By Khaled Ahmed
Jun 29 2013
The state-and-citizen consensus in Pakistan over how to explain terrorism received a serious blow on June 17, when leader of the Balochistan-based Milli Awami Party, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, stood up in the National Assembly and revealed the truth that everybody knows but will not articulate.
Reported in the daily, The News, he blamed "the armed forces for allowing militants in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and said the policy of good and bad Taliban needed to be stopped, adding that the secret agencies have been rearing Lashkars."
He saw the drone attacks by the US in a different light: "The US is not crazy that it carries out drone strikes; it is true that we are interfering in Afghanistan. The entire world has become our enemy. The allegations against us have been proved — Osama was caught from near our military academy. We are even accused of selling nuclear secrets while our other neighbouring countries, including China, are not happy with us." He even predicted that he would be accused of speaking on "someone else's behalf" (read the US).
But in the same paper, commentator Amir Mateen reported from the National Assembly gallery in greater detail. Achakzai Quote 1: "The year 1979 was the turning point when Zia ul Haq threw us in an unwanted war in Afghanistan. ISI's late Colonel Imam confessed that the agency trained 95,000 Pakistanis in sabotage activity who were now out to destroy Pakistan. It's a volcano where everybody is now armed to the teeth."
Quote 2: "We are harbouring foreign terrorists on our territory; we intervene in Afghanistan's politics and should stop that for the sake of peace. The establishment should stop its monopoly on policy and not decide things on its own. We should drop our grandiose ambitions about fighting the US and be aware of our limitations."
Quote 3: "Let's speak the truth. We have to rein in our agencies; we can't play the game of Good Taliban-Bad Taliban. Either the parliament should control the agencies or I will resign as its member."
Another commentator, Nusrat Javeed in The Express Tribune, managed to glean a bit more: "Achakzai referred to the incurably delusional elements of our establishment. He kept pleading that it was time to realise that Pakistan could not dictate its terms to all its neighbours and the rest of the world, simply because Qadeer Khan has made an atomic bomb for an army of 5,00,000 personnel."
Quote: "The world will never allow us to use our atomic bomb. For God's sake, forget the dreams of blackmailing the world with this nuclear capability."
Quote: "Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the military oligarchs of Pakistan have developed the habit of dictating their agenda, not only to the hapless people of this country but to neighbouring countries as well. From all across the world, we collected thousands of bigots and trained them to destroy schools, bridges and infrastructure in enemy territories. The Soviet Union withered away in Afghanistan and the US abandoned it. Yet, we continued to look for strategic depth in Afghanistan and, in the process, pampered and facilitated elements who eventually provoked the US-led war on terror by staging 9/11."
The same day, Dawn reported from the Senate: "Senators from both treasury and opposition benches called on Monday for bringing the security apparatus and intelligence agencies under civilian and parliamentary control to improve the law and order situation in the country."
Why did this divorce from Pakistan's consensual misdiagnosis of terrorism take place on the same day? Most probably because Abdullah Umar, son of an ex-colonel of the army, was recently arrested for killing a law officer about to reveal the killers of Benazir Bhutto. He confessed he was working for the al-Qaeda. His father, too, was dismissed from the army after being convicted of being an agent of the al-Qaeda in 2003.
This was followed on June 18 by a statement by the new interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan. He said: "We need to purge the army and its leadership of people like ex-ISI chief General Shuja Pasha. Although Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has kept himself away from politics, but people like Pasha still exist in the army."
Zahid Hussain, the journalist whose books have revealed more than you can usually read of the truth about the state, was forced to allow the following nugget in Dawn : "security agencies in the past propped up these extremist groups to counter Baloch nationalist groups, with disastrous consequences. It will take a massive effort now to dismantle those networks. But it has to be done to salvage the situation."
But the misdiagnosis is a defensive brainwash and will not go away. Retired General Rahat Latif from Lahore insisted (Dunya, 19 June) that terrorism was being "directed from abroad" (ghair mulki haath). Reacting to Achakzai, he advised: Politicians should think before speaking about such sensitive matters. He named RAW, Mossad, Khad and the CIA as culprits. He even vouched that the ISI was better than all the secret agencies of the world. He warned the interior minister against speaking brashly about it. Retired Brigadier Imran thought that the media in Pakistan, too, was influenced by the "foreign agenda". Veteran journalist Mujibur Rehman Shami came on TV and said, "Chaudhry Nisar should stop crying like a girl and concentrate more on his own work".
Brainwash has become brain. One reason the world wants army chief-on-extension General Kayani to go on serving is that he gives evidence of having coming out of the spell of his indoctrination. Last year, he shocked the nation by announcing from Abbottabad (where Osama bin Laden was found hiding) that the threat to Pakistan's existence was not from outside but from within. He did not say that the threat was from the very people his spooks had trained in terror but he knew that "internal threat" was not from common criminals. The message was rejected by the establishment; and police officers and commentators kept naming India behind the trouble in Balochistan and America as the mischief-maker in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has broken some rightwing rules by not allowing his comfortably placed conservative party to form the government in Balochistan, choosing instead to permit two "secular-nationalist" Baloch and Pakhtun parties — the Nationalist Party of Abdul Malik and PkMAP of Achakzai — to form a government clearly opposed to the "security narrative" of Pakistan. The icing on the cake came in the shape of ex-chief economist of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, Muhammad Khan Achakzai, elder brother of Mehmood Achakzai, who has been appointed governor of Balochistan.
Perhaps there is a clue in all this to understanding Achakzai's daring outburst in the National Assembly. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a comprehensive 70-page report on Balochistan in May 2012 without a word about the interference of "foreign powers" in it. The HRCP report, containing interviews with scores of political and social representatives, could not get a single entity to back the "security narrative" officially articulated by the establishment.
Khaled Ahmed is a consulting editor with 'Newsweek Pakistan'