Indian Army's surgical strikes widen rifts in Pakistani establishment
Nawaz Sharif government has now found an opportunity to emphasise how the Pak army's policy of supporting terror has isolated the country internationally.
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With the Pakistani army on the back foot after the Indian army's successful surgical strike inside PoK, the civilian government led by Nawaz Sharif has started reasserting itself in the hope of winning back some of the domestic and foreign policy space that it had ceded to Pakistani army.
New Delhi's secret assessment of the Pakistani establishment post India's strikes shows prime minister Sharif has now been trying hard to reinforce himself over his nation's domestic and foreign policy domains that virtually came under the military's thumb after his son and daughter were named in the Panama offshore scandal.
Last year's joint statement between India and Pakistan in Ufa, Russia had also put Sharif on the mat at home. But after India's cross-LoC assault pushed the Pakistani army on the back foot, he started reasserting himself in a bid to wrest some of the policy space he had ceded to the army under General Raheel Sharif, according to intelligence reports.
"There appears to be truth in the reports coming from Pakistan about a tiff between the Pakistan army and the civil government. But a fight has serious consequences only if both parties are of equal competence," a senior government official told India Today.
The Modi government feels PM Sharif has long been convinced that violence is no solution to the Kashmir problem. "Nawaz Sharif believes that nothing is going to be achieved through covert operations and that a political solution is the best way to resolve the Kashmir issue," the official said.
"However, after the Ufa blowback, the Panama Papers controversy and his surgery, Nawaz Sharif became insecure and starting fearing another military coup. He started spending more and more of his time in Lahore and almost became a puppet of the army," the official added.
The Indian government reckons that the Pakistani army used the Panama scandal to browbeat Nawaz Sharif into falling in line.
The Pakistani prime minister, according to Indian assessment, then chose to stay subservient to the army that had been emboldened by the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the country's North West Frontier Province and by Beijing's pledge to build a $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
But India's surgical strikes, intelligence reports denote, seem to have changed the prevailing dynamics in Pakistan. Top spy agencies have concluded that the Nawaz Sharif government has now found an opportunity to emphasise how Pakistan army's current policy of supporting terror has isolated the country internationally.
According to an internal presentation made by Pakistan's foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, the world response to Islamabad's attempts to raise the Kashmir problem globally had been extremely lukewarm.
Chaudhry's presentation, whose details were accessed by Indian intelligence agencies, suggested that no senior political leaders of host nations met Pakistani delegations that visited world capitals with claims of human-rights violations in Kashmir.Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and COAS General Raheel Sharif. [Photo: Agencies]
In most countries, Pakistani delegates could only meet officials at the level of a joint secretary. Not just did the attempt to raise the Kashmir bogey flop, no country came forward to back Pakistan over India's bold announcement about crossing the Line of Control. No one accused India of transgressing Pakistan's sovereignty.
Russia strongly denounced terror attacks on Indian soil. Pakistan's all-weather friend China did not come to Islamabad's rescue either. It merely advised the two neighbours to resolve matters through dialogue.
What alarmed Pakistan most, according to India's intelligence assessment, was the majority silence of its usual backers in the Islamic bloc. The Modi government, most senior officials told India Today, now feels that the next major cue from Islamabad will come with the announcement of the new Pakistan army chief.
General Raheel Sharif is set to retire at the end of November. So far, he has ruled out extension. But New Delhi assesses the surgical strike might force him to review his stance as he'd need more time to plot a successful operation.
"If he rushes in without adequate planning" said a senior government source, "he could land the Pakistan army in a bigger mess. He has had a distinguished career and would not like to end with a blot on his track record."
The other possibility is for General Raheel Sharif, who carries a lot of clout in Pakistani military, to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal and then handpick a general as his successor.
The authority to appoint the country's next army chief, in theory, rests with the Pakistani prime minister. After his bitter experience with Gen Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif is though keen on appointing a general of his choice in the most influential position, intelligence inputs from Islamabad suggest.
According to an assessment carried out by India's intelligence establishment, Nawaz Sharif's choice for next chief is Lt General Javed Iqbal Ramday. Ramday's family has been associated with Nawaz Sharif's party the PMNL for many years. General Ramday is currently Corps Commander of XXXI Corps. He came to prominence when he led the Pakistani army's offensive in the Swat valley near the Afghan border in 2009.
According to the estimate of India's security establishment, General Raheel Sharif's choice for the next chief is General Zubair Mahmood Hayat. General Hayat is currently the Chief of General Staff at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
In Pakistani military circles, a posting as Chief of General Staff is seen as a stepping stone to be the next chief. Like General Raheel Sharif, General Hayat also comes from a military family and three of his brothers are generals in the Pakistani army.
Lt General Ishfaq Ahmad and Lt General Qamar Bajwa are considered the two other contenders in the race to be the next Army Chief. Either of them could emerge as a compromise choice as next chief. General Nadeem is the Corps Commander of 2 Corps based in Multan while General Bajwa heads the army's Training and Evaluation Wing.
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