Country cannot be invaded and rebuilt from scratch: Rashed Rahman
Daily Times Monitor
COPENHAGEN: The idea that a country could be invaded and rebuilt from scratch was inherently flawed, Daily Times Editor Rashed Rahman said in an interview with a Danish news channel DR on its premier current affairs programme Deadline.
Describing the setup within Pakistan, Rashed Rahman said that the country consisted of different actors. He said that the military and the ISI were powerful and they were the ones that basically controlled Pakistan’s security and foreign policy in specific areas, such as Afghanistan and India. According to him, the rest of Pakistan was mixed. He said he did not agree with the idea of the export of extremism and the notion that Afghanistan could be controlled through proxies.
“Pakistan is a very divided, complex, multi-layered country, so when you say Pakistan be careful; let’s distinguish between the policy of the army and the policy of the rest of Pakistani society,” he said.
He argued that the current scenario was a result of history, saying that once the West walked away from Pakistan after the Soviets walked away from Afghanistan, the country was left to pick up the pieces.
“So Pakistan has gone with things that are not palatable. For example, raising and supporting the Taliban, bringing them to power in Afghanistan and then after they were overthrown in 2001, hosting them, giving them safe havens. This is a policy that inevitably brings the military and the ISI into conflict with the people who are fighting in Afghanistan, which is the US and NATO and, of course, the Afghan forces,” he explained.
Continuing in this vein, Rashed Rahman said that in these areas, the government was weak and unable to assert itself against the military.
“The US-Pakistan alliance is fraught, enmeshed in friction and mistrust and suspicion,” he said.
Talking about the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Rashed Rahman said that the military felt that it had better position itself to get a piece of the action there. He said that post-2014, the military wanted to see a, if not pliant, then friendly government in power in Kabul. According to him, the military felt that this could be best achieved through the Taliban. This had created the current friction between Pakistan and the US, since the US, NATO and the Afghans did not want the Taliban back in power. This time round, apart from the non-Pashtun ethnic groups, the Pashtuns in Afghanistan were divided and there was a considerable body of Pashtuns allied with the Karzai regime. According to him, his greatest fear was that there would be a civil war in Afghanistan after 2014, which would affect Pakistan and the entire region and may spiral into separate proxies being supported by regional powers apart from Pakistan.
“If that happens, and I hope it doesn’t, but if it happens, it will be a disaster,” he said.
To a question about who, between extremists and the rest, was gaining the upper hand within Pakistan, Rashed Rahman replied that religious parties had always been marginal in the political process, if it was a free political process. Citing the example of elections, he said that such parties did not obtain more three percent of the seats, if the elections were not manipulated in any way.
“So clearly, Pakistan is a moderate Muslim country. The bulk, the majority of the people are entrenched in the Sufi tradition, they are not extremists. So the extremists are not gaining the upper hand, unless someone gives them a boost,” he said.
According to him, there was a perception in the western media that Pakistan was running amok with fanatics and terrorists, while the reality was that 99 percent of the people just got on with their daily lives, which was never reported.
To a question about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, Rashed Rahman said that there was little chance that it would fall into the hands of radical extremists. He said that the military had ensured, along with help from the Americans to some extent, that the arsenal be kept safe. He stated that unless there was a movement inside the military, the arsenal would be secure. He claimed that there had been efforts within the military to bring about a coup or to orient it towards Islamism, but that they had been nipped in the bud, adding that the Pakistan military’s discipline had not broken down and was intact.
About the situation of democracy within the country, Rashed Rahman said that a struggle for democracy was still continuing in the country. He claimed that unless the country persisted with democracy, unless the parliament continued to function and freedoms existed, the extremist tide could not be rolled back.