In the wake of 7/7, the western press began churning out the propaganda that General Pervez Musharraf was not fully committed to eliminating the threat of Islamic militancy and that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was playing a double game by maintaining secret contacts with the Taliban.
This western propaganda became particularly nasty after the Pakistan government concluded the Miramshah Agreement with the militants in September 2006 that brought peace and security to Pakistan’s tribal belt.
The western analysts contended that the various peace agreements concluded between 2004 and 2006 with the Taliban had enabled them to regroup and reinforce their ranks for cross-border incursions into Afghanistan.
They alleged that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was protecting the Taliban and passing on to them secret information pertaining to planned American operations against the Al-Qaeda and other militant hideouts.
Some US think-tanks suggested that the Pakistan armed forces were not dependable, there were rogue elements in the ISI and Pakistan’s transition to civilian-democratic rule was a prerequisite to take effective measures with popular support against the Taliban.
The United States claimed, and Pakistan reluctantly conceded, that FATA and some adjoining areas were serving as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda leadership and its command and control system, and as a sanctuary and source of reinforcement for the Taliban who crossed into Afghanistan to attack the American-led coalition forces, including ISAF and NATO.
It became manifest from the statements of American leaders, high officials and military commanders that they were united in projecting Pakistan’s tribal belt as the principal source of threat to American security and the, cause of their failure in Afghanistan, and that they considered it legitimate and appropriate to target the Al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts inside Pakistani territory if the Pakistan government was unwilling or unable to wipe them out.
Simultaneously, the violation of Pakistani airspace by the US drones in search of militant hideouts and missile attacks on suspected targets became more frequent.
After General Musharraf stepped down in August 2008, the American pressure on Pakistan’s civilian leadership intensified. It was clamored that if another 9/11 took place, it would be from the Pakistani tribal belt. Instead of showing resentment to such irresponsible statements, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani concurred with the viewpoint.
Apparently, the Pakistan government became convinced that if it failed to act against the militants as desired by the United States, the US-led coalition forces would cross into FATA and the myth of Pakistan’s sovereignty and its government’s writ in the region would be shattered.
Faced with food and energy crisis and in dire need of economic and military assistance, the Pakistan government could not dare to say no to the United States. It’s eyes were fixed on the US offer of $ 15 billion over the next ten years provided Pakistan was prepared to do ‘more’ in the American ‘war on terror’.
Further justification for acting against the Taliban was provided by the reports that Indian consulates along Pakistan’s western borders were active in fomenting trouble inside Pakistani territory and that scores of Indian camps were brain-washing, indoctrinating, training, organizing and equipping elements within the Taliban and the Baloch nationalists to destabilize Pakistan.
More fearsome was the news that under an agreement with the Afghanistan government, India had planned to send 140000 troops to Afghanistan by the end of 2009. It was made to believe, ‘A pincer movement against Pakistan was in the offing’.
Obviously all this was happening with the tacit approval of the United States. India could not have interfered in the affairs of Pakistan’s sensitive western provinces from Afghanistan without American blessings.
Practically, as the former Pakistani COAS Mirza Aslam Beg pointed out, Pakistan was being surrounded by the United States, NATO and India. Scenarios are being painted range from Pakistan, a failed or failing state to Planned Balkanization of Pakistan.
With FATA, Swat and some adjoining areas under the Taliban control, and their influence creeping into more and more settled areas, it was anticipated that they might proclaim an Islamic Emirate on Pakistani territory any time. From the nation-state perspective, this was not acceptable.
Could the creation of an Islamic Emirate be an American design to block Chinese access to the Arabian Sea?
Was Pakistan being, ensnared in to a decoy, to get engrossed in War, which was becoming its own internal, but not indigenous, war on terror?
It is believed that war is likely to continue for a long time, with serious ramification for the Region, particularly, jeopardizing Pakistan China strategic interests in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
If these were fantastic or far-fetched and speculative ideas and deserved instant dismissal, then at least there was no denying the fact that the United States had successfully deflected the Pakistani Taliban towards Pakistan and the heat was off the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The so-called American war on terror was fast becoming Pakistan’s own war as desired, rather, prodded by the United States.
Presuming, that no other option was left, the Pakistan government employed its real firepower ___ both ground and air___, to eliminate the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and, as of today, there is no let up in the military action.
Where does Pakistan stand more than two months after the commencement of the military action?
On the external front, it appears that at the end of the day the United States wants Pakistan to settle its disputes with India and serve as a second fiddle to her in the region. India is to act as counter-poise to China and to have access to Afghanistan and beyond it to Central Asia via land route across the Pakistani Punjab, NWFP and FATA.
The United States wants to ensure that there is no projection of Chinese power at the mouth of the Gulf.
Recent developments indicate that the United States would be prepared to take moderate Taliban on board in a government of national reconciliation in Afghanistan to ensure that peace prevails in the country. Without genuine Pashtoon representation, it has realized, Afghanistan cannot become tranquil.
Probably it was American bidding that Afghanistan was made a member of the SAARC. The SAARC countries under Indian hegemony can exclude Chinese influence and safeguard common US-Indian strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region from the eastern coast of the African continent to the Strait of Malacca. .
The Zaranj-Delaram Highway fits into American scheme for the region where at some stage American-Iranian differences over nuclear program may be resolved.
A Muslim world divided into Sunni and Shia blocs would be easy to manipulate and Israel would have the last laugh.
On the other hand, it seems that China is reluctant to assist Pakistan in any big way.
China understands that Pakistan’s ruling classes, including its military establishment, are not made up of the stuff that would say good bye to the United States or fundamentally reorient the country’s foreign policy.
President Asif Ali Zardari sent a wrong message to China, or a right message to USA, by not visiting it immediately on assumption of office. Ambassador Husain Haqqani is on record to have expressed the opinion that Pakistan needed to focus on the United States and India. “Forget China”, he was quoted as having said.
China is in the process of developing necessary infrastructure to ensure supply of oil from Central Asian Republics, particularly Kazakhstan. Although strategically very important, yet transit route or supply of oil via Pakistan is not a matter of life and death for China. It can wait till a more opportune time to have access to the Arabian Sea and the Gulf Oil.
China’s foremost priority is to maintain its growth rate and to emerge as the dominant economic power of the twenty-first century. With a reserve of more than $ 1.85 trillion it is in a pretty comfortable position at a time when the United States and other western powers are in a deep financial crisis.
At this important juncture, when the global strategic balance is slowly but steadily shifting, China wants to avoid entanglement in any proxy war or conflict that might cost it dearly.
There is yet another dimension of the regional scenario.
If Pakistan resurrects insurgency in Kashmir to pay back India in the same coin, China would become uncomfortable because Islamic militancy in Kashmir is likely to have spill-over effects on Xingjian province where Uighar Muslims are resentful and of Chinese domination.
China is also not at ease with Taibanization in FATA and NWFP for the same reason.
Reportedly, some Uighar Muslims are there among Islamic militants based in Pakistani territory. It may be recalled that along with the Taliban a number of Uighar militants were captured by the US-led coalition forces when they occupied Afghanistan in 2001. The United States is not handing them over to China for obvious reasons.
In nutshell, it appears that despite all rhetoric about independent foreign policy in the joint session of the parliament, ultimately Pakistan will adjust its policy with American designs and reconcile to Indian domination in the region. There would be no open break with China but due regard would be given to American sensitivities concerning Gwadar Port.
The real test is how Pakistan is able to protect its nuclear assets and safeguard its right to maintain minimum nuclear deterrence in regional context.
On the domestic front, the Taliban have reacted by resorting to suicide bombings that have rendered military personnel, defense installations and public places unsafe. The investigations into various incidents of the suicide bombing have revealed that, along with FATA and NWFP, the southern Punjab has become the breeding ground of suicide bombers.
Notwithstanding state sponsored propaganda against the Taliban, preparation of lashkars to confront the militants and fatwa against the suicide bombings, the process of Talibanization is likely to get intensified if the indiscriminate use of force by the Pakistani troops continues. The killing of innocent people, including women and children, is fast alienating the Pashtoon population from the state.
The military action in the Pashtoon areas has reduced our once proud national army to the status of para-military operating against its own people, that suits others more than Pakistan’s own State Interest, for crumbs being offered by the United States to its government.
The movement of the Pashtoon population from war-zones towards peaceful non-Pashtoon areas has the potential of igniting ethnic conflicts and leading to cut-throat economic competition. This is particularly true for Karachi.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee has spoken of a wide range of threats in the wake of an emerging geo-strategic environment where non-traditional security threats are taking centre stage. One answer to this challenge is to be found in conceding the demand of the Pashtoon population for establishment of social, political and economic order based on shar’iah and customary laws.
The lure of economic development is no substitute when the people are under the spell of religious idealism.
Let it also be crystal clear that there is no military solution to the problem.
If the Taliban repose trust in Allah, do not transgress from His limits in war and peace and remain committed to the creation of an Islamic Emirate, the Pakistan government is not likely to win the war against them, but for now that’s not the case.
If they were to believe;
“But those who knew that they would meet their Lord exclaimed: How many a little company hath overcome a mighty host by Allah’s leave! Allah is with the steadfast.” (Holy Quran, 2:249)
“And if Allah had not repelled some men by others the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah is a Lord of Kindness to (His) creatures” (Holy Quran, 2:251)
However, we mortals under the awe of the West find it convenient to look at the developments from worldly perspectives only.
Religious belief and commitment to practice those beliefs in its extreme violent form, is something that defies all logic, perhaps its wholly illogical, therefore could not be comprehended with tools of logic.
The emerging non-traditional security threats which have taken centre stage in Pakistan and in its back yard in Afghanistan would not be addressed by force alone.
It seems to have divined upon Kabul, Washington, London and many other Capitols that inclusive political engagement and winning of the minds and hearts, in that order, may be cost effective, in Financial and Human terms. It ought to be the case with us, Pakistan.
About the author: Amicus is the pseudonym of Advocate Mohammed Yousuf. With sixteen years in legal practice. He has written extensively on Islam and Islamist Militancy. Advocate Yousuf can be reached at: