9/11 Tragedy & US Misperceptions about Pakistan
By Sajjad Shaukat
The grim tragedy the United States suffered on September 11, 2001 through suicidal bombings on World Trade Center and Pentagon resulted into the death of more than 55000 persons. In the aftermath, the US held Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden responsible for the incident, and attacked Afghanistan where he had taken shelter.
A majority of the small and major countries joined American global war on terror, and Pakistan also joined it as the frontline state because the country was not only facing acute financial crisis, but also hostile factor of India. Pakistan was also granted the status of non-NATO ally by Washington because of its successes, achieved by Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al Qaeda militants. Within a few years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, they started accusing Pak Army and ISI of supporting the Afghan Taliban. US high officials and their media not only blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, but also presumed that a plot to attack the US homeland would be prepared in FATA where safe-havens of Al Qaeda exist. They also emphasized Pakistan to ‘do more’ against the militants coupled with drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas by ignoring the internal backlash in the country.
And without informing Pakistan, a helicopters-raid of the US covert forces killed top Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. His death triggered celebrations across the US, India, Israel and some western countries–by ignoring Pakistan’s sacrifices, during war against terrorism—deliberate propaganda campaign started against Islamabad. In this context, a blame game against Pakistan Army and ISI was revived by them. They said that Bin Laden lived in Pakistan compound—5 to 6 years, and as to why Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies were unaware of his presence.
It is mentionable that during war against terrorism, Pakistan sacrificed more than any country in terms of collateral damage, economic losses and political instability. While Pakistan faced a continued wave of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings.
However, in its misperceptions, especially, the US ignored the sacrifices of the Pakistan’s armed forces which had broken the backbone of the Taliban militants through successful Swat and Malakand military operations, while ISI had arrested renowned Taliban commanders including other militants and masterminds of Al Qaeda, namely Abu Zubaida, Khalfan, Abu Hamza Rabia, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bardar etc. In this respect, the then Interior Minister, Rehman Malik stated on, May 2, 2011 that ISI has castigated more than 2,000 suicide attacks. In this context, on the one side, American high officials admired Pakistan, while on the other; they continued their blame game against Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies.
It is notable that the then Director General of ISI, Ahmed Shuja Pasha pointed out that Osama’s compound in Abbottbad was registered under a fake name. He elaborated that after the Tora Bora operation, Osama Bin Laden became an enemy of Pakistan. He was living in a residential area and it was not in the knowledge of the agency. Besides, the ex-Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Army Spokesman Maj-General Athar Abbas (R) also refuted foreign allegations in connection with Osama and ISI.
It is worth-mentioning that Bin Laden was living in the Abbotabad compound, and despite its vast resources, technical intelligence e.g. satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and human intelligence—extraordinary long-range aerial military capacity, the ability to strike at will from the space at any point on the globe, US secret agencies, CIA and FBI failed in detecting his presence in Pakistan and destroying Al Qaeda’s terrorist network in the ten years of America’s war against terrorism. Similarly question also arises about the September 11 suicide attacks. It was described as the greatest intelligence failure of the American spy agencies. However, compound where Osama Bin Laden was living was a norm rather than exception. A number of people have been living in the neighbourhood of that compound at Abbottabad. While, Pakistan’s various television channels showed the interviews of the neighbourers, living there, who remarked that they were never suspicion about Osama’s presence. So ISI did not have a magic to know the whereabouts of Bin Laden there. It was also not possible for this spy agency to check all the houses of Pakistan or to interfere in peoples’ privacy so as to find out Bin Laden.
In fact, US, India and Israel wanted to fulfill a number of clandestine aims by continuing their propaganda against Pakistan. Notably, American cost of war against terrorism had reached 8 trillion dollars, and was increasing rapidly—acute recession inside the country had given a greater blow to the US economy. In that scenario, American public was particularly worried about the failed campaign in Afghanistan. So Osama’s episode could be used to distract the attention of its general masses from internal crisis, and for re-election of Obama as President.
Similarly, under the pretext of Osama’s demise, and with the tactical support of America, India and Israel which had well-established their covert network in Afghanistan intended to implement their hidden agenda to destabilize Pakistan, Iran and China by assisting the insurgency against these countries.
In this connection, since 9/11 catastrophe, by availing that golden opportunity, both India and Israel which had joined the Bush’s anti-terrorism campaign to crush the wars of liberation, being waged by the Kashmiris and the Palestinians, intensified their state terrorism to keep their occupation on these territories. They have continuously been exploiting the world phenomena of terrorism and anti-Muslim approach of the west so as to obtain their nefarious designs. In this regard, Indo-Israel lobbies which are penetrated in the US Administration and are working in other western countries became pro-active to manipulate the war on terror. Pakistan which is the only nuclear country in the Muslim World, having close ties with China is another major target of the Indo-Israeli secret diplomacy. The fact of the matter is that New Delhi and Tel Aviv are collectively exploiting the double standards of the west in relation to terrorism and human rights vis-à-vis Pakistan, China and Iran.
While, the capability of Pakistan’s Armed Forces could be judged from the one year progress of the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb which started on Jun 15, 2014 against the militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA).
On June 10, this year, while showing the progress of the Zarb-e-Azb, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif said, “Terrorists have been cleared from their strongholds in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency and fight now is moving into last few pockets close to Afghan border.” He laid emphasis on “continuation of the operations till elimination of the last expected and probable terrorists groups and sanctuaries.” While addressing a ceremony of the golden jubilee celebrations the 1965 war regarding Pakistan’s victory and defeat of India, Gen. Raheel again said on September 6, this year, operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched at a time when terrorist networks had solidified in the country that the Armed Forces had been fighting an untraditional war for the past many years, elaborating, “our success is the result of our martyrs and ghazis—in Karachi and Balochistan, peace has returned, where militants have been surrendering their arms.”
Nevertheless, since June 15, 2014, the jets of Pakistan Air Force have bombed militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan, and killed thousands of insurgents including foreign militants, while Pak Army has also killed several terrorists through ground offensive and many of them surrendered before the Army. While, ISI and other law-enforcing agencies captured several terrorists in various regions of Pakistan, including suicide-jackets and weapons—thus thwarted their pre-subversive acts. They have successfully broken the network of the terrorists.
During the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 incident, its is of particular attention that what the US-led NATO countries could not do in Afghanistan, and America in other volatile countries in the last 14 years, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have done in one year against the terrorists. Therefore, US and other western countries have started appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan Army and other security agencies, and are, now, recognizing the sacrifices of the country against terrorism. They also recognize the fact that terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan is interrelated.
It is regrettable that New Delhi is destabilizing the regional countries in general and Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular. In order to obtain its secret designs, aimed at augmenting Indian hegemony in the region, India is foiling the peace process between Afghanistan and Pakistan by managing terrorist attacks like the recent ones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to create a rift between Islamabad and Kabul, and to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Moreover, on the direction of the Indian leader of the fundamentalist party BJP and Prime Narendra Modi Indian forces have accelerated unprovoked shelling across the Line of Control and Working Boundary, while creating war-like situation between Pakistan and India.
Taking note of these developments, a change has occurred in Americans towards Islamabad, who know that stability in this region is essential for American global interests. Besides, these developments also rectify the US misperceptions by proving that Pakistan’s Army and ISI which have successfully been coping with terrorism and Al Qaeda had no knowledge about Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations