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Islam and Politics ( 6 Oct 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan: Smokescreen of sovereignty

By Dr Mohammad Taqi

 The world's patience with Pakistan is running thin and the establishment's gimmicks will come under increasing scrutiny, followed potentially by retribution. The ISAF action in the Kurram Agency then was not a surprise

“Son, do you not know who I am?” said in Urdu the man with a henna-dyed beard and the Holy Quran on his lap. Reading the perplexed expression on the young man’s face, he then answered his own question, “I am Jalaluddin Haqqani — Commander Haqqani.”

It was 1994 and this young sub-inspector of the Punjab Police had stopped a convoy of double-cabin vehicles on Peshawar Road, just outside Rawalpindi. With tens of armed jihadists seated in the trucks, the officer who led a small posse faced the dilemma of whether to insist on the checking that he had originally planned or not. After a short standoff, his problem was solved by a wireless message from ‘higher authorities’ to clear the cavalcade without inspection! The officer later confided that he still did not know who Haqqani was.

Mr Haqqani has since retired from active jihad on account of health reasons and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani has been carrying the mantle from their state-provided sanctuary in North Waziristan. It was multiple conversations of an ISI colonel with Sirajuddin that were tapped by the US in 2008 and led to a surge in the drone attacks ordered by George Bush.

In South Waziristan, the Uzbek terrorist ‘Sheikh’ Tohir Yuldeshev — abbreviated STY in Pakistani intelligence circles — operated with impunity for years before being taken out in a drone attack last year. Scores of Uzbek terrorists led by their Sheikh had remained functioning across FATA and as far as Buner last year.

Hardly forgotten is the 55th Arab Brigade comprising Arab-Afghans and operating from its bases straddling the Durand Line, which fought alongside the Taliban years after the last Soviet had left Afghanistan and six years before any Americans had appeared there. The Afghan-Arab ringleaders like Ayman al-Zawahiri still remain in FATA.

Just last month, the Afghan Taliban — entrenched with their Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) cohorts in the Kurram Agency for three years — were attacking the Shalozan Tangi tribes in the upper Kurram, northwest of Parachinar, at the foothills of Koh-e-Sufaid. The Khaiwas village fell to them days before Eid-ul-Fitr. When the Tangi tribesmen mounted a counter-offensive to retake Khaiwas after Eid, they were bombed by the Kurram militia and army helicopters. Eighty-six Tangi tribesmen died — eight were killed by army gunships.

The Pakistani establishment never bothered for a moment about ‘sovereignty’ when they were pawning away large swaths of FATA to these terror networks, which have harboured and unleashed terrorists that have killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis throughout the country.

I had noted last week that the world’s patience with Pakistan is running thin and the establishment’s gimmicks will come under increasing scrutiny, followed potentially by retribution. The ISAF action in the Kurram Agency then was not a surprise. Pakistan has abandoned its responsibility as a neutral state to prevent its territory from being used against other countries.

In Kurram’s case, the Taliban have been slaughtering Pakistani citizens for almost three years now but the state did not budge. It was the same group of Taliban that had engaged the ISAF forces last weekend. Given the strategic geography, ISAF could no longer ignore Pakistani inaction. NATO has apologised for the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers, and rightly so. It gains nothing tactically by killing foot soldiers. As General Musharraf’s confessions to Der Spiegel reiterate, it is the top brass that continues to nurture the terrorists and has failed to understand that using the jihadist proxies is no longer acceptable to the world at large.

It is only a matter of time before a large-scale terror attack on western and US targets succeeds. One lapse on the part of the counter-terrorism forces and we will have a repeat of 9/11, complete with its aftermath. And all indications are that such an attack would originate from the ‘sovereign’ Pakistani territory. As details about the German nationals killed in the drone attack in North Waziristan earlier this week emerge, the Pakistani state’s credibility as an entity willing or able to tackle the problem within its borders has hit rock bottom.

So what did — what my friend Kamran Shafi calls — the ‘deep state’ do? First, it has ratcheted up the brinkmanship by stopping the NATO supply line and then allowing orchestrated attacks on the idling trucks. This is reminiscent of the November 1979 burning down of the US embassy, while General Ziaul Haq went on with his gingerly bicycle ride in Rawalpindi. The mobs torched the embassy and killed diplomats in the heart of Islamabad, while the security agencies stood by. The idea was to teach the Yanks a lesson so they would do business with the general on his terms.

NATO’s immediate plans will not be affected by several days of supply stoppage and if the same were to continue, it would be forced to take up the expensive but available alternative routes. Any sane government, whose cash reserves are dangerously low and fuel reserves even lower, would not have embarked upon an adventure like this to become an international pariah.

But then again, thinking things through has not been the forte of those used to pushing Pakistan into geopolitical dead ends. And, as always, after painting itself into a corner, the establishment has now turned to the civilians to save its skin. Civilian leaders of all political hues are being coerced to join in the sovereignty chorus. Remember Mian Nawaz Sharif’s frantic dash to see Bill Clinton on July 4, 1999? Roping in the PPP or the ANP leaders like Asfandyar Khan to sing hymns of sovereignty is no different.

When Nadir Shah invaded India, he embarked upon an elephant ride. Seated on the elephant he told the mahout: “Anaanash ba dastam bideh” (hand over the reins to me). The mahout responded that it was he who drove the elephant. Nadir Shah declined the ride, one that he did not control himself.

Despite debacles at home, the international credibility of the Pakistani civilian leadership is still better than that of their khaki counterparts. There is no declared status of forces agreement between the US and Pakistan about the operations inside Pakistan. The civilian leaders would be ill advised to take ownership of an undocumented enterprise, over which they never had any control. They must refuse to be used as human shields. The world can see through the smokescreen of sovereignty; Pakistani politicians should too.

The writer can be reached at

Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan