Published in The Nation, September 14, 2008
The search for Osama bin Laden is a hoax. The US has been in occupation of Afghanistan for seven years, and not one Allied soldier is involved in this search. Thousands of Afghans have been killed, but not one has lost his life defending Osama. NATO is here only to crush the resistance to illegitimate US occupation of Afghanistan. And Pakistan was slowly coerced to join, as an abettor in the crime.
When we talk of War on Terror, we are only concerned with the method of waging war, not the reasons for the conflict, which for Afghanistan, lie buried in close to three decades of brutal exploitation. Acts of terrorism are mere tactics. If we dispute tactics with the Afghan Taliban, how else do they fight an international US-European coalition in occupation of their homeland? It is being said that “discussion of root causes can blur the immorality of terrorism and encourage it”, and that “any group utilizing terror, regardless of their goal, makes their cause illegitimate”. Tactics are under dispute, but the cause of war is not to be debated. The only solution accepted by the West is use of brute force to terrorize the population into submitting their will. If this is ‘war’, then in war ‘suicide bombing’ is a legitimate weapon. There can be no debate on methodology of war; the Kamikaze pilots were war heroes and not criminals. Whether this is sanctioned by religion, is another matter altogether, and of no concern to the Coalition Forces. What targets are chosen – the rules are applicable to both sides, as are for collateral damage.
Pakistan was a reluctant collaborator in this war. The reason for its entry was simply state terrorism: we were terrorized into supporting this war on ‘terrorism’, which has now become “our war”, since we have no other way to justify it. The US threatened to declare us a terrorist state and “bomb Pakistan into the stone ages”. India, meanwhile, lobbied and offered to provide bases for simultaneous tackling of Pakistan and Afghanistan – “get over with both problems in one go”, was their bid. Pakistan was isolated and without confidence to defend itself. Then, we were lucky that the US decided to tackle one problem at a time. Now, the second step is unfolding, as we sit back and continue to pretend that we are fighting for our own good.
There was never a formalized considered decision by the Government of Pakistan to join the US War on Terror, as an ally. It came in bits and pieces and grew over time, starting from neutrality and non interference, and growing up to the level of our current no-holds-barred involvement. To begin with, no agreements were made and no terms of engagement finalized. Neither the end goals nor even the enemy was identified. It was decided that we would stay out of the conflict. The fact that this conflict was in our neighborhood and had roots within us somehow didn’t seem to matter. Such were the imperatives.
The first role assigned to the Army was to search out the Tribal Areas and to “empty the pond of crocodiles”. Great emphasis was laid on this by the CENTCOM. The Army engaged with the tribes in Waziristan to search out and seek eviction of foreigners – mostly Arabs and Uzbeks. Meanwhile, the US invasion unfolded from the north and swept towards our borders, with no information to us about their plans and whereabouts. Their operations halted when they closed up to Tora Bora, allowing the Taliban to fall back to these cave hideouts. Then, in one huge push, all the remnants were driven into Pakistan. All this while, we were being harassed to go house to house in search of ‘crocodiles’, and could not prevent this influx of militants from across the border. It ended in more bitterness and more distrust between the two armies.
Why the operation was not launched from the south, to sever the Taliban from their base and push them against the anvil of Northern Alliance was an enigma, since the air bases were to be located here, the supplies were to move through Pakistan and even an amphibious landing was to be staged on our shores. This could only be understood in retrospect – a built in design to push the militants into Pakistan.
Indians were the first non allied elements to arrive in Kabul, after it was secured. They were allowed ingress into all that was happening, and asked to assist the Afghans in establishing various government departments and security apparatus. Today, there is a large Indian presence in Afghanistan, with a number of consulates operating along Pakistan’s border and functioning as intelligence bases. India, the only country with which Pakistan has a history of hostility, was brought in and established behind our back, by our own coalition partner — the US.
Under US patronage, Indians are training, arming and financing Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which was declared a terrorist organization by most countries, less the US. Truck loads of arms and ammunition has been flowing into Balochistan from across the Afghan border, for a number of years. The involvement of Indians in our Tribal Areas with the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has also been known for some time. Government of Pakistan has repeatedly declared the “presence of foreign hand” in sustaining them, without having actually named India or their sponsors, the US.
When the Kashmir Jihad was at its peak, Israeli advisors, with vast experience of handling Palestinian freedom fighters, arrived in Srinagar. Our intelligence reported that on MOSSAD’s advice Indians were to raise their own ‘mujahedeen’. And soon, there were bomb blasts in market places, rape, arson and plunder by these Indian ‘mujahedeen’, and cases of throwing acid on unveiled women. All this was done, in the name of Islam, to discredit the struggle in the eyes of the population. Today, the same theme is playing in our Tribal Areas and from there into the rest of the country. Perhaps, this is only the visible tip of the iceberg. The presence of Indians on our Western border is a strategic dilemma for Pakistan, created by our so called friends. What nefarious forms of threat generate from here, today, is quite visible; what will unfold in the future is yet to come.
With no end goals or specified objectives and no visible intent to find a solution, it is now understood that the US has established a permanent presence in the region. In addition to the double envelopment of both Iran and Pakistan, it has placed itself at the strategic cross roads – once enviously sought after by the Soviets. They would not only contest Russian and Chinese influence in the region, but also retain the ability to magnify trouble in Chinese Muslim territories, thereby sowing seeds of conflict between China and the Muslim World – a strategy in waiting. And of course, one cannot overlook the disarmament of Pakistan, in connivance with its accomplice India.
Current US strategy for the war on terror, adopted by Pakistan, has produced devastating results for the country. It has increased extremism, violence and terrorism in Pakistan and the government has lost credibility since it is playing the US game in the region. Besides the focus on use of military instrument, other steps like education, economic development and measures adopted under the ‘visionary enlightened moderation’ are long term and cannot influence the current situation. Our strategic alignment with the US war in Afghanistan has no support within the country, other than in elite drawing rooms. US meddling in our internal affairs has further disillusioned the people from the government. Frontier Province is almost out of hand, Balochistan is simmering to explode, and Karachi has been taken hostage by Altaf Hussain and Baitullah Massud, who are jointly prompting a great massacre. Is a ‘foreign hand’ goading them on? Or do we simply explain it by saying that we are in habit of externalizing our problems?
By deliberately spreading extremism and terrorism in Pakistan and through intense exhortations on the media, we are trying to rally the people behind ‘War on Terror’. Given the social, political and economic milieu, as well as the state of governance in Pakistan, the government’s support for this war cannot last very long. It is time to drop the pretentions.
The Bush administration’s new policy of denying sanctuary in Pakistan to Taliban, not constrained by concerns regarding Pakistan’s stability, is already unfolding and showing the strains it is causing on our polity. Entry of US troops in Pakistan is an attack on our national sovereignty, or whatever is left of it. The consequences could be horrendous, both for Pakistan and the US. Militants would multiply by the thousands. Pakistan Army would not be able to support US operations, or else its command structure would collapse. Financial crisis and street unrest would create chaos in the country. Extremists would be pushed deeper into Pakistan and war will spread, making the US far more vulnerable. Pakistan would be destabilized, presenting the US with the final challenge, or perhaps the opportunity, to tackle Pakistan and attempt to denuclearize it by having our nuclear arsenal declared dangerous under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and ordered to be placed under safe custody of the IAEA. When the Army is fully committed on internal security duties, will the Indian Army be, then, deployed on our borders to complete the scenario for dismembering the country? One wonders if an implosion is being engineered.
There is no war on terror going on in the region. US presence is creating more hatred and more ‘terrorists’. There is no solution to be found on this road. The solution lies only in search for peace, but that has been forbidden by the US.
‘War on Terror’ has come to mean defeating and destroying the concept of political Islam as an ideology. The more the Muslims are cornered, the more political will Islam become. You cannot kill this idea with guns. Religions cannot be destroyed through force, not even brute force.
There is no search for Osama going on here. Osama will be found only when the US has created another greater threat to be presented to the world. Then Osama will not be needed any more, as an alibi. Then, a new drama of terror will unfold.