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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Myths Propagated by Pakistan to Maintain an Enduring Conflict with India - Part I

Pakistan has been historically ruled by multiple power centres. Even when Jinnah was alive, he handed over the task of grabbing the state of Jammu and Kashmir to a group of Muslim Leaguers and pretended to be unaware of what was happening so as to maintain a semblance of ‘plausible deniability’. See my earlier blog piece, The Fraudulent Theory of 'Non-State Actors' - Part II, for more details. This virus of ‘plausible deniability’ then plagued Pakistan permanently. The acts of terrorism in J&K since 1947, the war of 1965 and then Kargil, the hundreds of terrorist attacks in India since 1989, the support for the Khalistani separatists in the Indian Punjab in early and mid 1980s, the support for separatism in J&K, the support for economic sabotage of India etc. have all carried this hallmark of ‘plausible deniability’. In recent years though, the ISI has seemingly decided to be careless about ‘plausible deniability’ because now everybody knows how terrorism and ISI are joined at the hips. Once somebody begins to engage in sexual commerce, otherwise known as prostitution, it may no longer be needed to hide that fact and in fact, publicizing that fact could help attract customers and hence money and even power. However crude it may sound, Pakistan has been precisely in that stage for many years now and hence more charitably, equally devastatingly nevertheless, described as a ‘rentier state’ even by its admirers. In any case, there are five power centres in Pakistan today, namely, the military (mostly the Pakistani Army), the political class, the bureaucracy, the elite (especially the 44 powerful families, the zamindars, pirs, vaderas, sardars and the Khans) and the ulema.

These five pillars of Pakistan have varying tasks, varying stakes and varying spheres of influence in shaping the trajectory of Pakistan, with the Pakistani Army (PA) having the ultimate power to overrule any of the other four. The PA generally co-opts the ulema so that it does not have to get into a confrontational mode with them. This has been also a legacy since the days of Gen. Ayub Khan, who though abhorrent of the ways and means of the ulema had to ultimately seek their help in running the government, facing the war of 1965 and winning the Presidential election against a spirited and powerful Ms. Fatima Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam’s sister. All these led to Islamists gaining credibility and traction not only with the Government but also with the armed forces.

When one listens to or reads the various discourses enunciated by political and military leaders, strategic analysts, diplomats, newspaper editors, and fiery speeches by the chiefs of terrorist organizations and the ulema, one can discern the following reasons for the continuation of this seemingly enduring conflict. Let us discuss each one of these perceptions.

In my opinion, the first and foremost is the Pakistani perception that 'India never reconciled itself to the creation of Pakistan and is awaiting a chance to undo the Partition, re-absorb the lost territories and form an Akhand Bharat (Greater India)’ This then leads to an impression that India creates problems for Pakistan by building a huge conventional armed forces, by building nuclear weapons, by resorting to coercive diplomacy, by various attempts to weaken Pakistan and by being hegemonic with respect to Pakistan. The 1971 secession of East Pakistan is cited always as an attempt by India to cut Pakistan down to size. In recent years, Pakistan has added its fears of India using the Indus waters to make Pakistan a desert by impounding waters. This is viewed as another tactic by the treacherous and cunning Hindus to weaken the state and cause disharmony among the four Pakistani provinces as the quantum of water decreases. Pakistan calls Indian military and its doctrines such as the Cold Start as Pakistan-centric.

In Pakistani minds, the above have become axiomatic and hence escape an objective scrutiny. Let us see therefore how far these fears are true. Let us consider the issue of ‘Akhand Bharat’. Though such a concept of ‘Akhand Bharat’ was spoken of by a few sporadically, especially the right-wing Hindu groups, it never gained currency in India. In fact, it is usually a practice among the so-called centrists and the leftists of Indian intelligentsia to accuse these Hindu right-wing leaders of demanding the creation of Pakistan in the first place because of their animosity towards the Muslims ! The closest that these right-wing Hindus came to power was when the BJP came to power in 1998 . Even then, it was a coalition government of various hues and colours though the BJP was the most dominant among them. For five decades after the Indian independence, the supposedly more secular and centrist Indian National Congress (INC) ruled the country almost with an iron grip. Of course many Indian leaders during the nascent and intoxicating days of independence, felt that Pakistan may not be able to survive as an entity for too long. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru said so. He wrote, "I doubt very much if it (Pakistan) can survive at all. Financially it will be completely bankrupt. Kashmir's future is of the utmost intimate personal significance. On no account do I want Kashmir to become a kind of colony of foreign interests. I fear Pakistan is likely to become that if it survives at all."

Moreover, there was no clear idea, at the time of Partition, of the future relationship between these two newly created countries. People had relatives and assets across the borders, including the founder of Pakistan and the Governor General, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The noted Pakistani columnist and commentator, Khaled Ahmed, says that “Jinnah never thought that India and Pakistan would be hostile neighbours. The fact that three institutions in India - including the Aligarh Muslim University - were named beneficiaries in Jinnah's will clearly goes against the state-sponsored version of his life.” Pakistani litteretaeurs of great fame like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Saadat Hasan Manto or Mohammad Saeed have captured the confusion of division and the ambiguity thereon. One of the prominent Muslim League politicians of that time, Ghulam Hussain was not only completely against Pakistan but also said that Jinnah himself was not completely convinced about that. Individual families also were confused to such an extent that some in the family migrated to Pakistan while others remained in India. For example, later day Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain decided to stay in India while his brother moved over to Pakistan and ended up as a federal minister later on. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary in the early 60s was M.Ikramullah who was the brother of the then Chief Justice (later Vice President) of India, Justice M.Hidayatullah. Such examples, not only among elite sections of the Muslim society but also among ordinary folks, are plenty. It is because of this division of families that we have today such a great demand for visas for travelling to each other’s country.

Opinions and assessments expressed, therefore, during this time of great confusion could not be taken as deterministic foreign policies of a nation. No doubt, some leaders, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, thought that the partition was only temporary and Pakistan would be re-united with India. In c. 1960, Prime Minister Nehru recalling those days said, “We were tired men, and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again—and if we had stood out for a united India as we wished it, prison obviously awaited us. We saw the fires burning in the Punjab and heard of the killings. The plan of Partition offered a way out and we took it. We expected that Partition would be temporary, that Pakistan was bound to come back to us.”

It was natural for most Indians who were born and raised in a united India and who would have never imagined a partition, to have held such a view in c. 1947. One can be sure that in Pakistan too there were people holding on to similar thoughts. The Hindu, wrote in its editorial dated August 15, 1947, thus: “We have achieved freedom; But at what cost! A country and a people that by every test are a unity have been arbitrarily divided. And the wound will take long to heal; for, as Mr. Nehru has sadly remarked, "division has taken place in the hearts of the people of India". But it is idle to brood over what has happened and foolish to get angry and cast about for scapegoats. Many think that there is bound to be a reunion when there has been time enough for people to reflect coolly on the disastrous consequences of this unnatural partition. That is as it may be. But those who are perpetually harping on it, whether from genuine distress or in a fractious spirit, will not be hastening that consummation.”

However, Pakistani leaders mischievously propagated the idea that India was actively working to destabilize their nation and re-absorb it. In the history of Pakistan, one can see clearly the Pakistani State propagating such alarming assessments about India frequently or whenever attention of the people needed to be diverted away from pressing domestic issues. For example, India’s supposed ‘stealing’ of waters from the Indus system of rivers or India’s conspiracy to dismember Pakistan through the separation of East Pakistan. In the early years after Partition, the various disastrous events within Pakistan itself lent credence to the Indian assessment that Pakistan may not survive as an independent entity for long. The paranoia about India in the minds of the Pakistanis was a deliberate creation of the State of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal and Mohammed Ali Jinnah along with his Muslim League leaders were able to create a sense of paranoia about Hindu domination and Muslim subjugation before Independence thus paving the way for a violent separation. In the final stages of this policy, extraordinary violence was employed to achieve their goal. Similar policies of paranoia and aggression were thus carried forward into the newly created state of Pakistan. The well known Pakistani historian, Ms. Ayesha Jalal speaks of Pakistan as ‘Paranoidistan’ caught in a mindset ‘heavily influenced by fear of India’ and consequently ‘conspiracy theories’. These conspiracy theories have been used to justify atrocities within their own country by claiming, for example, that attacks on Shia’s or suicide bombing in mosques, could have been carried out only by kafir Indians because no Muslim would kill another Muslim.

Precisely to allay such imaginary fears and put them to rest forever, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Minar-e- Pakistan, and the Mausoleum of Allama Iqbal in c. 1999 (February 20-21, 1999). By visiting the Minar-e-Pakistan, considered a symbol of Pakistani identity, Prime Minister Vajpayee implicitly assured Pakistanis that India considered Pakistan as a separate state. In June, 2005, the BJP President Lal Krishna Advani visited Jinnah’s Mausoleum in Karachi and declared Pakistan as an ‘unalterable reality of history’.

(To be Continued . . .)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Why Osama bin Laden's Presence in Pakistan does not Surprise - Part II

Let me digress briefly from the OBL narrative to see how Pakistan is reacting to the stunning 'Op. Geronimo'.

Osama bin Laden's assassination at Abbottabad while Pakistan, its Army (PA) and its powerful Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) slept peacefully on the night between May 1 & 2, has predictably created a huge furore in that country, steeped as it is in Honour, Dignity and nowadays in selective Sovereignty too. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani 'warned' the US against public opinion in his country turning against the US and he not being able to do anything about that. The National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution recommending revisiting the country’s military cooperation with the US. It also asked the Government of Pakistan (GoP) to stop NATO supplies from passing through Pakistani territory into Afghanistan if drone attacks did not stop. The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the mouthpiece of the Pakistani armed forces, said, quoting Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, that "any similar action in future violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence co-operation with the United States". The Pakistani Air Force(PAF) Chief said that the PAF could shoot down American drones.

Such assertion of selective sovereignty appeared out-of-place for Pakistan. I say selective sovereignty because that country thinks nothing of giving away hundreds of square Kilometres of sovereign Pakistani land to the princes of various Arab emirates and Kingdoms for hunting down the endangered species of houbara bustards for enhancing the virility of these gentlemen, if one may indeed call them so. Pakistan does not think anything of asking People's Republic of China to represent her in negotiating with India after 26/11. It does not think anything at all about inviting Chinese troops into the lands that it has forcibly occupied from India. It does not want to dismantle the Caliphate that the Haqqani and anti-GoP Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) elemets have established and been successfully running since c. 2002 in Waziristan. It thinks next to nothing about its inability to control, contain and prosecute the scores of terrorist organizations operating openly from its soil putting not only India and the immediate region but the whole world in grave danger. What about the secret authorization from Gen. Musharraf allowing the CIA to operate Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles (UACVs) from the Shamsi airbase that regularly violate the sovereignty while the PA and the GoP hypocritically condemn these attacks ? Even the PAF chief has recently admitted that the Shamsi airbase was no longer under Pakistan sovereignty as it belonged to the Emir of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who had in turn handed it over to the US now ! 'Foreign Hands' are freely trading in Pakistani sovereign land and there is not even a murmur !! And yet, Pakistan raises a hue and cry when its most allied ally from Eisenhower's days, the USA, takes out the most wanted and most sanctioned 'world terrorist' from his villa near Islamabad after Pakistan had allowed that terrorist to abuse its sovereignty with impunity for almost a six years, if not more. What a perversion !

The ISI Chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, while presenting the PA/ISI case before the members of the Pakistani National Assembly (PNA), suddenly put on a pretense of being subservient to people's power of the Parliament and offered to resign, if newspaper reports are to be believed. He is also reported to have admitted to 'failure', though it is not clear which failure he spoke about. Was it the failure to detect the clandestine visit by the USN SEALs ? Or, was it the failure not to have known about the presence of the world's most wanted terrorist happily living in their midst with his wives, children and baggage for at least six years ? Or, more importantly, was he implying a failure on the part of the ISI not to have given more fail-proof protection to Osama bin Laden that eventually led to a loss of Honour & Dignity (H&D) ? What was in your mind, Lt. Gen. Pasha ? However, we may never know what happened in that briefing because the session was held in-camera. In Pakistan, everything is 'in-camra', whether it is a briefing by the ISI or the PA to the Parliamentarians, or the 26/11 case proceedings in the court etc. because the State is afraid that otherwise uncomfortable truths would come tumbling out jeopardizing the very integrity of the nation which is founded only on fraud, perfidy and mendacity. That is how much deeply the State, the Army and the ISI are involved in one murky activity after another for the past six decades. It is no wonder therefore that many Pakistanis are themselves referring to their country as 'Deep State'.

Lt. Gen. Pasha also did an encore like the Prime Minister of his country, Yousuf Raza Gilani who said in Paris that the failure of Pakistan was indeed the failure of the whole world. No less, mind you. But, he took all the credit (not sharing it with the rest of the world unlike the blame) for arresting so many Al Qaeda terrorists and handing them over to the US, since c. 2002. Along the same lines as his Prime Minister, Lt. Gen. Pasha also blamed others like "the provincial government, local police and related agencies" for their failure to obtain information about Osama bin Laden. Like PM Gilani, as well as his immediate boss Gen. Kayani, he also claimed credit that the "ISI had in fact rendered al Qaeda paralysed and broken its back".

Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha immediately went back to the theory of how criticizing the PA and the ISI would be against 'national interests' as though the national interests revolved only around the PA/ISI. Thus, one does not know whether the PML-N's Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nissar Ali Khan's warning that the Army and the ISI Chiefs should remember thet they were "answerable to parliament instead of presuming that parliament was answerable to them" had any effect. By all appearances, it did not because the briefing was a monologue by the ISI and sang the same tune that they knew the best about security than anybody else and were beyond questioning. Lt. Gen. Pasha also warned of the attempts by 'foreign hands' at sowing discord between the people and the armed forces. This attitude is reinforced by the fact that the Government of Pakistan (GoP) could not even order a public enquiry, by being made to accede only to an internal inquiry by the PA's Adjutant General against its own failure ! It was only PML-N's forceful demand that lead to the inclusion in the 12-point unanimous recommendation by the National Assemly to constitute a Commission. One can easily conclude what will come out of the Adjutant General's enquiry in the backdrop of other enquiries like Liaquat Ali Khan's assassination, Zia-ul-Haq's death, Hamoodur Rehman report on the 1971 seccession, Kargil debacle, Ms. Benazir Bhuto's assassination etc. In any case, at the end of the presentation by Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha and the subsequent discussion among the Parliamentarians, the elected representatives unanimously expressed their full confidence in the armed forces and the intelligence agencies.

That's it. Evereything has now been explained away to the nation through the people's representatives, the existence of democracy in Pakistan has been resoundingly proven once again, no 'guilt' sticks to the armed forces or the intelligence services who anyway simply follow civilian government's orders, the Yahud-Hanud-Nasara (Jew-Hindu-Christian) conspiracy is exposed and everybody is back to 'business as usual'. 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 to a 'T'.

What we can be sure of, though, is that Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha's personality will become known after some time as it has happened in the case of almost every Director General (DG), ISI for sometime now. The list of such ISI Chiefs with gross 'personality flaws' is long, for example, Hamid Gul, Javid Nasser, Assad Durrani, Ziauddin Butt, Mehmood Ahmed, Kayani et al. We should not be surprised to learn later that he was indeed a fundamentalist sharing the jihadi mentality with a thin and fake veneer of a liberal especially when interacting with the Western friends and allies. It is axiomatic that one cannot become the DG of ISI without such 'personality flaw'.

So, the Pakistani Army's sudden pretense about its love for oversight by the Parliament is reminiscent of what happened after a series of defeats by the TTP in c. 2007. Again, the PA took refuge under the protection of people's power through the instrument of National Assembly and Gen. Kayani gave another similar in-camera briefing to the Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) about why the TTP came menacingly close to the capital, Islamabad. The whole world was alarmed at the stunning successes of the beards as they threatened a nuclear power. It is very obvious that when inconvenient situations develop, the PA finds the virtues of parliamentary democracy. In the present case too, it appears that Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha 'offered' to resign if Parliament so wished (Should it not be the preogative of the Prime Minister ? Why does he involve the National Assembly in this ?).

On earlier occassions too, the PA had resorted to a similar tactics of suddenly developing a love for democracy and people's power. As recently as c. 2007, the PA decided to retrieve its lost image and installed a democratic government, decided to remain unobtrusive and conduct only back-seat driving. In c. 1972, after the massive defeat, it decided similarly to install the most popular civilian leader in the saddle until the situation recovered sufficiently when it decided to usurp the rule once again.

Anyway, back to our narrative on why Osama bin Laden's presence in a Pakistani garrison town, along with his wives and chidren, does not come as a surprise. Reacting to the crescendo of anger and shame against the ruling dispensation, the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik said: “It was the PML-N that received Rs 130 million from Osama to contest elections against Benazir Bhutto. It was the PML-N that brought Osama to Pakistan from Sudan. It was the PML-N that sent Osama on a C-130 from Peshawar to Afghanistan.” Thus, he let the cat out of the bag. Need one say anything more ? In Pakistan such revelations are common practice because the whole State and its apparatus are so steeply involved in lying, in being cunning and terrorizing India and increasingly the rest of the World too, that it is diffiult to contain the truth from tumbling out sometime or another. One needs to be a little patient, that's all.

It comes as no surprise therefore when 'The 9/11 Commission Report', while referring to the discussion about various options for an operation against Osama bin Laden, repeatedly alludes to the fear expressed by the Army Generals and the CIA about the PA and the ISI being 'in bed' with Osama.

In early 2007, a Pakistani agent, Syed Akbar was captured by the Afghan Intelligence (under their famous intelligence chief Amarullah Saleh, a Tajik, the Afghan intelligence notched quite a few impressive successes) who confessed to having escorted Osama bin Laden, under ISI instructions, from Nuristan through Kunar into Chitral and handed him over to an ISI officer in October, 2005. He said that Osama bin Laden was staying in the house of a commander of Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami when the ISI decided to move him into Pakistan.

(To be continued . . .)

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Why Osama bin Laden's Presence in Pakistan does not Surprise - Part I

The world's most sought-after terrorist mastermind has been finally eliminated early morning on May 2 at Abbottabad, Pakistan. It should come as absolutely no surprise to even those who only cursorily follow events in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden was finally found safely ensconced, along with his family, in a Pakistani military town. For those who are still unconvinced, we will presently see the reasons as to why this is no surprise.

But, predictably, Pakistan is deliberately trying to weave a story, give a spin, obfuscate, confuse and generally muddy the affair. Gen. Kayani, whose previous assignement was to head the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) has claimed that it would be 'unjust to cricize Pakistan for not locating Osama and his cohorts'. The Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellencey Wajid Shams-ul Hasan claimed that the Pakistani armed forces were involved in the operation even as the Pakistani President Zardari admitted that it was a completetely US operation while CIA Chief, Leon Panetta said that Pakistan was not informed "because of fears that the details would leak and the mission could be compromised". The Pakistani Foreign Office hit out at the 'unauthorized and unilateral' US operation and rejected the theory that the US helicopters flew from the Ghazi Airbase at Tarbela. Prime Minister Gilani conveniently dismissed the 'hiding-in-plainsight theory' as "the failure of intelligence in the world, not just in Pakistan but in the United States as well". A senior military official briefing pressmen said, "We had been looking for him in no-go areas, unaware that he was living so close to an installation of ours. Yes, it is an intelligence failure". However, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, appearing in a BBC interview said that Pakistan played a vital role in the elimination of Osama bin Laden by sharing intelligence, contradicting his own Foreign Office's assertion a few hours earlier. A senior ISI official was quoted by BBC admitting to embarrassment owing to intelligence failure. All these are contradictory statements emanating from the very high offices of what constitute the Pakistani Government. Don't they show dysfunctionality or obfuscation or both ? There seems to be different answers to different audience from different people of the Government of Pakistan completely befuddling the whole world.

The Americans, for their part, have also got to answer many questions. Each passing day, new revelations add twist to 'Operation Geronimo'. The US Administration takes increasingly defensive tone on certain aspects of the operation as new pieces of information come to light. Even if one does not subscribe to the different conspiracy theories, there are many glaring gaps in what the US seems to be carefully releasing in installments about the entire operation.

The dust will take quite some time to settle down for a clearer picture to emerge. However, one thing is quite obvious even for those diehard apologists of Pakistan and that is that Osama bin Laden was simply a state guest of Pakistan at Abbottabad for a considerable period of time.

John Brennan, Assistant to the US President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said that "it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time". That 'support system' was nothing but the ISI. The ties between the ISI of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden go a long way back.

Apart from Osama bin Laden's involvement in the Afghan jihad due to his personal conviction, he was also a representative of the Saudi monarchy overseeing the recruitment, funding and generally acting as their eyes and ears. As a member of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen), he naturally reposed faith in and closely interacted with Jama'at-e-Islami (JI) of Pakistan. It was not until early 1986 that Osama bin Laden permanently moved into the upmarket Hyatabad suburb of Peshawar in North Western Pakistan. By end of that year, he was collaborating closely with the ISI in building fortifications and underground structures at Tora Bora, an effort in which his Saudi Bin Laden company was completely involved. Later in April 1987, the Jaji battles erupted and this was the time Osama bin Laden and his mentor from his Jeddah days, Abdullah Azzam, began to drift apart over Osama's preferential treatment of the Arab fighters. Al Qaeda al Askariya (The Military Base) itself was born in Peshawar in August, 1988 though it remained dormant subsequently for a long time. Soon, other differences led to a break in Osama's relationships with Abdullah Azzam and by extension the Muslim Brotherhood, along with some other Egyptians. Osama and Azzam also favoured different Afghan mujahideen factions too, with the former supporting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami (an ISI favourite) and the latter supporting 'The Lion of Panjshir' Ahmed Shah Masoud (an ISI enemy). Soon enough, Abdullah Azzam was branded as a takfir (an apostate) and was finally eliminated on November 24, 1989 in a car bomb explosion in Peshawar.

Soon, Osama returned to KSA but became a dissident Islamist when King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz invited the Americans to defend the borders of the Kingdom against a rampaging Saddam Hussain and also evict him from occupied Kuwait. Osama bin Laden was one of those dissidents who saw anachronism in the King inviting infidel Crusader troops setting foot in the Holy land trying to defend the Sons and Daughters of Prophet Mohammed. To cut a long story short, the bin Laden family was eventually forced to disown Osama, he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship and was exiled to the Sudan where Osama had already developed some interests with the Islamist rular Hasan-al-Turabi. The dormant Al Qaeda of Peshawar was revived in Khartoum.

From Khartoum, Osama orchstrated bomb attacks on Saudi Arabia, targetting the Americans. The first was the bomb attack on the National Guard training centre in capital Riyadh that killed five Americans. In an effort to get rid of the 'Terrorist State' tag that the US had slapped on the Sudan, that country was now prepared to tackle Osama bin Laden. It was thus, Osama was made to flee Khartoum and land in Afghanistan, the only country that was willing to take him. It is inconceivable that Mullah Omar took this decision unilaterally without consulting the ISI whose officers were stationed at Kandahar advising the ragtag Taliban who were not well-versed with the nuances of international relationship or geopolitical or geostrategic implications of their actions. Let us remember that Sultan Amir Tarar (more popularly known as Col. Imam) was the Pakistani Consul in Herat and earlier Mazar-i-Sharif. Ever since Mullah Omar was asked by the ISI to release the truck convoy led by Col. Imam that had been held hostage by a warlord and which finally led to the seizure of Kandahar itself by the Taliban, the two of them had developed excellent and close relationship. Thus it was in May, 1996 that Osama bin Laden arrived in Jalalabad. Within a month, there was a huge truck bomb attack on American servicemen living in Khobar Towers complex at Al Khobar on the East Coast of KSA where a huge airforce base is located at nearby Dhahran. It killed 19 Americans and injured over 400 persons. Osama's hand had also been suspected in the Mogadishu killing of 18 American soldiers who were part of the UN Peacekeeping team in October, 1993.

Later, in October 1996, Mullah Omar invited Osama bin Laden to Kandahar. It was in August 1998 that Osama bin Laden bombed the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. In retaliation, President Clinton authorized cruise missile attacks on Osama's hideout in Afghanistan on August 20. But, Osama bin Laden escaped just in time. The '9/11 Commission Report', the official US report of the events leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks, says the following, "Since the missiles headed for Afghanistan had had to cross Pakistan, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was sent to meet with Pakistan’s army chief of staff to assure him the missiles were not coming from India. Officials in Washington speculated that one or another Pakistani official might have sent a warning to the Taliban or Bin Ladin."

Osama did not restrict himself to Afghanistan, but interfered in the internal affairs of Pakistan through the ISI. A former director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan, Malik Mumtaz, has charged Osama with funding the ISI to destabilize Ms. Benazir Bhutto's government in what is usually referred to as 'Operation Midnight Jackal'. He pointed to a conspiracy by COAS Aslam Beg, former ISI chief General (r) Asad Durrani, Brigadier (r) Imtiaz and Major (r) Amir. Gen. Aslam Beg, the Army Chief, decided to dislodge the Prime Minister, Ms. Benazir Bhutto, because he felt that the government’s policies did not synchronize with the objectives of the military. This was later reinforced by the then former Intelligence Bureau (IB)chief, Brig (Retd.) Imtiaz who admitted in a TV interview on August 27, 2009 that Gen. Aslam Beg launched Op. Midnight Jackal because he did not like the Afghan policies of Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Ms. Benazir Bhutto too has referred to Gen. Aslam Beg's dislike of her Afghan policies in her memoirs. For his part, the wahhabi Osama bin Laden could not countenance a woman leading an Islamic country such as Pakistan. Apart from funding the ISI, Osama bin Laden also funded political parties in Pakistan. A former ISI official, Sq. Ldr. Khalid Khwaja (recently assasinated by the Taliban) has said that he personally arranged several meetings between Osama and Pakistan Muslim League's (PML) Chief (now, PML-N) Nawaz Sharif where the latter demanded money from Osama. Khwaja also claimed that he acted as a courier carrying money from Osama bin Laden to Nawaz Sharif. JI Chief, Qazi Hussein Ahmed, later corroborated the story saying that Nawaz Sharif met Osama bin Laden several times and got money from him to topple Ms. Bhutto's government. Ms. Bhutto also revealed in her memoirs that during her tenure (1988-1990), some Arab militant leaders and Pakistani Generals had planned to start a war against the US in association with Osama bin Laden but she vetoed it. The reference to Generals could not have been to anybody other than Gen. Aslam Beg, COAS and Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, ISI Chief. So, one can conclude easily that the contacts between the ISI and Osama were deep and long.

Osama maintained close cooperation with the royalty of the UAE even much later when he had been driven away from the Sudan due to pressure from the USA and the Saudi monarchy after he was stripped of the Saudi citizenship. He arranged the houbara bustard hunting trips for the UAE royalty in the deserts of Balochistan and adjoining Afghan areas. Under this garb, he received arms, vehicles, communication equipment etc. while he exported heroin on behalf of the narcotics gang of Afghanistan and Pakistan using the planes of the royalty.

The ISI did everything to strengthen Osama's hands within Pakistan. The context here should be understood. The Pakistan-US relationship, never rollicking to start with, came under much strain in the decade of the 90s, leading to the usual criticism of how the US always treated them as a condom. This is normal in a transaction-based relationship as it always existed between these two countries. But, by claiming so, Pakistan tries to hide its major contribution to such a situation. After the US withdrawal from the Afghan theatre with the successful conclusion of the Geneva Accord, the US woke up to two of the three horrors it had created in Pakistan. The first was the total support to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, the second was the the question of drug proliferation and the third was the jihadi terrorism. Thus, suddenly the US imposed sanctions on Pakistan invoking the Pressler Amendment of 1985 leading to bitterness among Pakistanis. With the drying up of huge funds after c. 1989, the Pakistani Army tied up with its proteģe Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other warlords to grow opium, refine heroin and smuggle it from Helmand through Balochistan and Iran to Turkey and beyond. It was therefore no wonder when the ISI refused to help the US in recollecting the Stinger man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) which it loaned to the mujahideen in c. 1986 from them , who were now using them to protect the heroin convoys against attacks. The ISI was using its NLC (National Logistics Cell), created to transport arms and ammunition to the mujahideen during the Afghan jihad, to transport the heroin out of Afghanistan and Pakistan thus defeating the US efforts to curb the drug menace and that too after receiving millions of dollars for opium poppy eradication. A 1993 CIA report came to the conclusion that Pakistan itself was a narco-state. Thus, in c. 1993, Pakistan came close to being branded as a narco-terrorist-state.

In an interview to The Washington Post on September 12, 1994, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that the then COAS Gen. Aslam Beg and ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani had suggested using drugs to support covert ISI operations. Nawaz Sharif said, "Both Beg and Durrani insisted that Pakistan's name would not be cited at any place because the whole operation would be carried out by trustworthy third parties". Durrani then went on to list "a series of covert military operations in desperate need of money," recalled Nawaz Sharif. Such reckless behaviour by Pakistan's top Army officers is quite possible when we recall what the same Gen. Aslam Beg told Nawaz Sharif in the presence of an Iranian military official that Pakistan must sell nuclear weapons technology to Iran for USD 12 Billion. Ms. Benazir Bhutto has recalled how she was promised Srinagar if only she authorized the Kargil plan. A similar promise was given to Mohammed Ali Jinnah way back in 1947 of being able to be in Srinagar for the Eid on October 26. One can therefore easily deduce how Osama and the ISI would have collaborated on the narcotics trade.

After the military coup of October 12, 1999, Pakistan became even more isolated in the world. The country was expelled from the Commonwealth. The US-Pakistan relationship had already nosedived after the betrayal by Pakistan in the issue of the cruise missile attacks against Osama bin Laden for the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. More embarrassing to Pakistan was that those who were killed in the cruise missile attack turned out to be Pakistanis belonging to Fazlur Rehman Khalil's Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Fazlur Rehman Khalil is currently under the protection of the ISI and was even used by the Government in negotiating a truce with the Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid during the 2007 incidents.

The US used the military coup against a democratically elected Nawaz Sharif government as a ruse to pile up pressure on Pakistan. By this time, Pakistan was the only country to support the Taliban effectively as Saudi Arabia, and at its instigation the UAE, had become cold to them following the refuge given to Osama bin Laden in Kandahar. In the IC-814 hijacking episode, the US came close to branding Pakistan as a 'State Sponsor of Terrorism'. It was therefore only with great difficulty and a lot of humiliation that Gen. Musharraf could make Pres. Clinton visit Pakistan for five hours while he stayed in arch-rival India for five days in March 2000. The US was issuing periodical warnings to the Pakistanis about its support to the Taliban, but Gen. Musharraf and his Corps Commanders, blinded by their hatred for India and therefore not willing to lose the 'strategic depth' of Afghanistan remained immune. It was in this context that in order to retaliate against enormous US pressure, the ISI sponsored the Deobandi conference in Peshawar in April 2001 where support was pledged to the Taliban. The Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania madrassah in Peshawar organized a meeting which was attended, among others, by Gen. Hamid Gul, former Director General (DG) of ISI and Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, former COAS, wherein a declaration was made to defend Osama bin Laden and attack the Western countries as a sacred duty of Muslims. Just to balance its support for various factions, the ISI allowed the LeT to hold similar rally in Lahore a couple of weeks later.

(To Be Continued . . . )