May 2, Pakistan and War on Terror
While the United States had already been playing a double game with Pakistan as paradoxical approach of American high officials coupled with their media displayed from time to time, the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in a covert military operation by the US commandos in Pakistan’s city, Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 clearly proved this duplicity.
In the aftermath of Osama’s death, US high officials and their media accelerated blame game against Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Some of them attributed Osama’s death with Pakistan’s intelligence failure; while directly or indirectly, some accused that Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad was in knowledge of ISI. Under the pretext of Osama’s murder, US top officials presumed that other Al Qaeda leaders have also taken shelter in Pakistan, while repeating previous allegations of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, and alleged ties of Pak Army and ISI with the Afghan Taliban. US blame game was also shared by India, Israel and some western countries.
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership strongly refuted allegations against ISI, and parliament condemned violation of country’s territory by US special operation in Abbottabad. On the other side, while celebrating Osama’s death as a victory by setting aside the protest of Islamabad and parliament resolution, President Obama threatened to conduct more high-value targets in Pakistan against other Al Qaeda leaders.
As regards blame game against ISI, on May 5, 2011, in a news briefing, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir remarked that the performance of no intelligence agency including CIA can be compared with that of the ISI in the war against terrorism. He further elaborated that it was due to the efforts of ISI which arrested top terrorists and Al Qaeda’s militants, namely, Khalid Sheikh, Abu Faraj Libbi, Rumzi, Abu Zubaida, Khalfan, Abu Hamza Rabia etc.” While, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik had indicated on May 2, last year that ISI castigated more than 2,000 suicide attacks.
Pakistan’s armed forces also ejected Taliban insurgents out of Swat, Dir and Buner by breaking their backbone—capturing many militants through successful military operations. Afterwards, Pak Army also launched operation in South Waziristan, and is still fighting the insurgents in some tribal areas.
During war against terrorism, Pakistan has sacrificed more than any country including the US or NATO in terms of collateral damage, economic losses and political instability. In this context, more than 35, 000 people died in various incidents of terrorism. Besides, more than 5, 000 military soldiers and 2,000 policemen were martyred in this different conflict.
In this respect, a statement of Pakistan’s Finance Division had pointed out in 2008 that the country’s economy suffered a loss of Rs 2.1 trillion due to the global war on terror. It elaborated that the economy suffered direct and indirect losses in terms of exports, foreign investment, privatisation and industrial production. Pakistan’s economy has suffered more than the total aid of the US, while more than three million Afghan refugees harbouring in the country are also posing security risk.
An estimate indicates that Pakistan’s national economy is suffering a net loss of $7 billion annually as fallout of the war on terror, which has also displaced thousands of people.
According to a latest estimate, on the whole, Pakistan has suffered $75 billon loss owing to war against terrorism, while it received approximately $10 billon US aid. Nevertheless, Pakistan has endured more losses than any country owing to this new brand of war against the militancy.
However, May 2 event proved a watershed in the Pak-US ties as mistrust which already existed between the two allies of war against terrorism further deteriorated due to American faulty policy towards Islamabad. Washington totally ignored the sacrifices of Pakistan against terrorism, and demanded to do more against the militants without bothering for public blacklash in the country. Meanwhile, US also accelerated drone attacks on Pak tribal areas, which still continue. Besides, American CIA, Indian secret agency RAW and Israeli Mossad accelerated their anti-Pakistan campaign by dispatching heavily-equipped militants from Afghanistan, who have intermittently been committing subversive acts such as bomb blasts, suicide attacks, target-killings, ethnic and sectarian violence in Pakistan on daily basis, but also target the checkposts of security forces. In fact, US-led India and Israel have been acting upon a hidden agenda against Pakistan. In this regard, perennial support to separatism in Balochistan and unrest in Karachi have become their special focus, where acts of sabotage have been intesified by these foreign elements.
After Osama operation on May 2, last year, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership flatly refused to act upon the US duress to take military action against the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan because Washington wanted to further provocate the militants to commit subversive acts inside Pakistan.
Meanwhile, on November 26, 2011, deliberate air strikes by the US-led NATO on Pakistan Army outposts in Mohmand Agency which killed 24 troops by violating the country’s sovereignty further exposed American designs against Islamabad and greatly added to the tension between the two counties. In this context, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership rejected the coercive diplomacy of America by taking tough decisions such as suspension of NATO supply to Afghanistan, vacation of Shamsi Airbase, boycott of the second Bonn Conference and rejection of US investigation report about the Salala checkposts attack. In that backdrop, knowing the US secret designs against the integrity of the country, Pakistan decided to redefine its relationship with America, which also includes cessation of drone attacks and conditions to NATO supply to Afghanistan.
America knows that without the support of Islamabad, withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014 will leave that country in more uncertainty. And the Taliban’s perennial attacks on the newly-trained Afghan forces will not allow the Kabul government to achieve stability. On March 27, this year, during his meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in Seoul, President Barrack Obama recognised that stability in Afghanistan required Pak-US joint efforts. In the recent past, some US top officials have also admitted that they cannot win this ‘different war’ without the help of Pakistan, while stability in Afghanistan also needs its assistance. On the other hand, US did not stop drone attacks on Pakistan as part of covert war against the country.
It is notable that various sources suggest that videos released by the Pentagon about Osama Bin Laden’s murder in Pakistan were actually fake. British daily, Guardian (Online) and BBC had also indicated suspicion about his killing at Abbotabad. On May 2, 2011 in the ARY TV channel, Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff, General Mirza Aslam described Osama’s death by the US raid as a big drama, adding that he had already died in Tora Bora fighting.
Nevertheless, whether Osama died earlier or on May 2, last year at Abbotabad, it does not matter because of the fact that Al Qaeda has already franchised. In this context, US war on terror in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 catastrophe, leading to developments such as American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, which is now being waged on global and regional level by Washington and on the other side, response of Al Qaeda militants by clandestine attacks, as shown through a number of suicidal missions in Bali, Riyadh, Jakarta, Madrid, Istambul, London, etc., and a continued ‘different war’ in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in many casualties of Americans and Europeans clearly point out that Al Qaeda has organised itself on world level.
In the words of the former CIA Director George Tenet, “In this new phase of franchise terrorism, Al-Qaeda has been described as an idea rather than an organization, a global movement infected by Al-Qaeda’s radical agenda…it still acts as an inspiration to groups, from Chechnya to Palestinian territories that have minimal contact with the network. Links among the regional networks of the Islamic activists make the movement appear invincible enhancing its status and power.”
Nonetheless, taking note of American duplicity and ignorance of Pakistan’s sacrifices during war on terror especially after the May 2 raid which killed Osma Bin Laden, without informing the Islamabad, some other developments like strengthening of Pakistan’s ties with China, new relations with the Russian Federation and rejection of American pressure to abandon the IP gas pipeline project with Iran show that Islamabad does not seek to be blackmailed by the US shrewd diplomacy.
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.