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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2583

Unscrupulous leadership, not extremism responsible for our misfortunes

By Asif Haroon Raja

In the 9/11 terrorist attacks on twin towers in New York in which about 3000 persons died, no Afghan or Pakistani was involved. All the 19 perpetrators of the crime were Arabs, mostly hailing from Saudi Arabia. Yet the wrath of USA fell on Afghanistan for a bizarre reason that the so-called master mind behind the attacks was Osama bin Laden based in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar kept requesting that proof of his complicity should be furnished to enable him to hand over his guest but none was provided. Terrorism became a buzzword and the fuming sole super power pounced upon militarily extremely weak and economically impoverished Afghanistan with utmost ferocity and decimated it.

The whole world including UNSC supported the ghoulish invasion and its occupation under the hope that it would help in eliminating global terrorism. Iraq too was pulverised on a cooked up story of WMDs and linkage with Al-Qaeda. Both charges turned out to be totally fabricated. Saddam as well as UN inspectors kept saying till the last that there were no WMDs, but Bush and Blair ignored them as well as world protests and went ahead with the second invasion without UNSC blessing. After destroying the two countries, USA is now bent upon destroying one of its close allies Pakistan which had played a key role in ousting Taliban and in getting Karzai elected. Without Pakistan’s all out military support, it may not have been possible for US-NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan for that long.

In case of Afghanistan and Iraq, both Mullah Omar and Saddam Hussein refused to buckle under US repeated threats followed by troop mobilisation. Instead of submitting to US diktat they opted to fight the aggressor well knowing that they were non-nuclear states and their conventional means were no match to the military prowess of sole super power duly aided by all the advanced nations of the world. In our case, we had nuclear weapons and adequate conventional means to defend our homeland. However, our commando General who never tired of bragging about his boldness, turned into a kitten when he received a phone call from Washington. He hastily threw in his towel and provided US spy agencies and its military forces large-scale facilities to make easy USA task of achieving its long term objectives. He justified his cowardly act of ditching the friendly Taliban and befriending USA on the premise that had he not done so Pakistan for sure would have been destroyed.

He promised his mentors in USA that not only he would rid Pakistan of the menace of religious extremism, he would secularise the society through its enlightened moderation program. He agreed to blindly follow American dictates and develop close friendship with India by closing the chapter of Kashmir as well as other contentious issues. In other words he agreed to gradually weaken Pakistan from within by erasing the concept of Jihad and the warrior spirit from the minds of the people of Pakistan, follow the secularist path of his idol Kamal Atta Turk and accept Indian hegemony. Fortunately for Pakistan, he had to quit because of relentless lawyers movement and unexpected election results, but not before allowing CIA and RAW to make sufficient inroads into Pakistan’s tribal areas in Baluchistan and FATA, weakening the administrative and political structures, destroying the judiciary, creating a mirage of economic prosperity and giving a death blow to accountability and Kashmir cause.

By officially accepting charges of cross border terrorism, religious extremism, nuclear proliferation, he energised our detractors to launch a vicious propaganda campaign and paint Pakistan in black. While Karzai began to drum up the Indian tutored theme of cross border terrorism, western media pasted libellous stories about our nuclear program and Pakistan army to tarnish its image.. Charges levied against Pakistan were never contested because of overall policy of appeasement. Having gained foolproof evidences of RAW and RAM involvement in our troubled spots, yet our leaders did not pick up courage to even name them what to talk of protesting or taking counter actions. This was in spite of Indian leaders’ traditional policy of promptly throwing the blame of each and every terrorist act taking place in India at the doorsteps of ISI. With all the powers resting in his hands for eight years, he allowed US influence to permeate into each and every department and a stage came when no decision could be made without US involvement and blessing. Not only CIA and FBI were given blank cheques, US spy drones fitted with cameras were allowed to operate in our territory at will to acquire intelligence.

Having entrenched itself fully within the decision making circles of Pakistan and blackmailed the new leadership through power sharing deal and NRO, Musharraf was eased out and replaced with even more loyal and acquiescent Zardari ready to do US bidding. This change had become necessary since Musharraf was not acquiescing on enfeebling ISI, handing over AQ Khan, allowing US troops to operate in FATA and abandoning Iran-Pakistan gas pipe project. Zardari has been mandated to remove remaining impediments and to open up areas where full penetration could not be made. The major assault was made on the ISI with a view to defang it. In order to carryout offensive ground and aerial incursions inside Pakistan, it was alleged that the army and ISI were linked with the Taliban and as such the US could ill afford to share intelligence with ISI before striking the suspected targets. The purpose behind these strikes is to create fear and panic among the tribesmen and to shift the war to settled areas and major cities and make Pakistan ungovernable. It also hopes to strike high-value Al-Qaeda targets and thus swing the poll results in favour of Republicans.

Bogey of cross border terrorism has been sensationalised and magnified out of all proportions asserting that unless sanctuaries in FATA are destroyed Afghanistan could not be normalised. Pakistan has been declared as the biggest threat to world security, with nuclear weapons that could hit Israel and western nations. This wild charge has been made well knowing that it is Indian and not Pakistani missiles that can reach the stated targets. Bush and other leaders have categorically mentioned that any attack on US territory would emanate from Al-Qaeda leadership entrenched in mountains of FATA. Pakistan has been declared as a war zone and the Pentagon authorised to carryout attacks as deemed feasible. Having heard the bellicose statements of the presidential hopefuls of the two parties, it is crystal clear that both regard Pakistan as the most dangerous threat to their homeland security. Obama as well as McCain strongly feel that the threat must be neutralised at the earliest with or without the support of Pakistan. The Bush Administration seem to be in a hurry to wrap up last pockets of resistance and bag Pakistan by mid November and hand over the baton to the Democrats on a triumphant note.

The eventual goal of Americans is to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear weapons. For the fulfilment of this objective the trio of USA-Israel and India would go to any extents. They are keen to denuclearise Pakistan without having to wage a full-fledged war. They are constantly working upon our timid leadership to hand over nuclear assets voluntarily. For this purpose, Pakistan is being deliberately destabilised and the ongoing disinformation campaign is part of the sinister plan to create misgivings and sense of disillusionment among the Pakistanis and also conditioning the minds of the world that Pakistan is a threat to world security.

Pressure of all sorts is mounted on our leadership to convince them that it is neither in a position to govern Pakistan nor capable of preventing it from becoming a failed state or protecting its nuclear assets. They warn that before nuclear bombs are stolen by extremist forces they must be taken away and stored in a safe place by US troops or else UN should step in and take control. Instead of helping Pakistan to control militancy, USA is stoking it and continuously adding fuel to fire. The axis of evil based in Kabul is hell-bent to create anarchic conditions in Pakistan to attain their laid down objective.

To make the task of security forces difficult, far too many militant groups have been formed and provided funds and arms. Abdullah Mahsud was CIA’s man and now Baitullah Mehsud in all probability has also been won over and is promoting American agenda under the garb of Talibanisation. To win the sympathies of the locals, he worked on the lines of Afghan Taliban by dealing with criminal elements sternly and dispensing speedy justice. He offered Sharia as the panacea for all the ills. Having created a base in South Waziristan, he created Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in end 2006 to be able to spread his influence far and wide. Members of the Tehrik under a well planned scheme began to defame the army by whispering into the ears of the people of FATA that it was aligned with the non-Muslims. The army was thus caught up in a nut cracker situation. On one hand it was ridiculed and pricked to do more and on the other it was maligned as friend of infidels. Under the garb of removing vices and promoting virtues of Islam, music shops, barber shops and girls schools were torched and kidnapped persons beheaded by criminal elements within the ranks of Taliban. Besides, TTP, Taliban under local leadership of each tribal agency, and in Swat and Darra cropped up having links with each other. The Taliban in Swat under Fazlullah in particular have proved more brutal. While pro-government Taliban or groups are eliminated by CIA, Afghan and RAW agents, anti-government groups are patronised.

It must not be forgotten that one of the major purposes of USA to bring back BB under a deal was to affect a change in public perceptions and to convince them that the militants and extremists were the real enemies of Pakistan and the people must collectively rise to fight the menace of terrorism. Musharraf led team had failed to galvanise the public and had become extremely unpopular on account of its pro-American policies. One wonders on what grounds the new rulers hope to change the perceptions of the people when they have not brought any change in Musharraf?s policies and are dancing to the tunes of USA and have so far not taken any concrete step to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. Their lacklustre attitude and hypocrisy has made them unpopular. As long as they remain tied to the aprons of USA, the people will not stand behind them. With 30% voting in favour of PPP, it cannot claim that it has the support of great majority and hence can do whatever pleases its leadership. An effort to build wider consensus on war on terror through in-camera briefing given by army has failed to deliver since lot of time has been wasted in putting the act together to evolve a cohesive strategy to tackle the threat. Wastage of time in capturing power centres and consolidating power base, in eulogising BB and approaching UN to probe her murder, indulging in unscrupulous games to defang judiciary, in projecting parliamentary supremacy and sovereignty and in taking dictations from USA has sharpened divisions between the two schools of thought, one saying that terrorism is home-grown and the other insisting that it is foreign sponsored. Irrespective of the views of the majority the PPP led regime is bent upon guzzling down the throats of the nation the idea that American war on terror is Pakistan’s baby and must be collectively fought.

While Pakistan is being constantly lectured on the need to stop cross border movements, heavy inflow of RAW and RAM sponsored terrorists has been pouring in from Afghanistan into Baluchistan, Swat, Kurram and Bajaur with full connivance of US-Nato. If the latter say that they are ignorant of cross border movement they are either lying or are too incompetent. Why has USA never questioned the establishment of 107 Indian consulates in Afghanistan infested with RAW agents? While Pakistan is insistently told not to talk to the militants and arrive at a political settlement, why USA had tried hard to enlist the support of Sunnis in Iraq and raised Sunni lashkars to fight the Al-Qaeda? Why the British also entered into a peace deal with Taliban in Musa Qilla in southern Afghanistan? Why Karzai and USA have been constantly trying to woo the moderate Taliban? Why a sudden change has come in the attitudes of the British and American leaders? They have now started to talk of dialogue with Afghan Taliban and political settlement after admitting that force is not the solution. Why such double standards?

If USA genuinely feels that the root to terrorism lay in FATA, why it is reluctant to equip Pakistan army with requisite means to confront the threat, which is in a much better position to do it. Rather than allowing CIA to operate drones from Afghanistan, few drones as well as sophisticated surveillance equipment and improved mobility in the form of combat vehicles and suitable helicopters should be handed over to Pakistan to improve its intelligence gathering and offensive capability. Pakistan has 1100 posts spread all along the Durand Line while US-NATO has only 100 on its side of the border. Why doesn’t it improve its ground surveillance capability to detect and prevent infiltration? Not a single infiltration has been detected or infiltrator nabbed. How come the stability of Afghanistan has been linked with reinforcements coming from the Pashtun belt of Pakistan which covers only 7% of Afghan border? Pakistan’s repeated requests to mine or at least fence the border to prevent cross border movement have not been heeded to but it is continuously accused of facilitating infiltration. If USA is so concerned about cross border terrorism from Pakistan, it should have gone all out to fence it. But Americans know that had they done so, it would have exposed their false allegations and also prevented large-scale cross border movement of saboteurs and suicide bombers taking place from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Why doesn’t it admit that farce of cross-border terrorism is a smoke-screen to cover its own crimes?

Well knowing that opium trade is the major source of income of the militants to fund their war effort, why has America not taken steps to eliminate poppy growing and shut down narcotics business as had been done by the Taliban during their rule? Hypocrisy of USA can be judged from the fact that in the nineties it had spent billions of dollars to eliminate the scourge of drugs and had penalised several third world countries on charges of drug peddling. Today it has become a leading drug pusher in Afghanistan which has been converted into a narcotics state.

Why has USA not been able to win the confidence of the Afghan Pashtuns that are in great majority and formed lashkars within Pashtun dominated areas to combat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? Why has it not been able to better the lives of the people of Afghanistan in its eight-year old occupancy? Why has it not been able to control insurgency in Afghanistan which has now spread to non-Pashtun areas as well even after pushing the war into Pakistan? These are some of the queries which our rulers must seek clarifications rather than obsequiously giving explanations on unsubstantiated and absurd allegations. Isn’t it high time that we make concerted efforts to get rid of 2.8 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan since 1979 causing immense economic, social and security problems? Under the obtaining conditions they have become a great security hazard and their departure to Afghanistan must be expedited.

Paid writers within Pakistan are spreading gloom and doom by insisting that things have spun out of control and we cannot win war without US support. They propagate that nexus between some pro-establishment militant groups and establishment must end since this relationship has caused much damage. They argue that the issue of sovereignty must not irk us since the local Taliban have already made minced meat of it by taking over 10000 sq km area under their control. They refuse to buy the idea that USA in league with India, Israel and Afghanistan has created the mess and whatever efforts made by the army to restore order is made null and void. They are vociferously selling the idea that war on terror is our war.

Today all those who matter in Pakistan are obsessed with terrorism linking it with the very survival of the state. The media warfare spread over three years has eventually started to have its adverse impact on the minds of the liberals and seculars in particular. Reports of converting Pak currency into Euro dollars and shifting of accounts to foreign banks and moving to Dubai are heard. They are fearful that Talibanisation may not envelope the whole country and Sharia imposed which will constrict their liberal lifestyle. Sitting in comfortable drawing rooms, the seculars and liberals want the army to crush the militants using full force as had been done in the case of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid.

Hypothetically speaking, even if we assume that militancy gets controlled and writ of the government is restored in all parts of the state, do we take it that with the elimination of threat of religious extremism, all other vices like nepotism, feudalism, corruption, cronyism, immorality, vulgarity and obscenity, lack of justice and wide gap between rich and poor would also fade away and the country would move towards prosperity? If any one has such fanciful hopes the earlier these notions are shunned better it will be. In fact, these ever pervasive ills are responsible for igniting religious extremism and terrorism. The real problem lies with our rulers and none else. If they become honest and truthful, unselfish and altruistic, sincere and patriotic, hard working and God fearing, everything else will automatically get in order. Alas! It is too wishful to hope for such a leadership. Pakistan has landed up in thick soup not because of extremism and terrorism but because of our tainted and unscrupulous leadership that have sold their souls to America and is entirely responsible for all our misfortunes.

Asif Haroon Raja is Rawalpindi based defence and political analyst whose write-ups are appearing in local and foreign newspapers.

- Asian Tribune -

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