Nuclear factor kept Pakistan’s adversaries restrained
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
After 9/11 terror attacks on twin towers, when the US leadership decided to avenge the attacks by invading Afghanistan and also planned to rope in Pakistan, it rejected India’s offer of providing air bases and full military support. It also ignored India’s advice to tackle Afghanistan and Pakistan in a single swoop. In India’s reckoning, roots of terrorism could not be eliminated without taking on both the countries. The US leaders assessed that Pakistan being geographically contiguous to Afghanistan and also having more knowledge than any other country about the target country as well as Taliban would be most suitable. The US however assured India that it had future plans to deal with Pakistan separately at an opportune time.
People in Pakistan cannot forget the telephone call of US Secretary of State Colin Powel on the fateful night of 13 September 2001. He bluntly told Gen Musharraf, ‘you have to decide whether you are with us or against us’. It was a sort of ultimatum with no leeway for a middle way or a third option. In order to justify his spontaneous capitulation, Gen Musharraf cooked up a story of ‘bombing Pakistan back to Stone Age’. He also conveyed that if he had not accepted US proposal, India’s offer of rendering full services for Afghan venture would have been accepted by Washington. Today he proudly claims that by opting to become a US ally he kept India out and saved strategic assets of Pakistan.
All the serving Generals at that time bought the story and applauded their COAS cum Chief Executive for taking the right decision. Their plea was that Pak armed forces were incapable of fighting combined armed forces of USA, western world and India. For them it was a wise and far-sighted act which saved Pakistan from sure ruination. The entire lot of Pakistan based politicians also voiced similar arguments. It has now been established that the story of Stone Age was concocted. George Bush, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage refuted Musharraf’s claim that he was threatened to bomb Pakistan to Stone Age.
Notwithstanding colossal destruction of Afghanistan, the country is still in existence and on road to recovery. The ones who were forcibly exiled have returned back with a vengeance and have made the lives of occupiers difficult. Likewise, Iraq after colossal devastation has not been wiped off the face of earth. As a consequent to prolonged resistance struggle, bulk of occupation forces has returned home. Left over 50,000 troops are likely to abdicate by end 2011. Likewise, troop withdrawal in Afghanistan will commence in July 2011.
Despite using their full combat power, coalition forces were unable to defeat the people or push the occupied countries to Stone Age. While the spirit of resistance forces remains high, coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are desperate to return to their homes. It is only the egoist US leaders who are dragging their feet and are prolonging the agony of occupation forces and that of resistance forces despite seeing the writing on the wall.
Musharraf having docilely submitted to US dictates and that too without extracting worthwhile benefits, could not prevent the systematic destruction of the country and loss of human lives. In nine years, over 32000 people have lost their lives in war on terror imposed on Pakistan and tens of thousands maimed or injured and thousands orphaned. Property worth billions of rupees has been destroyed by suicide bombers and bomb attacks. Lacs of displaced people belonging to troubled areas are still living in camps. Economically, Pakistan has suffered a loss of over $64 billion. Individual losses and psycho-social trauma caused are incalculable. Loyal people of FATA and Balochistan have become enemies of the state. Unheard of suicide attacks have become a norm.
In addition to man-made catastrophes, Pakistan underwent two natural calamities. 80,000 people perished in 2005 earthquake. Whole towns and villages were razed to ground in Azad Kashmir. In 2009 floods, besides 3000 human losses, damage to property, road infrastructure, bridges, homes, agriculture lands, standing crops and fruit orchards all over the country was colossal. 2.5 million people got displaced.
Besides negative fallout effects of man-made and natural tragedies on Pakistan’s socio-politico-economic health, Pakistan lost its prestige since it betrayed a neighboring Muslim country with which it enjoyed excellent relations and joined hands with unreliable self-styled friends. Latter are treating a betrayer the way it should be treated. Our so-called well-wisher USA mistrusts Pakistan and is showering hellfire missiles on people of Pakistan. Under the garb of friendship it is seeking political destabilization and economic impoverishment of Pakistan so that it could denuclearize it and turn it into a client state. Its real friends are part of the gory scheme.
In hindsight, if we make a comparison of possible destruction wrought on Pakistan in case of US invasion vis-à-vis what all Pakistan suffered in war on terror as a US ally, it will not be too wrong to conclude that Pakistan suffered more by getting aligned with USA. Whatever economic prosperity seen during Musharraf’s rule evaporated in thin air since economic policy was based on consumerism. Pakistan was hijacked by NRO cleansed rulers who have broken all records of corruption. They have pushed Pakistan back into the stranglehold of IMF. With all economic indicators in the negative, the economy is in dire straits and Pakistan is being seen as a failing state. Its sovereignty stand compromised because of America’s intrusiveness and drone strikes.
For nine years, US officials have been pasting serious allegations against its so-called strategic ally Pakistan. They brazenly express displeasure and hurl warnings and threats as if Pakistan is America’s colony. The way our leaders receive slaps without a whimper, it seems that Pakistan has been virtually enslaved. In my view, one-time agony was far better than prolonged agony with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Coming back to the point of invasion and destruction of Pakistan by US led coalition forces, I can say it with certainty that the US would never have dared to invade Pakistan because of its nuclear capability. Had Afghanistan a single nuclear bomb, none from the western world would have taken the risk of invading it. Had Pakistan not betrayed Taliban regime and stayed neutral, or provided political and moral support to it, even then USA would not have felt confident to invade Afghanistan. Northern Alliance would have continued to roam in wilderness. Likewise, had Iraq been in possession of WMDs as was alleged, it would not have been targeted. In order to make sure whether Saddam regime had or didn’t have WMDs, UN nuclear inspectors combed each and every building and bush in Iraq for over two years. Go ahead for invasion was given only when 100% assurance was obtained that Iraq was free of WMDs.
Why is it that the US troops didn’t barge into FATA from next door Afghanistan after its top leadership accused Pakistan of working against American interests in collaboration with Taliban and Al-Qaeda? What prevented USA from attacking Pakistan once it became sure that Pakistan was playing a double game and had become part of the problem? Why didn’t US Special Forces seize Pakistan’s nukes when they got convinced that the nukes were on the verge of being stolen by extremists? Why didn’t India invade Pakistan in 2002 and in 2009 when its entire military strength was deployed along the border in a threatening posture for months? Indian military Exercise Brass-tacks in 1986-7, Indian forces offensive deployment in Kashmir in 1990, Kargil conflict in summer of 1999 and military stand-off in 2002 and in 2009 had distinct probability of converting into a full-fledged Indo-Pak war. Each time the crisis situation got defused due to Pakistan’s nuclear capability and resilient response of armed forces.
But for nuclear factor, the US egged on by India and Israel, or India backed by USA would have invaded Pakistan long time back. Because of threat of nuclear response, all the six intelligence agencies based in Kabul are perforce resorting to expensive covert operations to steal or destroy our nukes all these years. Despite their yearning for the nukes, they have failed to get near our nuclear arsenal and have also desisted from launching a physical attack. It proves my point that nuclear factor, resilience of our armed forces are the only impediments which has kept Pakistan’s adversaries restrained. ISI’s vigilance and competence has defeated their sinister plans.
Gen Musharraf was put to test on the night of 9/13 in which he failed. Had he stood up to American challenge as Gen Ziaul Haq had done against next door super power, he would have entered his name in the pages of history with golden words. Now he will be remembered as another Mir Jaffar. If ragtag Taliban can fight the combined force of 48 countries and bring them to the stage of near-defeat, why couldn’t Islamic Republic of Pakistan with regular armed forces rated among the best in the world and equipped with missiles and nukes do the same? Was it not better to fight the external powers and getting bled and martyred than senselessly fighting own people and killing each other and earning all sorts of bad names?
Brig Asif Haroon Raja, a Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces War Coursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously. He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently. He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready. He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national newspapers/websites.