The threatening events happening in and around Pakistan are moving so fast that there is no clear direction as to how they can or will be controlled. So far, the government and security agencies have failed to anticipate and take effective measures to counter them.

Karachi, for instance, tops the list in targeted killings. Bomb blasts and suicidal attacks in Quetta and Peshawar take place with a sinister regularity. The latest incidents, including the most recent one in Hangu where 28 persons coming out of a mosque after prayers were targeted, show that the attacks have a marked sectarian trend; link these with the Quetta killings and one gets the feeling that a deliberate, unconventional scheme is in motion to plunge Pakistan in large-scale sectarian strife.

The Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has also indicated that terror activities in the country may increase in the months of March and April. His observations and assessments, indeed, cannot be ignored; needless to say, he often has access to classified information.

Having said that, the election campaign in Pakistan will commence some time in the period indicated by the Interior Minister. This has created anxiety among the masses; meanwhile, some sceptics see it as a tactic to create scare in order to delay the polls. This notion gains weight by the overtures that the government representatives made to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s.  For example, President Asif Ali Zardari and government representatives declared that the polls will be held on time, yet they  signed an agreement with Dr Qadri, who had threatened to file a petition in the Supreme Court against the composition of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He did not disclose when he intended to do so; whereas, the government has not indicated how it will deal with the situation. That, indeed, has led to ambiguity about the forthcoming elections.

Next, the Supreme Court and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are entangled in a legal battle over the Rental Power Projects (RPPs), in a manner that the case has been blown up to great proportions. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is at the centre of this mega corruption scam. Some analysts apprehend that in case it is not handled properly by the government, the ongoing tussle may create circumstances leading to military intervention. It may be a farfetched idea. Nevertheless, with the knowledge that the military - under General Mirza Aslam Beg and General Waheed Kakar - had influenced the political process, it is a possibility. But if this happens, it will result in circumstances beyond one’s control. Though the military has repeatedly said that it will not disturb the ongoing process, the apprehension lingers on.

In addition, a few days back, we dug out the Kargil debacle from the dustbin of history. A born-again military General has come out with conflicting half-truths about this misadventure. It is ironic that when this venture was launched no General raised any objection to it. We all know what happened and the humiliation the nation had to endure. Why bring up this issue now?

Apparently, the General has indulged in disinformation about the army’s internal conduct, making it a victim of internal lies and deceit. He had held senior and important positions in the army; why did he not take corrective measures? Going public on these alleged internal failings of our defenders leaves serious doubts about their capabilities in the minds of those whom they are supposed to protect. So, who wants to create this uncertainty?

Some defence analysts presume that this mishap has been given a new life so that it can be used against an opposition leader about whom doubts exist in public mind that he sold Pakistan out on Kargil.

Also, the timing of this revelation is important. Internally, there is chaos and confusion as terrorism is on the rise in the country. The damage that the terrorists have done to our confidence is much greater than they have done materially. The army camps are attacked almost on a regular basis. The paramilitary forces have failed to maintain peace in Karachi and Quetta. All this adds to doubts and uncertainties about the capabilities of our defence forces.

As said earlier, Karachi has become a hub of crimes - killings, extortions, arson and kidnappings; the police seem helpless. The situation in the city is so desperate that Interior Minister Malik has blamed the security agencies for failing to prevent the killings. But it is ironic that he is blaming the agencies, who are actually under his operational control; thus, in fact, he is indicting himself for the failure. This stark admission from a government official does not build any confidence and it comes at a time when the ruling coalition is gearing to go people for a fresh five-year mandate. 

Side by side, militancy in Balochistan surfaces in regulated episodes; the BNA and other nationalist leaders are allegedly supported by outside powers.

Externally, the pressures are also mounting and they do not indicate any relief in the challenges facing Pakistan.

We are well aware of the “friendly” attitude that our ally - the USA - in the war on terror is displaying towards us. President Barack Obama and his outgoing Secretary Defence Leon Panetta have once again declared that drone strikes in Fata will continue. So, we should be prepared to face enhanced and ruthless terror attacks in retaliation.

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Then, after years of relative peace, the Line of Control (LoC) suddenly heated up with firing from both sides - India and Pakistan – raising tensions on the border.

Undoubtedly, all these internal and external pressures point towards a larger scheme in the region. The former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, indicates in her book, “No Higher Honour”, that “a successful campaign in Afghanistan could help redraw the map of the region.” It seems that events set in motion in and around Pakistan by forces who matter are directed for another change in the regional map. This map was redrawn in 1971 at a tremendous cost to Pakistan in men, material and national prestige. It is possible that the forces unleashed against Pakistan on its internal and external fronts are efforts made to set the stage for redrawing the regional map once again before the US leaves Afghanistan. We seem to be helping the process through our internal fissures and political ineptness. Pakistan will be the biggest loser if that happens. It calls for a major campaign by our leaders, political thinkers and strategic planners to educate the masses and the elites about the coming dangers. It also calls for internal solidarity to face the external challenge.

Whatever way we look at the problems, Pakistan needs to make sincere efforts to end the uncertainty that haunts it. If this does not happen, we should be prepared to face the obvious. The masses are living in a constant and chronic state of fear; the government, political leaders and even our security agencies have to remove their fears.

The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: arjerral639@hotmail.com