By Sultan M. Hali
The saga of rogue CIA operative Raymond Davis is yet to fade from our memories, when another rogue CIA functionary Bruce Riedel is making waves. Raymond Davis had turned rogue and killed three innocent Pakistanis in broad daylight in Lahore, causing embarrassment to the CIA and US government. He tried to escape punishment after his arrest under the garb of seeking diplomatic immunity. When Pakistani courts did not buy the plea, President Obama was made to jump in the fray and forced to lie on the subject, to no avail. Ultimately Mr. Davis had to seek reprieve through an Islamic legal provision of paying $2.3 million in compensation (blood money) to the survivors of his victims.
The infamous Bruce Riedel, who has been a major detractor of Pakistan’s nuclear program, is busy weaving tales of allegations that Pakistan Army is playing a double game in the ongoing war on terror. Mr. Riedel, who has served donkey years in the CIA, has also assisted at least four US Presidents, advising them on South Asia. He is credited for President Obama’s latest but failed “Af-Pak” policy too. Mr. Riedel’s pet story so far has been that Al-Qaeda or Taliban miscreants would steal Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and use them against the US. Surprisingly, he had numerous takers for this preposterous spin, despite the fact that any literate person would know that nuclear weapons are not golf balls, which you can hide in your pockets, decamp with them and detonate them like hand grenades against a target of choice.
Nuclear weapons are a sophisticated system, which necessitate a high caliber of training, education and guidance to be able to operate. Rag tag militia of the Al-Qaeda or Taliban would hardly be expected to assimilate the knowhow and wherewithal to put together such a weapon, let alone detonate it. Additionally, the highly operational Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority, has put in checks and balances to secure the system, screen all personnel and take further precautions by dispersing the nuclear assets, storing the trigger mechanism separately. However these stringent measures are not enough for Bruce Riedel, who continues to chip away at Pakistan’s defences.
Another anomaly of Mr. Riedel’s character is his obsession with India. He has been canvassing for India, indulging in the character assassination of Pakistan, its Army and its intelligence agency ISI for decades. Since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, Mr. Riedel has taken up the cudgels on behalf of India and has tried to implicate Pakistan by hook or crook. Just after the Mumbai attacks, in an interviewwith German daily, “Der Spiegel”, Mr. Riedel commented: “I have said on many occasions that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world: International terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the threat of nuclear war, drugs, democracy deficit and Islam all come together in an extraordinarily combustible way.”. He tried his best to pass a value judgment on Pakistan’s complicity without providing any supporting evidence: “Back in the late 1980s, bin Laden and the Pakistani intelligence service ISI were actively involved in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. They wanted to apply the lessons they learned in fighting the Soviets against the Indians. They created Lashkar-e-Taiba. Osama bin Laden was engaged in supporting them by helping to raise money and by training them.”
Now suddenly, Mr. Bruce Riedel has had a “visitation of angels”, who have informed him that President Zardari has “accused” the Pakistan Army, which according to him covertly supports the 2008 Mumbai attacks perpetrator Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is playing a double game in the ongoing war on terror. Mr. Riedel goes to the extent of claiming that he has an “abundance of evidence to back him up.”
In an article, published in “Newsweek”, Bruce Riedel says that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terror group that attacked the Indian financial capital of Mumbai in 2008, killing 164 people, today, continues to enjoy Pakistan Army’s patronage. To prove his point, he surmises that Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha has even been summoned by a New York City court to answer charges that the ISI oversaw the Mumbai attack. If only Mr. Riedel had stopped to ponder that CIA Director Leon Panetta and former CIA Head in Pakistan, Jonathan Banks, have also been summoned in Pakistani courts after a FATA journalist Karim Khan had named the duo in a law suit for targeting his brother and nephew in drone attacks. Jonathan Banks has since then beat a hasty retreat to USA to avoid facing the charges against him. If mere lawsuits were enough to be quoted as evidence, then the prisons of the world would be brimming with convicts. Thank God the judicial systems of most of the civilized world are not that unsighted.
Bruce Riedel has tried to hatch a very macabre conspiracy in trying to drive a wedge between President Zardari and the Pakistan Army. Tensions between Islamabad and Washington have reached a feverish pitch but the line being towed by Bruce Riedel on behalf of his mentors and manipulators of his strings, sitting in Langley as well as Foggy Bottom is to create misunderstanding between Pakistan Army and the Presidency, which will have very explosive results for Capitol Hill.
What his myopic stage-managers are unmindful of is that the people of Pakistan, the parliamentarians as well as those in the Opposition and the Armed Forces of Pakistan are on one page as far as the war against terror is concerned. It is the US State Department, Capitol Hill and Islamabad, who need to have unity of thought towards tackling the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Heaping accusations and hurling expletives at the only country which holds the key to peace, Pakistan will only embolden and empower the terror groups and weaken the coalition to combat terror. In Bruce Riedel’s own words: there will be only one real winner: al-Qaeda; Obama’s goal to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda” will become an ever-more-distant possibility. So who is Mr. Riedel really serving?