Rejoinder to Amir Zia
In his write up titled ‘The Sensible Course’ appearing in The News dated June 13, 2012, Amir Zia discusses about growing chasm between two uneasy allies and the US losing patience because of Pakistan’s refusal to eliminate sanctuaries of Haqqani network in North Waziristan (NW). That was the time when Pak-US relations were at its lowest ebb because of closure of supply lines and American leaders were breathing fire. In the face of Panetta’s threat that the US is at war with Pakistan in FATA, he says that Pakistan’s professed strategy to eradicate terrorism under its own timeline falls too short to defuse the explosive security situation. He says tense Pak-US relations can only be good news for al-Qaeda, Afghan and Pak Taliban and their cheerleaders among right wing parties.
He laments as to why so much of precious time was wasted in the Parliament in emotional debate rather than concentrating on molding public opinion to make the people pro-American. Ignoring popular public sentiments, he alleges anti-Americanism was drummed up in an organized manner by right wing elements as well as Imran Khan, which in turn exerted pressure on the mainstream parties. He twisted facts by stressing that the US wanted to get over Salala after issuing an apology whereas the truth is that apology was thesole sticking point. He assumes that it would be unrealistic to expect concessions from USA since it is election year. He forgot that same may be true for our government.
He says that civilian-military leadership failed to give a vision and direction to Pakistan’s foreign and geo-strategic policy, but hesitates to mention that in the wake of the US failing to give a clear cut policy, Pakistan remained confused and handicapped. He describes drone war as fairly effective in targeting militants like Yahya al-Libi despite civilian deaths. He brazenly legitimizes drone attacks because of Pakistan’s inability or unwillingness to act against militants. The underlying theme and objective of the article was to convince Pak leadership to relent and open the supply routes, or else it would bode ill for Pakistan’s long term geo-strategic and economic interests.
Amir Zia maintains that Pakistan’s efforts to defeat terrorism and to cool down America’s rage are half-hearted. He doesn’t like Pak military’s stance that it would follow its own counter-terror strategy. In his attempt to scare our policy makers he asserts that they shouldn’t follow an independent counter terror policy in the wake of rising isolation among the world comity and grave challenges it is facing on home and external fronts. What he implies is that Pakistan being sufficiently mauled from within for a decade is now in no position to defy the US commands and for its own safety it should lie prostrate and compliantly continue doing as told to do.
In my view, Pakistan should have said so and done so much earlier. Pakistan followed the US dictated strategy to fight global war on terror since it was George W. Bush led team’s brainchild and it was imposed upon Pakistan. Pakistan suffered a great deal on account of pursuing imported strategy, which was framed to suit the US interests only. Washington had no clearly defined policy on terrorism since it couldn’t define the subtle difference between terrorism and freedom movement. Both were lumped in one category and above all terrorism was confined to the Muslim world only. By giving a clean chit to non-Muslim world, the US made its policy and goals questionable, discriminatory and unjust.
I may like to remind Zia that Pakistan military woke up from its slumber in 2009 when it suffered over 30,000 fatalities at the hands of terrorists and suffered a loss of $68 billion and learnt that the US under the garb of friendship was playing a double game to achieve its sinister objectives. It found to its horror that behind the smokescreen of allies fighting a common enemy to eradicate terrorism, the US was strategically aligned with the powers based in Afghanistan and Pakistan was among the targets, which was being systematically destabilized from within.
Ruinous events taking place in 2011 in quick succession removed the deceptive veil and exposed the real face of USA and its strategic allies on whom Pakistan had placed its full trust and faith. They repeatedly stabbed Pakistan with impunity without any feeling of remorse or regret and arrogantly pressed Pakistan to continue doing more without a whimper and without asking any questions. It was only after 2 May, 26 November 2011 incidents and memogate scandal that Pak military concluded that war on terror was conceived and thrust upon Pakistan by USA with dangerous motives. It dawned upon the military leadership that the war was now Pakistan’s war since too many foreign powers were directly meddling into its internal affairs and fueling terrorism to fulfill their hidden agenda.
The most intriguing part of Amir Zia’s write up is that our security forces during the reign of Gen Musharraf had wrested the initiative from the militants but lost it after his departure. He adds that Pakistan is increasingly seen as an unwilling partner in the UN-mandated international effort against terrorism. These expressions sound very familiar and similar to the noises made in Washington and New Delhi. He derisively adds that this lack of drive in combating terrorism stands in stark contrast to Musharraf’s days in which quick decisions were taken on foreign policy issues and there as a sea-change in the way Pakistan dealt with the militants.
What all he has penned is travesty of truth. He is at liberty to praise Musharraf but not at the cost of twisting facts of history. Let me make an effort to put the record straight. I reckon, what Amir Zia implies by quick decision making is the promptitude with which Musharraf accepted all the seven demands put forward by Colin Powell on phone on the night of 13 September 2001.Quick in decision making, Musharraf on orders from Washington speedily inducted regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) in 2002 without acclimatizing the troops and training them in anti-guerrilla warfare and equipping them for fighting low intensity war in rugged terrain and weather. Without consolidating gains in Wazir dominated SW, he at the behest of USA pushed his troops into Mehsud inhabited SW in 2005 and then into NW in 2006. As regards performance of the troops vis-à-vis militant forces, it is a hard fact that al-Qaeda confined in Maulvi Nazir dominated part of SW spread out to other parts of tribal belt and then to all the major cities of Pakistan after the military operation in SW in 2004.
Pakistani Taliban gained strength during his rule since he looked the other way to the patronization of Taliban by MMA running NWFP and Balochistan governments from 2002 to end 2007. From 2004 onward, Pakistani Taliban led by Abdullah Mehsud and Baituallah Mehsud constantly gained space and spread their influence to all the seven tribal agencies of FATA. Tehrik-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) was formed in December 2007 during Musharraf’s stint in power and so did Punjabi Taliban in southern Punjab. Six Kashmir oriented Jihadi groups joined up with TTP and al-Qaeda as a consequent to banning of these groups by Musharraf under pressure from US-India.
As a result of ganging up of militant groups of all hues, Pak security forces were on the back foot and militants had gained an upper edge. This was evident from several peace deals inked with them in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Almost a battalion sized force along with commanding officer was tricked and taken hostage in SW in 2007. The nerve centre of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen in SW within Mehsuds belt couldn’t be penetrated despite efforts. Kidnapping of soldiers had become common and several arrested hardcore militants had to be released to secure release of own soldiers. Morale of troops fighting a thankless war against their own people was low particularly because their army chief had never visited them in the battle zone.
The US and its partners were quite happy as long as security forces were beating the militants and getting beaten since simultaneous bleeding of the two sides suited them. The ultimate objective was to entangle and pin down maximum regular forces of Pak Army. Idea was to make western border hostile, induce imbalance on the eastern front and possibly extract the nuclear teeth, and then let Indian forces to mount a maneuver against a toothless and demoralized force. The US was pleased that Musharraf was enthusiastically handing over al-Qaeda-Taliban leaders and high profile operatives to earn dollars and pats from Bush since it gave reason to it to declare Pakistan as a nursery of terrorists.
As long as Musharraf wore three hats of President equipped with Article 58-2B, COAS Army and Chairman CJSC, it was a one-man show. He only obeyed the instructions coming from Washington and listened to none in Pakistan and had his way. This one-window operation suited USA since it speeded up the implementation of its directives without any hassle. This ideal arrangement changed after February 2008 elections. Notwithstanding that the new NRO cleansed government was chosen and installed by USA, however new realities in the form of judicial activism, assertive media and civil society and awakened Army and ISI emerged which spoiled the US script and timeframe.
The GHQ instead of complying with Washington’s orders instantly and blindly appraised them objectively to determine whether those were in national interests or in interest of USA only. Military operations launched in Swat, Bajaur and SW in 2009 were GHQ made and without any foreign assistance and under the concept of capture, hold, build and transfer. These outstanding operations in actuality disarrayed Fazlullah led network in Swat-Malakand and TTP in Bajaur and SW. Once the triangle of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen in SW was captured, the initiative was decisively wrested by security forces and TTP never regained balance. Today, all the prominent leaders of TTP are operating from Afghanistan under the patronage of foreign powers. All the regions which were in effective control of the TTP till as late as mid 2009 are now in firm control of the Army and rehabilitation and development works are going on in full swing.
Change of pattern of training in the Army to combat the challenges posed by militants fighting guerrilla war, boosting the morale of troops by giving them highly lucrative welfare package, defiance on NW, restrictions on visa policy for US officials, checkmating of disguised CIA agents, repatriation of US-UK trainers involved in covert activities, closure of Shamsi base closure of NATO supply routes for over seven months, severing Pak-US military relations, suspending intelligence cooperation and host of other steps to safeguard security of Pakistan were all done after the change of military leadership in November 2007. It was owing to seven months standoff that the US climbed down from the high horse and tendered an apology and agreed to payback Pak military’s dues it had withheld.
Pakistan security forces are doing a tremendous job infighting foreign paid and misled rebellious elements and in safeguarding the frontiers of Pakistan. Nearly 5000 have laid down their lives in performing their duties and thousands have got injured. Their performance is much superior and sacrifices much higher than the combined military strength of 48 countries in Afghanistan. They need to be bucked up rather than belittled. Instead of defending the cause of Pakistan and condemning foreign interference in our internal affairs as well as perfidious role of anti-state elements, a segment in our media tends to strengthen the hands of our adversaries by playing up their propaganda themes. Quislings and journalists/anchors on the payroll of foreign powers and soulless political leaders have done greater damage to Pakistan than our enemies. I will advise Amir Zia and his likeminded friends to take a visit to war-torn regions and see for themselves who is in the driving seat. I will counsel him not to write misleading stories without ascertaining facts on ground since such write ups benefit the adversaries of Pakistan only.
The writer is a freelance columnist and an analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org