The prolonged border tensions, the move in Pakistan on Tuesday to open a Supreme Court-sanctioned commission of inquiry aimed at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (which is likely to benefit the Army), and the content and tenor of Assembly election-related speeches made in UP by BJP politicians, notably party chief Amit Shah, underline the sense that the growing unease and talk of war is to do with internal political factors in both India and Pakistan.
Since the Uri terrorist attack a month and a half ago and the much-hyped retaliatory “surgical strikes”, an Indian military manoeuvre with several precedents that was given an exalted name this time, and publicised widely and craftily by the government to gain political advantage on UP’s electoral turf, there have been as many as 60 ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side. Some 80 people have been killed and over 100 injured. These are unprecedented figures for so short a period. On Tuesday, eight civilians were killed and nearly two dozen injured in the Ramgarh and Arnia sectors of the international border near Jammu on account of heavy Pakistani firing.
The nearly daily reference to the much-hyped “surgical strike” by BJP politicians on the campaign trail in UP places the suggestion in perspective that this military manoeuvre was inspired by the desire to better the poll prospects of the saffron party, which had appeared to be sagging. In Pakistan, the political considerations look to be in the direction of causing acute discomfort to the elected Prime Minister and handing the primacy to the Army — in short, overturning the system. There have been whispers for long that a soft coup, if not a hard one, may be in the offing.
Showing muscle on the border with India appears tailor-made to raise the Army’s status before the public and downplay the PM’s, who has been facing embarrassment particularly since the Panama Papers surfaced as his near relatives were found to have offshore accounts. Imran Khan, the pro-military Opposition political leader, threatened to lay siege to Islamabad to demand the PM’s resignation so that an investigation into his financial dealings may be impartially held. This became unnecessary when the Supreme Court appointed a one-judge commission of inquiry with full sentencing powers of the country’s highest court. This appears irregular under the Anglo-Saxon system. How can a probe commission have sentencing authority? Many may be led to draw the inference that Pakistan’s judiciary may have set the stage for the Prime Minister’s ouster and seizure of real power by the Army even if a formal coup is not staged. Border tensions are a perfect backdrop for such a manoeuvre.