We all knew that two Sharifs are at the helm of affairs in today’s Pakistan. One Sharif was presumably elected by the people two years ago. The second Sharif was selected by the first Sharif to run Pakistan Army. The problem till the other day was in knowing which Sharif really ruled Pakistan. Messages coming from Islamabad and Rawalpindi were conflicting. Someday it would seem that the civilian Sharif, who also happened to be the Prime Minister, was in control of affairs. This would be belied in a day or two by the other Sharif.
Now early this week, the second Sharif, General Raheel Sharif of Pakistan Army, resolved this dilemma with a 11-minute speech he gave to commemorate the 1965 war with India. His short speech had three themes—one, India was, and remained, the biggest enemy and threat to Pakistan, two, Kashmir had to be resolved in Pakistan’s favour and third, he was the boss.
Those who had any misgivings about Nawaz Sharif, the other Sharif laid it to rest. Without mincing any words, General Sharif made it clear to one and all, whatever other Sharif and his cronies might think or say, his enemy, and his army’s enemy, was India and would remain so. He thundered that he was ready to take on India. He said his force was ``fully capable of dealing with all types of internal and external threats, may it be conventional or sub-conventional; whether it is cold start or hot start. We are ready!”
The General was not content with making this threat; he went on to re-emphasise it further by saying ``If the enemy ever resorts to any misadventure, regardless of its size and scale – short or long – it will have to pay an unbearable cost.” He added that his army was the among “the most battle hardened armies of the world, which has no parallels”.
Did those who reported his speech heard this right? Just a few days ago, his Prime Minister had different things to say. His country’s National Security Adviser said Pakistan was keen on reopening a dialogue with India. Was it wrong to have assumed that what the NSA, Sartaz Aziz, meant was a diplomatic dialogue, a conversation between two neighbours, a civilised interaction? Then why this General speaking in a tone, gravely threatening one, about the same neighbour? Is it the typical Good Cop, Bad Cop play in progress? And if so, for what purpose? This is not the tone and tenor which Prime Minister Sharif adopted talking to his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a few weeks back?
Is it fair to assume, therefore, that what General Sharif said about India deleted everything what his Prime Minister and National Security Adviser had to say? In 11 minutes, General Sharif has told the other Sharif and his minions, and the world in general, that he was the real Sheriff in town and he will decide what his country will do or not do.
One thing is clear from his talk that he is not enamoured of talking to India. He would rather fight a war and attain glory which his predecessors could not. His references to India and his army being the most battle hardened were not empty rhetoric but clear warning shots. He has not given up Kashmir either. He wants to settle Kashmir at gun point. He called Kashmir an unfinished agenda of Partition. His friends in Srinagar, the separatists would do well to read in between the lines of this statement. They have been eager to sup with him hoping that his country and army would help them to achieve ``azadi`` or independence. They all have been eagerly waving their tails for quite some time in the hope of deliverance. But the General has made it clear that his ambition for Kashmir is to make it a part of Pakistan and not an independent Kashmir. This is no different from what other Generals have been saying, including Pervez Musharraf who seems to have created this myth that he was close to finding a solution to Kashmir. Musharraf knew how to weave fiction and make it look like fact. Raheel Sharif is more straight forward and made it clear that Kashmir should have been in Pakistan and it was something which the British failed to deliver which the Pakistan Army would do. A quick glance at the India-Pakistan history would show Pakistan Army had been trying to correct this ``anomaly`` in boundary drawing since 1947 without any success though.
Other key points of his speech—Afghanistan, Pakistan-China Economic Corridor and terrorism—were made to underline the one simple fact which has been known for long but not acknowledged that Pakistan Army Chief is the unelected captain of Pakistan.