Mr. Panetta: “They are both” – by Waseem Altaf

ISPR has gone into hibernation. Understandably, thekedar (contractor) Noor Mohammd, who built the house where Osama lived, was taken into custody. A corps commanders’ conference has also been summoned which would conduct an ex-post facto analysis of the US operation, the commanders would take snacks, confectionary and juices brought in from the nearby Pearl Continental, pat their bulging bellies, burp and then dismiss

While addressing 123rd PMA Long Course at Kakul, Abbotabad, on 23rd April 2011, General Kayani, the COAS informed that the backbone of terrorists had been broken. One thousand meters away in a fort-like house, master terrorist Osama Bin Laden smiled and thanked God and his “vice-regents” for protecting him at a secure refuge.

Based at geographical coordinates 34 10’ 9”North & 73 14’ 33”East, the most wanted man was 1000 meters away from Pakistan Military Academy,1100 meters from Army Medical Corps Centre,1500 meters from the Frontier Force Center and hardly 2000 meters from the Baluch Regimental Centre. The structure which housed the most wanted man on planet earth was constructed in 2005 and its main occupant was residing there for the last 6 years. However, quite intriguingly, none of the intelligence outfits ever noticed and thought about the conspicuous structure of the house and its mysterious residents, despite the fact that it was located at a sensitive place in a garrison town. However on reliable intelligence input, a covert operation to take out Osama Bin Ladin was carried out by US navy SEALS team 6 on the night of May the 2nd, 2011, with ultimate professionalism. President Obama and his National Security Team witnessed the entire operation live on a large screen in the situation room of the White House.

The US choppers took off from Jalalabad and remained within Pakistan airspace for more than 2 hours which includes the ground operation which continued for 40 minutes. By 1.45, after the successful execution of the operation, they were back in Afghanistan. While at 3.30 AM, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman JCS informed General Kayani, the COAS and Leon Panetta, Director CIA intimated General Pasha, the DG ISI, as to what had happened in their backyard. At 7 AM, President Obama informed Zardari, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces about developments which had taken place in Zardari’s own country.

The security breach was unprecedented. However, since 2nd of May 2011, the ISPR has gone into hibernation, while those primarily responsible for our defense are mum to date. Understandably, thekedar (contractor) Noor Mohammd, who built the house where Osama lived, was taken into custody and quizzed by the intelligence and then released. In addition, a corps commanders’ conference has also been summoned for the following week which would probably conduct an ex-post facto analysis of the US operation, the commanders would take snacks, confectionary and juices brought in from the nearby Pearl Continental, pat their bulging bellies, burp and then dismiss.

I recall in 1987, Mathius Rust a 19 year old boy from Germany flew a Cessna all the way from Helsinki to Moscow’s red square, eluding Soviet air defenses. 2000 heads rolled, including the Soviet Air Chief and the Defense Minister. How safe is this country and its people. Everybody is asking this question.

Almost 1600 billion is the revenue which the FBR collects in a financial year, out of which 800 billion is sliced away by the military. The defense budget is more than health, education and social sectors combined. Since 9/11, US dollars amounting to 11.5 billion have also been disbursed to our military establishment by the Americans. No audit and no parliamentary oversight were ever allowed by the khakis as to where this huge sum was spent. We would never know what happened to our hard earned money spent or perhaps wasted in the name of defense. But we do know that having eaten away billions and billions of our money how this institution has performed.

“They are involved or they are incompetent” is how Leon Panetta, the CIA Chief described our security establishment. Well Mr. Panetta, please correct yourself. “They are both”. Deeply involved when it comes to linkages with terrorist organizations and excessively incompetent when professionalism is the need of the hour.

First let us look at Panetta’s second observation on the level of competence of our security establishment:

In 1947-48 our army, with the help of tribal lashkars invaded Kashmir, and after suffering heavy casualties withdrew. In 1965 they again launched Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir without realizing that India might open up a front on the international borders, which precisely happened and they began shouting for a ceasefire. In March1971 they initiated a military action in former East Pakistan and then attacked India which ultimately resulted in the humiliating surrender of around 90,000 of our regular troops and paramilitary .In Feb, 1999, when Nawaz Sharif was meeting Vajpayee in Lahore, a dirty game was being planned in Rawalpindi to sabotage the peace process. Kargil followed, which resulted in another shameful defeat. Musharraf later begged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to secure a safe exit for the beleaguered troops on the ridges of Kargil, and some face saving, if possible. Nawaz Sharif then went to US in July 1999 and on American intervention, India gave concessions for a safe withdrawal.

I remember Z.A Bhutto brought those 90,000 POWS back home from Indian jails, whom they hanged 5 years later. Nawaz Sharif ensured their safe exit from Kargil, who was deposed and jailed after 3 months.

In 1988 more than 100 innocent civilians got killed as an ordnance depot blown up under mysterious circumstances right in the heart of Rawalpindi at Ojheri Camp, again an indicator of professional incompetence. As per tradition nobody was held accountable, rather an arguably honest and efficient Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo was sacked as he wanted to institute an inquiry commission.

This nation is totally blank on the blunders and goof-ups committed by our military during various conflicts, as all documentary evidence on the conduct of war is rendered classified. We might never have known the facts had the Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission Report not smuggled out of the country and published from India.

However, we all know the sacking of elected leaders, conspiracies to form various alliances like the PNA, the IJI and the MMA. Forming militias and instigating in fights, blackmailing of politicians, buying media persons, eavesdropping, harassment of individuals, missing persons, illegal detentions while enjoying a life full of luxury. Double pay packages,2 weekly holidays, golf clubs, polo grounds, sauna baths ,clubs and swimming pools, tennis courts, DHA’s, agri lands, own colleges and universities, banks and insurance companies, airlines and shopping arcades, illegal occupation of government land, special privileges, foreign tours, prized appointments after retirement and no accountability.

Can somebody fix responsibility as to who is accountable for what happened inside our territory on the night of 2nd May 2011 in Abbotabad?

Now let us examine Leon Panetta’s first observation on our security establishment’s involvement and linkages with terrorist organizations. In autumn 2006, a leaked report by a British Defense Ministry think tank charged, ISI for supporting terrorism, extremism and involvement in the July 2005 attacks on London’s transit system.

In June 2008, Afghan officials accused Pakistan’s intelligence service of plotting a failed assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai; shortly thereafter, they implied the ISI’s involvement in a July 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. Indian officials also blamed the ISI for the bombing of the Indian embassy. In the 1990s, the ISI helped create the Taliban and Pakistani support was decisive to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul in 1996.During the soviet invasion, our military and intelligence remained deeply involved in Afghanistan fighting a proxy war for the Americans. Today a culture of drugs, weapons and extremism is a byproduct of our involvement during that era, and for the folly of a few short-sighted yet powerful khakis, the entire nation is suffering today. After the soviet withdrawal in 1989, they shifted their focus to Indian administered Kashmir and began supporting the jihadi groups. These groups conducted terrorist activities not only in Kashmir but also inside Indian Territory. On December 13th 2001 an attack was carried out by jihadi militants on the Indian parliament. India claimed that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and Jaish-e-Mohammad two militant organizations, having links with the ISI were involved. As a consequence, an all out conflict, with the possibility of a nuclear war had become imminent between the two neighbors. Tensions deescalated after international diplomatic mediation. The stand-off cost US $1.4 billion to this poor nation.

The US has known since 2001 that Pakistan did not break its ties with the Taliban. Mullah Omar and his close associates are in Pakistan since 2001. In May 2009 in an interview U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “to a certain extent, they play both sides.” Gates and others suggest the ISI maintains links with groups like the Afghan Taliban as a “strategic hedge” to help Islamabad gain influence in Kabul, once U.S. troops exit the region. In July 2010, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, while on a trip to India accused Pakistan of exporting terror.

In October 2009, Iranian President Ahmadi Nejad accused Pakistan of having links to the bombers who carried out a suicide attack in the republic’s Sunni-majority southeast that left at least 42 people dead. In May 2004, Chinese Deputy Director of Public Security Ma Mingyue informed that some terrorists from the Chinese province of Xinjiang were hiding in Lahore and Rawalpindi. He further claimed that members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) had mixed up with the Chinese community in the two Pakistani cities. In July 2006 Indian Prime minister Mr. Manmohan Singh said that Pakistan was harboring terrorists which may jeopardize the peace process. In November 2008, these same terrorists struck Mumbai, killing 174 innocent people. Although Pakistan initially denied any linkage with Mumbai attacks but after intense pressure from the international community confessed and now even an anti-terrorist court in Pakistan has formally charged Zaki-ur-rahman Lakhvi, operations commander of Let and 6 others for their involvement.

Abu Zubaidah, al-Quaida’s No.3 was caught from Faisalabad in March 2002.Abu Faraj al-Libbi Al-Quaida’s No.2 was caught from Mardan in May 2005.And now al Quaida’s No.1, Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in Abbotabad. This is in addition to Yousaf Ramzi,Aimal Kansi,Khalid Sheikh Mohammd, the mastermind of 9/11who was caught from Rawalpindi Cantt, plus 20 top al-Quaida leaders. Two French terrorists involved in Bali Bombing were caught from Lahore on April14th 2011.The mastermind of Bali bombings, killing 202 innocent people, an Indonesian terrorist namely Umer Patek was caught from Abbotabad in January 2011. Of the four men who carried out the London suicide bombings in July 2005, killing 56, three were young British men of Pakistani origin namely Mohammd Siddique Khan,Shahzad Tanvir and Haseeb Hussain. All of them had traveled to Pakistan to receive religious and military training.

This is no coincidence that all the most wanted men from the entire world are either found in Pakistan or have links inside Pakistan.The world does not believe us any more. Nobody would buy the argument that we did not know that OBL was here, after all our top leadership has been denying Osama’s presence in Pakistan for years on. Our track record is dismal. Armed with nuclear weapons with a non transparent command and control and questionable nuclear safety systems, the world fears us.

Imagine, after the entire world found that OBL was hiding in Pakistan, with or without our knowledge, how millions of expatriate Pakistanis are being perceived by people from other communities. Isn’t the green passport taken as a trademark for extremism if not terrorism? What presently is the most prominent feature of this country; a safe haven for terrorists from all over the world. Are we as a nation not being marginalized? Isolated from the rest of the world, are we not moving against the tide of history? Do we and our coming generations have a future?

Now is the time to give it a serious thought. Our decision makers, which undoubtedly is the security establishment has to decide now whether it wants respect, as the COAS stated in his speech on yaum-e-shuhda on April 30th or disgust and wrath of the whole world. The army and ISI must understand that there is no good or bad terrorist but a terrorist. A thorough purging of the security apparatus is the need of the hour. We must de-link ourselves from all militant outfits. Huge defense spending and nuclear prowess does not ensure security of the State. Japan, Germany, Australia and Canada are all non-nuclear States. Are we as a nuclear State enjoying greater prestige in the comity of nations, as compared to these countries? Not at all! Look at Germany and France who fought two great wars but are close allies now, part of the same European Union. Look at the relations between Japan and United States which were adversaries during World War II. Does China and India not have border disputes? But realizing the spirits of the times they are not stuck in the past, rather moving ahead. Why can’t we develop good neighborly relations with all the countries in the region? In today’s world, regions develop much faster than countries on their own. Let’s focus on our economy, our human resource development, our health, education and the social sector, our exports. Let’s try to get rid of the energy crisis, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy. Let’s reform our criminal justice system. Let’s learn from the experience of our neighbors with whom we share a common history.

It is also for the political leadership, the civil society, and the youth of this nation to come forward and struggle for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan. General Kayani, in his speech dated April 30th 2011, on yaum-e-shuhda stated that “We want prosperity but not at the cost of honor.” Let me say that a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan would command respect in the world. A militarized, army dominated, security state with links to militants can neither be peaceful and prosperous nor can it ever win honor in today’s world.

At a crucial juncture in our history, when the focus of the world is on us, it is high time we set our priorities right. If we do not act now and fail, time may never provide us with another opportunity to reform ourselves.

Source: View Point



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