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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2739

Peace accord in Swat must not be frittered away

By Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan is terming its nuclear weapons and the manufacturing facilities as its strategic assets. The nuclear capability provides it with a credible deterrence to thwart the sinister designs of its adversaries who seek its dismemberment. Former Soviet Union with massive nuclear and conventional military capability fragmented from within without putting to use these mass destruction armaments it had heaped at a colossal cost to keep its principal foe USA at bay. In fact the heavy defence expenditure became instrumental in crippling its economy and leading to its eventual downfall from within. It reinforced the age old dictum that it is the man behind the gun and not the gun which stands the test of trial. In other words, the real asset of any nation is the fighting men imbued with warrior spirit and ever ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of safeguarding personal, family or nation’s honour.

Going by this logic, we in Pakistan need to re-assess our thinking in this regard. In my humble view, the Islamists whom we brand as extremists and terrorists, if handled wisely can become the real strategic assets of Pakistan. I know this term make the liberals mad and ridicule all those using this terminology. Like the extremist Islamists who consider the liberals as stooges of the west following anti-Islamic way of life, the liberals too hate the Islamists. The western media has helped them in demonising the Islamists as medieval, uncouth and savage beasts deserving no mercy. The ultra liberals believing in worldly comforts and disbelieving in Jihad are no less intolerant and ruthless.

I reckon, whether we like it or not, we will have to admit that the Islamists are the best fighting force available in Pakistan. By virtue of rough terrain and inclement weather conditions they live in, frugal way of living, valorous stories of their rich past, their ability to fight and use the gun and to brave extreme hardships, closeness to religion and believing in life hereafter, fearless and preferring to die than to surrender, not leaving their dead or wounded in battle behind under any circumstances, dedicated to the given cause and fighting their foes to the last irrespective of superiority of the enemy in terms of manpower, material and technology. Unlike the liberals, they defend Islamic culture and do not promote western culture. Unlike secular leaders, the leaders of Islamists retain a popular appeal among their followers because of their high moral behaviour and conduct. Unlike the secular leaders, there is little difference in the lifestyle of the Islamists leaders and the led and both suffer hardships equally and the leaders lead by example.

To make an assessment of their fighting potential one has to see that few thousand rag tag militants sandwiched between US-NATO-Afghan troops and Pakistani forces are fighting the latter for the last seven years. Despite the actionable intelligence provided by USA and the pro-government locals and excessive force used by Pak army for such a long period, they have gained strength instead of getting weakened. Besides their military prowess and endurance, Talibanisation is gaining ground rapidly. These very elements had led a peaceful life and had been kept under control by the political agents and Frontier Constabulary since 1947, but now even the regular army inducted for the first time in the tribal belt is finding it hard to defeat them. The Islamists fighting the army in FATA and in Swat do not want any material benefits to make their life comfortable. Their sole demand is implementation of Islamic laws so that they are able to live their life in accordance with Quran and Sunnah. This demand is enshrined in the constitution and not unconstitutional.

The Afghan Taliban had promulgated rule of Sharia in war torn Afghanistan and had produced good results in a short period despite being one of the most impoverished states of the world. They were harsh against evil doers and not against peaceful and Islam loving people and had succeeded in removing the vices to a great extent and had initiated pro-poor policies. With Afghan economy in dire straits because of severe sanctions imposed by USA and the west, the Taliban could have resorted to opium trade to boost the economy but poppy cultivation was almost eliminated from Afghanistan. The just system adopted by the Taliban and ban on opium production became some of the principle reasons of their ouster by USA since it could have posed a challenge to the pro-rich capitalism. The people of tribal belt as well as Malakand Division in particular who had lent a helping hand to the Afghans in their fight against foreign invaders had got impressed with Afghan Taliban and wanted to replace coercive and pro-rich legal system with Sharia. Desire for speedy and cheap justice led to Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-Muhammadi (TNSM) under Maulana Sufi Muhammad. The liberals fear Sharia since they know that their lifestyle which is akin to western way of life will get disturbed.

America is trying to sell the idea that takeover of reins of power by the Islamists will spell disaster since Pakistan is not in a position to protect its nuclear arsenal; hence it will be prudent to place the arsenal in safe custody of USA. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had suggested joint control of USA and Britain during her election campaign. Pakistan on the other hand maintains that it is quite capable of safeguarding its assets and considering the multi-layered safety precautions undertaken, there is no danger of any theft. It asserts that its nuclear strength helps in deterring its enemies from invading Pakistan and hence it cannot even think of any one else hijacking its nuclear arsenal. It does not consider Pakistani Islamists as aliens but very much part of it enjoying equal rights. If they contest the elections and win through polls it will be their right to govern and also manage the nuclear program. In case they try to seize power by force, they will certainly be resisted and crushed as is happening in Swat and tribal areas.

Having got the army fixed in the inferno of FATA and destabilised Baluchistan, the Indo-US-Afghan-Israeli nexus based in Kabul cleverly shifted the weight of militancy from Afghanistan into Pakistan. USA then began to paste charges of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and religious extremism. Focus of smear campaign was then diverted towards the army. Having locked up the army against its own people, they not only kept adding fuel to fire to keep flames of militancy inflamed, they kept up the mantra of do more and never got satisfied.

In spite of the fact that the army had put in its best and its contribution had been much more than any other state, they lamented that Pakistan army had not done what was expected from it. They wanted the army to go all out to eliminate each and every militant through brute force without caring for collateral damages. They insinuated that $10.5 billion US assistance had gone waste since the army was aligned with the Taliban and was disinterested in fighting them. They went a step further alleging that the army was playing a double game by helping the Taliban to cross into Afghanistan and target Afghan-Nato targets. They simply ignored over 1500 fatalities and thousands of injuries sustained by the army and the trials and tribulations it is going through for the last seven years. It is now being whispered that the army is out of the control of civil government so as to create a wedge between the two.

The next in the firing line was the ISI. It was accused of training and launching Taliban into Afghanistan and that it was involved in the 7 July suicide attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul. Now it has been blamed for creating Lashkar-e-Taiba and masterminding Mumbai terror attacks on 26 November. Likewise, our nuclear program came under sustained propaganda and all sorts of horror stories were wilfully spread. The west in collaboration with Pakistani liberals raised hue and cry that Pakistan had lost control over FATA and most of Frontier province and Talibanisation is on the verge of engulfing whole of Pakistan. Talibanisation (means Islamisation) was projected as a monster that would ruin Pakistan. The theme revolved around nuclear bombs falling into the hands of terrorists to scare the world that world security was at risk. None cared to reflect that Talibanisation could never have gained strength in Pakistan had the secular leaders controlling the destiny of Pakistan for over 60 years presented a better model of governance and legal system.

When USA exerted pressure on Pakistan based on unsubstantiated reports and held Dr. AQ Khan responsible for nuclear proliferation, Musharraf instead of contesting it hastily agreed to the charge sheet and forced AQ Khan to accept his uncommitted sin or else get ready for Guantanamo Bay. He said that he was coerced to make a confessional statement on the TV in 2004. Nuclear issue has again been revived to exert pressure on the new leadership. His recent release from house detention by Federal high Court raised concerns among the US and western officials and India went to the extent of getting Pakistan declared a terrorist state on this count. Restrictions have once again been imposed on Khan under mounting pressure.

The chief motive behind maligning Pakistan nuclear program, the army and the ISI is to weaken the state and get closer to the nuclear assets. The deadly nexus neither desire end of militancy in the region which justifies their stay in Afghanistan, nor stability of Pakistan until and unless it deprives it of its nuclear capability. It is for this reason that USA has sabotaged all efforts towards peace. Drone attacks in FATA and their serious concern over recent peace accord with the militants in Swat is a case in point. After inflaming Pakistan, the US now wants Pakistanis to say that it is not US war on terror but Pakistan war. Even after we saw the real face of India in the wake of Mumbai carnage and the patriotic response of the tribal militants, the Americans still want us to believe in their absurd logic that it is not Indian threat but militant threat which is real danger to security and existence of Pakistan.

The ongoing propaganda warfare against Pakistan nuclear assets and army-ISI linkage with the Taliban is similar to the pattern adopted against Iraq. Despite our constant assurances that we have a fool proof system to safeguard our nuclear assets and that collusion with Taliban is a figment of imagination, the US is unwilling to accept this position. CIA, RAW and Mossad which are pursuing common objective of denuclearising Pakistan have imprinted these misperceptions so deeply into the minds of the US policy makers that they simply refuse to listen to any other version.

As is well known, we have declared 48 nuclear bombs which are kept separated in six parts at different locations. Detailed information on them has either been voluntarily given or was acquired by USA during the military standoff with India when we had taken some out of closets, assembled them and deployed them in battle locations. This exercise was traced by US satellite to determine hideouts, time taken to assemble and to move them to launching sites.

Likewise the de-assembly procedure was also recorded. Reportedly all the 48 nuclear bombs are linked with a tracking device the control of which rests with USA. What worries USA, India and Israel are the undeclared nuclear bombs and their locations! What is needed now is to build few more bombs free of tracking device and have fresh nuclear codes to retain nuclear deterrence. Having played the theme of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs getting stolen by extremists, who knows the theme is modified to read, "world security is at risk since the nuclear button is in the hands of an insane president".

Sensing from the mood and actions of USA, it has now become apparent that having tightened the noose around Pakistan, it is now itching to deliver the hammer. It is eager to cross into Pakistan territory under the garb of eliminating terrorists based in FATA. Israel, India and Afghanistan are constantly urging USA to take the plunge. Mumbai drama was stage-managed by RAW through 2-3 Pakistani non-actors to maximise pressure on Pakistan and gain an opening for surgical strikes from the east. Had this demand been granted, India and Israel were all set to carryout strikes against our nuclear sites under the garb of destroying Jihadi camps.

Pakistan is acceptable to the sole super power as long as it is ruled by its loved ones who are ever ready to do as told to do without asking any questions. Nuclear weapon is not the real threat to USA and the west. It is the man behind the gun which actually worries them. Any leader who is highly US centric and liberal and anti-extremist is acceptable to Washington even if he has a nuclear button in his hands. The Americans preferred late Benazir over Nawaz since the latter despite leading a secular party is conservative and has soft corner for religious parties. They do not rule out the possibility of Nawaz striking a working relationship with Baitullah Masud or Maulana Fazlullah or Maulana Sufi Muhammad or their types, and thus become a real threat. It is for this reason that Nawaz has been kept out. The Americans are now feeling disturbed and nonplussed as to how come the secular parties they had helped in gaining power have agreed to introduce Nizam-e-Adal in Malakand Division. Concerted efforts are in hand to sabotage the deal. Bomb blasts in Mianwali and Bhakar, murder of Geo TV journalist Musa in Swat and suicide bomb attack on a funeral procession in DIK are part of the sinister plan to demonise the Taliban and change the perceptions of people of Pakistan.

Although India has said that war is no more an option it has still not withdrawn its strike formations from forward areas. Neither its political and military leaders brought any humility in their tone and tenor. Since Mumbai drama had too many loopholes and Pakistan responded amicably, our detractors could not operationalise their sinister plans. The evil plans have been postponed to next winters and not given up. Internal subversion will be further accelerated to spread militancy into Punjab as well. The coastal belt of Pakistan which has been extensively misused by RAW agents in 1980s and 1990s to destabilise Sindh will be again exploited to make Karachi unstable as it had tried to do in December last.

Taking into account twin threat from our eastern and western borders and volatile internal situation, it will be in fitness of things to find a political solution to the foreign inspired militancy in FATA, Swat and Baluchistan through dialogue and policy of give and take. The army must be pulled out from the troubled spots at the earliest so that it can concentrate on its primary task of defending the frontiers. The tribesmen who proved their patriotism on number of occasions must be won over and made to defend our western border as they have been doing for the last 60 years. Accord in Swat is a good beginning which must be followed up. Unwarranted concerns expressed by USA, western countries and India must be ignored. President Zardari should give peace a chance and shouldn?t dither signing the accord. If this chance is frittered away under pressure from our detractors, the bloodletting would intensify with harrowing consequences.

Asif Haroon Raja: is a defence analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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