By Dr Ghayur Ayub
It is said when American policy-makers plan a policy about Pakistan they put Pak army on top of the priority list. The others, in order of preference are: media; politicians; intellectuals; and the public. Let us assess them one by one;
Media is the most powerful tool to make or change opinions in the west. At one time, before his downfall, a meaningful wink by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch could make or break the career of politicians. In Pakistan, up until 2006 electronic media was under control of the government. The print media was not as effective as electronic media for it lagged in time. The latter showed the events 'live' which the former couldn't. Maximum they could do was to print special editions to cover special news. It was CNN which brought live news coverage including war zone to people's drawing rooms. In 2006, Musharraf, on the insistence of America, launched over three dozen TV channels in the private sector to propagate his policies of moderation and westernised culture. This backfired as public sentiments were growing against him and soon, talk shows and news items became the most popular programs. It was too late when he tried to reverse his decision. By then, Pak media had joined the international fraternity. In the end, he not only lost his plans but the presidency also. Today it is the most important tool in the political game and America is trying hard to infuse millions to install the players of her choice.
Politicians the world over are of the same breed; they are perceived as deceitful. People despise them for the duplicity in their words and deeds. Politicians in Pakistan go one step further by misusing their power for personal gain in the most appalling manner. Some of them claim corruption as their basic right, while others return the loot when exposed and continue to work as ministers. According to Wikileaks, many known politicians approach American diplomats for 'blessings' and 'posts' making them easy preys. It is not surprising the executives have become the biggest hurdle in implementation of judicial decisions. Democracy, in such circumstances, has become the target and has been injured. People get annoyed when they hear some prominent politicians call 'democracy the best revenge' or 'worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship', or they don't want to see 'democracy derailed'. The public want a system which could alleviate their miseries and provide them with their basic needs.
This group is an intriguing lot. Most of them are retired servicemen who, while in active service, did the opposite of what they preach now. Most of them were known for their incompetence and malpractice. When they analyse issues their listeners look back at their past and find their analysis unconvincing, insincere and shallow. America chooses a few from this group who are good orators and uses their services.
For some reasons, American policy makers do not give much priority to public opinion in third world countries. We saw this in Philippines and Iran. More recently, their response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings was delayed and those revolutions are taking anti-American shape especially for its strict pro-Israel stand. Again, they are lukewarm towards Yemen and indifferent towards the Bahrain uprisings. This could have damaging repercussions in the future. When it comes to Pakistan, they are treading the path they followed in Iran and ignoring public sentiments. It is going to have a devastating effect on American interests in the region.
The army has played an important role in the politics of Pakistan. America has always maintained cordial relations with it starting from early 1950s. That also goes for the two intelligence agencies-CIA and ISI-with a small difference. ISI is under control of the army and CIA is under civilian rule. Despite this asymmetry, the links between the two agencies remained close and relations between the two armies cordial. As American politicians found the Pak army stable as an institution, they leaned on it and supported hpw the repeated take-overs. Some even suggest that Americans were behind those ventures.
The cooperation between the two armies went sour recently when an American judge made the ISI chief party in a court case about Bombay attacks. Tension escalated rapidly between the two agencies also when Jonathan Bank and Raymond Davies were exposed as CIA agents and OBL was eliminated. Things went from bad to worse ever since, to the disadvantage of both countries. According to some, the decades-old deep understanding between the two armies and agencies may not be as low as to pitch the armies against each other. So how can one assess the present tension in which bullets are fired in the direction of ISI/army by the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department? Three possibilities/outcomes come in mind;
· American boots on Pakistani soil.
· Diverting world focus from Palestinian issue.
· Building Pak army image
American boots on Pak soil;
Attacking the tribal region to eliminate Haqqani Network will have devastating affects for the key American interests which made them invade Afghanistan in first place. Invasion of tribal region would mean war with Pakistan. Its multi-faceted, obnoxious effects are too big to imagine. All one can say is that it could even escalate into a nuclear war with devastating results. Also, it would open a huge corridor for free flow of Al-Qaeda and Taliban to and fro between Pakistan and Afghanistan with astounding consequences. The effect of war could easily spread to the Muslim world and quickly incubate more movements geared against America.
Diverting world focus from Palestinian issue;
The campaign for independent Palestinian State has gained strength in recent months. Out of 193 Nations 112 have already accepted it as independent state. Despite strong pressure on Mehmud Abbas, he put his case effectively with logic and passion on the floor of the UN General Assembly. He got a thumping ovation by majority of the members. The bill will go through despite Israel lobbying against it. America might be thinking that ringing war bells against nuclear Pakistan at this crucial time might divert world attention from Palestinian issue.
Building ISI/Pak army image;
The May 2nd incident was a shattering blow to the army and ISI. The image General Kayani has worked hard to build in the past two years was smashed instantly. Before it could recover from the shock, the Naval Base was attacked, army Rangers killed innocent Chechnians in Quetta, they killed an unarmed civilian in Karachi and to make the situation worse, Karachi became a killing field under their nose. Its image has been sliding down. There is a common locution in Pakistan that the American enemy is the darling of the public. In other words, American criticism against anyone gets an instant public support. So American criticism of ISI has suddenly stopped the downward slide and public support for the ISI/army sprang as a result. Many think that it is an American game to build the image of ISI/army and in the process improve the public image of AAZ who, according to Wikileaks, is the most favourable 'yes man' in the history of Pakistan.
So the question is; what is America up to. Does she really want to attack Pakistan and put all its plans at risk? There are other ways to disable our nuclear assets-the vital part of the plan. If the aim is to improve the image of ISI and army in the eyes of the public, then the obvious question which comes in mind is why? After all, it was CIA which played essential role in demolishing it in first place. Is there something more than what meets the eyes? Has Nature decided to play its role? If it is, then one can link the recent upsurge in Karachi killings, Sou Motto action of SC, Altaf's unconditional support for ISI/army, and, of course, the failing democracy? Failing democracy? Anyway, these questions will soon be answered after what we see on the ground in coming weeks and months. Meanwhile it is comforting to see a united Pakistani nation supporting ISI and military with one voice.