At a recent dinner in the region, a senior Pakistani diplomat confirmed that President Musharraf's top priority was and always will be the institutional integrity of the Pakistan armed forces. A contact from the intelligence community who has worked on the ground with the Pakistan Army referred me to this article in the Times of India, which he says captures the rock-bottom morale in the army, which has seen hundreds of desertions by soldiers in the field. Musharraf is well aware of assessments such as this from the Indian "security establishment":
The Pakistani Army is "bleeding", and quite profusely at that, in its ongoing bloody skirmishes with extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with a "high" casualty rate as well as "unprecedented" levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications.Syed Shoaib Hasan of the BBC reports:
But just as much as the political imbroglio, it was the growing loss of morale in Pakistan's armed forces which was a source of concern. Pakistan's army, deployed throughout the country's tribal regions to combat pro-Taleban militants, was losing ground to them. The last straw, in this regard, came when at least 300 army troops surrendered to militants in South Waziristan. Since then, the government and its security troops have all but lost control to the militants in the tribal areas. The emboldened militants have subsequently moved forward into settled regions - Pakistani territory where normal law applies. The most recent of these is the growing insurgency in the Swat valley.Some U.S. analysts have already given up on the Pakistan Army as an effective ally in counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism. As the Indian security establishment signals its perception of the Pakistan Army's weakness, it is no wonder that Musharraf has declared the Emergency. He spoke last night about the need for the three pillars of the state -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- to work together in harmony. But the architect and master builder responsible for harmonizing these pillars in his scheme of things is the Army. And right now that central institution is revealing a terrible weakness at its heart, despite its nuclear weapons.