What About America’s Responsibility For The ‘AfPak’ Mess?February 19, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A politician in Karachi comes out on GEO News to say Pakistan’s existence is ‘not sacred.’ The separatist-leaning government in Balochistan wants to bar ‘Pakistani settlers’ from the port city of Gwadar. And two Pakistani political parties – the Pashtun ANP and Karachi’s MQM – are itching for an ethnic war. Both of them are U.S. allies and their leaders have been flown secretly to Washington for talks. Interestingly, Karachi, Balochistan and the Pashtun areas control the supply route essential for maintaining U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. What part of this picture the Zardari government and the Pakistani military does not understand? When will they dismantle CIA outposts in Pakistan?
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—If Pakistan is supporting proxies in Afghanistan using religion and is not ready to understand that ‘terrorism’ is a threat to its existence, why can’t we create our own Islamic proxies and push them inside Pakistan, creating enough mayhem to make Pakistan ‘understand’ our point?
That’s the question two Indian security analysts asked in a paper submitted to the Indian security establishment nine years ago. We don’t know if someone paid attention to the bright new idea. But last year, our security forces did arrest fighters in the ranks of the so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’ sneaking in from Afghanistan who, let’s just say, appeared to have been professionally trained in sabotage and who were pretending to be Islamic extremists. This does not mean that we should accuse India of mischief. Afghanistan, after all, is a U.S. controlled territory. It is a U.S. responsibility.
The Pakistani government for some strange reason is not willing to make such disturbing information pubic in the misplaced hope that sharing this information with our American allies will resolve the problem. What Islamabad forgets is that there are ‘non-state actors’ in Washington too. They might have interests that may or may not be in the knowledge of those couple of U.S. bureaucrats whom our elected government appears to trust so much that it has decorated them with Pakistan’s highest civilian honors. One of them, U.S. deputy foreign minister John Negroponte, is a veteran of U.S. proxy wars in Latin America who might know a thing or two about this. There is a reason why a report in this newspaper on Aug. 5, 2008, revealed that the Pakistani leadership directly but privately warned the U.S. military and intelligence at the highest level about “strong evidence and circumstantial evidence of American acquiescence to terrorism inside Pakistan.” The new American obsession with redrawing borders to suit U.S. interests is no longer something that we can agree on with the CIA station in the Pakistani capital. This is not about shifting the blame. We have our own problems. But you can’t ignore the situation when someone pumps in millions of dollars in cash and in weapons inside your country to effect change.
The mayhem in Pakistan, which surprisingly did not exist prior to 2005, follows the same geographic pattern as the U.S. interest. For example, the transport route from Karachi to Torkham is essential for a prolonged U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Today this city is in the grip of a manufactured Talibanization scare and a potential ethnic conflict between the supporters of two Pakistani political parties that maintain close ties with Washington. Some of the bitterest U.S. news reporting focused on Gwadar as an extension of China, and Quetta was accused of hosting the Afghan Taliban leadership, facilitated by the untrustworthy ISI. So Balochistan became the first target. An impeccably trained and financed insurgency erupted all of a sudden in January 2005 targeting Pakistan’s control over the province. When the insurgency was weakened after the elimination of a couple of high profile insurgency leaders, the focus shifted to NWFP.
This is why the U.S. has developed direct contacts with local Pakistani politicians, particularly in Karachi, Balochistan and NWFP.
We have no laws in Pakistan that bar political parties and their ‘owners’ [since democracy is not allowed within these parties] from conducting their own private ‘foreign policies’ with outside powers without Islamabad’s knowledge. That’s why few Pakistanis know how the United States conducted its own private business with senior politicians who were secretly flown [Asfandyar Wali of ANP and Mustafa Kamal of MQM are two of the prominent names, among others] to Washington and to the military Central Command in Florida throughout 2007, the year that saw the worst internal destabilization in the history of Pakistan. It is also a year in which many analysts saw signs of a ‘colored revolution’ that normally precedes the ascent to power of staunch pro-U.S. governments.
If some of our politicians have it their way, a time is coming when Pakistanis won’t be welcome in one part of their country, Gwadar, without prior paperwork, maybe even a visa. The provincial government in Balochistan appears to have solved all problems of the province and the only thing left for them to do is to deny ‘outsiders’ and ‘settlers’ – which is Dubai- and London-based Baloch separatists’ euphemism for the rest of Pakistanis – the right to exercise basic rights such as voting.
Then comes out the Mayor of Karachi to warn Pakistanis that their country is not a ‘Quranic verse’ whose permanence can’t be questioned. He reportedly made a similar disturbing public remark early last year. This kind of separatist chatter has jumped rapidly in the past four years. While this chatter did exist before, it is our American allies who took it to a completely new level in a calculated media blitzkrieg in 2007, when several major U.S. news organizations ran what appeared to be a coordinated campaign predicting the break up of Pakistan along ethnic lines. Last weekend, a leading British newspaper has come out with a fresh ‘Pashtunistan’ argument as a possible solution to ‘terrorism’.
But no one in our liberal elite is ready to listen to these signs of danger. In their enthusiasm for opposing religious extremism, which is a valid position, Pakistan’s liberal elite is making a historical mistake of ignoring an evil of equal proportion. Foreign interference in Pakistan is exacting a toll on our country that, if left unchecked, might come at the cost of Pakistan’s existence as a nation.
This is why it is incompetence on the part of President Zardari to appear on CBS (“Taliban are taking over Pakistan”) and make it easier for the U.S. government to sell to their voters a new war front in Pakistan. It is strange that everything that our president and his team say perfectly mirrors the U.S. official language about Pakistan. So now Taliban are taking over Pakistan, terrorism is an ‘existential’ threat, and our military needs to be remodeled to fight local insurgencies, as Foreign Minister Qureshi told CNN earlier this week.
Sure we have problems. But when will someone in Islamabad hold the Americans responsible for how they bungled up Afghanistan and now want us to pay for it?