou Zahab highlighted that while most of the tribal people conducting terrorist activity in this region overlap in at least some of their ideology – they oppose the Western-backed Afghan state as well as the Pakistani regime, thereby creating a “defensive jihad” against NATO forces and the Pakistani state – there is not one monolithically structured and disciplined organisation that coordinates all terrorist activity. Rather, on top of a clearly defined Taliban offensive against the above-mentioned targets, there exist widespread tribal differences and animosity which lead to several inter-tribal conflicts (e.g., the war between Mahsuds and Wazirs), intra-tribe conflicts between dominant and minor clans of a single tribe, wars over resources (e.g., water), as well as sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shiites. This mix of several civil wars in the area has created a large displaced population, creating in it vulnerabilities that makes it prone to recruitment by the Taliban.

Given the different ideologies and animosity described above, it is also unclear to observers what the relationship between the Pakistani Taliban and the al-Qaida network may be. While it is generally accepted that there are some links and that the Taliban continue – as prior to 11 September 2001 – to provide al-Qaida with invaluable protection and sanctuary, it is unclear just how concrete those links are. In fact, it remains difficult to determine whether there are structural links between the organisations that go beyond ideological likemindedness and criminal activities of elements linked to the Pakistani taliban to finance missions.

In NWFP, the smallest of Pakistan’s four provinces with a population of just over 20 million people, problems related to militancy are similar to those described in FATA, although not quite as widespread yet. The trend in NWFP, according to Ms. Abou Zahab, is towards further deterioration, as religious extremists have expanded their activity from the FATA to NWFP over the past years. A widely held view in NWFP is that the Talibanisation of the province is a direct result of military operations in FATA, which has led the Taliban to move to other areas of the country. As this trend continues, analysts worry that the NWFP will soon spiral to the same levels as FATA.

In recent months, inter- and intra-tribal conflict and sectarianism have also increased tremendously in NWFP. Signs of class war within different Pashtu tribes have developed, as the majority Pashtu population has struggled with important socio-economic issues. Ms. Abou Zahab also stressed that an important and often overlooked aspect of Pakistan’s security is sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In the last year, militants have increasingly targeted Shiite Muslims, and there are several accounts of members of the armed forces being kidnapped, with the Sunnis later being released while Shiites are beheaded. Many argue that the phenomenon of sectarian violence directed at Shiites has increased especially since the Pakistani military’s siege and subsequent storming of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in July 2007.

Today, eight of the NWFP’s 24 districts have been declared high-security zones by the Pakistani government, demarcating these zones as areas in which Taliban activity is expanding and the chances of terrorist attacks have increased. The number of terrorist attacks in NWFP has increased steadily over the past year, and there is now a widely held view that the police are either helpless or unwilling to challenge the Taliban’s expanding influence in the province. The Taliban are asserting themselves as the faction best equipped to perform in areas such as law enforcement, governance, and even the judicial process.

The movement has asserted itself as a strict enforcing agency of sharia law, punishing individuals for behaviour that is deemed anti-Islamic. Accounts from NWFP, which includes the Swat Valley, previously one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in South Asia, include such acts as men being punished for shaving their facial hair, or women for attending school. In several cases, the threat of using acid as a punishment for anti-Islamic crimes was reported in early 2009.

Pakistan and its Neighbours

Afghanistan and Pakistan: One War in Two Countries

After hearing about internal issues in Pakistan on the first day of the conference, the second day focussed on Pakistan in the context of regional and global issues. Having noted that India continues to be the dominant issue for Pakistanis, the Centre for International Governance Innovation’s Mark Sedra explored the relationship between Pakistan and its neighbour to the west: Afghanistan. This relationship has always been of great significance, having been marked by the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and the corresponding birth of the Taliban, as well as Pashtun nationalism, a movement by both Pakistani and Afghan Pashtuns to unite and form a separate country of Pashtunistan in the border region.

In 2001, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan entered a new era, as Taliban forces were expelled from Afghanistan by coalition forces and subsequently created new bases in Pakistan’s border regions. Cross-border insurgency in both directions started to increase immediately after the invasion of Afghanistan, as the Pakistani government of then-President Musharraf was unable, or unwilling, to contain the insurgency especially in Waziristan. Mr. Sedra said the vast majority of supplies for coalition troops in Afghanistan had to pass through Pakistan via the Khyber Pass, a route that has been a target for Taliban militants on several occasions. Despite these issues and the challenges in curbing this activity, Islamabad continued to enjoy the support of the U.S., and the Bush administration was convinced that the Musharraf regime, backed by the Pakistani military, was the only faction capable of keeping the country’s nuclear weapons away from militants, while at least maintaining control over the majority of the country’s territory. At the same time, it became increasingly evident that ties between the militants and at least some elements of the Pakistani military, especially the ISI, persisted.

Today, as Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, and the relatively new civilian government of Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad appear intent on increasing cooperation, there is hope that the situation will become more stable. Moreover, President Obama promised a surge of troop numbers in Afghanistan on several occasions prior to taking office. This military commitment may be accompanied by several development initiatives led by USAID. Since 2001, there has also been a Tripartite Commission between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S., to which NATO-ISAF is now also a member. The Ottawa conference heard that this Tripartite Commission has started to work very well in the recent past, allowing for optimism that progress on some of the bilateral issues of concern, such as border protection, will be made in the near future.

While there are thus several measures that leave room for optimism, Mr. Sedra also contended that Pakistan is currently following a dual-policy strategy in Afghanistan. If Pakistan has many reasons to stabilise Afghanistan, Islamabad is also concerned about the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, and may wish to keep the country unstable. In fact, some suggest that Islamabad, and more specifically the ISI, sees Afghanistan as an extension of Pakistan’s struggle with India. The reasons for this intriguing development are the increasingly strengthened ties between India and Afghanistan under the Karzai government, which have allowed Indian consulates to open in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif. Another factor amongst a plethora of measures that have indicated a tightening in bilateral India-Afghanistan relations is that President Karzai also addressed the possibility of inviting India to help train the Afghan army. He also indicated he could ask India to help in the construction of a major dam project in northeastern Afghanistan. Last summer, India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, also announced developmental assistance to Afghanistan totalling US$450 million, in addition to the US$750 million already committed by India to implement projects in various sectors (infrastructure development, education, health care and social development). Given these developments, some have argued that it was no coincidence that the Indian embassy in Kabul was the target of a terrorist attack in the summer of 2008; the ISI was the immediate suspect in the eyes of many observers.

Pakistan and India: Eternal Rivalry

In order to illustrate effectively the wide-ranging complexities of the India-Pakistan relationship, Balsillie School of International Affairs director Ramesh Thakur described the latter by situating it within three analytical frameworks: nationalism, nuclear weapons, and terrorism.

Viewing the two countries through the prism of nationalist ideology and the bilateral issue of Kashmir, Dr. Thakur posited that as a territorial dispute Kashmir would by now have been resolved, with reasonable people on both sides. What makes the dispute intractable, he said, is three competing views of nationalism that exist in the relationship: Indian secular nationalism, Pakistani religious nationalism, and Kashmiri ethnic nationalism. Pakistan, created as the national homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims, has had difficulty accepting that Kashmir, whose majority is Muslim, should not be part of Pakistan. India, as a secular country, has had difficulty accepting that the Union’s only Muslim-majority state should join Pakistan. The perspective of India considering Pakistan as an artificial state and wanting to weaken it is shared amongst many Pakistanis but not amongst many Indians. Pakistanis’ fear is supported by India’s role in 1971, leading to the break-up of Pakistan and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh.

The India-Pakistan relationship can also be assessed through the prism of nuclear capabilities. Here, Dr. Thakur reported that India has always seen itself as having pursued nuclear power because of its ambition to become a global science and technology powerhouse, with the motivation to build nuclear weapons, and keep them under civilian control, coming later. In Pakistan, however, nuclear weapons as a deterrent against India were the prime motivation in the interest in nuclear technology. This is evidenced by the fact that the military alone controls the weapons in Pakistan and that Pakistan has still not adopted a no-first-use policy, and thus reserves the right to resort to nuclear weapons in retaliation to a conventional attack by India.

Lastly, viewing the relationship in the context of terrorism, Dr. Thakur contended that Pakistan’s efforts in curbing cross-border terrorism by Pakistan-based terrorists have been half-hearted. However, given the severity of the Mumbai attacks and the effects they have had on the Indian psyche, he, too, predicted that India would feel compelled to respond in a significant and forceful way if another attack was to happen on Indian soil.

Pakistan, Central Asia, and the Web of Resource Politics

An analysis of Pakistan in the context of the wider region must also include an assessment of the relationship which the country nurtures with its Central Asian counterparts, with which Pakistan has traditionally had strong commercial and political relations due to its religious ties to these predominantly Muslim countries. However, as the RAND Corporation’s Christine Fair presented it, starting in the 1990s, Pakistan was blamed by some Central Asian states for a wave of militancy in the neighbourhood, putting a strain on these relations.

With Iran, Pakistan enjoyed particularly good relations since partition, when Tehran was the first government to officially recognise Pakistan’s statehood. In the 1960s and the 1970s, a strategic dimension was added to the bilateral relationship, as both became members to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), a U.S.-sponsored pact designed to contain the Soviet threat. The two states were also united in their battle against a widespread insurgency in Baluchistan, which runs through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In spite of this generally sound bilateral relationship, bilateral ties became increasingly strained in the 1980s, when Iran grew wary of Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The events of 11 September 2001, says Dr. Fair, then provided Islamabad with an opportunity to shed the negative image which had followed it around for two decades; but it failed to do so amidst rising terrorist activity emanating from its territory, coupled with political instability, as well as uncertainty surrounding its nuclear weapons. Some observers maintain that Pakistan and Iran enjoy good relations, based on Pakistan’s past sharing of nuclear know-how and assets with its Iranian neighbour. In reality, stresses Dr. Fair, Iran is now distrustful of Pakistan’s ability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons precisely because of its poor record on issues of proliferation and its fear that weapons could end up in the hands of militants. Conversely, many Pakistanis also see Iran as being at the root of some of its problems, as the sectarian violence in Pakistan can be directly attributed to the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a strategic relationship that is deeply inter-dependent and highly discreet. In the words of former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, it is “one of the closest [bilateral] relationships in the world without any formal treaty”. According to Michael Kalin from the Privy Council Office’s International Assessment Staff, there are three main drivers for Saudi-Pakistani cooperation:

a) Islamic solidarity and a similar political crisis of legitimacy experienced by both states. Beyond Islam’s status as the nominal raison d’être of both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the rulers of each state have promoted political Islam as a response to a problem of regime legitimacy at home. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family has cultivated the Kingdom’s religious establishment to justify the unelected rule of a regime whose survival depends on an unpopular defensive alliance with the United States. In Pakistan, political Islam can be historically understood as an effort by Islamabad to strengthen the central government against the centrifugal forces of various regional and ethnic identities.

b) Saudi-Pakistani ties are actively driven by complementary military and economic profiles. The wealthy but vulnerable Saudi state and its poor but militarily powerful Pakistani counterpart have each employed their respective strengths to offset the other’s weaknesses. Riyadh has lavished more financial aid on Pakistan than any country outside the Arab world while Pakistan has historically provided thousands of military personnel to Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom.

c) Saudi-Pakistani ties flourish within the context of the alliance that both states enjoy with Washington. Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were firmly anti-Communist during the Cold War and from 1982-1990, both countries worked with the United States to arm and train the Afghan mujahideen. Both states seek to pursue two major but often divergent foreign policy objectives: highlighting their respective value as an ally to Washington while also enhancing their status to be defenders of Islam.

In light of these realities, the Saudi-Pakistani relationship must be seen as part of a triangular axis with the United States, said Mr. Kalin and it is precisely for this reason that Saudi Arabia’s recent foray into Afghan reconciliation talks cannot be understood without regard to Riyadh’s broader and overriding interests in working closely with both Pakistan and the United States.

Strategy and World Politics

One module of the conference addressed Pakistan’s role in current world politics. This included a debate on U.S.-Pakistan relations and counter-insurgency efforts, as well as an exploration of Pakistan’s standing in the Muslim world.

The United States’ unequivocal objective in Pakistan has been to transform the state into a stable entity that can help it achieve its chief objective in its fight against terrorism. In the pursuit of these goals, the U.S. has spent an estimated US$11 billion in Pakistan since the end of 2002, investing in such projects as nuclear weapons safety, strengthening the armed forces, and development initiatives through USAID. Nonetheless, Dr. Christine Fair was clear in conceding that the U.S. has failed in its objective to stabilise the country. This failure is the result of several factors, amongst them:

1) The vast majority of the expenditure has gone to the military, with the objective of strengthening the latter so that it can successfully tackle rising militancy, as well as protect the Afghanistan border from the Pakistani side. However, despite these investments, the performance of the forces has not improved, while it continues to follow its own strategy. This favourable bias towards the military has bred resentment across Pakistan, as development aid to the Pakistani people is limited to approximately US$100 million per annum.

2) The U.S. has thus far refrained from attaching conditions to the distribution of aid to Pakistan. This is, in Dr. Fair’s eyes, because Washington believes that if it continues to provide supply-side assistance, the U.S. will win the hearts and minds of Pakistanis. However, she stresses, there is no empirical evidence to support this hypothesis.

3) The U.S. has been very indecisive in its policy towards Pakistan, which has been the result of not comprehending the realities on the ground. While al-Qaida was from the beginning the defined adversary, Kashmiri terrorist outfits were largely ignored, as were the links between these groups and al-Qaida, and the Taliban were not recognised.

As a measure to address these failures, the expert indicates that the U.S. may first need to mitigate the trust deficit which exists between Pakistan and the U.S. Dr. Fair says that this trust deficit is built on several half-truths which have led Pakistan not only to question America’s real intentions, but also to assume that the U.S. is only working for its own benefit. If this trust deficit is overcome, she sees an opportunity for other issues of bilateral concern to be tackled more fruitfully. These bilateral issues would include reforming the judiciary and civilianising the military state through institution-building. As a media executive noted, however, it will be difficult to overcome the trust deficit if U.S. drone attacks into Pakistani territory continue.

Lastly, Dr. Fair also believes that Washington should rethink its cost-benefit analysis of what it does for Pakistan. This would involve conditioning U.S. aid in the country, and demanding real results from Pakistan in return for continued assistance. This may after all alleviate the problems related to Pakistan’s inability to deal with the threats of al-Qaida and the Taliban. Another approach would be to bring traditional American allies into the fold. In following this objective, she indicated that the U.S. could make use of the political capital it has gained through the election of Barack Obama.

Regarding Pakistan and its place in the Muslim world, a former head of a state-run television network stated that Pakistan is now experiencing the tribal divide between Sunnis and Shiites which other Muslim countries have long experienced, as the tribal system continues to be very strong across the Muslim world. However, in Pakistan these problems have surfaced mostly as a result of Pakistan being used as a battleground for proxies. Noting that neither the Taliban nor al-Qaida existed in Pakistan at its birth, the media executive lamented that the U.S. supported the regime of General Musharraf for many years because of its belief that this regime was the best way of ensuring that Pakistan would remain stable.

Conclusion: One Country, Many Futures

The conference featured a multiplicity of views on different aspects of Pakistan’s security today and in the future. Discussions allowed to identify several drivers which will influence the future of the country’s security. Those addressed internal, regional and global issues. The conclusions that can be drawn from the presentations and discussion are far from positive: as the centre of jihadist terrorism today, Pakistan has a monumental task to handle, and it will be a long road to overcome this scourge if the country does not act in a resolute and united manner. The country must also face a faltering economy, widespread socioeconomic problems, ongoing tensions with its Indian neighbour, as well as developments in Afghanistan. While Pakistan now once again has a civilian government, a lack of democratic institutions and the limited prevalence of the rule of law make for a precarious situation.

In light of these problems, the concluding module of the conference offered three alternative scenarios for Pakistan’s future. In developing these three scenarios, Lt.-Gen. Talat Masood (ret’d) considered the drivers of change which were discussed throughout the conference. These scenarios, described below, are meant as tools to stimulate further discussion.

Scenario 1: the Best Case

In the hypothetical best case scenario, Pakistan’s government succeeds in creating a strategic environment that can overcome the major challenges confronting the country today. The civilian and military leadership embrace the need for change and discard their outdated policies. Reflecting the resilience of Pakistan’s people, the leadership realises that the people are hungry for change, and Islamabad moves to build democratic institutions and a judicial system on which the people can rely. The military surrenders some of its political power and subordinates itself to the civilian government, redefining its role to match the realities of the 21st century. This means that asymmetrical warfare is completely abandoned, Pakistan becomes a responsible steward of nuclear weapons, the military abandons its role in everyday politics, and the army’s budget decreases so that emphasis can be put on other areas of the economy.

The major changes illustrated here are then applied to re-establish power and the rule of law in the tribal areas and the frontier areas in general. The Taliban and other militant movements are progressively brought under control as the people of the region realise that the violence and ideology these movements champion have not resulted in prosperity. The insurgency in Baluchistan, which was intricately linked to the militancy in the other regions, also subsides, and former insurgent groups are integrated into the mainstream political process. As a result of these internal developments, the insurgency in Afghanistan also begins to subside, as the Taliban have lost their logistical base and sanctuary. The warlords are on the retreat, and the Afghan government in Kabul, whether under a new leadership or a re-invented Hamid Karzai, asserts itself with the support of the international community.

In the meantime, Pakistan’s relationship with India also improves, because no further terrorist attacks take place on Indian soil. The re-invented civilian leadership in Islamabad has realised that the military can no longer sponsor, or even tolerate, terrorist activity. This leads to a rapid decline of terrorist incidents in Pakistan, and cross-border terrorism into India is also finally curbed. The thaw in bilateral relations, which was witnessed prior to the events of late 2008, gains momentum again, and India and Pakistan finally make concrete steps towards a settlement of the Kashmir issue. India appreciates that peace in the region is the only scenario under which it will be able to attain great power status, and thus steps up its efforts in trying to find a viable solution on issues of mutual concern. As a result, militancy in Kashmir also loses momentum as Kashmiris demand a lasting political solution to the Kashmir question and thus rise up against terrorism. Organisations like the LeT and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) slowly disintegrate, suffering under the loss of public support while also no longer receiving the support of the military.

The economy also takes a significant turn for the better. The global economic downturn ends, and the Pakistani economy feels the ripple effects of this development. The IMF package agreed in late 2008 leads to significant improvements in economic policy. Because the leadership in Islamabad has adopted new measures to create civilian institutions and the rule of law, security improves and the economy once again has room to grow. Eager to meet the needs of a young population, foreign investors are more inclined to invest in Pakistan again, and trade goes up as international attitudes towards Pakistan improve and investors no longer have to fear for their ventures in Pakistan.

In general, Pakistan is again respected on the international scene, and relations improve with China, Iran, the greater Muslim-majority world, as well as with the United States. Tourism becomes the norm, as people from the world over visit resorts in Kashmir and Swat, and all regions of Pakistan attract tourists just like its neighbour, India, has done for a decade. As the economy grows steadily at an annual rate of 7% to 8%, the demobilised jihadi segment of society is reintegrated into the mainstream economy, reducing the likelihood of a retreat to extremist activities. Poverty in general subsides greatly, people have access to drinking water and food, and the budget for education is increased.

Scenario 2: the Worst Case

The second scenario is diametrically opposed to the previous one. In it, the insurgencies currently affecting Pakistan’s security continue to fester. The security forces are unable, or unwilling, to contain the Taliban and other groups in the FATA and NWFP, and these groups succeed in gradually spreading further east and south, in the process taking full control of FATA and NWFP, while dominating large parts of Baluchistan and even Punjab. Terrorism increases in scope, costing many lives on a consistent basis. The government has now widely lost control over huge areas of its territory, and the Taliban have asserted themselves as the main power in these parts.

A similar development transpires in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (Azad Kashmir). The LeT and JuD continue to play a significant role in the daily lives of Kashmiris, taking political initiatives while also using the territory to plan terrorist attacks across the border in India. These attacks target Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) and other Indian cities, causing relations with India to deteriorate significantly. India now sees no other alternative than to begin operations in Pakistan in order to eliminate training camps as well as logistical centres of LeT and JuD in Azad Kashmir. Tensions increase, and a military stand-off ensues in a repeat of the 2001-02 crisis. As a result, Pakistan once again concentrates its entire military forces on the border with India, leaving the rest of the country to be an easy target for the Taliban and other forces moving in from the west.

At a national level, the strategies and policies adopted by the government are oblivious to the problems and realities in the country. The rule of law and constitutionalism has found no place, and functional democratic institutions continue to be rare or absent. At the same time, the army continues to wield incredible power, dominating national politics and the economy. The social sector is neglected, poverty and socio-economic hardship are on the rise, and the service sector stagnates. The combination of a degenerating economy, a rising militancy and poor leadership in Islamabad lead to a total collapse of the country. As people realise that they can no longer rely on the government, more regional crises unfold, militants gain ever more power, and ethnic and sectarian violence spread as the country effectively atomises into a free-for-all”.

As a result of these developments, foreign investment has completely vanished from Pakistan, as investors worry about the lack of rule of law, a non-reliable financial system, and a militancy that poses threats to foreigners anywhere in the country. The international community is forced to deal with competing centres of power, which in turn further erodes the authority of the central government. This leads the army once again to stage a military coup d’État, dismissing bureaucrats, politicians, and judges. In essence, Pakistan is no longer a cohesive state and has ceased to exist politically.

Scenario 3: A Nuanced Case

Lt.-Gen. Masood described a Pakistan whose economic performance remains volatile and extremely uncertain in the foreseeable future. Growth picks up in 2011, only to slide again to a relatively low annual 4% thereafter, shaking the confidence of investors already unimpressed by the government’s inability to launch serious economic reforms. Law and order improve slightly, but militancy and terrorism persist, especially in Baluchistan, FATA, and NWFP. Criminality and trafficking of all kinds make for a permanent economic “backbone” in FATA and NWFP. As the government proves unable to undertake social reforms, poverty worsens and unemployment increases. Moreover, the military is unwilling to surrender some power in the political and economic realm.

Some of these negative trends come to be neutralised by increased remittances from the diaspora and international assistance, when the economy improves globally. As the international community sees the urgency of the situation, international aid increases, and the November 2008 IMF package begins modestly to bear fruit. While the government is unable to quell the insurgency definitely, pressure on the military and the ISI increases, and cross-border terrorism into India starts to wane, leading to improving relations with India and progress in the peace process. In the West, terrorism also subsides, as international efforts are stepped up to help Pakistan secure the frontier areas with Afghanistan.

Annex: conference agenda

Jointly sponsored by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, National Defence Canada, and Public Safety Canada

22 January 2009



Setting the Stage: Conference Objectives and Expectations


Canada’s Perspective from the Ground


Director’s remarks
Jim Judd
Canadian Security Intelligence Service



Presentations (each 15 min):

Friends or Foes? Civil-military Relations

Pakistan’s International Identity

The Fifth Pakistan-India Crisis and the Pakistani Army’s Strategy

The “Pakistani street”: Civil society, public opinion and the media

11:00 Break

11:20 Plenary discussion

12:15 Lunch



Presentations (each 15 min):

A Framework for Understanding Pakistan’s Security

Assessing the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and materials
Countering Violence: Untangling the Militants’ many agendas

Extremist Networks and Porous Borders: Today’s
FATA and North-West Frontier Province

14:45 Break

15:15 Break-out groups

16:30 Keynote address

17:00 Adjourn

23 January 2009


Overview of the previous day and scene-setting



Presentations (15 min each):

Afghanistan and Pakistan: One War in Two Countries

Pakistan and India: Competing Identities or Competitive Demagoguery?

Central Asia and the Web of Resource Politics

Saudi-Pakistani Ties: Anatomy of a Strategic Relationship

10:30 Break

10:45 Plenary session

12:00 Lunch



Presentations (15 min each):

Pakistan-United States Relations

The United States and the Pakistan Army’s
Counter-insurgency Efforts

Brief reflections (10 min each):

What Does it Mean for Canada?

14:30 Plenary discussion

15:00 Break



What Pakistan Will We Know in 2019?

16:15 Break-out groups


Reaching Out to Experts: the CSIS Experience

17:30 Break-out group reports


Summary and Wrap-up

18:15 Adjourn

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