By Dr Ghayur Ayub
When Zalmay Khalilzad writes, one doesn't expect pro-Pakistan sentiments spouting from his pen. He is known for his anti-Pakistan stance and is very selective in making friends from Pakistan. We all know who those friends are. They can be counted on one's finger tips. As opposed to this, he has many Indian friends. According to some, he loves to listen to his talks and expects praises from the audience. Indians are good to please such people. Some of them think he has a complex personality based on three factors; first, his anti-Pakhtun mindset; second, his anti-Pakistan inclinations; third, his anti-Muslim mentality. Though he calls himself an ethnic Pakhtun, the truth is far from it.
His father was of Pakhtun background and was appointed in non-Pakhtun town of Mazar-e-Sharif for a long time. It was in this city that ZK was born and spent the early, formative years of his life. The area is known for strong sentiments of dislike towards the Pakhtuns as well as anti-Pakistan sentiments. Fostering these feeling in his personality at a very young age was natural. His indifference to Islam can be judged from Americanised lifestyle he adapted to on his own. At a very young age, he was sent to California on an AFS Inter-cultural Program. Later, he studied in the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. From there he went to America and settled there. In 1972, he married author and political analyst Cheryl Benard, They have two children, with prominently non-Muslim names, Alexander and Maximilian. With this anti-Pakhtun (the Americans label Pakhtuns as the Taliban these days), anti-Pakistan and anti-Islamic indifference, he would like to go an extra mile to please the powers in Washington and be counted as the policy-maker on Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
His anti-Pakistan and pro-India policies became apparent in 2002, when he, as adviser to George Bush, became a key player in making policies for future Afghanistan including framing Constitution of Afghanistan. Out of nine members (which was extended to thirteen) he effectively included three members with Indian background and made sure that Afghans having sympathies with Pakistan were excluded. He also played a sneaky role to marginalise Pakhtuns at initial crucial stages with the wrong perception that Pakhtuns had links with Al-Qaeda and Taliban. This was his idea of making a viable Afghanistan. The later events showed he was dead wrong.
Interestingly, it was in those days when he lobbied for late BB, who was trying to make inroads in the power corridor of Washington against the will of Gen Musharaf. Khalilzad became one of the conduits in the process. From there on, the friendship between BB and ZK grew stronger. Asif Ali Zardari came into the political picture shortly before BB's death. ZK was the first person to offer personal condolences to Asif Zardari on BB's assassination. Today, their cordial relationship is well-known in the societal echelon of Washington.
With this background, he blamed Pakistan in his latest article published in a known national daily of Pakistan stating, “The number of Pakistani operatives fighting for the Taliban and other insurgents has increased over the past year”. There might be some truth in it, as some elements in our society have a soft corner for the Taliban. But making a sweeping statement such as, “Pakistan has not been forthcoming about its motives”, implies that all Pakistanis share a common bath with the Taliban. Only an Indian or Indian sympathiser will aim to demolish the image of Pakistan. His mind reflects the latter when he writes, “It (Pakistan) could be defensively hedging against a strong Afghan government that is close to India, Pakistan’s regional adversary.”
With a typical, biased American mindset, he is trying to create fear in the minds of both Americans and Afghans about Pakistan, by saying, “Alternatively, Islamabad could view installing a subordinate regime in Kabul as a first step in an ambitious plan to consolidate regional hegemony in Central Asia.” He solidifies his argument by augmenting his reason, “When the city of Herat fell to the Taliban in 1996, the Pakistani former intelligence official Sultan Amir Tarrar – better known as Col. Imam – was helping Taliban forces. He reportedly messaged headquarters: “Today Herat, tomorrow Tashkent.”
He does not stop there and takes his hammer, bashing Pak army and warning it, “as we draw down our forces in Afghanistan, persuading the Pakistani military to abandon its strategy of supporting extremism and backing Afghan insurgents will become more critical and more difficult.” Then he warns Pakistan on three fronts; First, “Afghanistan could reduce cross-border water flows by building dams on the Kunar River and attempt to press for concessions on territorial disputes”; Second, “Washington has considerable leverage that it has not used to optimal effect. Pakistan relies on the United States and international organisations to remain solvent; its economy would be on the ropes but for a two-year $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan package. Coalition support funds from the United States alone are equal to about 25 percent of Pakistan’s defence budget.”; Third, “we should also continue to expand the northern corridor that now transports more than 40 percent of US supplies delivered by land to Afghanistan.”
In the end, he advises US to come up against 'Pakistan’s hostile policies' and support the like-minded moderate Pakistanis “to channel bilateral assistance to Pakistan in a way that empowers moderate civil society but reduces support for the military”. Hammering the last nail in his vengeful but seemingly docile fury against Pakistan he looks at post-occupied Afghanistan by saying, “the United States to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan to counter the terror threat and assist in preventing the victory of Pakistani proxies in Afghanistan. We would also need to consider accelerating security ties with India as part of a containment regime against Pakistan.”
If it was up to Zalmay Khalilzad, he would rather see: Pakistan disintegrated; Afghan Pakhtuns humiliated; and Islam isolated. In this way, he wishes to see a strong and American-friendly India building on the ashes of Pakistan. But his wishes will not be fulfilled because he ignored four important aspects in his article, namely: the Afghan Pakhtun's psyche; Iran's interests in Afghanistan; China's interests in the region; and most important, the opinion of the Pakistani public.