Pakistan’s future: Of misleading reports and false prophets (Part II) – by Rusty Walker

Considering General Kayani’s keen interest in Afghanistan, perhaps he will seek inspiration at the Grave of Muhammad Zahir al-Din Babur, Kabul. (Illustration by Rusty Walker)

My illustration is merely a depiction of the absurdity of the Pakistan military inserting itself into Afghan affairs at this crucial point of NATO draw-down of forces. I mean no disrespect to General Ashfaq Kayani. In fact, our own Admiral Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is said to be close to the Pakistani army’s chief of staff, Gen Kayani. Further, Admiral Mullen, is thought to have made more visits to Pakistanin the last few years than any other senior US official or chief of staff. Recent controversies have not led to a break in US/Pak relations, yet.

To clarify my position: I respect the Pakistan  military, as does the U.S. government, but I see General Kayani and associates as misguided in old strategies that need updating – these military men are not evil, they need (elected) civilian government control. Governments should conduct diplomacy and make policy- military should then follow government directives on policy. The JI Report encourages  the opposite. The point of the art is related to narratives in the Jinnah Institute Report that would have “actionable” efforts presumably by the Pak military into Aghan affairs, commensurate with terrorist organizations being accommodated in theAfghanistangovernment. We’re pulling out, is the Pakistani military moving in?

The most recent events in Kabul reach into Pakistan, once again: Former CIA director, Panetta, and Admiral Mike Mullen, “suspect” that militants from the “Taliban-allied insurgent factions Haqqani network were behind the September 13, 2011 rocket attack targeting NATO’s headquarters and the US embassy in Kabul,” killing at least six persons. Admiral Mullen has thus accused the ISI, of supporting the Haqqani militant group saying in a Senate panel, “The Haqqani network … acts as a veritable arm ofPakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.” In July Admiral Mullen, who steps down this month as chairman of the JCS, accused Pakistan’s government of sanctioning the killing of investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad. Pakistan called that statement “irresponsible.” The Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani retort: “We strongly reject assertions of complicity with the Haqqanis or of proxy war. It will only benefit the enemies of peace. Only terrorists and militants will gain from any fissures and divisions.Pakistan’s credentials and sacrifices in the counter terrorism campaign are impeccable and unquestionable.” It appears that theU.S.government is either gaining real insight or willing to finally make such knowledge public.

The Jinnah Institute (JI) report continually asserts thatPakistanmust accommodate these very terrorist organizations mentioned in Panetta and Mullen’s recent controversial remarks. The elite in the JI report wants to, and I quote, “to convince the Taliban of the validity of a power-sharing agreement.” The report further cites, “Despite President Obama’s pronouncements …Pakistani policy elite are not convinced thatU.S.policy adequately distinguishes between Al Qaida and Afghan Taliban factions like the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar’s ‘Quetta Shura.’”  The majority of participants believed that theU.S.’s strategy was still “conflating the two groups, and warned against making this mistake.

Participants made clear that the “Pakistani state considers the Afghan Taliban political actors and part of a major ethnic group;” silencing the Taliban-led insurgency through military force was considered to be impossible. In fact, “many participants saw excessive use of force as generating greater sympathy for the Taliban.”

This fallacious dialectic has been a common excuse offered to American officials. The ruse goes as follows: Any “excessive” attempts at impeding the terrorists only serves to enrage them- or, create sympathy- or, increase their numbers; if Pakistan military surged into Waziristan, then it only increased opposition; To be facetious, are they suggesting a moderate show of force, or no force at all? should we then expect them to leave the radical Madrassas alone, and thus, expect radicals to put down the suicide vests and become productive members of civic society?

No. The military and ISI have their own agenda in FATA and across the Durand Line, in its efforts to control Afghanistan and deep state policies with regards to India.

I am aware as I write this, possibly my last post for LUBP, that it will not be popular, but: the drone campaign has been rather successful. Since 2009 the CIA has insisted that launching the Predator strikes should only be for high-value targets with the least danger of collateral damage. Due toU.S.military and CIA restraint, and its astounding technological advancement in surveillance, civilian casualties have been lower than with any other mode of attacking terrorist combatants. Indeed, if the military ofPakistanwere to be raiding these areas, there would be no need of American drones intoWaziristan.

Aligned with the Pakistan-as-victimmentality, that the JI Report favors, there is a fallacious argument in the opposition to the drone attacks and that such attacks lead to greater radicalization. ISI-propped politicians like Imran Khan argue that there was no extremism in Pakistan before 9/11 and no suicide attacks before 2004.  Sadly, it

seems that some naïve reports from the political left in theUnited Stateshave bought his lies as evidenced by how CNN treated his propaganda with general assent. One only has to remember his interview with Elliot Spitzer immediately after the murder of Governor Taseer by a fanatic where Imran Khan repeats these lies with his usual feigning of sincerity while he carries the message of the establishment cloaked in progressive language.

To further put things in perspective, drones have claimed the lives roughly 2000 people that include several foreign Salafi mercenaries, senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and their militias. The tragic civilian casualties, whose percentage has been steadily declining due to extensive efforts on the part of the US, have never been blamed on the Taliban and Al Qaeda who use them as human shields. Instead these tragic civilian deaths are used by Taliban sympathetic commentators like Imran Khan to foment and increase anti-US sentiments in Pakistan and any responsibility of the death of these civilians is never placed on those who allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to take over FATA and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and hold its population as hostages.

More than 35,000 Pakistanis including thousands of Shia Muslims and Ahmadi (who are also Muslims, despite the laws to the contrary) have been killed by the Taliban and its local partners like SSP, LeJ and JM.  However, dubious politicians like Imran Khan will never highlight this or address the contradiction as to why the death of these 35,000 Pakistanis does not lead to an increase in extremism but the deaths of the very purveyors of extremist ideology leads to greater extremism!

In reading the report one is struck that Pakistan routinely mentions Mullah Omar’s ‘Quetta Shura’ of Afghan Taliban and yet officials have long denied their existence there. The Haqqani’s are responsible for attacks on NATO troops in north easternAfghanistan. It is also common knowledge in the region that Quetta Shura-al Qaeda has joined forces

(into a militant combine). According to CIA records, it was Afghan Taliban militants, working under the guidance of the Quetta Shura, with ISI support, that shot down a Chinook Transport Helicopter, August 6, 2011, killing 30 US troops, including 22 Navy SEAL’s from the elite Team 6 – the unit that took out OBL in the Abbottabad raid, included in the dead at the hands of the Quetta Shura are six Afghan National Army commandos, and one civilian interpreter.

The Pakistan security establishment has also used the militant combine’s lethal skills in attacks against Indian interests from 2003 – 2010. It is clear that the Pakistan establishment believes that its relations with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai still requires ‘strategic depth’ as a protected strategy. Commensurate with this report, Islamabad has supported Taliban formations in Afghanistan, including the Quetta Shura, the results of which will ensure its control of Afghan policy upon US withdrawal; Strategic Depth in action.

It is important to note that beyond the ambitious plan of the JI report for the role of Quetta Shura, the terror remains inPakistan’s Balochistan. The Army remains reluctant to take on the Quetta Shura/al Qaeda elements in Quetta, even as Pakistan’s Security Forces are involved in ‘kill and dump’ policy against Baloch nationalist rebels; its own form of state-based terrorism. See: “Quiet Genocide of Hazara,” LUBP story, by Maisam Ali [ ] The harboring ofQuettaShura/al Qaeda linked terrorists have made it easier for the rampant sectarian component to violence, largely ignored by the establishment. The Pakistan request for theUSto vacate the Shamsi Air Base in the Kharan District, NW Balochistan, and is directly related to its use to launch Drone operations against these the Quetta Shura/al Qaeda linked terrorists. If the drone program is to be dismantled, where is the Pakistan Army efficiency moving in to protect the tribal communities by taking out radicals? This is the allowance given Quetta Shura. The military establishment will include it in its “actionable policy,” for the Afghan power structure. None of this has been negotiated with the Afghans.

The “Pakistani policy elite” believe that “a genuine intra-Afghan dialogue will inevitably allow a significant share of power to the Pashtuns and thus produce a dispensation inKabulthat is sensitive to Pakistani interests.” In fact, “any attempts to alienate Pashtuns in general, and the Taliban in particular, as short-sighted.” However, there is no distinction between Pakhtuns and Taliban. Yet they are careful to add that this, “does not translate into a desire for a return to Taliban rule in Afghanistan.” Perceptive minds might wonder how a coup from an emboldened Taliban might be avoided, especially considering the past week’s attacks by the Taliban on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The Taliban is attempting to impose its leverage into Obama administration negotiation process by showing off its abilities. The Taliban was quickly subdued, but will continue through the process. Ultimately, it will be the ANSF that will deal with the Taliban, although the JI report degrades the Afghan force as “bloated.”

TheUSmust never buy into the false conflation that the Taliban = Pashtun aspirations or  the false distinction that the Afghan Taliban (who are actually housed in Quetta, North Waziristan, Parachinar, and quite possibly also in  Southern Punjab and even parts ofKarachi’s Sipah-e-Sahaba) are different from the Tehrik-e-TalibanPakistan. Aside from the common ideology of imposing totalitarian rule, they also share the same sponsors and the differences only exist in the minds of those who want to impose the Taliban on the Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If it is to be assumed that the progressive view from Pakistanis that Afghanistan should be able to determine its own future, then questions should be asked of this report. If we are to truly build trust in the new Afghanistan, it will require letting the Afghans decide. After all, the complaint of Pakistan for the last decade has been that the United States in has already imposed its will on the leadership and direction of Afghanistan, notwithstanding the contested elections.

The U.S. should not have involved itself inAfghanistanpolitics. Hamid Karzai would have won without the manipulation surrounding the elections. He lost credibility with the association with the U.S. Nevertheless, Karzai has hedged his unpopular position by manipulating his patronage network and allowing widespread corruption, just as those before him. Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban, together with Pakistani support of the Pashtun Taliban has produced growing anti-Taliban hostility from Tajiks, Uzbecks, and Harzaras in the north who suffered the most under Taliban rule.Pakistan’s export of violent extremism is fuelling trends that are turning the regional correlation of forces against Islamabad. “These are natural historical trends, notU.S.made. As they mature, they will makePakistan’s policy increasingly self-defeating.” (The Wars of Afghanistan, Tomsen, 2011).

The policy of the past, theUnited States inserting its own best-available leader, Karzai, degraded trust from the beginning. Further involvement, now towards the end, by Pakistan will assure further degrading of trust. Karzai has never been fully accepted by the Afghan people, and is seen as a puppet of the United States, however theU.S.continually gloss over this reality. TheU.S.will be pulling out the bulk of troops by 2014, and a new election will occur for Afghanistan, with new hopes for stability. In the zeal shown over the 2014 transfer of power from Americans to Afghans, one wonders if the Pakistani “elites” are calculating or even concerned about two elections that could be game changers: U.S. election results 2012 and the Afghan election 2014 if another moderate, pro-national, and Western elected Afghan president is elected he may not align with the Pakistani goals of the JI Report.

The most clearly stated reality of how it will not be the Pakistan elected government, but the Pakistan military that “dictates” the determination of foreign policy is the following statement: “Between now and 2014, Islamabad’s positioning in the Afghan reconciliation efforts will be dictated by the country’s security establishment.”

Public complacency assures the status quo. If the public does not challenge policy reports like this, policy will default to the self-referenced ”Elites.” The current foreign policy of Pakistanis not determined by the Pakistani voting public, or the elected administration, it is determined by the military and ISI. The JI report confirms this. In a democracy it is dangerous to allow the military to take this lead. It is at the core of the warning Dwight D. Eisenhower mentioned in his famous quote, “Industrial Military Complex” speech. If the ultimate power leverage lies with the military, regardless of the government calling itself a democracy, it is serving at the military’s pleasure. Foreign Affairs policy and USAID dispersement will be controlled by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha not Asif Ali Zardari. TheU.S.unfortunately considers relations with whomever it is that controls the power in a nation, not who should control it. Therefore, rightly or wrongly, it will not challenge oppressive leaders. The U.S. historically deals with whomever holds the reins of the country, whether the untrustworthy King of Saudi Arabia, a devious General Zia, then again, there was a time when we dealt with Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, perhaps a nation’s savior might step up; a civilian elected leader who has the courage to challenge the status quo. Pakistan needs to decide.

The “End Game,” need not be a “game,” as the popular, cynical term implies. Afghanistan must finally be allowed self-determination. There are too many games being played already in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ISI and military duplicity strategies, have managed to spin the brutal slayings of Hazaras, as Sunni against Shiite sectarian violence. A difficult concept for the international community to understand is that Sunni Muslims, per se, are not a group of murderers inQuetta; Sunnis, in fact should not be said to be represented by LeT, or other Salafists. These groups are not following the traditional Sunni path, they are operating with their own fundamentalist, jihadist agenda.  The ploy of misrepresenting Pashtuns is another obfuscating game. The ethnic Pashtun nationality can only be a source of commonality in Af/Pak relations if the Taliban is not falsely conflated with Pashtun aspirations which are secular and nationalist. Pashtun nationalists need support for their non-radical agenda. The Strategic Depth model never worked, and is a road to further antagonism with neighboring nations. Outside influence must come through normal diplomatic channels that do not include a “deep state.” Trust can only be established in the war torn country of Afghanistan through diplomatic channels, trade, commerce and peaceful cultural exchange.

Barring some event where my analysis may be helpful, my intention is that this be my last post for South Asian articles. I hope that I have been able to shed some light from the American point of view, and at the very least show that there are Americans that are supporting the elected government of Pakistan and its quest for continued democracy, fight against radical elements within, that run counter to Pakistan’s ultimate goals of a successful economic welfare for the people, and its stated democratic and pluralistic goals. Inshallah.

Writing these essays has been difficult for me and took much time devoted to proper research necessary to provide insights into what are very complex issues. I don’t pretend that my commentary and analysis has been necessary, but my moving on to other things does not mean I do not still care deeply for the fate of Pakistanis. I do. I had one commenter ask me, “Why did you write this?” Well, aside from the fact that I wrote an entire article explaining why: – I will shorten it to this: It was to accomplish two things: attempt, where possible, to build bridges between theU.S. and Pakistanis; and to shed light on realities on the ground inPakistan that are affecting my friends there. Some bridges were repaired, others not. Some information was illuminated, and some perhaps, not. I don’t pretend that opposition to America will ever completely cease. But, one thing for me that has not changed- I still am optimistic about the future of Pakistan for one reason- the Pakistani people are becoming more moved to reach beyond just talk, to forming groups for action.

I see that based on the level of current atrocities, awareness has heightened and with it an effort to deal with: needless killings in Karachi, by those who would perpetuate sectarian and ethnic rivalries -violence based on greed and economic divisions, by those that seek power of political advantage; in Quetta, the state-based, security establishment-supported genocide against the Balochs and Hazaras, now, used as an excuse to target Shiites with trumped up, false accusations of alignments with Iran; Mindful of our heroes that inspire opposition, action will be forthcoming – Benazir Bhutto, who stood for democratic pluralism, not unlike the sacrificed lives of Salman Tasser and Shahbaz Bhatti over opposition to a blasphemy law misused to persecute minorities, and an outdated Constitutional amendments from the Zia-legacy; never to forget Shahbaz Taseer’s disappearance/abduction that risks being forgotten given the new tragedies each day. The opposition to misleading JI Reports and Human Rights Commissions that are apparently lulled into the establishment narrative, perhaps unwittingly, but not without being finally recognized and condemned – There is, I am convinced a renewed energy to activism to push for the repeal of the Zia-legacies, a government reassessment of military and security apparatus duplicity and a realignment of strategies in an effort to a form a new mentality that draws on democratic strengths, and from the great progressive action and effort needed in order to say: Let Us Build Pakistan.



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