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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why does Pakistan behave like this ? Part - II

So, there were two streams of thought within the demoralized Muslim community of the Indian subcontinent in the late nineteenth century {See the earlier part here}. One was to wage a jihad against the infidel colonial ruler to retrieve the lost power and pelf of the Mughal Empire, and hence that of Islam by implication. This stream was represented by the likes of Ahmed Berelvi and Jamaluddin Afghani though the latter was not an Indian. The other stream was more realistic. This group realized that the reforms in governance being introduced by the British in India in early twentieth century had to be shaped in such a way that the majority Hindu community did not end up with all the powers in their hand. This group was represented by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh. The latter therefore decided to adopt a cooperative approach with the British to achieve their goal. In the final analysis, it was the latter group that succeeded in creating Pakistan but the former sowed the seed for all the present day problems of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism in Pakistan. The success of the latter group meant that they were indebted to the British and later the Americans as the British handed over their hegemony to the Americans. The approval by these two western powers to Pakistan to use jihadi extremism against India (in c. 1947) and Afghanistan (in c. 1979) has resulted in the terrible situation that India, Afghanistan and other countries face today from Pakistan.

The Indian muslims were greatly perturbed by the turn of events in the nineteenth century when the regional Mughal empire finally ceased to exist and by the early twentieth century when the global Ottoman Caliphate itself was also dissolved formally. The ruthless manner in which the War of Independence in c. 1857 was put down by the British, the shabby manner in which the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was treated leading to his deportation to Burma (now Myanmar) where he died four years later (c. 1862), and the cruel manner in which his sons and grandson were killed had created revulsion in the minds of Indian Muslims. The dissolution of the Caliphate rendered them further insecure and helpless while raging with impotence. The decline of the Muslim power appeared absolute to them. These two seminal events were the results of centuries of decline for several reasons.

In India, it was Emperor Aurangzeb's (d. 1706) fundamentalist rule of extreme cruelty inflicted on the minorities, especially the Hindus and the Sikhs, that laid the foundation for the decline of the Mughal Empire. Distant Chennai was not under Muslim rule but the equally distant Bengal was, and the incursion of the Christian British East India Company (BEIC) there resulting in the defeat of Nawab Siraj-ud-Dowla in Plassey in c. 1757 started to fray the Empire at the edges. In Europe, the inability of the Ottoman janisarries (the armed forces) to breach the Habsburgs and the Tsars set the ball rolling for their eclipse in the late seventeenth century itself. In the next century, the Habsburgs and the Tsars expanded their empires threatening the Ottoman. Added to this was the foray into Egypt by the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in the late eighteenth century followed later by the occupation of Algeria. The Caliphate too was fraying at the edges. The janissaries and the ulema combined to depose the Caliph and his bureaucrats in early nineteenth century. These are the same class of players who have usurped and re-usurped power in Pakistan in the last six decades. It is the combination of the military, ulema and the bureaucrats (the evil alliance, euphemistically referred to as the 'Establishment' in Pakistan) who ruled the Ottoman as they have succeeded to do so in Pakistan.

For a Pakistan, which has been fascinated by Turkish history and which yearns to emulate that country and become the leader of the ummah, the coups and palace intrigues might be all déjà vu and even considered as steps to achieving the Caliphate. Since ijtihad {creative interpretation of the Koran and the Sunnah in light of modern thoughts and events} has been closed by the tenth century after the codification of the Koran into the four schools of thought, no modern interpretation is possible and current events have to be somehow fitted into the unalterable framework. Again, the Islamist scholars of the Ottoman Caliphate decided that their decline was not because of any superiority of the Europeans but rather due to Muslims deviating from the strict Islamic code prescribed by the Koran, the Hadith and the Sunnah. This is the same argument that we have heard in Pakistan too every time a tragedy strikes that country or that country blunders itself into yet another disaster. The call from Turkey for the ummah to unite resonated strongly among the Indian muslims too. After the loss of the Mughal empire, the Indian Muslims appealed to the Caliph to be their protector, an impossible task by the Caliph who was himself rapidly sinking.

The Indian Islamic scene during these turbulent and trying moments was dominated by a few personalities such as Ahmed Berelvi, Jamaluddin Afghani (d. 1897), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and curiously a Hindu kafir Mahatma Gandhi. Surprisingly, Jinnah, the founder of Islamic Pakistan was not in the picture. He was to gain prominence only in the 1930s.

Ahmed Berelvi (d. 1831) was a disciple of the son of Shah Waliullah Dehelvi (1702 - 1762) who helped the Afghan king Ahmed Shah (also known as Ahmed Shah Durrani or Ahmed Shah Abdali) to overcome the Mahrattas in the Panipat war in 1761. Berelvi introduced militancy into Indian Islam for fighting the Hindus, Sikhs and the British. He created Tariq-e-Muhammadiyah (or, The Way of Muhammad) that combined sufism and orthodox Islam. Sayyid declared jihad against the Sikh rulers and wanted to establish an Islamic state in the Indo-Afghan border where he emigrated to with his followers in circa 1826, a la hijra of Prophet Muhammad. The local Yusufzai tribes rebelled against him for his attempts to enforce rules contradictory to their traditional Pashtunwali code. Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Maharajah of the Punjab who had annexed Afghan territories and also Jammu & Kashmir, exploited the situation and his army ambushed the forces of Berelvi near Balakot and killed his followers along with the grandson of Shah Waliullah, Sayyed Ismail. Berelvi was defeated and then executed by the Sikhs in circa 1831. There is evidence that the British, in order to protect their geopolitical interests, actually helped Berelvi to fight the Sikhs, especially because the Sikh rulers had turned to the French. Balakot is today a hallowed spiritual ground for Berelvis of Pakistan. Most Pakistanis are Berelvis and it therefore would not be surprising for them to entertain similar thoughts against infidel India.

Jamaluddin Afghani influenced people in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan and India with his clarion call for resisting the colonial western Christian powers. He stood for ijtihad, militant Islam and pan-Islamic nationalism while being a die-hard opponent of the Western powers. His anti-British ideas were formulated when he first visited India in the aftermath of the failed 1857 uprising. His call for a revolt against the British in Egypt saw him being expelled to Hyderabad, India and then Calcutta while being constantly surveilled by the British. He was a complete anti-thesis of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh and opposed his policy of British sycophancy vehemently. His prime disciple was Muhammad Abdu whose disciple was Rashid Al Rida. Rashid al Rida's salafi ideas were germane for the creation of Ikhwan al Muslimeen (or, Muslim Brotherhood) movement who have wrought havoc in many countries, especially Egypt. After a long line of autocratic military leaders, the first whiff of democracy has brought the Muslim Brotherhood back into power in Egypt now. Two of the leading lights of Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al Banna and Syed Qutb have influenced Islamist ideologues all over the world, including in Pakistan. The works of Syed Qutb and Mawdudi,as the two most important modern Islamist theologians, have influenced militant Islamists that we find in Pakistan today.

While these Islamists had set forth on one particular stream of thought to restore the glory of Islam in the Indian subcontinent, the other group, the elites of the Ganga-Jamuna belt had other ideas for achieving the same. It was in Delhi and its surroundings as well as the fertile Gangetic plains to its south-east extending upto the borders of Bengal that the Mughal Empire had established authoritatively its rule. The remnants of the defunct Mughal empire, the nawabs and other aristocratic elites, decided to face the emerging problem politically. Before looking at their approach, we need to look at the political scenario in India at the turn of the century. After the 1857 War, the British Empire had taken over the governance of India from the hands of the British East India Company (BEIC). The Raj, as it was known, was running this huge country through a three-tier mechanism of the Viceroy, the Governors at the Provinces and the Collectors at the districts. The Raj introduced electoral reforms in 1880 when municipal councillors were allowed to be elected. The Minto-Morley reforms of 1909 extended it to the Provincial level. Later, the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (Montford Reforms as they were to be known) extended the electoral process even further up, though the Raj was ruling the country still with an iron grip centrally. These reforms were aimed at more securely ruling the country and securing Indian support for the war efforts rather than introducing natives to modern models of governance as a precursor to the Raj eventually leaving the shores. For example, Morley-Minto Reforms were initiated to address the great tumult following the partitioning of Bengal by Lord Curzon.

Traditionally, the land owners were the pivots through which the Mughal Empire reached out to the common folk in the country side. The land owners, by virtue of possession of land, enjoyed power and also acted as collectors of land revenue for the Empire. This was a practice the British Raj also continued with. As in the Mughal courts, so too in the British bureaucracy, land-owners contributed much to manpower and held important positions. Among the four British-controlled provinces, it was in the Ganga-Jamuna belt that the land ownership by the Muslims was significant and unsurprisingly so due to historical reasons. It was therefore no wonder that insecurity was fanned among the Muslim landowners as the wind of reforms in the electoral process began to blow.

It was in this milieu that, at the turn of the twentieth century, that a group of Muslim elites from this core region of the erstwhile Mughal Empire decided to stake their claims politically even as they foresaw the shape of things to come. Lord Minto, the successor Viceroy to Curzon, declared to the elite group of Mussalman who called upon him on October 1, 1906 at Simla that the Muslims of India “were descendants of a conquering and ruling race” forgetting conveniently that but for a minuscule descendants of Turks, Persians, Pathans or Mughals, the vast majority of the Indian Muslims were converts from the Hindu religion. This description by Lord Minto has resulted, among other things, for an everlasting desire among Pakistanis today to hoist their flag on the Red Fort at New Delhi, the symbol of the Mughal Empire. The 'All India Muhammedan Deputation' that met Lord Minto asked for separate electorates for Muslims and asked for a 'due share' in government jobs. In an analysis published by New York Times on October 26, 1906, the newspaper presciently called this as “an incident in the history of India which may prove of great and lasting importance”. It further said that the Mohammedans consider the majority community “with jealousy, suspicion often with contempt, and with an ineradicable animosity that is held in control only by the British Rule”. Among the delegation that called on Lord Minto in c. 1906 was the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who said “No Mohammedan can say that the English are not ‘people of the Book’ (ahl-e-kitab). No Mohammedan can deny this: that God has said that no people of other religions can be friends of Mohammedans except the Christians. . . . Now God has made them rulers over us. Therefore we should cultivate friendship with them, and should adopt that method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India, and may not pass into the hands of the Bengalis. This is our true friendship with our Christian rulers . . . for we do not want to become subjects of the Hindus instead of the subjects of the people of the Book." No wonder then that the AMU at Aligarh has played a significant role in creating Pakistan through subservience to British interests and causing permanent divide between the Hindus and the Muslims.

After the 1857 War of Independence, the British relied on the Punjabis more than ever before as it was the Punjab component of the Army that was used to crush the uprising. As a result, the British Raj adopted different policies for security reasons (and it was for the same reason that Maharaja Ranjit Singh's youngest son, Maharaja Dalip Singh, was forcibly taken away to England) in the Punjab, and land owners began to appear there as the Raj developed extensive irrigation facilities and began to parcel off pieces of land for those who served the Imperial power loyally as well as the retiring service personnel. We continue to see the disproportionate amount of clout enjoyed by landowners in Pakistan even today, a country where land reforms have not been successfully implemented, even struck down by the ulema as un-islamic. Most of the top Pakistani leaders, even when they spoke of socialism, were unabashed feudalists and continue to remain so. Their feudal mindset is apparent in domestic as well as foreign policies. Similarly, the province of Punjab dominates the political, military, economic and terrorist scenes over the other three provinces of today's Pakistan. By the mid nineteenth century, the British began to treat the province of Punjab differently from the rest of the Indian Union for two different security reasons. One was that the Punjab contributed significantly to the British India Army and the other was that the sensitive Punjab province was abutting the restive North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Afghanistan. This practice has continued in the current state of Pakistan as well. Another practice that the British introduced in the Punjab was the 'sense of entitlement' among the service personnel for benefits, especially the allocation of land. The well known Pakistani analyst Ms. Ayesha Siddiqa writes in her book, "Military Inc. - Inside Pakistan's Military Economy", the following, "Land entitlement varies from 240 acres for generals to 100 acres from lieutenants to majors to 32 acres for non-commissioned officers (NCOs)." Punjab was also the region where the British introduced separate Muslim electorates for municipalities much before they were introduced three decades later all over India as part of Montford Reforms.

So, where did the kafir Hindu Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi fit in this Islamic fervour ? Gandhi was the rising star within the Indian National Congress (INC) at that time and he seized the opportunity the Khilafat movement presented to catapult himself into the national scene. Whether it was done with a design or out of genuine concern for the perceived plight of Muslims of India at that time or as a convenient tool to pressurize the beleagured British with, is debatable. By the turn of the first decade of the twentieth century, there emerged from the Aligarh Mahommedan Anglo Oriental College, an institution founded by the Muslim elites especially Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, two brothers, Mohammed and Shaukat Ali who militantly advanced the cause of the rapidly dismantling Ottoman Caliphate. They were imprisoned in c. 1915 by the British government and their cause was taken up by Mohandas Gandhi in a big way. Thus, a pan-Islamist frenzy was whipped up across the country by a kafir ! The August 1918 Congress Session at Bombay found the Montford Constitutional reforms shallow and asked the British to adopt the Lucknow Pact as the basis for reforms. This was the time that there was widespread terrorism against British interests and symbols of power all over India. The British introduced the Rowlatt Act (also known as Black Act) in 1919 and Gandhi emerged on the scene with his new weapon of hartal against these acts. There was also the Jallianwallabagh Massacre at this time. The Khilafat Day was observed on March 19, 1920. The terms under which peace was offered to the Ottomans on May 14, 1920 angered the Muslims and Gandhiji decided that his movement of non-cooperation, that he was planning for sometime then, should be launched immediately. He returned the Kaiser-e-Hind Gold medal, the Zulu war Medal and the Boer War Medal bestowed upon him by the British for the ‘unscrupulous, immoral and unjust manner’ in which the Imperial Government had acted in the Khilafat matter. When Gandhi's non-violence did not result in the release of the Ali brothers, the Khilaftists lost faith in his approach and the ulema hijacked the movement.

Ironically, Jinnah, who was opposed to Khilafat, said that the Hindu leaders did not realize that the pan-Islamic Khilafat movement would dilute the nationalism of the Indian Muslims. Jinnah’s fears came true when in August 1921, the Moplah rebellion took place in Malabar, Kerala when innocent Hindus were massacred, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. It was widely believed that the speeches of Mohammed Ali (the younger of the Ali Brothers who were dramatically released by the British after being charged with sedition) in the South, and the prevailing atmosphere of non-cooperation movement helped their fanatical cause. Earlier the new Viceroy Reading had accused the Ali brothers of extra-territorial loyalty and encouragement to violence through their speeches at the All India Khilafat Conference at Karachi in August 1921. Reading asked Gandhiji to make the Ali brothers apologize, which he did. The Ali brothers soon fell foul of Gandhiji (and Shaukat Ali, the elder brother, called Gandhiji’s attempt at Swaraj as Hinduraj. He urged the Muslims to boycott the Dandi Salt March in circa 1929). Thus, Gandhi's association with the Khilafat movement resulted in unifying Muslims for a pan-Islamist cause and also sowed suspicions that an emerging India would be to the disadvantage of the Muslims.

The two approaches, that I noted at the beginning of this post, while differing significantly in the means adopted to achieve their common goal, had some significant overlaps too. While the goal was one of re-establishing the pre-eminence of Islam in the Indian subcontinent and restore the Muslims as rulers, it was these overlaps that led to an identity crisis that has befuddled generation after generation of Pakistanis. The overlap and hence the confusion came in several forms.

Abu Ala al Mawdudi acted as the bridge between the two streams, one of boundaryless Caliphate and the other of bounded nationalist movement of Pakistan. The pure Islamists only looked at Islam and the nationalists looked only at politics (though they used Isalm and its symbols for this end) while it was Mawdudi who married Islam and politics in the context of the Muslim narrative in the Indian subcontinent, through his Jama'at-e-Islami (JI). Mawdudi was educated in Deobandi madrasseh and hailed from a family which served, with pride, the Mughal court and after its decline, the Nizam of Hyderabad. The decline of Islamic power and more importantly, the imminent rise of the Hindu power perturbed him a great deal, just as it did the Aligarh group. The most common approach of all Islamists, whenever they perceive any threat to Muslim power, has been to call for the Believers to protect Islam which was imminently in danger. They thus equate Muslim power with Islam or in other words meaning that unless Muslims were in power Islam would be in danger in that nation-state. The solution adopted by the Islamists therefore was to always dig deeper into Islam and make the Muslim populace more fundamentalist by dinning into their ears that it was their waywardness and deviation that led them to the sorry state in the first place and they should therefore return to a purer version of Islam. Thus, the more the troubles or perceived troubles, the narrower the interpretation of Islam that was prescribed as the solution. This was magically supposed to cure all the ills and restore the slipping glory. Mawdudi was no exception either. However, he differed from the two streams in that he did not want to abdicate India and create a new nation, but, he rather wanted to stay put in India and face the Hindu majoritarianism and convert the whole of India to Islam. He derived inspiration from the way Prophet Mohammed was able to not only protect his small group of followers from the much larger Pagan, but also eventually convert the latter successfully. Thus, he was initially opposed to the Muslim League which by c. 1940 had almost proposed a separate nation. Later, when he was won over to Pakistan, Mawdudi added to the prevalent confusion in Pakistan by suggesting a 'theocratically democratic Caliphate'. It was this form of governance that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to implement in his second term (and crown himself as Amir-ul-Momineen or Leader of the Faithful) before his rule was cut short by a more ambitious army General.

Mawdudi had to face challenges in defining the particular strain of Islam he wanted Pakistan to be engulfed with. One of them was Gen. (later Field Marshal) Ayub Khan. Many Pakistani leaders had this propensity to see themselves as Ataturk of Pakistan. Jinnah himself was a great admirer of Ataturk and so was Ayub Khan. Jinnah, a non-practitioner of Islamic rites and rituals, nevertheless used Islamic and Islamist symbolism extensively both just prior to and after the creation of Pakistan. Except for that one speech of August 11, 1947 where he vaguely referred to secularism, he was not known to have done anything at all in that direction. Gen. Ayub Khan disliked the mullahs and even removed the term 'Islamic' from the name of the nation state simply referring to it as 'Republic of Pakistan'. Of course, all this lasted only a while and soon he turned to Mawdudi for support. Thus a Mawdudi, who had been condemned to death once in Pakistan, was restored to full glory to propagate his poisonous ideas. Similar to Gen. Ayub's was the approach of Gen. Musharraf, another great admirer of Ataturk. He cobbled up the most virulent Sunni Deobandi Islamist political group, the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal) that was allowed a free run in the volatile NWFP (North Western Frontier Province, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) during the crucial period of 2002-2008 that enabled the Taliban to entrench themselves there escaping from Afghanistan and demand shariah and almost marching into Islamabad by c. 2008. Thus, this fatal and alternate attraction to nationalism (as exemplified by Ataturk) and jihadi Islamism has been a source of another confusion to Pakistan. This led to great churning within Pakistan and even a determination of 'Who was indeed a Muslim', a question that two Supreme Court judges of Pakistan set forth to answer in c. 1953 after the first anti-Ahmedi riots, but which remains unanswered to this day.

This confusion has not escaped the armed forces also. As the Pakistani Army is the most visible of the three branches of the armed forces, we will see how this confusion affected the PA. Until c. 1971, the PA deceived the nation by claiming manufactured victories in wars and skirmishes with India. But, the 1971 defeat was too massive to be brushed under the carpet. The PA needed a reason that could be believed and swallowed by the masses so that it could escape the ignominy. The masses, who had hitherto had been fed on a diet of cowardly Hindu India which needed 10 soldiers to match even one Pakistani soldier, or how Islam would defeat Hinduism etc. found it hard to digest the massive defeat inflicted on an Islamic nation by a kafir army and that too within a fortnight. They were also looking forward to a credible excuse to salvage the pride. While several reasons were trotted out such as Hindu bania conspiracy, traitorous behaviour of cowardly, short, dark and rice-eating Bengalis, or even the refusal of the US to come to Pakistan's help under various treaties, the nation was convinced by the ulema that Pakistan had been punished for deviating from Islam. The reprieved PA's motto was thus changed from “Unity, Faith and Discipline(Ittehad, Yaqeen aur Tanzeem as coined by Jinnah)” to Iman-Taqwa-Jihad fi sabilillah (Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah as coined by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq). The PA was tasked additionally with 'defending the ideological border' and every Prime Minister and President since then has taken pains to reiterate this aspect to both the PA and the Nation. The PA took on board the jihadi terrorists as their 'first line of defence' and also as a tool to 'inflict a thousand cuts to bleed India to death', though the PA had used Islamists in earlier wars as well as in the genocide in East Pakistan. The idea of 'strategic depth' through a pliant Afghanistan government was also conceived and later implemented. The use of jihadi terrorism and strategic depth are now institutionalized and are deeply ingrained and immutable within the PA. Since in Pakistan, the PA 'possesses' the nation rather than the other way around, the narrative set by the PA largely becomes the narrative of the nation and therefore, the national identity became enmeshed with jihadi extremism, and hatred for the Hindu India. The nation was already frothing at the mouth corners against the Jews. After 1965, Pakistani political leaders, starting with Z.A.Bhutto, began to ascribe a villainous role to the Americans even while accepting billions of dollars of aid and a third component was added to the hatred list, the Christians.

The Army believes that they are the defenders of the “Ideological Frontiers of Islam” and they are the “Army of Islam” and so anybody fighting the Pakistani Army was indeed fighting Islam itself. An example would help. At the peak of the Taliban insurgency in May 2008, the Commandant of the Mehsud Scouts appealed to the tribal people thus: "This (Pakistan Army) is the army of Islam. This is the army of Pakistan. But there are forces, which want to divide the army and the tribal people. My soldiers recite the Quran everyday and say prayers five times a day. How can they fight for foreign forces? This Islamic army will guard Islam. How can this army go against Islam or join hands with anti-Islamic forces?"

So, today it is the triad of hatred for the Yahud, Hunud and the Nazara that propels Pakistan. Thus, the efforts of Berelvi and Afghani have finally come to fruition. That is why one says that the efforts of jihadi Islamists from before Pakistan's Independence have succeeded though Pakistan itself was created by the remnant elites of the Mughal empire.

One of the most significant confusions has been, if Pakistan was demanded as a separate nation on the basis of a borderless and seamless Islamic religious identity, then the concept of a nation-state militated against that very basis or vice-versa. The founders of Pakistan were unwilling to allow unlimited migratiion of Muslims from dar-ul-harb of India to the newly-established dar-ul-aman of Islamic Pakistan and finally actually stopped migration in c. 1951. In this, they differ significantly from the Jewish state of Israel even as the Pakistanis proudly claim that they were the only other state founded on solely religious identity. Such confusion manifested itself in every sphere of the State's activity, from Constitution-making, to economic planning to day-to-day governance to political activities etc. While Jinnah and his Muslim League were transfixed on bisecting India to get a Muslim majority nation without taking on the Imperial colonial British power, they paid scant attention to details over how such a nation would be managed. Even when they got an opportunity to govern undivided India along with the Congress in c. 1946, they were more interested in thwarting the government's proposals rather than in gaining experience in governing the nation. After the creation of Pakistan, various competing sets of Islam were thrust upon the people by political and military leaders to perpetuate their own hold on them. For example, Jinnah himself yielded space to fundamentalist Deobandi ulema which ultimately led to the passing of the Objectives Resolution under the weaker leader of Liaquat Ali Khan. Thus it was that Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah prepared the ground for fundamentalism by promising all sorts of things to Deobandi clerics, pirs and the ulema in order to create Pakistan; his successor Liaquat Ali Khan caved in meekly to Deobandi extremism; Gen. Ayub Khan tried to introduce a 'modernist Islam' along the lines of Ataturk which was defeated by Mawdudi's Jama'at-e-Islami (JI) party; Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a feudal to the core, tried to introduce 'Islamic socialism' but without any success; Gen. Zia-ul-Haq enforced a 'literalist Islam' of wahhabi variety quite successfully; Nawaz Sharif was partial to a similar approach and wanted himself to be the 'Amir-ul-Momineen' but was thrown out before he could succeed; and Gen. Musharraf feebly attempted to re-introduce Ataturk's 'modernist Islam' but quickly gave up and allowed the Deobandi and wahhabi clerics to take over the country. It is thus a complete confusion in Pakistan among traditional sufi edition, a modernist enlightened edition, an abbreviated edition of Islamic socialism and a salafi medieval edition of Islam. The fog may be clearing there now with wahhabi, deobandi and salafi versions gaining ascendancy over the Berelvi sufi version.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why does Pakistan behave like this ?

What behaviour, one may ask. That may best be explained by some of the ways Pakistan has been described in recent times, 'international migraine'(Madeline Albright), 'epicentre of terrorism' (Man Mohan Singh), 'a mortal threat'(Hillary Clinton), 'a fire inside its own house'(Pierre Lellouche, French Special Envoy for Af-Pak), "the headquarters of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership"(Gen. David Petraeus), 'main terrorist threat'(Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign Office Minister for Africa and Asia, UK), 'the biggest source of instability'(Annual Review, IISS), 'a rat hole'(Howard L Berman, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman), 'epicentre of extremism'(Senator John F Kerry, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee), 'epicenter of global terror'(Country Report on terrorism, 2009, US State Department), '[hosting] more terrorists per square mile than any place else on earth'(Bruce Riedel), 'Wal-mart of proliferation' (El Baradei) etc.

And, yet, Pakistanis are not perturbed in the least by such epithets, adjectives and descriptions. They dismiss all these with a wave of their hand, as simply motivated attempts by infidels to run down the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons. Pakistanis are more concerned by the 'image' of honour and dignity rather than by real honour and dignity which unfortunately lies in tatters. Something is etched, imprinted deep in their minds and they are resolutely unwilling to shake it off or erase that and move on with times, redefining their goals and strategies. Why should they go to such extraordinary lengths of even placing the future of their nation in great peril ? At every crisis, they end up creating a bigger crisis for themselves, for their neighbours and the world at large because they resolutely cling to their false and manufactures pre-Independence theories and myths. They simply refuse to see the writing on the wall. Why should a nation be so irresponsible to itself and the rest of humanity ?

With great perspicacity, a former Spanish ambassador to Pakistan is said to have made this statement, in the 1960s, “. . . this country [Pakistan] will drift from crisis to calamity, from calamity to catastrophe, and from catastrophe to disaster.” While I derive no schadenfraude from what is happening in Pakistan today, one cannot but admire Perico, Duke of Amalfi, for his ability to look far ahead and so early too.

Pakistan has gone through a tortuous course since its Independence and almost all of that is its own making. Military coups, economic meltdowns, superpower playground, terrorism, fundamentalism, Islamic sectarianism, wars, secession, genocide, duplicity, fraud . . . you name it and Pakistan has done it all or is continuing to do them all with no signs of any abatement, in the span of six-and-a-half decades. What ails this country and why is it unable to unshackle itself from these vicious things that immobilize Pakistan from behaving like a normal nation state ?

In the context of the 'enduring hostility' between India-Pakistan (which should be more appropriately called, 'enduring-one-way-rivalry-with-India-by-Pakistan'), Pakistan went to war with India in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971 (Western front) and 1999. In 1947, they could not achieve their goal of walking into Kashmir on October 26 to celebrate the Eid. In 1965, India went almost up to the outskirts of Lahore. In 1971, they lost more than half their nation within a fortnight and India took 93,000 PoWs (Prisoners of War). In 1999, they had to seek American intervention to extricate themselves after suffering massive casualty that even led to revolts in some places within Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). So, what did they learn from these various wars and defeats ? Nothing, would be the only answer. A revisionist Pakistan, instead of re-aligning its goals vis-a-vis the status-quo power India, decided to simply do more of the ruinous same after every calamitous outing. More money was therefore spent for the military at the direct cost of the welfare of the people of the impoverished country.

The policymakers of Pakistan realized quite early that Pakistan could not defeat India militarily and hence went in for military pacts with other powers to achieve their irredentist dreams against India. This brought Cold War to the Indian subcontinent in the 50s. The devastating 1971 defeat taught the Pakistanis to go in for nuclear weapons even if the people were 'to eat grass', and employ jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The 'secret jihad' that Pakistan has been waging against the Indian state since c. 1947, got further impetus after the US set up the Bear Trap for the Soviets in Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance in c. 1979. The mujahideen tanzeems and their tactics were transferred to the eastern front of Pakistan after c. 1989. The euphoria that followed this event made even a moderate leader like Ms. Benazir Bhutto thunder “Azadi, Azadi, Goli chalao” (Freedom, Freedom, Shoot) in a public meeting in Muzzafarabad (POK). The 1999 defeat taught Pakistan to give a lot more support to terrorism against India using non-state actors, to subvert a growing Indian economy through fake Indian curreny notes (FICN) etc. The new CEO of Pakistan Gen. Musharraf, who came via a military coup, said in Muzzafarabad on February 5, 2000 that jihad had decisively shifted from Afghanistan to Kashmir. What he meant was probably the whole of India, not Kashmir alone, because it was in his regime that too many audacious terrorist attacks were mounted on various cities of India by the ISI. After the events surrounding 9/11, the Pakistani Army and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, have even given up all pretensions to their earlier policy of 'plausible deniability' and have been openly involved in supporting the terror activities against India by the various jihadi tanzeems. Thus, the French proverb Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more it changes, the more it remains the same) fits the Pakistani situation exceedingly well.

While it will be too difficult to find a single silver bullet or even possibly several of them for such incredulous behaviour by Pakistan, one must look deep into the background to the creation of Pakistan itself to partially understand today's events.

By the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Muslims were acutely aware of the fact that they had seen better days and their glory was on the wane irrecoverably. The previous two centuries had seen the European powers like Great Britain, Russia, and France vanquish Muslim rulers in India, Central Asia and parts of North Africa respectively. By early Twentieth Century, the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating. Muslims all over the world, and especially in India, were introspecting and came to the conclusion that their misfortune was because of moving away from Islam. In India, Emperor Akbar’s accommodation of Hindu philosophy had already raised the ire of the fundamentalists. The backlash came swiftly in the form of his successor Emperor Aurangazeb who implemented a strict form of Islam and treated the Hindus as dhimmi. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, who was a religious teacher of Aurangazeb, ensured fundamentalist ideas were firmly entrenched in governance. This later led to the emergence of such hardcore fundamentalists as Sheikh Waliullah and Ahmed Berelvi who took his volunteers to Afghanistan border to fight the British and the Sikh kings, in an act reminiscent of Prophet Muhammad’s hijra from Makkah to Medinah. The Afghan borders have never been the same after this emigration by Ahmed Berelvi. While some Muslims raged at their impotence to fight the British, others plotted to regain power through an association with the British. The Indian muslims were thus divided into two groups. The First War of Independence in c. 1857 by Indian soldiers (in fact, many would say that the First War of Independence was in c. 1807 when sepoys mutineed in the Vellore Fort) under the flag of the Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar and the ruthless manner it was put down followed by his deportation to Burma where he died eventually unsung, created revulsion in the minds of Indian Muslims. Later in c. 1915, a Deobandi cleric Ubaidullah Sindhi was sent to Afghanistan to contact the Turkish and German missions there and organize an uprising against the British in India. However, the Afghan King, Habibullah Khan, the son of the founder of modern Afghanistan Abd-ur-Rehman, refused to allow any anti-British plots from the Afghan soil. In c. 1920, when the Khilafat Movement in India was at its peak, several thousand Indian Muslims wanted to emigrate from the British-ruled Dar-ul-Harb to Muslim-ruled Afghanistan of Dar-ul-Aman but this time too, the Afghan Government, led by Amir Amanuallah Khan, son of Habibullah Khan, turned them back.

The Berelvi (also known as Ahl-e-Sunnat) influence in Pakistan was widespread in 1947. Slowly, that influence was overtaken by Deobandi and later Wahhabi interests. The Deobandi influence began to wax when the Deobandi clerics overwhelmed Liaquat Ali Khan and succeeded in passing the Objectives Resolution (‘Qarardad-e-Maqasid’) in the Pakistani Constituent Assembly in c. 1949. The Wahhabi influence began to wax when the Saudi oil money began to play an important role in Pakistan consequent to the Afghan jihad.

(To be Continued . . .)

Friday, October 28, 2011

What do the recent statements by US, Afghanistan & Pakistan mean ?

Slowly, the contours of the game are becoming clearer though seemingly contradictory statements are being made by all and sundry involved in this deceptive game. In fact, it is these contradictory statements that are paradoxically helping to clear the fog.

First the recent seemingly inexplicable statement emanating from the Afghan President Hamid Karzai aired on the popular Pakistani channel, Geo TV. "God forbid, if a war breaks between Pakistan and America, we will side (with) Pakistan", he said and added "If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you." This has given rise to serious analysis among the stakeholders in Afghanistan. This statement is akin to his reference to Pakistan as a 'twin' after signing the strategic agreement with India.

In my opinion, this announcement of support must be taken with a bucketful of salt, for several reasons. Just three weeks earlier, Karzai had signed a strategic friendship agreement with Pakistan's arch-enemy India, quite annoying the Pakistani military leadership. Immediately upon returning from India, in time for the 10th Anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan and the removal of Taliban, President Karzai accused Pakistan once again saying that without Pakistan’s sanctuary and help, the Taliban terrorists would not be ‘able to move a finger’. We must remember that President Karzai had himself escaped at least four attempts of assassination by the Taliban and by their association, the PA/ISI. He has just recently lost his step brother to assassination by the Taliban. He has also lost several key supporters of his to Taliban attacks, including Prof. Rabbani. Karzai knows perfectly well that it is the Pakistani Army (PA) that sustains the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the remnants of Al Qaeda against the Afghan civilian government. He knows very well too that it is the support, guidance and instigation from the PA that makes the Taliban intransigent towards negotiations for a peaceful post-2014 Afghanistan. He knows equally well that the PA/ISI would never favour a Durrani like him to come to power in Kabul and would always support the Ghilzais like Mullah Omar, Haqqani or Hekmatyar. Ever since he assumed office as Interim President on November 27, 2001, he has been complaining bitterly to the Americans about the Pakistani perfidy. However, the Americans, in their eagerness to go after Iraq's Saddam Hussein, took their eyes off Afghanistan and even listened to their long-standing friend, Pakistan, who took advantage of the situation to play its own double game. For such a person as Hamid Karzai, therefore, to suddenly announce his support for the PA is laughable. In fact, Pakistan itself has not commented about this unexpected support from Karzai, thus proving that they are themselves not taking it seriously.

Besides, Pakistan knows that the common folk Afghans never had great love for Pakistan because of Pakistan's continuous poking in the internal affairs of that country, its attempts not to settle the border dispute (Afghanistan does not officially recognize the Durand Line which was drawn as a result of a treaty between British India and the Afghan King Abd-ur-Rehman, founder of modern Afghanistan, in c. 1893) and generally its arrogance towards an impoverished neighbour since Independence. Afgahanistan was the only country to object to the entry of Pakistan into the United Nations in September, 1947, based on the issue of Pashtunistan. In c. 1949, the Loya Jirga of Afghanistan de-recognized the British-Afghan Treaty of 1893, thereby de-recognizing the Durand Line as well. The self-anointed Field Marshal Ayub Khan arrogantly dismissed Afghanistan as inconsequential claiming that just a brigade of PA would be enough to quell that country and enter Kabul in one day, when tension mounted between these two countries after Pakistan took aggressive posture following induction of large-scale American arms, against an unfriendly Afghanistan. That the same Pakistan today praises Afghans as slayers of two superpowers, namely the former Soviet Union and the USA, is quite another matter ! Pakistan has frequently resorted to shutting its borders and trade routes with a landlocked Afghanistan, thus putting the populace to misery. One such episode led to the dismissal of Prime Minister Daoud Khan by his cousin, King Zahir Shah in the 1960s when the blockade remained for two years. As early as the 50s, there were economic blockades by Pakistan (1950, 1951 & 1955). In c. 1973, Daoud Khan once again assumed power in a coup and deposed King Zahir Shah and continued with his earlier reforms process which included such things as keeping the ulema under check, building up the army, spreading education, ensuring more rights for women, implementing land redistribution through land-ceiling act, making Afghanistan a more robust Republic etc. Disliking his reformist agenda but fearing his tough actions, Islamists like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the recently assassinated Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani (a Mawdudi follower) fled to Pakistan where they received support from Z.A. Bhutto and the ISI. Since then, it has been Pakistan's endeavour to checkmate reforms in Afghanistan, arrest their modernization and keep them backward. In the latter half of the 90s, the creation of the Taliban and the complete backing that Pakistan gave to their most repressive measures in the name of Islam just so that Pakistan could have its Strategic Depth, once again proved Pakistan's long-standing malevolent intentions vis-a-vis Afghanistan. This Pakistani approach of hegemonic overlording of Afghanistan has always been resented by the Afghans at large. Pakistan and Afghanistan came close to war several times between 1947 and 1979. However, even the Pakistan-created Taliban refused to abandon their claim for greater Pashtunistan and refused to acknowledge the Durand line as the permanent international border between the two countries. Though Pakistan has been hosting the largest Afghan refugee concentration for decades now, there is not much love lost between the Afghans and the Pakistanis. Reciprocally, there is not much love lost for the Pakhtuns within many pockets of Pakistan itself, including for their own in the recently christened Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region (formerly, NWFP).

The reasonable question to ask therefore is then why did Karzai make the surprising statement that he did indeed make ? The spokesman for Karzai has explained that away by saying that the support that Karzai referred to was humanitarian and not military support. The implication was that a grateful Afghanistan owed it to the Pakistanis in return for the decades that the Pakistanis across the border have hosted (and continue to host) Afghan refugees since the Afghan jihad, followed by the civil war and the brutal Taliban regime. It would be reasonable to expect that in case a war broke out between the US/Afghan troops and the PA following further worsening of their relationship, it would be around the Af-Pak FATA badlands and therefore the refugee population into Afghanistan would be predominantly Pashtuns whom Afghanistan anyway claim as their very own. The US would not attack Balochistan and even if it did so in order to secure an alternate land route into Southern Afghanistan, the scarce population of Balochistan and the vast lands there would not lead to an exodus. In fact, Balochis may be expected to even collude with the Americans in their common cause against the PA. Any attack on the Sind or the Punjab (both almost improbable to be attacked), would only cause refugees to stream into neighbouring India. In effect, therefore, Karzai's support to Pakistan stops at welcoming the Pashtuns and Pashtuns alone in the event of a war, something that does not surprise anyone.

For their part, the Pakistanis who have both publicly and privately received a spanking from Ms. Hillary Clinton during her visit last week to Islamabad, are clutching at straws and claiming some sort of victory that they forced Ms. Clinton to acknowledge American contacts with the Haqqanis. This may surprise the lay public but anyone who has been closely following the situation would know that contacts have been going on with the Taliban for a long time. The sticking point is that they have made little progress while the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on the NATO/ISA forces. The major supplier of foot-soldiers to the attacks is the Haqqani network and sometimes the LeT, while the planning and coordination is done by the PA through the ISI. Expecting increased pressure from the Americans after the US Presidential election in c. 2008, the ISI planned ahead. While continuing to hold off the American pressure to act against the Haqqani shura, the PA/ISI urged Haqqani to enter into a peace treaty with the Shi'a of Kurram who had been besieged for the most part of the previous three years. By December, 2010, this allowed the Haqqani warlords and soldiers to cross easily between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So much so, that today Sirajuddin Haqqani claims that they are now back in Afghanistan and no longer are present in Pakistan, a claim that Pakistan also approves of in order to escape American action within Pakistani soil or American accusations of hosting these terrorists. It also puts the onus back on the ISAF, NATO and the ANA to take action on their side of the border. However, the continued killing of Haqqani commanders in North Waziristan by the CIA drones disproves the claim.

Just after the elimination of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, UK’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mark Sedwill, informed the media that the Taliban leadership was engaged in talks with various stakeholders with the full backing of the US with the sole aim of finding a solution to the Afghan problem from within. On June 18, 2011, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted that the US had been in direct talk with the Taliban and the talks were going well. In order to facilitate these talks, the UN Security Council decided to split the Taliban from Al Qaeda within the sanctions regime. Ms. Clinton called on Pakistan to support nascent reconciliation talks with the Afghan Taliban launched several months ago by the United States and Afghanistan. The goal, she said, is “to split the Taliban from al-Qaeda,” a possibility the administration believes has become more likely with bin Laden’s demise, and Pakistan “has a responsibility to help us.” It is the continued refusal by Pakistan to help the US in bringing the Haqqanis around that is causing a breakdown in the relationship between the US and Pakistan.

On June 24, 2010, the New York Times reported that the Pakistanis were offering to mediate a power-sharing agreement with Sirajuddin Haqqani. A few days later, the Middle-Eastern Al Jazeera, which had broken many authentic news about Al Qaeda earlier, dramatically announced that Sirajuddin Haqqani, accompanied by the Pakistani COAS Gen. Kayani and the ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, had already met the Afghan President Karzai in his Kabul Palace. A few days later, the US President Barack Obama, at the G-20 meeting in Toronto in June 2010, praised the efforts of Pakistan to find a political settlement for the Afghan crisis. Refusing to directly comment on the meeting between Haqqani and Karzai, he said, “I think it’s too early to tell. I think we have to view these efforts with skepticism but also with openness”. However, in two years since then, the Americans are frustrated by the lack of any meaningful progress. Thus, Pakistan demonstrated its clout with the Haqqanis and demanded the US to leave it to the Pakistanis to forge a peace deal, something the Americans are no longer willing to countenance unlike in the 1980s. In fact, the Pakistanis have been caught red-handed, on the other hand, of helping and using the Haqqanis, a classic case of double-game that the Pakistanis are so notoriously known for. The game is quite similar to Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, DG of ISI, who egged on the Taliban when he was ostensibly sent by the Americans to ask them to surrender peacefully. Thus, the US contacts with the Haqqanis have been going on for a long time now.

And, when they help, the Pakistanis still play a game. On Oct. 10, 2010 Hamid Karzai also confirmed on a US Television channel that discussions were going on with the Taliban, an announcement that caused Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani to warn on October 12 that any direct talks with the Taliban without Pakistan would fail. A few days later, on October 14, 2010, the US Special Envoy for Af-Pak, Late Richard Holbrooke, confirmed the talks with the Taliban while Gen. Petraeus, Commander of ISAF in Afghanistan, said his troops facilitated a high-level Taliban leader to travel to Kabul to have talks with the Government. Later, it turned out that they were referring to Anwarul Haq Mujahed, a terrorist leader who is in custody in Peshawar along with the former Taliban governor of eastern Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, and his deputy governor Sedre Azam. These leaders were taken in a helicopter from Peshawar, obviously with Pakistani consent and knowledge. It is being seen as a ploy by Pakistan to create divisions among the Taliban.

But, the US continued to be frustrated by the Pakistani stubbornness in not going after the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network and its allies. In September, 2010, the US dramatically increased the frequency of its drone attacks, from a monthly average of ten strikes to twenty and killing many militants. Though it was later touted to be a pre-emptive strike to prevent a Mumbai-style urban terror attack in the UK, Germany and France, there is no denying that a frustrated US wanted to demonstrate to the Pakistanis its determination to go after the Haqqani group which Pakistan has been successfully defending. The helicopter attack on a Pakistani Army post in early October, 2010 within Pakistan by the American forces resulting in the killing of two Pakistani soldiers must also be seen in the light of frustration among the Americans on the reluctance of Pakistan to stem the flow of Taliban and their armaments especially as the ISAF was involved in securing Kandahar before their departure. The infuriated Pakistanis closed the border crossings at Torkham (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and Chaman (Balochistan) for eleven days until the Americans issued an apology for the attack. On October 15, 2010, the Pakistani Foreign Office defiantly re-stated its long standing policy, “While we understand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) concerns, any question relating to when, how and what is to be done in North Waziristan is based on judgment, keeping in mind our capacities, priorities and overall national interest. This in no way should be interpreted as lack of Pakistani resolve”. It is over one year now and Pakistan has not yet decided that the time was ripe for any action in North Waziristan ! When the US Special Envoy to Af-Pak, Richard Holbrooke, passed away most unexpectedly on December 13, 2010, the general consensus was that even he could not “get Pakistan on board to deal with Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.” That simply explains the confusion in the American approach to Pakistan. They are neither able to treat Pakistan as snake and jump over it or as garbage and step on it.

In any case, Pakistan's mischievous attempt to twist Ms. Hillary Clinton's statement of admission regarding American 'contacts' with Haqqani as something sinister or hipocritical, is exactly the way Pakistan fabricates news and spreads falsehood. The 'contacts' between the PA/ISI and the Haqqanis are not exactly the same as those between the Americans and the Haqqanis. Pakistan's references to the American support for the Haqqanis during the 1979-1989 Afghan jihad is also a clever word-play and an attempt to fool the gullible.

Pakistan has played similar games with Taliban leaders. On Feb. 11, 2010, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a brother-in-law of Mullah Omar, the head of the Quetta Shura and the second in command after Mullah Omar, was arrested by the ISI in Karachi. {Out of the eight arreasted along with him, five of the Quetta Shura members were caught in Karachi alone thus confirming earlier reports that the ISI had relocated them to Karachi a long time back. In mid-January, 2011, news also emerged that the ISI had arranged for a heart operation for Mullah Omar in a Karachi hospital} The UN Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Kai Eide also echoed the same thoughts when he said that Pakistan was well aware of the on-going contacts with Baradar and yet decided to arrest him and keep him in Pakistan to abruptly thwart the dialogue. It later emerged that Baradar was planning to attend the May 2-3, 2010 Jirga of about 1200 to 1400 people that Karzai had called of the tribal leaders to give a shape to the reconciliation process. The jirga was also expected to set the terms and conditions for reintegrating the insurgents. Karzai’s attempts revolve around the US plan of weaning away those Taliban who are not ideologically committed to the Taliban cause but are in it for money, relocating hardcore and uncompromising Taliban leaders in another country and revoke the names of some of the amenable Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist so that the Government can freely negotiate with them. Pakistan’s calculation is to ensure the failure of the jirga and stake its claim to be the ‘sole conduit’ for peace in Afghanistan. (The jirga was postponed twice and later was fixed for June 2, 2010 but finally held in July. As an outcome of this, Karzai set up the High Council for Peace and Reconciliation.) On August 22, 2010, the New York Times reported that the ISI officials admitted that Baradar and his aides were by-passing the ISI and hence were arrested. ISI was quoted as having admitted, “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.” The arrest and its location also proved the existence of the Quetta Shura, strenuously denied by the Pakistanis for years, and the fact that the Shura had relocated to Karachi, another fact also strenuously denied by the Pakistanis for quite some time.

One can easily deduce that the Pakistanis are protecting their twin primary assets, the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Shura, and are manipulating them carefully as to how they are exposed to the emerging developments, while at the same time frustrating the Americans in developing their individual contacts with the Taliban and the Haqqanis. At the same time, the PA/ISI are ensuring that attacks on the NATO/ISA Forces are continued by the Haqqanis, LeT and the Taliban so that they are kept under constant and probably escalating pressure. The Pakistani calculation is that either they frustrate the Americans into accepting Pakistani hegemony over Afghanistan or make them withdraw from the area in their larger interests after mounting losses of men and material force the Americans to sue for peace.

For their part, the Americans seem confused. They are unable or unwilling to use force against the PA because, as Gen. Kayani rightly said, Pakistan was not Iraq. Nobody today talks of the strategy of 'great awakening' that Gen. Petraeus was supposed to re-employ in Afghanistan as he successfully did in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus’ strategy was to control the 10% land area of Afghanistan from where he estimated 80% of attacks and terrorism originated. Similarly, there was a time in c. 2009 when Pres. Obama said that the Pakistani nuclear weapons were in safe hands thereby implying that the Americans knew their whereabouts. But, since then, the Pakistanis have been furiously expanding their Pu-based bombs over which the Americans may not have enough intelligence. It is another reason for the US hesitation to use any force against Pakistan. The PA may not use tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) against an advancing column of American forces into Waziristan or even nuke the Bagram base as retaliation for they know that Pakistan would be decimated in double quick time if that happens. But, they could pose other serious dirty-nuke challenge to mainland America. Besides, the Americans still depend upon Pakistan for nearly 30 ~ 40% of their supplies. Even after pilferage and disappearance of containers from the Karachi port, almost 25% of the supplies depend upon Pakistani routes. Unless the US finds an alternate route for these supplies, the US cannot squeeze Pakistan beyond a certain point.

In her latest testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Hillary Clinton termed the US strategy towards Pakistan as "fight, talk and build". This strategy is similar to the way Imperial Britain handled the Afghan tribes. The Vidura Neethi of Indian Epic, The Mahabharat, advises rulers to conquer friends and foes alike using sama, dana, bheda and danda. The PA has abundantly made it clear to the Americans about their redlines and they revolve around India, Haqqani, Quetta Shura and the LeT. Almost all aspects of these redlines are huge concern for the US. For his part, President Obama made it clear on several occasions that the Pakistanis were barking a wrong tree by considering the Indians as the most major threat and that there was no need to station so many troops on the eastern borders with India. However, the Pakistanis have not moved an inch from their position of India being the mortal enemy whose capabilities, if not intentions, threaten their very existence for which Pakistan needs to take counter measures in the form of strategic depth, terrorist non-state actors, nukes and an enduring hostility with that country. General Kayani has said that Pakistan had handed over its position on Afghanistan to the Obama administration in writing in c. 2010 and claimed “We have long-term interests in Afghanistan, others might have short … For short-term gains, we cannot lose [sight of] our long-term interests,”. The US is increasingly being left with only one answer, danda. It has two forms of danda, soft and hard. The soft danda would be such measures as military and economic aid squeeze, making loans difficult for Pakistan from international financial agencies etc. while the hard danda would be a military option. At this point, while one can virtually rule out any hard danda option, soft danda is very much on cards. For all of Gen. Kayani's bravado that Pakistan does not need the US aid, stoppage or even suspension of spare parts to American supplied F-16s, P-3Cs, helicopters, frigates, various radars, howitzers, communication sets etc would bring them to their knees immediately. The US can also force its western allies to do the same for the Agosta submarines and other hardware. Even at a diplomatic level, the US can apply enormous pressure on Pakistan.

We have to wait to see whether the US abdicates or acts decisively.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The US-Pakistan Conundrum

A conundrum is a paradoxical, insoluble or a difficult problem, a dilemma. The relationship that the US has had with Pakistan for sixty years now fits that description perfectly like a T. When the arch-enemy, the Indian Government, paradoxically said on October 20 that the US and Pakistan must heal their rift, it spoke volumes of how much that relationship has deteriorated. That also reminded one that the wheel had come a full circle since the mid 1950s. Today, there is talk of the US sending its soldiers inside Pakistan to take the fight into the den of the terrorists. Ms. Clinton has openly said in Kabul that it would happen if needed. She has backed-up her threat by amassing troops across the border in Afghanistan. In Pakistan itself, she said, "you cannot keep snakes in your backyard and expect they will only bite the neighbours". She has also demanded that Pakistan take action “not [in] months and years, but days and weeks", thus setting a deadline which has hitherto not been the case. In turn, Gen. Kayani threatens the US with nuclear weapons and warns the US that it should think ten times before making any such decision. For his part, the Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar warns the US of 'Pakistani patience with the US running out' ! Whether these are the usual Pakistani bluster to appear brave before the masses or not will be known shortly.

Leading think-tanks and strategic analysts in the US have asked their President to freeze aid to Pakistan and to recognize the fact that the obstacle to peace in the region is indeed Pakistan. The continuing and intensifying war of words between the two countries mean only one thing. A flurry of meetings in the last one year between military and political head honchos of both the countries has been unable to narrow, let alone seal, the rift. On the other hand, the rift has only widened further this year due to incidents such as Raymond Davis, Osama bin Laden, revelation of identities of CIA station chiefs in Pakistan, assassination of Rabbani, Kabul embassy attack, Wardak Chinook attack, proof of collusion between the ISI and Haqqani, tipping off the Taliban engaged in bomb-making activities after receiving intelligence from the US etc. Even a very indulgent US - indulgent towards Pakistan, that is - has been forced to take a serious note of these developments. Why should there be such a downturn in their relationship ? After all, the US military and economic aid to Pakistan since the 1950s is mind-boggling. Let us look at the quantum of this aid to realize what we are talking about.

Pakistan’s sole obsession from Aug. 14, 1947 has been India. With this in mind, Pakistan approached the US for arms support as early as October, 1947, but the Truman administration already weighed down by developments in Europe and Korea could not accede to the request. In May 1950 during the state visit by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to the US, the request was revived. In the late 40s and during the 50s, it was the expedience of preventing the scourge of communism from spreading that prompted the Baghdad Pact (later to become SEATO in c. 1954) and CENTO (signed in c. 1955)to be formulated. Pakistan was a member of both and also had a special "Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement" with the Eisenhower administration in the US in 1954. It was, inter alia, to "preserve and maintain the integrity of Pakistan" and agreed to take "appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon . . . in order to assist the Government of Pakistan at its request.". While the US was led to believe that that clause was needed with Communism knocking at the doors of Pakistan from Sinkiang (Xinjiang) in the East and a weak and troubled Afghanistan in the West, Pakistan's calculus was to use this friendship in its fight against India. The US ambassador to Pakistan, James Langley, said in c. 1957, “The present military program is a hoax, the hoax being that it is related to the Soviet threat”. As India feared, the arms were indeed used against India and there was no single occassion to use them against the Communists. Similarly, Pakistan never helped the US in its anti-Communism drive. When Gen. McArthur demanded a brigade of Pakistani troops to be deployed in Korea under the US command after the Armistice was signed there, Pakistan cleverly avoided that.

India deeply resented this arrangement and the US spurned India’s justified concerns through subterfuge and diplomatese. Gen. Ayub Khan wanted to completely equip the existing five-and-a-half Divisions of the Pakistani Army with modern US weapons and looked up to a largesse from the US for the same. He also wanted to add more strength by recruiting an additional 56000 soldiers, comprising of an additional Infantry division, a new para Brigade, and conversion of the Independent Armoured Brigade into a Division. During the period between c. 1954 and 1965, the US completely equipped the five-and-a-half divisions of Pakistani Army besides gifting it with six squadrons of fighter aircraft, twelve ships to the Pakistani Navy, modernization of Karachi and Chittagong ports, and technical support and training for the Pakistani armed forces. In the 60s, the US gifted Pakistan with the then state-of-the-art M-47/M-48 Patton tanks, F-104 Starfighters, B-57 bombers, and F-86 Sabre fighters (about a hundred and later augmented by another 70 received through West Germany over a token US objection and flown in via Iran), long-distance radars, helicopters, frigates and the submarine Ghazi. Emboldened, Pakistan immediately attacked India in c. 1965. Thirty four years later, the same Pakistani-US scenario played all over again in Kargil, when arms that were supplied to Pakistan under the garb of fighting terror on Pakistan’s western front were used against India instead.

The same US-Pakistan supply-demand scenario re-appeared after 9/11 when the US entered into a new defence relationship with Pakistan by designating that country as a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ (MNNA) in c. 2004. Under this rubric, it then supplied arms to Pakistan ostensibly to fight the Taliban/Al Qaeda terrorists who were operating out of mud houses and caves in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This was so even in circa 2008 by which time the US-Pakistan co-operation in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) steam had run out and the US was attacking inside Pakistan at will. Only this time, most of the kind of arms supplied were not usable against these terrorists. These were items like 250 Armour piercing TOW 2A Anti-tank missiles, Excalibur Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), eight Aerostat radars, six AN-TPS77 surveillance radar, 5600 military radio sets, 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, 200 AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, 36 F-16 Block 52s, mid-life upgrade to 34 existing F-16 A/Bs to C/D block 50/52, 8 P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft, mid-life upgrade to existing P-3 fleet, modernization of the Shahbaz Airbase (Jacobabad), 26 Bell 412 helicopters, 39 T-37 military trainer jets, 150 submarine/surface/air launched Harpoon Block II missiles, six Phalanx Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS) for the Navy, five refurbished SH-2I Super Seasprite maritime helicopters etc. The US is also to provide Pakistan with three additional P-3 aircraft that will be configured with the E-2C HAWKEYE airborne early warning electronics suite. Later, in c. 2009, the US complained that its P-3C and Harpoon missiles have been converted for attacking India. Since the start of Afghan operations in c. 2002, the US had supplied other arms like 115 155mm Self-propelled M109A5 howitzers, 20 AH-1 Cobra Attack helicopters, upgrades to existing older versions of AH-1 Cobras, 6 C-130Hs, transfer of 8 Perry-class guided missile Frigates upgraded with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, five fast patrol boats, 450 vehicles for Frontier Corps, hundreds of NVGs, thousands of protective vests, 12 Shadow drones, Harris high frequency communication sets, and undisclosed special weapons. In c. 2010, it gave Pakistan 18 new F-16 aircraft which the US Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffry Glenn said “would give the Pakistan Air Force greatly expanded capabilities in its fight against ‘radical elements’ in the border region.” The US also delivered 1,000 MK-82 500-pound bombs to Pakistan which were later outfitted with 700 GBU-12 and 300 GBU-10 Paveway laser-guided bomb kits built by Lockheed and Raytheon, allowing the country’s air force a better targeting of the weapons. In addition, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme had been revived after c. 2002, and significant number of officers from Pakistan Army have attended these programmes. “We must continue to reassure Pakistan that as it combats the terrorist threat, it is not exposing itself to increased risk along its eastern border,” said Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy while explaining why the United States needed to strengthen Islamabad’s conventional defence systems as well. “Although extremist attacks have led to the repositioning of substantial Pakistani forces, Pakistan’s strategic concerns about India remain pre-eminent”. The import of these statements was revealed by an exposed cable by the WikiLeaks wherein the US Ambassador in Pakistan, Ms. Anne W Patterson justified another USD 1.5 Billion to Pakistan to provide for its ‘national defense’ against the ‘threat from India’. In October 2010, the US decided to grant USD 2 Billion worth of arms to Pakistan, spread over a five year period.

The economic aid is equally mind-boggling. Even at the official level, the US-Pakistan relationship is contingent upon the massive aid that the Pakistanis have received ever since Eisenhower decided to establish a close relationship with that country. In the period between circa 1954 and 2002, the US had provided Pakistan with overt aid amounting to USD 12.6 Billion. In the period after 9/11, between circa 2002 and 2007, the US aid was over 9 Billion USD (USD 4.586 billion as reimbursement for assistance to Op Enduring Freedom (launched Oct. 7, 2001) and USD 4.422 Billion as economic and military assistance). The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (or PEACE Act, 2009 or Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act or also known as Enhanced Partnership Act 2009), assured USD 1.5 Billion of economic aid every year for five years. All these are in addition to the Direct Military Aid from the Pentagon which is on top of the equipment that Pakistan receives through normal foreign military sales (FMS) overseen by the State Department. Those sales vary year to year but generally total around $300 million annually. A special counterinsurgency fund approved by Congress earlier in c. 2009 gave the Pentagon the authorisation to speedily deliver military equipment to the Pakistan Army. In addition, Pakistan gets reimbursed annually USD 1.6 Billion for the logistical and military support it provides to the US (the Coalition Support Fund). The US also offers Pakistan annually another aid of USD 700 million to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban on its soil (the Counter Insurgency Capability Fund). It later emerged that all these funds were misused by the Government of Pakistan. Besides these two funding options, the US offers a series of other funds: Foreign Military Financing (FMF), International Military Education and Training (IMET), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, Non-proliferation Anti-Terrorism, De-mining & Related. The US uses the FMF to maintain close contacts with the Pakistani military and as a ‘foundation for bilateral security relationship’. After 26/11, the US decided to increase its FMF assistance to Pakistan to USD 400 Million a year for five more years. This was expected to demonstrate the US commitment to Pakistan and affirm its reliability as a partner. This was also expected to address, among other security needs, its “growing conventional disadvantage vis-à-vis India,” in order to secure its cooperation in the “war on terror.” ‘ Pakistan also owes the various lending organizations directly controlled by the US such as IMF, IBRD, ADB etc. over 20 Billion US Dollars. Overall, by 2006, Pakistan’s foreign debts had declined from US$ 47.8 Billion to US$ 30.3 Billion, solely due to US waivers and other interventions. Only in c. 2009, did the Americans attach stringent conditionalities on how these funds were to be spent by Pakistan. One of the conditions was to make sure that the funds were not squandered or diverted to affect the “balance of power in the region”. In any case, the total US overt aid to Pakistan in c. 2010 amounted to well over USD 4.5 Billion.The quantum of the covert aid is unknown.

Apart from military and economic aid, the political and diplomatic support given by the US to Pakistan has been phenomenal. The US took a hostile stand against India in the J&K issue in the United Nations. Later, the US extended a similar support to Pakistan's policies with respect to Afghanistan after the 1989 Geneva Accord. The US also turned a blind eye to Pakistan's overt and covert support to jihadi terrorists against India. In fact, the US even helped Pakistani terrorism against India in the Punjab when its Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) helped these terrorists. The US has also baled out Pakistan from tight spots it brought upon itself in pursuit of its truculent and obstreperous hostility with India, such as in Kargil or Op. Parakram or the 1993 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, for example. Above all these, the US allowed Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms through China and North Korea and allowed Pakistani scientists and engineers to shop for critical dual-use components all over Europe and the US, by turning a blind eye and even lying to its own Congress much against accumulated intelligence. This single act, more than anything else, has been a monumental folly of the US Administrations. Ms. Clinton's reference yesterday in Islamabad to 'snakes in the backyard', while true for Pakistan, is also therefore true for the US because the very same Pakistan that it nurtured with tactical brilliance and strategic stupidity is now threatening the US with nuclear attacks !

No other nation has given so much aid to Pakistan keeping its head bob over the swirling waters without drowning, for six decades now. Not even their extremely wealthy ummah brethren, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The 'taller-than-the-tallest mountain, sweeter-than-the-sweetest-honey and deeper-than-the-deepest-ocean all weather friend' China does not dispense with hard cash and helps Pakistan only on a project-by-project basis and when that would be beneficial to it also. And, yet, Pakistan has been singularly ungrateful to the US. It was petulant when the US decided to offer a moderate amount of military aid to India after the Chinese aggression in c. 1962. It abused the US when the US decided to cut-off military aid to Pakistan [and India too] in c. 1965 after war broke out between the two countries following Pakistani aggression. The mobs attacked the US consulates in Karachi and Lahore as a result of state orchestrated campaign against the perceived US betrayal. The US Embassy in Islamabad was burned down in November 1979 on a mere rumour of US forces occupying Makkah even as Gen. Zia-ul-Haq deliberately delayed rushing any assistance to the trapped Americans inside. He also accused the Americans themselves by saying, "according to some international radio transmissions, the Americans had inspired the attack" !

A discussion of Pakistan is utterly incomplete without talking about India because of the equation that Pakistan had unsuccessfully sought to make with its 'motherland' after the partition and the paranoia about India that the Pakistani establishment has successfully created in the minds of Pakistanis and until recently in Western minds as well. That obsession with India alone can explain the 'ungratefulness' of the whole nation of Pakistan to the US after receiving so much aid and support spread over six decades. The US, after its WW II success, has followed the 'with us or against us' policy ruthlessly. It has also always acted according to the inputs of the UK in matters pertaining to the Indian subcontinent assuming that the British knew the best about this region. A major reason for that was Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Caroe who was the Governor of NWFP and later the last foreign secretary of the British Raj. He was very hostile to the Congress government in NWFP and reportedly organized the opposition to Nehru when he visited there and ensured NWFP’s joining with Pakistan. Olaf Caroe told the Americans in the 1950s that the operations in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in WW I and in Iran in WW II were made possible from bases in Imperial India and with the independence of India he suggested replacing Imperial India with Pakistan. The British really expected India to fragment and so needed a stable country to thwart the southward expansion of communism and protect the oilfields of the Middle East. Francis Tucker, the last General Officer-Commanding of the British Indian Eastern Command, believed that the creation “of a new Muslim power supported by the science of Britain” would “place Islam between Russian Communism and Hindustan.” Hinduism was thought too weak because of its “superstition and formalism” and therefore an easy prey to a "philosophy such as Communism”. It was therefore deemed necessary by the British to place “Islam between Russian Communism and Hindustan”. They also needed a fuelling/transit point for flights to Far East. The British also had little faith that Indian leaders will accept the British hegemony after Independence whereas a Pakistan created with the goodwill of the British, will remain grateful to them. They also wanted to protect the ‘wells of power’ as Sir Olaf Caroe called the discovery of oil in the Middle East. Pakistan was touted as the most geostrategically important nation for these purposes.

Thus, the Great Game was continued by the USA which promptly co-opted a more than willing Pakistan into various defence treaties by c. 1955. India, which refused to be drawn into superpower politics and wished to remain non-aligned with either power block, was alarmed by the axis of Pakistan and the USA and sought to restore the balance by seeking and getting help from the USSR even though it neither subscribed to Communism nor it joined the Soviet-bloc of countries. India's non-alignment was characterized as 'immoral' by Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles of the Eisenhower administration. This perception continued throughout the Cold War and was accentuated by India's counter moves to court the Soviet Union to balance the deep nexus between the US and Pakistan. Also, Nehru’s attempts at forging third world solidarity and his unmasked revulsion of the United States added fuel to the American (f)ire. Nehru declared in c. 1960, “The future destiny of the world cannot be decided by two or three great powers. We stand looking at the crest of tremendous changes in the world. We are not mere onlookers there. We are actors in this drama and we propose to be actors in it in our own way”. In addition to all these factors, two more important factors helped shape the US policies in the region: cultural and religious. The Indians were characterized as 'effeminate Hindus' while the Pakistanis were thought of as belonging to 'martial race' and fiercely passionate about their religion.

One can easily see therefore that the alliance between Pakistan and the US was flawed right from the beginning because there was never a convergence of fundamental strategic interest between the two nations; it was based on a faded Imperial power's spurious visions for itself; it was transactional because the exigencies of situations demanded that and when these exigencies disappeared the US-Pakistan relationship also quickly fell apart only to be revived all over again when the next situation arose; Pakistan always wanted the US-Pakistan relationship to be directed against India as a zero-sum game which a superpower could not accede to against a large democracy and a powerful country like India.

If only the US would do two things now, Pakistan would immediately put its relationship with the US back on the rail. They are, accord primacy to Pakistan in evolving a solution to the Afghanistan issue accepting it unquestioningly, and curtail Indian involvement in Afghanistan drastically, nil if possible.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What is cooking between the US and the Pakistani Army ? - Part V

Since the last installment of this series, things have gone down even more steeply between the US and the Pakistani Army. The relationship between the two is reaching new record lows every passing day. While a recovery is still possible, it is now clear that the relationship would never reach the levels before and the damage will linger for quite a long time to come until another disaster happens that might need the US to take Pakistan's support. If the relationship does not recover within the next couple of months, Pakistan will be hit devastatingly hard by the turn of events as it still needs the US for its economic recovery and military preparedness against India. This also brings into sharp focus the acute transactional and tactical nature of the US geopolitical and geostrategic approach. It is now obvious that the strategic dividends for the US have been diminishing rapidly with this myopic approach. Both sides, the US and Pakistan, have behaved in ways that have only brought them more misery and misfortune. While the US can overcome these, though at a cost to its economy, Pakistan has simply no wherewithal to survive this catastrophe, buffetted as it already is by the spectre of floods, poor governace, continuing internal terrorism, political divisions and its over-dependence on aid especially from Western countries.

Be those as they may, let us look at what has happened on the ground within Afghanistan and Pakistan since early August of this year. It is increasingly becoming obvious that the Haqqani jihadis are swelling in numbers and are wreaking havoc throughout Afghanistan, both against the US/NATO/ISAF interests and nationalist Afghan interests. The aim of the Haqqanis is simple as far as its actions against the nationalist Afgahn interests go. Eliminate leaders who could be influential in anti-Taliban efforts and leave the opponents leaderless and rudderless. This was the tactic that they effectively implemented in the Federally administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where they killed in droves the jirga leaders. The Pakhtunwali code of the tribes, which took precedence over the Islamic Shariat, was then supplanted with the virulent Salafi, Wahhabi and Deobandi interpretation of Shariat.

The current spate of events started on Aug. 06, 2011, when a US Army Chinook crashed in the Afghanistan province of Wardak on the Af-Pak border killing 30 US service personeel including 22 Navy SEALs, from the same unit that had taken part in the Abbottabad operation (SEAL Team 6 or DEVGRU). This was the single biggest loss in an incident for the US since the start of the Afghan operations. The Washington Post reported that the Chinook was brought down by a Taliban fired RPG. For all intents and purposes, this appears to be a revenge by the ISI for the Abbottabad operation by the USN SEALs. However, the US has so far not accused the ISI of being complicit in this.

Now, it is a no-brainer that the detection of the presence of America's most wanted enemy ever, Osama bin Laden, at Abbotabad angered the Americans. It was later revealed by one of the widows of Osama bin Laden that they had been living there for at least five years and were living at Haripur before that. This strained the relationship between the US and Pakistan. No amount of injured innocence by the Pakistanis can hide the fact that Osama bin Laden could have lived in Abbottabad for five long years without the help of the top echelons of the ISI and the Pakistani Army. As is usual with Pakistan, it tried to punch far above its weight when it threatened to allow the Chinese a close inspection of the downed US Navy (USN) chopper. Visiting Pakistan on May 27 for barely half-a-day and that too only after Pakistan acceded to certain demands like returning the parts of the downed USN chopper and allowing American access to the villa and the widows of Osama bin Laden in Pakistani custody, Ms. Hillary Clinton demanded that Pakistan share intelligence on other five terrorists namely, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Ilyas Kashmiri, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Atiyah Abdur Rehman (Libyan Al Qaeda leader). Ms. Clinton called on Pakistan to support the nascent reconciliation talks with the Afghan Taliban launched several months ago by the United States and Afghanistan. The goal, she said, was “to split the Taliban from al-Qaeda,” a possibility the administration believes has become more likely to succeed now with bin Laden’s demise. She also said that Pakistan had "a responsibility to help" the US. The New York Times described the meeting as grim and tense. It had an immediate effect. Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack on June 3 near Wana in South Waziristan, possibly with inputs from the ISI. Being a 'bad Taliban', Ilyas Kashmiri could be sacrificed by Pakistan. Atiyah Abdur Rehman was killed in early August. It also highlighted the Pakistani tactic of not acting against even the 'bad Taliban' or Al Qaeda until after the push came to a shove and possibly some quid-pro-quo was extracted from the Americans.

On June 22, 2011, US President Barack Obama announced explicit plans for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan. The plan was to withdraw 10,000 troops by end-2011, 33,000 by mid-2012 and the bulk of the remaining 70,000 troops at a steady pace through 2013-14. Though a 170,000 strong Afghan National Army is being formed with equipped with Western arsenal, the ANA will be of a doubtful quality.

All these have emboldened the Taliban to attempt to wrest Kandahar once again from the control of Kabul. On July 12, 2011, Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the most powerful individuals in southern Afghanistan, was killed at Kandahar by an assassin, one of his own security bodyguards. A week later, Jan Mohammad Khan, a member of Mr. Karzai's inner circle and a former Governor of the Uruzgan province was killed. Two weeks later, on July 27, 2011, the Taliban eliminated the Mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, in a suicide bombing in which a suicide bomber detonated explosives carried under his turban. Eight weeks later, and using the same turban-suicide-bombing technique, Burhanuddin Rabbani, former President of Afghanistan and Chairman of the High Peace Council (HPC) was killed on Sep. 21, 2011. Exactly a week earlier, on Sep. 13, 2011, the Taliban laid siege to the US embassy in Kabul and the nearby ISAF Headquarters raining rockets on both for 20 hours. Two days before the assassination of Rabbani, and on the same day as the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a US base at Wardak was attacked by a suicide truck bomber that wounded 80 American soldiers. Simultaneously, there was a rocket attack on the well-fortified Bagram airbase, just north of Kabul. In April, they had killed the Police Chief of Kandahar and in May, they eliminated the Governor of Takhar province, a Tajik.

The US immediately blamed the Haqqani network and the complicity of the ISI for these two incidents. The Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's sudden cancellation of his US visit on September 16 citing flood situation was a harbinger of the subsequent events. Though Gilani cited floods as the reason, the real reason appeared to be the refusal of the US President to meet him. The latest round of the war of words started on September 18 when the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, said, “There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.” This was a very serious allegation to make about Pakistan on the Pakistani soil itself. The very next day, the US Secreatry of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton met the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar for nearly 4 hours eventhough the meeting was scheduled originally to last just 30 minutes. It was reported that the discussion started and ended with Haqqani. Simultaneously, the ISI Chief flew secretly into Washington for discussion with the CIA Chief, Gen. Petraeus. Speaking the very next day at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “The ISI has been doing this —— working for —— supporting proxies for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future”. There was naturally a great uoroar in Pakistan and the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, still in the US, said that the “US would lose Pakistan as an ally”. The COAS Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, on whom Spain had bestowed its highest military honour, 'The Grand Cross of Military Merit' only a few days earlier on September 16, termed the US accusations as “very unfortunate and not based on facts”. COAS Kayani had met Adm. Mullen for almost two hours of a one-on-one meeting in Spain after the award ceremony. One can only surmise therefore that Adm. Mullen and Gen. Kayani would have had an unsuccessful and possibly stormy meeting. Adm. Mike Mullen then told the US Senate Armed Services Committee panel on September 22, upon his return from Spain, that the “Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted a truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy. We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the 28 June attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.” There was naturally a great uproar in Pakistan and the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, said that the “US would lose Pakistan as an ally”. The COAS Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, termed the US accusations as “very unfortunate and not based on facts”. The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, said that “these wrong messages would affct the US-Pakistan bilateral ties”. However, Spokesman for Adm.Mike Mullen, Capt. John Kirby, confirmed that Mullen and Kayani had indeed spoken about Haqqani in Spain and further inflamed the Pakistanis by saying, "All I can tell you is that we are confident that the ISI continues to support and even encourages the Haqqanis to launch these attacks." He went on to give an ominous warning to the Pakistani Army by saying, "We still want to pursue a working, productive partnership with the Pakistani military, and that in large measure depends on their willingness and their ability to disconnect themselves from extremist groups like the Haqqani network".

There were reports that Prime minister Gilani had asked the Foreign Minister Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar to cut short her visit and return to Pakistan immediately, even foregoing the speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). These reports were later denied and Ms. Hina Khar continued with her sojourn in the US. Probably the new tactic was to give a tongue-lashing to the US on the US soil itself. In an interview to Al-Jazeera News channel, Ms. Khar described the Haqqani network as the "blue-eyed boy" of the CIA. She went on to say, "If we talk about links, I am sure the Central Intelligence Agency also has links with many terrorist organisations around the world, by which we mean intelligence links."

In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani called for an all-party meeting to take a united stand against the American pressure. Simultaneously, Gen. Kayani called for an extraordinary meeting of the Corps Commanders just before he was about to leave for London to address the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Royal College of Defence Studies. The meeting reiterated that Pakistani armed forces were committed to achieving enduring peace in the region. Then, inexplicably, Gen. Kayani cancelled his UK trip. However, the ISI Chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha was secretely sent to Saudi Arabia probably to explain the extraordinary situation to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud and possibly seek his intervention. President Zardari, who has been keeping an inexplicably low profile in the last few months, attended a function in the Saudi embassy in Islamabad and spoke of how the two countries had "stood together in difficult moments of history". This was the first in a series of consultations that Pakistan opened with some of its closest allies. The seriousness of the situation was not lost worldwide. At the same time, the US CENTCOM commander, Gen. James N. Mattis, landed in Islamabad in an unannounced visit. There was also a visit of Meng Jianzhu, the Chinese minister for public security to Islamabad. He met the Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne and discussed with him the 'emerging geostrategic situation'. The Pakistani Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, assured the visiting Chinese counterpart that "We will strike very hard against them [the Uyghur separatists]. Anybody who is the enemy of China is the enemy of Pakistan." This assurance for action, coming in the wake of the stubborn refusal to act against the Haqqanis, sent a strong message to everyone as to where Pakistani interests lay. The Pakistani Permanent Representative for the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, gave an interview to an Indian news channel where he said that the US was an unreliable ally and asked India to be careful in its relationship with that country as the same fate (as that of Pakistan) might befall her too if she became too close.

However, the deaths of Wali Ahmed Karzai and Burhanuddin Rabbani were clearly meant by the Taliban and Pakistan to sabotage the peace process, eliminate non-Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and reduce the involvement of those who may not toe the Pakistani line of thinking in the resolution of the Afghan crisis.

Why does Pakistan not want to attack the Haqqanis operating out of North Waziristan ? Some history is in order. Though he is a Ghilzai and a legendary mujahideen commander during the 1979-89 Afghan jihad, Jalaluddin Haqqani is not a Kandahari. The emergence of the Kandahar-based Mullah Omar shifted the power decisively there and though Jalaluddin shares the same worldview as the Taliban, he is not powerful enough within the Talibani hierarchy. He certainly is not a Taliban because he did not come from the madrassah. He should be described more accurately as a successful warlord who is on the side of AQAM. His contacts with the ISI, on the other hand, have been very deep and he comes from the Paktia province and shares affinity with the Pashtuns on either side of the Durand line. During the Afghan jihad, the ISI heavily favoured the non-Durrani groups and Yunus Khalis (of the Hezb-e-Islami) was a favourite, under whom Jalaluddin Haqqani served. None of the seven Afghan jihadi groups to which the ISI distributed money and material during the jihad days was a Durrani-led group. The Karzais (Durranis) were thus discarded by Pakistan and it is very evident from the time Hamid Karzai took over power. The Pakistani aversion to the Durranis is because of the latter's irredentism over Greater Pashtunistan encompassing NWFP within it and their close ties with India. Besides, the ISI has been a reliable supporter of the Haqqanis with funds and arms for three decades now. Certainly, the Haqqanis would abide by any ISI request. Therefore, the adamant refusal to act against the Haqqani network even as the latter continues to kill and maim US, NATO and ISAF soldiers is because Pakistan still believes in the concept of an Afghan 'Strategic Depth' to conquer India and views the Taliban and associated warlords like Haqqani as friends.

Twitter: @SSridharRaptor