Asif Haroon Raja
Pak-US Relations strained in the backdrop of Raymond Davis incident. After his release on 16 March 2011, CIA itched to teach a lesson to the leaderships of Pak Army and ISI that had shown defiance and created impediments in its way. 2 May stealth operation was launched to degrade premier institutions of Pakistan and to earn brownie points for Obama and for the US military. The people of Pakistan heard the shocking news next morning with utter disbelief. Since Osama Bin Laden (OBL) had got off the radar screen in December 2001, it was generally believed that either he was in Afghanistan or had died. They had known that Pakistani intelligence agencies together with CIA and FBI had succeeded in arresting over 600 al-Qaeda operatives including high value targets with heavy head money in Pakistan.
Since OBL couldn’t be nabbed despite the biggest hunt ever launched in the history and carrying reward money of $25 million, the assessment made by the public in Pakistan was fair. None in Abbottabad including those residing in Bilal town and in immediate neighborhood of the said compound had ever seen or heard or suspected of OBL presence. No one other than two couriers of OBL, (Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, known as Ibrahim) and Abrar (known as Tariq), and gardner Shamrez had entered the compound. Shamrez did his gardening job without interaction with any of the inmates. Even today no one in that town is prepared to buy the story that OBL was living there with three wives and 11 children for six years.
Americans and westerners were in a state of euphoria. Whole night partying took place. No country censured USA for brazenly violating Pakistan’s sovereignty, or the US apologized or even felt remorseful for having stabbed an ally in the back. Rather, tone and tenor of US leaders as well as the US and western media against Pakistan became belligerent. Segment of Pak media on the US payroll didn’t lag behind in vehemently bashing Pakistan and its premier institutions. When ISI tried to take preventive steps to prevent 5/2 like incident, it angered USA and CIA-ISI cooperation almost ceased. CIA resisted demand of ISI to close down its network in Pakistan under the plea of locating al-Zawahiri and other top Al-Qaeda leaders hiding in cities and to find the network that had assisted OBL. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that the US reserved the right for another unilateral action whenever actionable intelligence was available.
First it was alleged that Pak Army and the ISI were in the know of OBL’s presence in Abbottabad and were complicit. Soon after, the stance was modified by asserting that mid-to-senior level ISI and Army officials provided support base to OBL. Rather than furnishing proof and providing names of the ones involved in the so-called racket, Wikileaks was cited to give weight to the allegation. Fred Burton heading a global intelligence firm in USA played up this story. To appear more knowledgeable, he added that up to 12 officials in ISI knew of the safe house but couldn’t name even a single one. The unsubstantiated allegations were rubbished by Pakistan, terming them as mischievous and false. David Ignatius came out with another cockeyed story published in Washington Post on February 18, 2012, claiming that an architect working in the compound of OBL was an ISI employee.
David made a reference to Gen Ziauddin’s statement given to the media that the compound was in use of the IB under Brig retired Ijaz Shah and Gen Mush was in the know of it. Ziauddin issued a rejoinder stating that he had said that the two officers by virtue of their appointments held could possibly be in the knowledge of OBL’s stay in Abbottabad. So, it was his assumption and not a piece of intelligence he gave. It must not be forgotten that Ziauddin was bitten hard by Musharraf for his uncommitted crime and it is natural for him to have a deep grudge against his tormentor. Hence, his uttering cannot be quoted as authentic piece of information. Mush living in exile in London has refuted the claim that he was an accomplice in arranging OBL’s stay in Abbottabad garrison.
To say that OBL’s unnoticed presence in a military dominated garrison for six years was either because of incompetence of Pak Army/ISI or the two were accomplice, what has the US to say about 9/11? The US intelligence agencies had received information that a terrorist attack is in the pipeline, yet they remained clueless about 19 hijackers receiving training and finalizing plans to hijack four planes and to hit World Trade Centre and Pentagon. It was the biggest intelligence failure in modern history and that too in the most advanced and powerful country of the world. Were the CIA, or FBI, or Pentagon or some other state institution accomplice or incompetent? Why was the US not embarrassed, taunted and humiliated? Why the whole world sympathized with the US? Tears shed by the world encouraged George W Bush and his team of neo cons to go berserk. 11 years have gone by and the cycle of revenge for the death of less than 3000 American citizens is continuing unabatedly. Over two million Muslims, mostly innocent have died in the senseless war on terror and that many injured and maimed for life. But the war goes on with no end in sight. While Afghanistan and Iraq is being rebuilt after destroying the two countries, Pakistan is being systematically ruined. Why no tear has been shed for Pakistan, which has taken the maximum brunt of war? Is the blood of Pakistanis too thin and that of the Americans too precious?
What about Mumbai attacks? Weren’t Indian agencies caught with pants down despite receiving early warning? Instead of censuring India’s intelligence failure and its poorest response action, the whole world led by USA sympathized with it and held Pakistan responsible. But when Pakistan was stabbed in the back by an ally, the perpetrator, western world, India and Afghanistan eulogized the immoral act of raiders and rejoiced it. What about USA and Britain giving refuge to runaway terrorists and anti-state elements from Pakistan and supporting them? Isn’t London notorious for providing shelter to wanted terrorists?
Unlike USA, Britain and India, which are still bellowing and crying over 9/11, 7/7, and 26/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan has borne the brunt of GWOT stoically and instead of blaming others is fighting the terrorists boldly. It has gone through many 9/11s, some more in enormity. None can deny that of all the 48 countries engaged in war on terror, Pakistan’s performance stands head and shoulders over others. In terms of successes, it has the best record.
While US-NATO couldn’t achieve even a single victory over resurging Afghan Taliban, conversely, Pak Army achieved several victories and broke the back of TTP – al-Qaeda nexus in northwest. It also disarrayed foreign supported terrorist outfits BLA, BLF, BRA in Balochistan, not considered as terrorists by USA. Yet the US has the temerity to cast aspersions on Pak Army and ISI. In terms of fatalities both of civilians and military, its losses are much more than the combined losses of the ISAF. Pakistan has lost over 30,000 civilians, 3500 Army officers and soldiers including over 200 ISI personnel and 2000 policemen in acts of terror. Other than Afghanistan and Pakistan, none has suffered so much of destruction of property. In terms of finances, it has suffered a loss of $70 billion. Rate of suicide and bomb attacks in Pakistan is higher than in any other country. Social trauma suffered by the people is incalculable.
On top of it, Pakistan is suffering the deadly consequences of covert war undertaken by the nexus of six intelligence agencies from Afghanistan and drones which are fuelling terrorism. Covert war and drone war are the gifts of Pakistan’s allies. Several terrorist groups in Pakistan are supported by RAW, CIA, Mossad and RAAM. Pakistan had to pay the price of the US misadventure in Abbottabad in the form of reprisals by al-Qaeda and TTP. Making Pakistan a convenient scapegoat to give vent to its anger, TTP/al-Qaeda struck Shabqadar Frontier Constabulary Academy, Mehran naval base, CID police station in Karachi and DIG FC in Quetta in September 2011.
But for a big chase and capture of 4219 suspected militants in 2011, and also spurt in drone attacks, which forced many al-Qaeda operators to flee to Arabian Peninsula, some more vengeful attacks would have taken place. When TTP/al-Qaeda undertook series of reprisal acts against Pakistan, the US took no notice. Rather it felt inwardly amused. However, when reprisal actions took place in Afghanistan in August-September 2011, the US leaders started bawling and held ISI responsible, saying that Haqqani network was its veritable arm. Aren’t Israel and India the veritable arms of USA poised against Pakistan?
Instead of acknowledging its sacrifices rendered and agreeing that it is the biggest victim of terrorism, Pakistan is distrusted and dubbed as the nursery of terrorism. Pakistan as a responsible country was cooperating in US led war on terrorism and had shown substantial results by killing and apprehending vital Al-Qaeda terrorists. It was not an option for Pakistan to hide OBL, as alleged by USA and others and get embarrassed. Instead of eulogizing Pak Army and ISI performances, the US is disingenuously blaming Pakistan’s premier institutions that they are in cahoots with al-Qaeda. The US is trying to project the Army and ISI as complicit, incompetent and untrustworthy so as to justify future unilateral actions. Is it out of envy or jealousy or malice? The US should be grateful to Pak Army and ISI which because of its pro-active policy forced OBL to lead an inactive life detached from the body of al-Qaeda. Had Pakistani officials / ISI known about the presence of OBL inside Pakistan, they would have reacted positively to apprehend / kill him to save such chaos which led to lingering court probes.