If anyone in Pakistan knows how close the country currently stands to a military conflict with India, it is Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha. "There will not be a war," he says confidently. "We are distancing ourselves from conflict with India, both now and in general."His words sound promising, and his sentences are unusually calm for a senior military official speaking in the tense aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. They stand in stark contrast to the views of most of his officers, who are itching to shift their command posts to the country's eastern border with India as quickly as possibly, so as to exact vengeance for public insults doled out by the Indians.
Pasha switches back and forth between English and his surprisingly accent-free German. He lived in Germany for a few years in the 1980s, taking part in officer training programs.
"It is completely clear to the army chief and I that this government must succeed. Otherwise we will have a lot of problems in this country," he says solemnly, placing his hands next to each other on the desk. "The result would be problems in the west and the east, political destabilization and trouble with America," he continues, wrinkling his brow. "Anyone who does not support this democratic government today simply does not understand the current situation." As if making a confession, he adds: "I report regularly to the president and take orders from him."
But how much control does Pasha have over his own organization? Many officers, who grew up with rising Islamic fundamentalism and the concept of India as an enemy, are opposed to the new course taken by President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. They see the war against terrorism as the Americans' war, not theirs. "Many may think in a different direction, and everyone is allowed to think differently, but no one can dare to disobey a command or even do something that was not ordered," the general says quietly.