By Ahmed Quraishi
June 21, 2011
The debate on whether Pakistan can afford an open war with the United States if we shoot down CIA drones or restrict the spy agency’s illegal actions is a misleading one. A group of supposed Pakistani apologists for the US are misdirecting the debate and recasting it as a choice between going to war with the US and total surrender. The promoters of this line of analysis are essentially doing two things: obstructing any Pakistani debate on reviewing our role in America’s war, and painting all those demanding a rethink as crazy warmongers.
This is a false divide. And it is alarming to note that the Americans have been successful in using diplomacy, the media and hired guns to sow maximum confusion among Pakistanis. Today, instead of protecting our interests, we have a noisy lobby that wants to see Pakistan permanently mortgaged to US interests. This lobby is resisting calls for a review of our decade-long policy of blind support to US military operations in Afghanistan. Anyone who calls for such a review is accused of “anti-Americanism,” which is a ridiculous term, coined by Washington media managers to stigmatise legitimate critics of US policy.
Advocating foreign subservience has not only become acceptable in Pakistan, but those who do so get to be hired as consultants to US government advisory boards and rewarded with powerful political appointments in Pakistan. It is important to remind everyone that working as a hired mouthpiece for a foreign government is illegal under Pakistani law. We don’t have a legal process by which agents and advocates of foreign governments can register themselves and concede that their paid writings and commentaries in our media are meant to promote the interests of a foreign government.
Moreover, the CIA and its contractors have been busy recruiting freshly retired Pakistani military officers who could provide access into the security establishment. The CIA has been quite successful in this as the case of DynCorp and its Pakistani affiliate company Inter-Risk proved in late 2009, where the US security contractor recruited, trained and armed a proxy militia at a location on the outskirts of Islamabad. The project was busted, but unfortunately Pakistani authorities were sweet-talked by the Americans to drop the case in exchange for a full-fledged Pakistani-US Strategic Dialogue, which has turned out to be a little more than hot air.
Such recruitments are ostensibly not possible now, but advocacy for US positions in Pakistan is an ongoing project, with a budget larger than anything that Pakistan can allocate these days for a counter-effort.
Pakistanis who are demanding a review of relations with the US are not reckless adventurists or warmongers. Such a review is natural and overdue. Several US allies in Afghanistan have opted out of the war or drastically changed the terms of their cooperation. The US government itself is continuously reviewing its involvement in this war. Pakistan is the only country where no such review is taking place. Moreover, we have apologists for the US warning Pakistanis of a war if we don’t accede to American demands.
These advocates of US policy are increasingly misleading public opinion by portraying any talk of a review as a declaration of war against the US. This, in turn, is misdirecting the debate to a question of whether we can defeat the US in case of hostilities.
Our problem with the US is not whether we should be enemies or friends. It is about the role of the CIA and the US military in Afghanistan and their concerted anti-Pakistan actions from the start of our cooperation after 9/11. The US military mess has caused Pakistan unspeakable damage. The CIA has been involved in aiding and abetting terrorism and insurgencies against Pakistan since 2002. Aid continues to pour to anti-Pakistan terrorists on the Pakistani-Afghan border. Terrorism in Balochistan continues to be patronised by the CIA and its allies in Afghanistan.
Following Pakistani complaints, the CIA dragged its feet before finally cooperating in elimination of leaders of TTP terror group through the use of drone technology. But this was limited cooperation, as supplies and terrorists continue to pour from US-controlled Afghanistan into Pakistan. Attacks by unknown terrorists from the Afghan side on Pakistani border regions have multiplied recently with the downslide in Pakistan-US relations. The way the CIA used its clandestine network of agents and willing supporters inside Pakistan on May 2 to sideline and demonise our military and intelligence is indicative of its deep anti-Pakistan bias.
The above notwithstanding, the core of Pakistan’s current instability is linked to a 2006-07 “deal” whose clauses remain secret. Pakistan’s then president Pervez Musharraf signed the deal with the late Benazir Bhutto, prodded by the governments of the United States and Britain. The deal was meant to bring to power in Islamabad a government that would ensure Pakistan’s firm alignment with US interests.
There are reports that Ms Bhutto quietly opted out of the deal by late 2007 and informed her secret American interlocutors of the decision. She was assassinated and replaced by her husband who revived the deal. One of the key interlocutors in the deal was our incumbent chief of the army staff. He was not a free agent then and the deal and its content was not his idea. He did not advocate the deal but, as director general of the ISI, found himself in the unenviable position of negotiating the deal on behalf of his boss, Gen Musharraf. Given the legendary discipline within the Pakistani armed forces, whatever military commanders thought of the deal, it went ahead regardless.
This deal and its outcome is a major cause of strategic instability in Pakistan. It is causing frequent ruptures in Pakistan-US relations because it forces the US to conduct it relations with Pakistan through proxies. It is time Pakistan opted out of this arrangement. US officials and politicians who want Pakistan-friendly relations should support ending this arrangement that has turned their country into an enemy in the eyes of most Pakistanis.
This deal was an abnormality in Pakistani politics. It was an imposed action that interrupted a natural political evolution. It institutionalised foreign meddling and allowed a foreign government to shoot up its intelligence presence inside the country. The deal has placed docile figures in key Pakistani positions to facilitate foreign meddling, like the former national security adviser and the current ambassador in Washington.
The only good to come out of the deal is to contain the separatist agenda of some extreme elements within the MQM, the PPP, and the ANP, the three parties that came to power as a result of the deal. By being absorbed into the system, the pro-Pakistan elements within these parties appear to have prevailed. This is by far the only positive in a shady deal.
A way has to be found to break this deal without causing major instability in the country, and without providing some political elements the chance to claim political martyrdom and heroism to re-emerge as false prophets of democracy a decade later.
Source: The News, Islamabad