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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is Punishing Pakistan a Solution ? - Part II

So, is there a case to be made out for the US to force Pakistan shun its wayward ways, renounce its implicit faith in violent jihad, give up on the export of terrorism across the borders into India and Afghanistan and increasingly worldwide {See the Terror Map here} , make it disband the terrorist tanzeems and their training camps, smash the nexus between the armed forces and Islamist and jihadi groups, rein-in the Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies so that Pakistan becomes a more normal nation-state, make it stop indoctrinating and preaching hatred in mainstream and madrasseh schools, and allow a natural and representative regime to take control in Afghanistan ?

Yes, there is, because everything else has failed and Pakistan is about to become even more dangerous than what it already is.

The reason is quite simple and is unfolding right in front of our very eyes. That is the danger of rising jihadi Islamism and its collusion with more traditional-looking political forces which are rising in Pakistan with the blessings and support of the armed forces. Surely, there has been support by these groups for traditional political parties even earlier. Neither the politicians nor the military can function in Pakistan without being seen in the company of these extreme right-wing Islamist groups. History is testimony to that. But, this time the situation is far more dangerous and critical. These groups never before came so close to implementing the extremist agenda and objectives of their ideology, as they are now. The 'Objectives Resolution' was adopted in the Pakistani Parliament in c. 1949, which indelibly stamped Pakistan as an Islamist country. The society and the armed forces were radicalized by Z.A.Bhutto and then Gen. Zia-ul-Haq in the 70s and the 80s. What Pakistan is about to witness is the next step in this evolutionary process, the seizure of power by an extremist sect of Islam dominated by Deobandi and Salafi groups through a proxy, Tehrik-e-Insaf, with the acquiescence of the Pakistani Army (PA). The internal situation of Pakistan has never before been so fraught, fragile and dysfunctional. The hopelessness among the people has never been so palpable, a situation that jihadi Islamists exploit so well. Among all these doom and gloom, there is one sense of achievement that has begun to appear for the Pakistanis, the thought of the impending defeat of the US at the hands of the Believers (just as they did to the Soviets in c. 1989) and the likely installation of the Taliban back in power in Kabul and Kandahar. That exalts the position of the jihadi Islamists within the Pakistani society. It is this sense of victory that will play a significant role in the drama that is about to unfold in the next few months in Pakistan. And, that will also be the victory for the more pious in the ongoing Third and the Fourth Jihads there over the kafir and the less pious respectively. {See this post to understand these jihads}

After the c. 2007 seizure of the Swat valley by the Taliban, when the rampaging Taliban came within 100 Kms of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the US decided to act in Pakistan. It decided to bring back democracy (or at least a semblance of it), install a more pliant Benazir Bhuto and forced a reluctant and unwilling Musharraf to accept this change. However, Musharraf and his civilian cohorts, who were increasingly under siege due to economic and other mismanagement (especially the judiciary), tried to threaten Ms. Bhutto so that she would opt out of competition. But, when Nawaz Sharif too surprisingly returned to Pakistan, Gen. Musharraf used all the means available to him to re-exile him. Thereafter, the only option left to the ruling clique was to eliminate her in the hope that the resulting political chaos and vacuum would enable them to retain their hold, especially as Nawaz Sharif's threat had been suitably averted. As the domestic situation and the international monitoring of the polls did not allow the usual large-scale manipulation of the results, the ruling clique had to lose power. The Pakistani Army (PA), which always disliked the Bhutto clan, had one more reason to feel intensely peeved at the turn of events, especially when Asif Ali Zardari took over the Presidency. Some of Zardari's pronouncements and actions soon thereafter, such as agreeing to send the ISI Chief to India immediately after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, unilaterally announcing a 'No First Use (NFU)' policy for nuclear weapons, his assessment of India not being an external threat as is usually made out or his attempt to bring the high-flying ISI under civilian control etc. were naturally disliked by the PA. He should have been even looked at suspiciously since the PA had always held a view that his wife, the late Ms. Benazir Bhutto, was an Indian agent. The PA tried everything possible to dislodge Zardari but he has been one-up on the PA and has tenaciously stuck to his post through clever political manouevering. Naturally, the PA is unhappy with the US for this situation. The fall-out between the US and the PA over the years, but ever so sharply in the last two years, has added to the grievances of the latter. The US has been rather openly blunt in matters such as Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill, the Raymond Davis incident, the Syed Saleem Shehzad assassination, the hiding of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, the Salala raid on a Pakistani post in the Mohmand Agency of FATA, to name a few. Therefore, in Pakistan today, the 'Establishment' also has become openly anti-US and is propping up a closet Islamist, Imran Khan, against the two traditional rivals PPP and PML-N.

The jihadi-Islamist alliance of 'Diffa-e-Pakistan Council' (DPC) has all the anti-American-Indian-Israel entities as major components. The political party of the Prime-Minister-in-waiting, Imran Khan, supports their strident call by participating in their country-wide meetings. These meetings have been attracting large crowds and speakers trot out fiery denunciations of the US and India. The US efforts to bring in Ms. Benazir Bhutto and later backing the combination of Zardari and Gilani, seem to have led to a consolidation of Islamist jihadi forces. The people at large have been also against the incumbent government because of the economic miseries. The US efforts to make the civilian government rein-in the PA and the ISI have not succeeded either though Zardari and Gilani did make serious efforts at that, something no other government, with the possible exception of Z.A. Bhutto's, has attempted before. The Memogate is a revenge of the PA against the civilian government and the American efforts. The PA is therefore angry with the US Administration and is increasingly turning to China to protect itself.

However, the annual budget of the US for c. 2013 includes a massive USD 2.2 Billion aid for the Pakistani military. In an approximately 4 Trillion USD budget, USD 2.2 Billion may appear utterly insignificant. But, it spells a significant danger for India. The US State Department offers the same old stale and patently false argument that such an aid will "provide a bulwark against extremism and support joint security and counter-terrorism efforts". This 'bulwark' theory was first propounded against Communism and was proved completely wrong as far back as c. 1962.

I quote from a document exchanged by Thomas Hughes, the then Director of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State, with the then Director of Central Intelligence Agency, W.F. Raborn, on 21 July 1965, which has been recently declassified and is available in the National Security Archives of the US. ". . . We have bi- lateral security arrangements with Pakistan, as well as shared membership in SEATO and CENTO. Imperfect as any alliance system may be,there are certain minimum standards of behavior that we expect from any ally. We feel that Pakistan has fallen short of these standards in a number of respects, especially since 1962; even before that time, the Pakistanis attempted to divert the alliances to its regional quarrel with India and have encouraged other members to do likewise. Although In 1960 Pakistan had declared itself willing to send troops into Laos in support of SEATO commitments there, in November 1962 Ayub, speaking before a secret session of the National Assembly, asserted that Pakistan had no military commitment to SEATO. He added, and has repeatedly reaffirmed, that he sees India as a greater threat than international Communism. Such an attitude is clearly not in accord with the purposes of SEATO. . . In March 1963, and again in March 1965, the Pakistanis apparently offered their assistance to Peking In developing diplomatic ties between Communist China and.Turkey, Aside from countering our general objective of keeping Peking isolated diplomatically, the Pakistani action was particularly repugnant in ‘that it used ties established through CENTO'. . . . As Pakistan has loosened its ties with the U.S., SEATO and CENTO, it has increasingly come to look to Communist China for reinsurance against India. This has been a self-reinforcing process. Although Pakistan had never been a strong critic of China, the increase In Sino-Pakistani ties has come at a time when the confrontation between the U.S. and Communist China has been reaching critical proportions. Parallel to the decline in relationships with the U S . , the rapprochement with China can best be dated from the time of the Chinese attack on India, as we have noted, Pakistan refused to give any comfort to India at the time of the Chinese attack. Indeed, it has exploited India’s discomfiture for its own purposes and gone further by actually condoning Chinese behavior."

As far back as c. 1957, there were warning signals and the US Ambassador to Pakistan, James Langley described the US arming of Pakistan as follows: "The present military program is a hoax, the hoax being that it is related to the Soviet threat". In June, 1968, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Arshad Hussain, announced in the National Assembly that Pakistan had decided to pull out of both CENTO and SEATO and was 'no longer taking any active part in the military activities of these pacts'. It only found 'economic and cultural aspects of the pact as of some benefit'. Therefore, the 'bulwark' theory, then as well as now, is a big hoax. Pakistan neither was a bulwark against communism nor against jihadi Islamism. If anything, it has helped immensely with the flourishing of both of them. The arms supplied for fighting the communists were used by Pakistan only against India and Afghanistan. They were also used against Pakistan's own citizens in East Pakistan, Balochistan and FATA. A recent hearing in the US Senate on the Balochistan situation brings out the stark truth of PA's atrocities there. So, why is the US continuing with its fake 'bulwark' theory ? They may have their own reasons for that. However, the miscalculation being made by the US is that they do not recognize the fact that the PA has become insignificant in the emerging Pakistani situation. It will no longer have the power and pelf to influence the course of events for two reasons. One, the jihadi-Islamists will be able to move on their own steam henceforth and two the PA itself will subserve the jihadi-Islamists. The US efforts to 'buy' the PA will, in all likelihood, fail.

It is an irony that history has come a full circle and that too so soon. It was precisley to protect the arc from North Africa to India from being swamped by communism and to protect the 'wells of power' that the fading British Empire designed the Middle East Defence Organization (MEDO or the 'northern tier defence' as it was initially known and later to become 'Baghdad Pact') which the Americans took over, expanded the scope and called it Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Now, that lies in shambles. Country after country in this arc has fallen for Islamists. Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Yemen have all gone to the Islamists. With the fringes gone, the core such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or the UAE, the last bastion of the US, are nervous and are simmering. The US may not lose out to the Communists to retain influence in these areas, but to the Islamists who equally abhor the Americans. The pinnacle for the Islamists would however be the nuclear-Pakistan.

While the Islamic neighbourhood of Pakistan has become Islamist, the situation within Pakistan itself is teetering towards that. Unlike in c. 1988 when a similar Islamist alliance IJI (Islami-Jamhoori-Ittehad) was formed by the ISI, this time, the alliance wants to usher in its Islamist policies through its proxy, Imran Khan. Last time, it was merely to fight the PPP and the alliance was formed by Lt. Gen.Hamid Gul who has also spearheaded the formation of DPC now. There is a close similarity between what happened in Egypt after the overthrowing of Hosni Mubarak and what is unfolding in Pakistan now. In Egypt, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and the even more extremist salafi party Al Nour have gained more than two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament. In Pakistan, the jihadi-Islamists may not be elected in such large numbers to the National Assembly for various reasons, but their stranglehold on governance would be similar (to that in Egypt) nevertheless after the upcoming elections. Like in Pakistan, the Egyptian government is run by the military commanders (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or SCAF) and the military has enjoyed governance ever since King Farouk was dislodged by the Free Officers in collusion with the Muslim Brotherhood in July, 1952. Since then, the Egyptian military has also been running an economic empire just like the 'mil-bus' of the Pakistani armed forces and its officers have enjoyed 'entitlements' similar to the officers of the Pakistani military (though may not be on such a large and lavish scale as their counterparts in Pakistan). The difference between Pakistan and Egypt might be that unlike the Egyptian Army, the PA is already overloaded with officers and ranks of Islamic extremism, swears by 'Jihad fi Sabilillah' (which is not the motto of the army of any other Islamic nation) and considers itself as the 'guardians of the ideological frontiers of Islam'. It was the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt that collaborated with Maulana Abu Ala al Mawdudi of JI in the formative years of Pakistan. {See this post, for details} A nuclear-weaponised Pakistan would have finally slipped into the hands of the jihadi Islamists if back-door usurping of power happens in Pakistan after the next elections.

What are the implications of the developing situation in Pakistan ? This development puts not only India but also the region and the world itself in grave danger. The explosive combination of national power coupled with the possession of nuclear weapons and missiles is what the jihadi Islamists have been gunning for at least since Operation Enduring Freedom began in right earnest in the fag end of c. 2001. They will have it achieved within the next couple of years if the unfolding trajectory of events continues unchecked in Pakistan. Then, Afghanistan would be a true strategic depth for the jihadists, not for the PA. In the recent DPC rally at Karachi, the Emir of Jama'at-e-Islami (JI), the organization closest to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, made a startling claim that the jihadi Islamists who constituted the DPC were the defenders of the 'territorial integrity' of Pakistan as well the 'ideological frontiers of Islam', roles hitherto claimed by the PA and upheld as well by these Islamists. It would not be too far fetched, therefore, to imagine the PA turning into an accessory, an accomplice and a tool in the hands of the jihadis. That would be a natural reversal of roles between the PA and the jihadists. The Islamist arc from the west in North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) to its eastern pivot in Pakistan would then consolidate and coalesce and the friends of the US in its middle such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Emirates would be simply blown away. The US will lose access to oil and gas in this region and will have to relocate its military assets elsewhere. Israel would be considerably weakened, and threatened too, in the immediate absence of US military in the Middle East. Iran would be at a considerable risk from the overwhelming Sunni extremist nations that will surround it. The world economic order, already under considerable stress in the last few years, would be irreperably damaged if the Islamists assume power in the Islamist Arc. One can easily imagine the tremendous pressure on India if Pakistan goes the Islamist way and its energy security is considerably threatened due to events in West Asia and Iran. Besides, India could even come under a nuclear attack from Pakistan. The Chinese should be under no illusion of any immunity from these Islamist forces as well. Its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Islamist Jama'at-e-Islami (JI) a couple of years back would be not even worth the paper on which it was written. There is a very real possibility that the province of Xinjiang will become East Turkestan.

The US has to atone for its colossal misconduct of the past by seeing the real danger that is emanating from Pakistan and has to brace itself for taking some tough actions. Its strategic interests will come a cropper if there is no clean break from its past (and even present) and a new policy is pursued with determination and a purpose. That policy must hold Pakistan accountable for its actions and demand course correction for good, including bringing people and organizations to justice for acts of terrorism. The US has several levers available to it. It can choose to give up its policy of appeasing the Pakistani armed forces, delay aid or even cut aid by strictly following provisions of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman act rather than the Secretary of State simply giving a good conduct certificate mechanically every year, pressurize Pakistan through multilateral financial agencies by denying loans or placing stringent conditions for loan disbursal including demanding good behaviour (just not asking Pakistan to control fiscal deficits by asking it to raise tax collection or electricity tariff etc.), denying or delaying delivery of spare parts for the arms Pakistan has obtained from the US, indict Pakistan severely for its gross human-rights violation against minorities, Balochis etc., reveal damning details of the involvement of the PA in terrorist activities against India and Afghanistan etc. These are some of the first steps that the US can take to show its determination to the 'Establishment' in Pakistan that the US meant business. If it results in no changes to Pakistan's behaviour, which is most likely to happen, it must launch into a more aggressive next phase in consultation with important stakeholders in Pakistan namely India, China, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the UK. These have to be discussed separately.

The inescapable conclusion then is that the 'soft' approach towards Pakistan had long back failed miserably and a fresh tougher approach is needed. The US has to lead this tough approach since it has been the main backer and financier of the Pakistani military and the jihadis that has brought Pakistan and the region to the brink. The US must not get diverted by Iran at this stage. It must not once again be like the US taking its eyes off the Af-Pak region and concentrating on a non-existent threat in Iraq that brough doom to itself and also let Af-Pak off the hook. The situation in Af-Pak is moving to extreme danger and the US has to decisively act now. This is a tough and long-drawn out process but there is no longer any easy way out.


  1. Thank you very much for these amazing articles -- if you weren't aware, the current public forum debate topic is the following: "The United States should suspend all military assistance to Pakistan." My partner and I are searching for a reasonable con argument, and we are hoping to take the approach that suspension is not definite enough to solve the problems we are experiencing. I hope I do not misquote you; I will admit that I read this article with the intention of finding evidence that we are totally done with Pakistan.

  2. I do not know what you mean by 'suspension [of all US military assistance] is not definite enough to solve the problems'. If it means that the US must continue with its military assistance, I have only one question, "What has the US achieved with Pakistan since the 50s after pouring a hundred Billion dollars into that country". The US might have got a Badabar to spy on the USSR, or Pakistani assistance in Operation Cyclone, or help in normalizing relationship with PRC to take on the USSR, or in laying a Bear Trap to take revenge on the USSR etc. Some of them might have been significant from a US PoV but all these have been nothing other than a Faustian Bargain with Pakistan. The world is far more dangerous today because of the US support for Pakistan in three areas: in Pakistan acquiring the nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms, in encouraging Pakistani jihadi terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism without thinking about the consequences, and encouraging the Pakistani Army and the ISI, especially, in its nefarious activities in the region and within Pakistan itself. The biggest impact of the myopic US policies have been on poor India which has been under constant threat from a belligerent and revisionist Pakistan since the 60s, if not earlier. The threat to India has been conventional, unconventional, and asymmetric. The US itself has suffered enormously from Pakistan. Pakistan's double-dealing with the US is acknowledged without reservation by almost all Congressmen, intelligence agencies, Generals, Secreatries of State and several Presidents. The people of Afghanistan have suffered immeasurably because of the interference of Pakistan since the 50s. Afghanistan is almost a lost cause today with little chance of becoming a normal nation-state, all because of Pakistan.

    I think evidence against supporting Pakistan lies in front of all of us, strewn like pearls.