Last March US secretary of state Colin Powell designated Pakistan a "major non-NATO ally", while refraining from publicly criticizing general Pervez Musharraf’s handling of the controversy over nuclear physicist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan...
Last March US secretary of state Colin Powell designated Pakistan a "major non-NATO ally", while refraining from publicly criticizing general Pervez Musharraf’s handling of the controversy over nuclear physicist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. The Americans, however, do not give anything for free; Pakistan’s military dictator was forced to send tens of thousands of troops to attack tribesmen in South Waziristan, and claimed that a "high-value target" from al-Qa’ida had been surrounded, in a clear move to appease the US.
Musharraf has a habit of making tall claims that later prove wrong. He declared that the war in Afghanistan was over; that Usama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were both dead; that Daniel Pearl was alive; that 85 percent of Pakistanis support him; and that the widely criticized referendum of April 2002 was "free, fair and transparent." He makes such statements on purpose. This time the purpose was to use Pakistani forces for a war on the people — to invade, occupy, massacre, demolish homes and violate human rights, as any occupying force would.
Helicopter-gunships were used to fire missiles even where it was impossible to separate supposed terrorists from civilians. Heavy artillery – an even more non-discriminating weapon – was deployed. American U-2 spy-planes flying at 70,000 feet, unmanned Predator drones equipped with Hellfire missiles, and unattended ground sensors (UGS) were dropped into passes in the Hindu Kush mountains, all in pursuit of so-called "high-value targets."
Long before Musharraf’s announcement the US had forced Pakistan to take steps for a successful operation. In an extraordinary move lieutenant general Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, the Corps Commander of Peshawar, a Pashtun, was prematurely retired. Major general Safdar Hussain took his place and immediately dispatched troops to South Waziristan. Orakzai had earned Washington’s ire by openly criticizing the US’s discriminatory behaviour towards Pakistanis. He made the remarks after his own humiliating treatment when he arrived in New York last year, despite being an official guest of the US central command.
Observers have noted that the US’s aim is to create divisions in Pakistan’s armed forces. American officials, military as well as civilian, who frequently visit Pakistan, miss no opportunity to complain about the lack of cooperation and the unreliability of Pashtun military officers in operations against the Taliban, and about their alleged sympathizers in Pakistan’s tribal belt. So the US demanded that Musharraf sideline all the Pashtun officers for operations against the tribesmen in the North West Frontier Province.
Scores of Pashtun soldiers and officers who refused to take part in the assault in the tribal belt have been arrested. Instead, non-Pashtun (mostly Punjabi) officers and soldiers are being deployed. The case of a Punjabi army major, whose application for refugee status in Canada was rejected, is illustrative. When he returned to Pakistan he was immediately sent to Wana, even before a decision on his four-year absence from duty and seeking asylum abroad had been handed down. Traditionally the Pakistan army has been above ethnic (racial and tribal) considerations; there has been a preponderance of Punjabi and Pashtun officers at the higher levels. In the past two years, however, provincial and tribal politics have crept into the military. For instance, in recent promotions, 18 brigadiers were elevated to the rank of major general, of whom only one was a Pashtun.
Like the pretexts advanced for the so-called war on terrorism, the Pakistan army’s assault on the tribes, allegedly to flush out "Islamic militants", also does not make sense. Parroting the US’s terminology, Musharraf has branded tribal leaders and mujahideen "warlords"; his claim that he is "clearing Pakistani territory of foreign militants who are pursuing global jihad" may sound reasonable, but what he does not say is that these same people were trained by the Pakistan army and financed by the US when their jihad was against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. What Musharraf does not explain is why that was acceptable, but the fight against US occupiers not.
In the new environment, US-sponsored Pakistani "intellectuals" now argue: "Even those Pakistanis who until recently sympathized with the struggles of fellow Muslims under oppression, for example the Kashmiris, Palestinians and Chechens, are beginning to recognize that the methods of the jihadis are a threat to global order." One wonders what global order they are referring to.
It is naïve to say that the people of Pakistan have changed their minds because they "do not want their country to be subjected to an international military operation, like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq." Such arguments are false: there is no "global" operation in Iraq. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is already facing a global war to advance the US’s agenda. Consequently domestic instability has increased; the military is now hated because it is fighting its own people. Families of armed forces personnel not only have to bear the loss of relatives who die in such operations, but they also worry about whether their hereafter is secure, as they died fighting Muslims. This is how "extremists" are born.
The transition from jihad fi-sabeelillah (jihad in the cause of Allah) to jihad-fi-sabeeli-America has driven the final nail in the army’s coffin. The attack of June 10 on the Karachi corps commander is a sign of things to come. Had the government openly declared that it was abandoning Pakistan’s raison d’être, and proclaimed the country a secular state, the military’s behaviour would at least be understandable. But there is also another troublesome reality: Washington and Islamabad cannot walk away from the fact that the Afghan jihad and the Taliban were propped up by them, both in the service of the US. Given its mindset, it is impossible for Washington to accept its mistake.
There is growing realization that Pakistan embraced the Afghan jihad under pressure from Washington. When the US abandoned the Afghans in preparation for its own war on Islam, Islamabad followed suit. The events of September 11, 2001, provided a convenient cover under which to fall into the eager embrace of Uncle Sam. This is reflected in official pronouncements: the military’s war on its own people is not motivated by domestic needs; it cannot be. From the initial decision to withdraw support from the Taliban to the invasion and occupation of the tribal areas, American pressure has been cited as the main reason for Pakistan’s policy changes. Musharraf even went to the extreme of invoking the Treaty of Hudaibiyya to justify his joining the US’s crusade. This has been a favourite ploy of charlatans throughout history.
The history of British chicanery and deceit is repeating itself in the tribal belt. The Shakai agreement, reached between locals and Pakistani officials on April 24, was not acceptable to lieutenant general David Barno, the top US commander in Afghanistan. On May 3, as he criticized the agreement, he also announced plans to construct an airstrip capable of landing AC-130 gunships in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. This sent Pakistani forces scurrying into Wana again. The violation of the Shakai agreement by Pakistani troops triggered a fresh round of fighting. One of the signatories to the accord, Commander Nek Mohammad, became the principal substitute for the "high-value target." He was killed when a missile was fired at the compound where he was staying, after signals from his cellular phone were communicated to Pakistani troops by a US drone.
More than 70,000 Pakistani troops have been scouring the tribal area with US Task Force-121 and British SAS troops, despite Pakistan’s government’s claims that there are no foreign forces on its soil. Resistance to US occupation will continue, causing more civilian deaths. There is little doubt that the US will ultimately be defeated. Pakistan will then be left to sort out the mess in Afghanistan, as well as placating its own citizens. Musharraf will be long gone, but the consequences of his folly will haunt future generations.