Pakistan’s prevailing geopolitical and regional situation has not evolved overnight. The environment began shaping right after withdrawal of Soviet Union. Exasperation and vulnerability increased manifold. Unexpectedly, Pakistan ignored its building blocks of national power mainly due to expediencies and lack of mid/long term goals. 

Four years ago I wrote, “The declaration by President Obama that USA would delay the withdrawal in Afghanistan to give security cover to an ill-trained Afghan Army against Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS is an admission that its 14 year war failed” (Nation: Pakistan’s Next War October 17, 2015). Obama’s declaration was followed by the short and facile siege of Kanduz by Taliban. President Obama was compelled into this public statement due to Russian intervention in Syria and Pakistan cozying to Russia and China. USA was going to hang around and it did. 

In the interim, USA and its allies positioned Daesh in Afghanistan. New York Times reported on June 14, 2017, that, “Tora Bora, the mountain redoubt that was once Osama bin Laden’s fortress, fell to the Islamic State. Strategically, this force could irk Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan. Symbolically it is a measure of days to come in the region. These elements will destabilise the region and fight Afghan Taliban if and when USA withdraws from the region (Nation: Tora Bora: The emerging redoubt June 17, 2017)? Quantum of US potential through reduced manpower and contractors has increased manifold since2015. Designs against Pakistan are dangerous. 

Four years hence, in the midst of peace talks with Taliban, President Trump has repeated the same statement. Afghan Taliban responded once again at Kanduz. Reportedly, ongoing negotiations seem tilted to USA’s disadvantage. As reported by Guardian; nine American ambassadors that included a former deputy secretary who served in Afghanistan say that US withdrawal could lead to a total civil war.  Time cites senior U.S., Afghan and European officials that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is declining to sign it. 

In my first article as a columnist (Pakistan’s Future War) I had written that instability in Afghanistan is an important plank of US policy on Pakistan. If peace was premium, it would have happened in 1996 when Taliban and Northern Alliance were ready on very soft terms; or after 9/11 when they were ready to hand over Osama Bin Laden.  

Ground situation has worsened; China’s Belt and Road Initiative challenges US dominance. 

Southern Front dominated by Muslim countries is a stark contrast. North Africa to Middle East and parts of West, Central and South Asia is a reflection of poor governance, proliferation of contending Islamic ideologies and social conflicts. Central Asia and Western China despite huge potential remain land locked. Iran’s isolation and instability in Afghanistan have acted as barriers.  Western interests want China confined to the APEC arc and to not open new highways they will have difficulty controlling (Nation: Challenges to CPEC May 23, 2015). 

A sudden quest for peace by USA in midst of an ongoing strategic operation for Greater Middle East is paradoxical. CPEC is an unwanted intruder adding burden on Pakistan. The term Greater Middle East was articulated by President Bush to dominate the Muslim World.  Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski alluded to this as the “Global Balkans”. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia are part of these global Balkans (Nation: Saffron Myth and End of History, 31 August 2019). 

In the past decade, Pakistan’s internal economic edifice has been dismantled systematically. While Pakistan’s defence forces were busy in preparing, homegrown henchmen were busy destroying the socio-economic fabric.  How this phenomenon happened in the first place is a treachery some future government of Pakistan will have to investigate and fix? 

Some friendly countries trusted on an emotive factor of religion have since joined the opposite camp. Three emissaries descending on Islamabad on 5 September are part of the Global Balkan Plans. Pakistan has to look for alternatives. Delays will be costly. 

Timings of opening a new front by India are curious and intriguing. Revocation of Article 370 over Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) has added to the instability and volatility in the region. IHK is completely barricaded while worst forms of human rights violations take place with impunity. India is fully backed by an axis. Pakistan is being squeezed between Afghanistan and India in the North. The levers are controlled by USA. India is a pincer while Arab kingdoms act as pawns to the king. 

India amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to mount pressure on Pakistan through Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The new law empowers India to designate an individual if found committing, preparing for, promoting or involved in an act of terror. Alice G. Wells of the US State Department commended this initiative by India and added, “We stand with India and commend it for utilising new legal authorities to designate four notorious terrorists. This new law expands possibilities for joint #USIndia efforts to combat scourge of terrorism.” 

This is not an implied but an open threat to Pakistan that comes at the peak Indian barbarity in IHK by the Butcher of Gujarat. 

I pray that in the power corridors of Pakistan, the message is received and understood. All events in Kashmir and Afghanistan are carefully planned with support of at least three P5 members. Russia could be still weighing its options. 

If dots are connected empirically and conclusions drawn, Pakistan should have no doubt that it is under protracted siege. While India (a declared US ally) heats up the situation, the Middle Eastern emissaries will play on Pakistan’s many vulnerabilities (mostly economic). Compellence strategies are at a feverish pace designed to make Pakistan blink. 

If nuclear was not enough, CPEC and its faulty management added burdens and stress manifold. China has emerged Pakistan’s most trusted ally and must share the burden of CPEC. 

I have changed the name of this conflict in many ways during the past two decades. Semantics aside, it ends up as ‘Pakistan’s Quest for Survival’. “If you know yourself and know your enemy, you need not dead the result of thousand battles”, Sun Tzu in ‘Art of War’.  

It is up to Pakistan to change this situation. Either ‘Bend Backwards’ in appeasement or show defiance to break the shackles forever. ‘Know your enemies’ is the key!