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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pakistan’s Taliban Policy : Time For Rethinking
By The Pakistani Spectator • Jun 28th, 2008 • Category: Politics • (3,527 views) • No Responses
On the eve of 9/11 Pakistan’s policy was to support and strengthen the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with two principal objectives:
1. To achieve ‘strategic depth’ and a dependable western frontier at a time when it was deeply involved in assisting the militant groups struggling for the liberation of the Indian occupied Kashmir.
2. The ‘strategic depth’ was also necessary for having access to the resource-rich Central Asian Republics via the Afghanistan territory.
The 9 / 11 occurred at a time when Pakistan’s image was very negative in the comity of nations due to a number of, perceived or alleged reasons:
1. Pakistan had intimate ties with the Taliban regime that had provided a safe haven to the Al-Qaeda and had become notorious in international community for its ‘obscurantist’ policies.
2. Pakistan had overt involvement with Kashmiri militant groups, some of whom the international community regarded as terrorists.
3. It had an ambitious nuclear weapons and missile programs.
4. It had showed irresponsible behavior even after becoming a nuclear- weapons power as proven by the Kargil misadventure.
5. There had been recurrent outbreak of sectarian and ethnic violence in Pakistan.
6. There had been, blown out of proportion and some visible, demonstration of intolerance towards minorities and their victimization under the blasphemy laws.
7. There had been discriminatory treatment meted out to women and their victimization under the so-called Hudood laws that suffered from serious procedural flaws, that was exploited by vested intrest groups on internationl forae, to malign Pakistan.
8. Pakistan had its economy languishing, owing to massive mismnagement, corruption and foolish unilateral freezing of the Foreign Currency accounts of the people by Nawaz Shareef Government, simultaneously with the nucler blasts carried out by Pakistan and the punitive sanctions imposed, as a consequence.
9. To top it up, at the helm of affairs was a military general who had ousted a democratically elected prime minister enjoying the support of two-third members in the parliament.
Pakistan was getting notoriety as a ‘rogue’ State, because of take over and the country was getting projection as a ‘failed’ state, owing to precarious economy and internal security issues.
Thus on 9 /11 the setting was perfect for the United States to extract unconditional submission from Pakistan.
The United States demanded provision of intelligence support and logistic facilities, including use of air bases and air space, to topple the Taliban regime. Pakistan conceded the US demands without demur.
According to General Pervez Musharraf,
“During an important meeting at the Governor’s House, Musharraf received the famous phone call of the US secretary of state. He recalls, “Powell was quite candid: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ I took this as a blatant ultimatum.” (p. 201 In the Line of Fire).
“When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director general of Inter Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the United States had decided to hit back hard.” (p. 201 In the Line of Fire)
In case of ‘non-compliance’ of American demands, Pakistan’s nightmare was a scenario in which India could have succeeded in getting Pakistan declared a ‘terrorist state’ with all consequent repercussions or it could have targeted Pakistan’s nuclear installations with impunity or it could have moved its forces into Azad Kashmir and northern area. With the United States in a revengeful mood (“If you aren’t with us you’re against us”___ US President George W. Bush), there was a possibility that along with Afghanistan Pakistan could also become a victim of the US rage because of its links with the Taliban.
According to President General Pervez Musharraf, the US threatened to bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age if it dared to say no.
While conceding the US demands, General Musharraf justified Pakistan’s critical concerns and priorities: “First of all is the security of the country from external threat. Second is our economy and our efforts for its revival. Third priority is our strategic, nuclear and missile assets. And finally, the Kashmir cause.”
General Musharraf’s arguments could be summarized thus:
With India bent upon seizing the opportunity to punish and harm Pakistan for conducting a low-intensity war in the occupied Kashmir, Pakistan could not say “no” to the United States’ demand for cooperation and had no option but to join the US-led international coalition in its “war on terror”.
He further maintained, perhaps rightly too;
“It is very well for us to say that Islam is. . . . in fact a very progressive, moderate, and tolerant religion ___ which indeed it is ___ but why should the people of the world bother to go out of their way and spend their precious time to explore the authentic sources of Islam? They are going to judge Islam by the utterances and actions of Muslims, especially those actions and utterances that affect their lives directly, and not by the protestations of academics and moderates, no matter how justified.” (p. 215 In the Line of Fire).
To the question that tormented the believers: “Could Pakistan’s territory be offered to an infidel power for use against a fellow Muslim country?
” General Musharraf’s indirect answer was: “. . . it is said in shari’ah that when faced with two adversities simultaneously it is better to choose the lesser one.”
Be that as it may, with Pakistan on board, the US-led coalition forces occupied Kabul in December 2001 and the Taliban got dispersed without putting any meaningful resistance.
What was probably not fully comprehended at that time was that the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban would reorganize in the tribal belt of Pakistan, besides, southern fghnistan and resumeattacks on the coalition forces inside Afghanistan.
The best way to see how this situation was perceived by Pakistan, is to see what President Pervez Musharraf has to say;
“The terrorists are very well trained in hit-and-run tactics and are adept at raids and ambushes. Most of their actions are intense and swift. They are capable of putting up stiff, last-man-last bullet resistance. They are equipped with sophisticated weapons and high-tech communications, which they use efficiently for effective command and control.”p.270)
According to Musharraf, Al Qaeda seems financially secure and it has attracted following in Pakistan by a combination of religious indoctrination and monetary incentives, including the renting of local compounds at exorbitant rates. Sometimes, Al-Qaeda has forcibly coerced people into supporting it. (p. 270)
As the militants found a ‘safe haven’ on Pakistani territory and began their attacks on the coalition forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan came under tremendous US pressure to act against them. In early 2003 Pakistan Government resorted to military action against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in FATA but the Pakistani troops suffered heavy casualties.
Since than a number of times Pakistan Government has made truce and concluded peace agreements with the local Taliban only to be broken under the US pressure. The United States insists that the peace accords would enable the Taliban to intensify their cross-border incursions.
The U-turn that Pakistan took in its Taliban policy after 9 /11 has produced positive as well as negative results.
On the positive side:
1. According to one estimate the United States has provided economic aid of nearly $ 12 billion since 9 /11. There have been debts written off and rescheduling of interest and loan repayments. Unaccounted payments have been received from the CIA for capture and surrender of the Al-Qaeda operatives.
2. The United States has provided military assistance to Pakistan, including missile and reconnaissance systems, which has helped Pakistan in modernization of its armed forces that had lagged behind its arch enemy India.
3. Pakistan has not only been spared of American wrath; instead the United States has ensured that India does not take any undue advantage of Pakistan’s precarious position and it agrees to participate in a peace process. However, this has not deterred India from fomenting trouble in Balochistan and FATA through its consulates in Afghanistan.
4. Pakistan’s nuclear installations and assets have remained safe and under its own command and control system despite a lot of propaganda that the Pakistani atomic devices might fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda.
On the negative side:
1. Pakistan has been made to fight American war on terror on its territory and against its own people. This has led to large number of casualties, deaths of its on countrymen and resultant demoralization of Pakistan armed forces with numerous defections of troops on religious and ethnic grounds and the projection of Pakistan armed forces as a mercenary army within the country and outside.
2. There have been terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister, and military personnel, posts, convoys, assets and installations.
3. Pakistan has lost its troops in hundreds if not thousands fighting their own co-religionists and countrymen.
4. Pakistan had to compromise its policy of militarily supporting freedom struggle in Kashmir and has let India off the hook without any comparable concessions from the other side.
5. Due to American and Pakistani policy of dealing with the problem militarily, the process of Talibanization has intensified in FATA and NWFP.
The ground reality:
“The security situation in Peshawar is grim. Officials in the home department, who evaluate the situation on an almost daily basis, believe declaring a state of red alert is now only a matter of time.
With militants knocking at the gates of the capital of the NWFP, even the more circumspect government and police officials now grudgingly concede that Peshawar, too, could fall in a few months.
“Peshawar is in a state of siege and if Peshawar falls, the rest of the districts in the NWFP would fall like ninepins”, a worried senior government official told Dawn.
It would be a shame if Peshawar were to fall. It is not Swat. It is home to the headquarters of the 11th Corps, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary and the police.
Also, the optimists amongst us would like to believe that it would require an organised force to take over Peshawar. But the might of the militant groups operating around Peshawar from one to the other end is all too visible and alarming to ignore.
And if there were still any doubts left, that too have been washed away in recent days by the forays made into Peshawar by the ‘moral brigade’ of Mangal Bagh.
The kidnapping of Christians from one of the NWFP’s biggest teaching hospitals and the sighting of militants in the very heart of the military cantonment has made even the very laid-back sit up and take notice.
Police stations in rural Peshawar have long given up patrolling at night after a contingent was blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade and charred bodies of policemen were retrieved and buried without allowing their dear ones to see their faces for the last time.
So grim has the situation become that a committee that includes Chief Minister Hoti, Governor Owais and the Corps Commander Masood Aslam met on May 31 to discuss possible options for defending Peshawar.
The prime minister’s adviser on interior, Rehman A. Malik, landed in Peshawar on June 19 to discuss the situation. The two meetings, however, yielded no results.
The military, the paramilitary, the constabulary and the police are unable or unwilling to muster enough force to defend the city.
In some ways, this apparent apathy for Peshawar reflects the federal government’s lack of urgency to handle the situation in tribal regions and cope with a possible fallout of the peace agreements it is pursuing with tribal militants.
President Pervez Musharraf – whose dramatic volte face on the Taliban and alliance with the United States in 2001 largely contributed to the mess in the tribal region, has taken a back seat. The only person constitutionally mandated to look after Fata, the president has since the Feb 18 elections more or less lost all interest in the borderlands.
Those who have worked with him closely on Fata say that except for occasional briefings, there have been no “brainstorming meetings’ on the subject with key players for months. The last such meeting took place before the general election, according to credible government officials, and they do not even remember the date!
The National Security Council – another of Musharraf’s controversial brainchild – met on Nov 8 last year to discuss, among other things, the situation in Fata.
The elected government, despite being in office for nearly three months now, has yet to find its feet.”
(PESHAWAR, June 24 Emboldened militants set sights on Peshawar Ismail Khan Dawn report)
One may also quote Shirin Mazari;
“Yet the problem of militancy and violence in FATA and NWFP can be dealt with in an orderly fashion if there was some coherent long term policy which has clear end goals of bringing the FATA into the mainstream of the Pakistani polity by eventually making it a part of the NWFP. This would automatically call for a strategy which would allow all political parties of the country to operate in the FATA and would also require political dialogue with all groups – militants and others. At the same time, short-term economic benefits need to be brought in along with schools, hospitals and so on. In other words, if the state wants to convince one’s people to renounce violence and isolate those dedicated to this form of action, the state has to give people a viable stake in the system. Also, while respecting local traditions, the state has to ensure a respect for the law of the land.” (The writer is a defence analyst. )
The critical phase due to which Pakistan conceded American demands is now over and retrospectively most of the analysts believe that Pakistan offered too much for too less, not only in terms of monetory benefits but juxtaposed to losses it has suffered in terms of errosion of National Cohession, internal security problems and collapsing law and order in many parts.
Hence it is time Pakistan rose from its posture of prostration.
The resort to military action in FATA and Swat at the behest of the United States has completely alienated the local population. There is a rapid Talibanization in the region and the state is losing control over its own territory while serving the interest of a foreign power.
It is a commendable that the ANP-led provincial government is determined to resolve the issue through peace accords with the local Taliban and other Islamist forces in Swat.
For the sake of internal peace and harmony and to maintain territorial integrity of Pakistan the government must negotiate with the Taliban and must never resort to only military means against them even if they remain adamant to continue their cross-border incursions into Afghanistan.
Let the ulema and the tribal chiefs of the region decide the issue. They know very well what could be the consequences of such a policy.
In case Pakistan Government concludes peace accords with the Taliban it is likely that:
1. The NATO forces in Afghanistan would resort to hot-pursuits of the Taliban into FATA.
2. The instances of aerial bombings of selective militant targets inside Pakistani territory would increase.
3. There may be arms-twisting of Pakistan by the United States through economic measures.
4. Indian activities on the Line of Control in Kashmir and its interference in Balochistan from across the Durand Line may increase.
Compared to what is at stake, the above mentioned cost should be acceptable. The reasons being:
1. It is far better that our people embrace martyrdom at the hands of the aggressors rather than killed by our troops. This would only promote unity and national cohesion.
2. If Pakistan Government depends on military means there is no hope that it would be able to overwhelm the Taliban who enjoy a popular support base which is continuously widening.
3. The resort to military means against the Taliban may ultimately result in the virtual break-up of the country.
The United States can not do more than what has been mentioned above if Pakistan declines to act on its dictates because:
1. The US-led occupational forces are in deep trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan and not in position to open another front in FATA or NWFP.
2. The United States is too engrossed in efforts to prevent Iran from going nuclear.
3. Cracks have emerged within the international coalition. The European partners in the alliance know that the United States has an agenda that goes beyond ‘war on terror’ and they don’t share it.
4. China and Russia do not like American presence in Afghanistan and want the Central Asian Republics to be within their sphere of influence.
5. The United States cannot afford to make any rash move to take over FATA because that would jeopardize Chinese stakes in transit route across the northern areas, the NWFP and Balochistan to the Arabian Sea.
6. The United States understands that China may not remain a silent spectator. During his visit to Pakistan in April 2005, the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, had given a categorical assurance to Pakistan to defend its “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” (Dawn, Karachi, 6 April 2005)
7. The United States would not be prepared to completely lose its leverage on Pakistan by assuming a too hostile posture.
Nevertheless, Pakistan should take necessary precautionary measures as far as possible:
1. It should coordinate its regional policy with China to thawart any American-Indian adventurism which might take place in the worst case scenario.
2. It should do its best to see that the Taliban do not be instrumental in creating any problems for China in Xin jiang by supporting Uighar Muslims.
3. It should remain calm even if there are provocative gestures from the Indian side. One may hope that India realizes that its dream to have access to Central Asia via land route cannot materialize without normalization of relations with Pakistan. Even if there is American pressure on India to brow beat Pakistan, India is likely to show restraint.
4. The Indian inteligencia is quite cognizant of the immediate radicalization of its huge Muslim minority, if Pakistan was to get radicalized by present policy of fighting its own people and people of Afghanistan at the behest of US.
5. Pakistan should get geared up to face economic hardship. Saudi Arabia and China are likely to offer economic assistance in times of trouble.
Obviously the heavy cost of dealing with the militants in South Waziristan, their preparedness and resources in North Waziristan and the fact that the policy of dealing with them militarily, was only resulting in further Talibanization of the region that prompted Musharraf to agree to the Miramshah Agreement on September 5, 2006. The situation has worsenned since then, because of absence of wholistic approach in dealing with the entire gamut of policy of fighting US war, rather then concluding agreements here and there.
Terrorism is a historical phenomenon but it has acquired new dimensions in the present day world. Depending upon the nature of its objectives, the financiers of terrorism can be identified. The efforts of international community, notably the United States, have reduced the instances of money transfer for terrorist purposes but have failed to completely curb the practices.
There is a need to make more concentrated efforts under the auspices of the United Nations at global level to combat terrorism. Simultaneously, it is far more important that the root cause of terrorism i.e., injustice in international political and economic system, is addressed.
To make the world safe, it is imperative that international disputes are resolved in a fair and just manner. The World Bank and IMF must consider measures to reduce poverty and consequent social chaos that is prevalent in many countries.
The focus of the Western countries is on what may be referred to as Islamic terrorism. The origin of this brand of terrorism can be traced to the United States’ double standards and Israel’s arrogance and rogue behavior in the Middle East. Without a just and peaceful resolution of the Palestinian dispute and withdrawal of the United States forces from Muslim lands no one will be able to completely eliminate terrorism or fully plug the sources of its finances.
While concluding, the summation by President Pervez Musharraf and AQ Leader Osama Bin Laden may be very relevant;
In this regard Bin Laden’s views expressed in a widely distributed seminal document entitled “Join the Caravan” reflect the position of the Islamite:
“When the enemy enters the land of the Muslims, jihad becomes individually obligatory, according to all the jurists, mufassirin and muhaddithin . . . When jihad becomes obligatory, no permission of parents is required . . .. Donating money does not exempt a person from bodily jihad, no matter how great the amount of money given. . jihad is the obligation of a lifetime. . . .Jihad is currently individually obligatory, in person and by wealth, in every place that the disbelievers have occupied. It remains obligatory continuously until every piece of land that was once Islamic is regained.” (Quoted in Rohan Gunaratna, p.87)
“The Symbiosis of Terrorism and Religion”, Musharraf reproduces a brief history of jihad in the context of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and proudly claims, “We did what Napoleon and Hitler could not do; we defeated Russia, with the help of our friends in the jihad.” (p.276 In the Line of Fire).
“ultimate success will come only when the roots that cause terrorism are destroyed: that is, when injustices against Muslims are removed. This lies in the hands of the West, particularly America.” (p. 280)
By Amicus
About the author: Amicus is the pseudonym of Advocate Mohammed Yousuf. With sixteen years in legal practice. He has written extensively on Islam and Islamist Militancy. Advocate Yousuf can be reached at:

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