Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have ended up doing an unintentional favour to the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan. Yes, Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the LoC could actually be the much-needed blessing in disguise for the Pakistan government! Recently, journalist and columnist Cyril Almeida’s article in the Dawn newspaper titled, “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military,” rattled the powerful army establishment in Pakistan.
In the article, Almeida reported that the civilian government came down heavily on the Pakistani Army for backing terror groups. Pakistani commanders based out of GHQ Rawalpindi have expressed serious concerns over leaking “false information” from a security meeting that was held in PM Nawaz Sharif’s house. Following the publication of the story, Almeida was put on Exit Control List, however, the travel ban was later removed. Almeida had said that he had triple checked the facts before filing the story.
Pakistan has a long history of conflict between military establishment and civilian government and the relations between the two have always been prone to tensions. A good example of this can be that of General Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif where the latter was overthrown in a coup in 1999. General Raheel Sharif who is into his final weeks in office would certainly not like to leave on an unhappy note; hence was this leak deliberate on part of the civilian government? Did Nawaz Sharif trump Raheel Sharif this time? With the surgical strikes, did Nawaz Sharif get the right opportunity to come down hard on the Pakistan Army?
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) feels that Sharif may have played his cards well and gathered courage to hit out at the Pakistan Army. “You see in the Army, there is something called the battlefield indicator. And once you get 2-3 indicators, you realise that something is wrong. In case of the Dawn report, the article was the indicator, and its subsequent denial in my view makes it even more authentic. Now, the journalist in question has said that he triple checked his sources and took four days to do that. So, I think the report is true,” Kanwal tells FE Online. “Nawaz Sharif for once must have gathered the courage to attack his Army, because the Pakistan military suffered a grand scale failure with regards to India’s surgical strikes. They had nothing to show, not even 2-3 prisoners,” he believes.
Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, VIF and a Strategic Affairs Analyst also agrees that the Dawn report does not appear fabricated. “Tensions between the government and the military have always been there in Pakistan. Pakistan Army is virtually calling the shots in Balochistan, they even want to enter Pakistan Punjab, but have been pushed back. I don’t think the Dawn article is fabricated,” Sareen told FE Online. “The newspaper may have given it a spin, but it seems authentic. Pakistan is getting increasingly isolated, no country wants to listen to it. There have been reports of MPs saying that non-state actors need to be acted against,” he adds.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd) and a Distinguished Fellow, CAPS congratulates Cyril Almeida for the article. “I think it was very brave of the reporter to write what he did. I think the report is true, despite what the government may say. Some rift has happened and the civilians have chosen to leak it. This can be seen as an attempt to bring down the Pakistan Army, they (civilians) have taken advantage of India’s surgical strikes, to put the Army in its place,” Bahadur said. “And, the paper has stood by its story, which makes me believe it is authentic. Now, the Pakistan Army will try to refurbish its image by planning some attack, so India needs to be cautious, not that it already isn’t,” he adds.
Pakistan’s international isolation is a reality that both the civilian government and military cannot ignore and it remains to be seen if the new Pakistan Army chief will tow the civilian government’s line after reports of an open rift.