THE US MUST LEARN TO TRUST PAKISTAN
Since the fateful decision of Gen Musharraf to ditch Afghan Taliban and fight US war on terror, Pakistan has been constantly sweet-talked, deceived, jabbed and coerced to follow the dictates of Washington. I distinctly remember how the back of blue-eyed boy Musharraf was affectionately patted by George Bush whenever any prized al-Qaeda or Taliban high value target was netted. His pats sent Musharraf and his cronies into raptures. Notwithstanding that Bush Administration treated Musharraf deferentially and developed a strong equation with him, people of Pakistan were treated contemptuously. Under the plea of homeland security, Pakistanis in particular living in the US and in western countries suffered worst humiliation and trauma.
There have been ups and downs in Pak-US relations during the last eight years. Initially when Pakistan was taken on board it was led up the garden path by giving a false impression that as a frontline state it would work as a strategic partner of USA to fight global war on terror. Behind the scenes, the US in connivance with India, Britain, Israel and new regime of Afghanistan chalked out a plan to trap Pakistan, make it helpless, extract its nuclear teeth, reduce it to a vassal state of India and make India the regional policeman.
After toppling Afghan Taliban regime with the help of Pakistan, the band of five formed a close knit alliance and established a huge intelligence centre at Jabal-al-Seraj north of Kabul in end 2001. Pakistan was given the status of frontline state to help coalition forces fight global war on terror. Notwithstanding that the US helped Pakistan in breaking its isolation, rescheduling its debts and improving its economy, was it not mandatory for the military planners in MO Directorate, MI and ISI to have carried out a dispassionate study of the emerging security situation? Such an appraisal is customary whenever a radical change occurs in geo-strategic environment in the region having direct bearing on Pakistan. This exercise should have been carried out even if Musharraf had wilted under pressure and gave his consent to all the US demands at his own.
An evaluation should have been carried out as to why USA invaded Afghanistan and whether stated reasons were logical or there was more to it. Was the motivation to invade and capture Afghanistan revenge of al-Qaeda, or commercial interests or other strategic goals? Implications of so many hostile powers in Kabul on the security of Pakistan, provision of air bases to US military and opening up airspace, logistic support to coalition forces, sharing of intelligence with CIA and FBI and letting the two agencies unlimited liberty of action including control over airports should have been evaluated to arrive at right responses.
The planners should have taken into account the fact that from 1990 onwards Pak-US relations had remained strained and Indo-US-Israeli relations had blossomed. Pakistan was under harsh economic and military sanctions and was seen as a failing state. Pakistan’s nuclear program was an eyesore for USA. The negative role of India and Israel and their sinister designs against our nuclear program were also well known. India had kept Pakistan under heavy pressure on charges of cross border terrorism, drug trafficking, nuclear proliferation and missile development allegedly assisted by China and North Korea; the US had lent support to unsubstantiated allegations. Pakistan’s friendship with Taliban regime was another sour point. The US past history should also have been taken into account since it had left Pakistan high and dry at critical times and it never came to the rescue of Pakistan despite Pakistan acting as the most allied ally of USA for decades.
Pakistan under Gen Musharraf had been virtually reduced to a pariah state. This was evident from the five hour visit of Bill Clinton to Islamabad in March 2000 when he cold shouldered Musharraf and lectured Pakistanis to behave. With this background there was apparently no earthly reason for USA to change its posture from hostility to friendship particularly when Bush Administration had taken up a highly hostile stance towards Muslim world and Islam. Its ultimatum that ‘either you are with us or against us’ followed by seven abrasive demands made by Collin Powel should have given some idea about American future designs in the region.
Coming on to India, it was fuming with anger after Kargil conflict and was in a revengeful mood. Musharraf returned home from Agra in July 2001 empty handed since Vajpayee didn’t want to include Kashmir as a core issue in the agenda. It should have been assessed that 9/11 and new rules framed on terrorism benefited India the most and that it would exploit the rage of Americans against Muslims to harm Pakistan. As regards Israel, its prime minister had declared Pakistan as the biggest threat to the security of Israel after Pakistan achieved nuclear capability. On several occasions Israel in collaboration with India had tried to carryout surgical strikes against Kahuta plant.
Britain has traditionally been pro-India and anti-Pakistan and is primarily responsible for never ending antagonism between India and Pakistan because of unfinished agenda of Kashmir. Tied to apron strings of USA, Britain acts as the chief advisor of US administering lessons how to rule the world. Lastly, Afghanistan had come under Northern Alliance which hated Pakistan and was indebted to India.
Unfortunately, no such exercise was carried out since in that timeframe Musharraf was all powerful and he had accepted USA as a trustworthy friend. Musharraf’s decisions to take a U turn on Afghanistan and to befriend USA were hailed by all and sundry particularly when Pakistan came out of its isolation, its debts got rescheduled, investors flocked in and all its economic indicators started to become vibrant. Lured by short term gains we lost sight of long term ramifications on Pakistan’s security paradigm and thought that Musharraf had saved Pakistan from sure ruination. Close cooperation with USA was considered a safety valve rather than a danger.
Pakistan provided monetary assistance to Afghanistan and also helped Karzai in winning elections and did not create any fuss when Northern Alliance heavy government was formed. It took scant notice of gradual increase of Indian influence in Afghanistan and establishment of Indian consulates in eastern and southern Afghanistan focused towards Pakistan. Whatever suspicions Pakistan had got washed away when the US brokered an Indo-Pak peace agreement in January 2004 and guns deployed across the line of control (LoC) in Kashmir and Siachen were capped. Musharraf gave an assurance in writing to India that he will not allow export of terrorism from Pakistan soil. He thus accepted that Pakistan was indulging in cross border terrorism.
Resumption of composite dialogue aimed at resolving all issues including the core issue of Kashmir made our leaders euphoric and complacent. Taking full advantage of the so-called peace, India fenced the LoC and forced Pakistan to cease cross border movement into Kashmir and to ban Jihadi groups supporting freedom struggle in Kashmir. By reining in six Jihadi outfits he made the task of seven lacs Indian security forces in occupied Kashmir easy but made things extremely hazardous for Pakistan since the banned outfits later on got aligned with Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and their wrath fell on Pakistanis.
Change of policy rather than strategy on Kashmir which gave a serious blow to Kashmiri freedom struggle and allowed greater liberty of action to India to indulge in covert operations against Pakistan freely could not have been Musharraf’s decision alone. Military planners did not visualize that loss of Kashmir card would render Pakistan utterly vulnerable to Indian machinations. Ex Vice Chief Gen Yusaf claims that backchannel diplomacy with India spearheaded by Musharraf’s confidante Tariq Aziz was undertaken without taking army brass into confidence. Retired Lt Gen Shaukat Aziz who served as Musharraf’s CGS has now revealed that the boss used to take decisions unilaterally.
Under the garb of people to people contacts to promote friendship, India launched cultural invasion from the east to spread Indian culture among the seculars. It also launched covert operations from the west and south to encircle, isolate and destabilize Pakistan. Progress on core issues was impeded by insisting on confidence building measures.
Governed by the policy of appeasement, Pakistan did little to press India to solve the longstanding disputes and even when it found out RAW’s involvement in Balochistan, it was ignored. No leader dared to name India for fear of annoying it. Karzai then began to accuse Pakistan of cross border terrorism and training Afghan Taliban. The US supported Karzai’s contention and pushed Pakistan to take appropriate measures and also to fight the terrorists in FATA more resolutely. At the same time, Pakistan was accused of violating human rights in Balochistan.
In accordance with the chalked out plan, terrorism was intentionally pushed into Pakistan to destabilize the country. The two extreme flanks of Pakistan, FATA and Balochistan were inflamed to make things difficult for Pak Army, fundamentally poised to guard eastern border. Apart from CIA and FBI gaining a strong foothold in Pakistan under the pretext of chasing and nabbing terrorists’ right up to Karachi, the US Administration increased its influence inside Pakistan so comprehensively that Boucher and Negroponte started to micro manage its domestic affairs including local bodies’ elections and 2002 general elections and reduced the parliament into a rubber stamp. American intelligence agencies helped RAW to make inroads in trouble spots.
Pakistan was first harried on account of nuclear proliferation in 2004. Hue and cry was made over AQ Khan Network and Iran and Libya put under intense pressure to establish a connection. Although Pakistan refused to make available Dr AQ Khan for interrogation after he made a public confession under duress; Pakistan inadvertently accepted that nuclear proliferation had taken place and that network effectively disabled. Pakistan was however never let off the hook and its nuclear program came under unceasing vicious propaganda campaign.
After 2005, The US began to change colours and became more intrusive and demanding. This change occurred because of resurgence of Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan, development of Gwadar Port with Chinese assistance, Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project Pakistan and Pakistan economy getting robust. Pakistan was whipped by USA, India and even landlocked Afghanistan holding it responsible for their difficulties in Afghanistan. Pakistan bore the pain of whips and degradation to ensure US support and flow of US dollars. Pakistan kept chasing the faceless enemy without a comprehensive plan, intelligence, low intensity conflict training, counter terrorism equipment and motivational program. These shortcomings became serious impediments in tackling terrorism and allowed the Tehrik-e-Taliban to gather strength and expand its influence.
Having sufficiently embroiled the Army in war on terror and weakened its institutions the US started to inch closer towards achieving its goals and became more demanding. It repeatedly asked Pakistan to do more without compensating it for the immense sacrifices it was rendering. Instead of rewarding Pakistan taking the main brunt of war on terror, the US awarded India in the form of lucrative civil nuclear and defence deals, well knowing that instead of curbing terrorism India had inflamed it through covert means. Ironically Pakistan didn’t raise even an eyebrow on this grave development. Its lackadaisical stance resulted in materialization of Indo-US nuclear agreement in 2008.
After vainly trying to put the ISI under Ministry of Interior in August 2008, the US exerted extreme pressure on Pakistan leadership to let its military intrude into FATA. Several aerial raids, artillery fire and a ground attack in Angoor Adda in September 2008 were carried out. These blatant intrusions indicated American growing impatience and their desperation to directly meddle in Waziristan. While Pakistan gave its tacit approval to drone attacks since this understanding had already been given by Gen Musharraf, Pak military under new commander Gen Kayani did not agree to the proposal of joint operation or any unilateral action and took a firm stand. Had this proposal been ceded to it would have amounted to allowing the head of a camel to enter the tent. Entry in FATA would have encouraged US military to keep creeping forward and to gradually envelope whole of Pakistan under the pretext of striking no-state actors. Mention of Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi as hiding places of high profile terrorists and main base of Al-Qaeda in FATA and Taliban Shura in Quetta exposed its intentions.
While attitude of US officials became belligerent, Indo-Israeli-US propaganda campaign became more vicious. Mumbai drama was stage managed on 26 November 2008 to give an excuse to India to heat up eastern border. Throughout 2009 India remained in a highly offensive mood. Pakistan’s policy of appeasement was taken as sign of weakness and subjected to unabated pressure to make Pakistan agree to Indian unfair demands of proceeding against suspects without evidence and to dismantle Indian specific terrorist network. The US instead of acting in a fair and unbiased manner brazenly supported Indian stance. None of the accusers took into account the hard fact that Pakistan had suffered as no other country in the world had from foreign sponsored terrorism. Its economy suffered a loss of over $35 billion and it lost over 8000 lives in the blowback of the militants in retaliation to military operations. Pakistan bore maximum brunt of foreign sponsored terrorism during the years 2008-09 and is still suffering. After targeting Peshawar incessantly, Lahore is the current target of RAW.
Slight change in Indo-US-Afghan belligerence has started to occur after Pak army’s successful fight against well-entrenched militants in Malakand Division, Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan at a heavy price. These successes were achieved at a time when nothing was going right in Pakistan. Political situation was in a mess, economy had become fragile, law and order had worsened and Pak Army’s image had been badly dented due to well orchestrated smear campaign. Pakistan was being viewed as a failing state unable to protect its nuclear assets. Stories of balkanization or break up were in circulation and a very gloomy picture was being painted. It was propagated that Pakistan’s security forces were incapable of fighting the militants and protecting nuclear assets. US Special Forces started to fine tune their contingency plans to take away the nukes before falling into wrong hands. Indian strike formations had taken up a forward posture and Indian military had started beating drums of war.
It was under such daunting challenges that Pak Army fully supported by the government and the public turned the tide and blunted coordinated external and internal onslaughts and left the detractors gaping with wonder. CIA-RAW-Mossad supported Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is on the run, cornered in small areas and deprived of initiative and liberty of action.
Gen Kayani has rightly remained firm on five counts:
- No further stretching into North Waziristan for at least one year till full consolidation of Swat and South Waziristan, which includes rehabilitation of IDPs and rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure and transfer of power to civil administration. For this he needs expeditious delivery of promised funds.
- 148000 troops are already committed in FATA and Swat. No further thinning out of troops from eastern border.
- No role for India in Afghanistan after the departure of US- NATO troops.
- He prefers training of Afghan security forces by Pakistan Army instead of Indian Army.
- He has also desired an immediate end to Indian covert operations from Afghan soil and speedy delivery of counter insurgency equipment for achieving long term tangible results.
The Foreign Minister, Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha are proceeding on an all important visit to Washington starting 24 March. PM Gilani would join up in April to attend the nuclear summit. Great hopes are pinned on them. Ignoring sweet talks and so-called assurances, the visitors should keep Pakistan’s interests upper most. We must not be taken for granted or duped again. There is no need for our leaders to adopt an apologetic stance since all allegations against Pakistan are superfluous and manufactured with sinister designs. Unlike India, Pakistan is a peace loving country, its military doctrine is defensive and it has no territorial claims on any neighbouring country. Kashmir is a disputed territory duly recognized by UN. Pakistan has every right to take appropriate steps to safeguard its integrity and sovereignty. Once again the US is direly in need of Pakistan. Some of the aspects that must be discussed and firm commitments taken are penned hereunder:
It must be impressed upon US civil and military leaders that India has not reconciled with existence of Pakistan and has constantly planned to harm Pakistan. Its intentions and capability are well known. As such America should stop impressing Pakistan to ignore Indian threat.
Details of reign of terror launched by Indian security forces in Indian Held Kashmir against hapless unarmed Kashmiris and massive violation of human rights should be brought to the notice of US leaders and asked as to why they have turned a deaf ear to the cries of Kashmiris seeking justice for the last 62 years.
All the proofs collected on involvement of RAW in destabilizing Pakistan should be shown to the hosts to expose India’s real face. India must be made accountable for its blatant acts of terror.
Upsurge of Hindu extremism in India and role of Hindu terrorist outfits linked with political parties and Indian Army in several terrorist acts within India in which Pakistan was blamed should be brought to the notice of US media and officials. Mumbai drama and veracity of so-called dozier sent by India and steps taken by Pakistan should also be highlighted.
Likewise, vulnerability of Indian nuclear assets to thefts to be amplified and a comparison made with Pakistan’s nuclear program.
Demand immediate closure of Pakistan specific four Indian Consulates, intelligence centres and training camps in Afghanistan and India.
Seek instant stoppage of RAW-Mossad-RAAM combined covert operations from Afghanistan against Pakistan.
Expose the dangerous designs of Indo-Israeli nexus against Pakistan, USA and Muslim world as a whole.
Make it clear that training of Afghan National Army by India will be unacceptable.