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Islam and Politics ( 15 Jun 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Letter to Gen. Hameed Gul


By Farooq Sulehria

June 15, 2012

While you and your protégés at the ISI headquarters have been dispatching battalions after battalions of suicide bombers, India has infiltrated Afghanistan by building hospitals, roads, transport and education systems. India has contributed $1 billion to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. This is how strategic depth is won

Dear General Sahab,

I am not sure if my letter will reach you. But I hope it will reach some people in Pakistan who keep hearing only your side of the story. First, because you dominate the TV screens every evening as know-all talk show expert. Secondly, because most of the talk shows spit your venomous but illogical thought even when you are absent. People keep hearing your side of the story also because the puritan anchorpersons, tamed-and-trained at the ISPR and the ISI Media Cell, never pose you the right questions.

I am, therefore, on behalf of my fellow Pakistani workers and peasants addressing you a few lines. Let us begin with the stand-off on NATO supplies. For the first, I am not interested in your grand plans to build an Islamic caliphate stretching from Srinagar to Tashkent. However, since you have been claiming credit to humble the USSR and liberating five Central Asian Muslim states, it is, therefore, pretty legitimate to point out: the very five Central Asian Muslim states liberated by Gul Brigades are today the alternative NATO supply route. When Uncle Sam arrived post-9/11 to occupy Afghanistan, the imperial army rented a military base from Kirgizstan for $60 million a year[i]. Ironically, all the ‘liberated’ Muslim republics beyond River Amu have effectively become US clients and are indeed wary of Pakistan. For further proof of Muslim liberation from Soviet tyranny, you are better advised to visit Sheikhdoms of the Gulf. The only way your liberated Central Asian Muslim sisters have benefitted from ‘liberation’ is to become staple for Gulf’s red light areas.

The case of Afghan Mujahideen, you trained in the 1980s, is an even bigger farce. All the seven Mujahideen outfits, including the one captained by your blue-eyed Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar, today provide spine to the coalition headed by Hamid Karzai. Needless to remind you that Karzais, father and sons, were once also on the ISI pay roll.

However, it is not Mujahideen’s betrayal of their Pakistani mentors that bothers me. I damn care. It is in fact your unbroken meddling in Afghanistan that is a matter of concern for me. This meddling in Afghanistan has earned Pakistan near-universal hatred in Afghanistan. I don’t have an empirical evidence to substantiate my assertion but from my first-hand experience as activist visiting Afghanistan, I can say that it is not India where Pakistan is universally perceived as an enemy. As a matter of fact, in India as a Pakistani one gets warm welcome [except of course at airports, police stations and immigration].   It is Afghanistan---besides Bangladesh---where Pakistan is almost universally hated and highly suspected.

Let me tell you an anecdote. Back in 2007 when I was visiting Kabul, my Afghan comrades had advised me not to reveal my Pakistani identity in the presence of strangers. In Kabul, I was doing a news story on the life of ordinary people post-9/11. After an interview with a vegetable-seller, I was invited to a cup of green tea by the vegetable-seller. This is an invitation hard to resist. I stayed on. Meantime, two Indians dropped by. The vegetable-seller granted them special concession and hugged the two guys, thanking India for being Afghanistan’s friend.

The Indian ruling class is not there for the love of poor Afghans. But the GHQ should learn from Delhi how to seek the ‘strategic depth’. While you and your protégés at the ISI headquarters have been dispatching battalions after battalions of warriors and suicide bombers, India has infiltrated Afghanistan by building hospitals, roads, and transport and education systems. Every year, a 1000 Afghan students go to India on scholarship for higher studies. The Parliament House being built next to Dar ul Aman with Indian money is Delhi’s diplomatic manoeuvre that your Khaki brain could never conceive of. India has contributed $1 billion to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan [ii].

This is how strategic depth is won. Not through terror. This explains why not a single section of Afghan society came out to defend the Taliban regime when Washington began to bomb them out of Kabul in October 2001. Instead, Afghan flag from Zahir Shah-era could be spotted atop every mud-house even at sprawling Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of Peshawar when bombing campaign began.

Every flag was a slap in the face of strategic depth. If Afghan people are unhappy with US occupation, they will hardly be welcoming the invading Taliban hordes to embrace Pak-GHQ occupation.   General Sahab! Your strategic depth hardly stands a chance.

If anything, in search of the strategic depth, Pakistan is embracing a geo-strategic isolation. Not a single country in the world is ready to help install Taliban back in Kabul. At least not Iran. And definitely not the Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan liberated by your heroic adventures in the 1980s. Not even China and Russia.

However, it is not the diplomatic isolation that scares me. It is the future of Pakistan that sends shivers down my spine. In my view, Taliban will not reach back Kabul. However, in future they will be laying siege outside of Margalla Hills.

Well, the Taliban rule will be a nightmare for peasants, workers, women and religious minorities. However, it will be amusing to see you sporting a long beard and gracing the talk-show hosted by burqa-clad Mehar Bokhari in a studio partitioned by a white curtain to ensure segregation. Alas! Poor people like me will not be able to watch for the total lack of bijli.

In irritation,

Farooq Sulehria

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.