CHENNAI: Pakistan seems headed for a massive internal crisis following major differences between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his powerful Army chief General Raheel Sharif. The differences surfaced even as Pakistani officials thumbed their nose at the US, describing it as a waning power, and warning of an emerging Pakistan-China-Russia axis.
Rattled by increasing international isolation as well as global indifference towards the Kashmir cause, Nawaz Sharif reportedly wants the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to help meet India’s demands to end terrorism and complete the investigations into the 26/11 Mumbai attack and the more recent attack on the airbase in Pathankot. The military, led by Raheel, however, argues that doing so would undermine the country’s position on Kashmir.According to a report on Thursday in Pakistani newspaper Dawn, this split between the government and the military came to the fore at a high-level meeting between civilian officials and ISI chief General Rizwan Akhtar, on Wednesday. The civilian delegation, led by foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, issued a “blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning” to the ISI, asking it “not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action”. The Dawn said, “Nawaz Sharif has directed that fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court… Chaudhry suggested that while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change in course by Pakistan. The Foreign Secretary’s blunt conclusions triggered an astonishing and potentially ground-shifting exchange between the ISI chief and several civilian officials.”
The ISI chief, however, felt that acting against terrorist groups now could be seen as “buckling to Indian pressure or abandoning the Kashmiri people”.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Pakistan’s special Kashmir envoy, Mushahid Hussain Syed, warned that the Sharif government may move towards China and Russia as the US influence and its “world power” status is waning.
While conceding that “There has been a startling change in the Russian attitude towards Pakistan over the past year”, ambassador P Stobdan, an expert on Eurasian Affairs at IDSA, said “Russia is likely to find it difficult to keep its own ‘near abroad’ under control in future”.
Ex-ambassador to China, Ashok Kantha, however, said, “Pakistan is under a degree of pressure, including from America, especially post Uri. This is their way of saying that if the Americans pressure us, we have other options. While there have been developments in relations between China and Russia and Russia and Pakistan, any claim by Pakistan of a trilateral axis involving Pakistan, China and Russia is exaggerated, and not backed by either what Russia is saying or doing, or what China is saying at this point of time