If reports are true that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed army and civilian officials during a closed door meeting to "conclude the Pathankot investigation" and "restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court," as a means to end the isolation of Pakistan, then can we expect to see one of two things to happen?
One, the Pakistan Army continuing to stay in the barracks despite Sharif's unprecedented rap on its knuckles as the Pakistan leader ensures he gets his choice as army chief ensconced when the present chief Raheel Sharif steps down on Oct 30. And second, after satisfying India's two key demands, for India and Pakistan to begin talking to each other again?
The Dawn report - strenuously denied by the Pakistan government but NOT its army - reports "an extraordinary verbal confrontation between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the ISI DG,” that reportedly saw the younger Sharif have a near apoplectic fit, blaming the ISI for the number of times it managed to free terror accused Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, overturning what would have been cast iron court judgements that would have seen them prosecuted for acts of terror against India.
Sources close to the Pakistan ruling party told this writer that political circles are now abuzz with speculation that Pakistan would send both men to jail, and then call for talks with India.
The 'high-stakes new approach by the PML-N government' in calling the army out on its support for terror groups, was banking on PM Sharif's judgement that Gen. Sharif was not Pervez Musharraf or Gen. Zia ul Haq and did not have the stomach for a confrontation, or launch an attack to scupper the India-leaning Sharif from calling for talks with Prime Minister Modi. Sharif has calculated that this time around, he will not have to deal with a Kargil or be ousted from office.
The dent in the all powerful army’s image, after it has been shown as demonstrably vulnerable to Indian ingress following the ‘surgical strike’, should stop the clamour for an extension of Gen. Raheel Sharif's term, and pave the way for the Pakistani leader to bring in his own man as army chief, sources said.
The last thing Pakistan wants is a war or even a declaration of war, a long time Pakistan watcher said. “So far, I don't know if you have noticed, there has never been a declaration of war by Pakistan. If there is, all treaties between the two countries stand abrogated, including the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan would turn into a desert overnight.”
Conspiracy theorists in Lahore are also convinced that the surgical strike, aimed as it was at diminishing the Pakistan Army's clout, can only benefit the civilian leadership. “It makes us believe that the ‘strike’ had the blessings of Islamabad and Delhi.”