By Asif Ezdi
Charges of duplicity have been levelled by the West against Pakistan almost since the beginning of the US-led “war on terror” a decade ago. These allegations reached fever pitch after Osama bin Laden was discovered and eliminated by US commandos in Abbottabad last month. Much of the Western media has gone into overdrive since then, accusing Pakistan of playing a double game – promising support in the fight against Islamic militants while at the same time aiding and abetting some of them, or at least failing to take action against them.
In an editorial titled “Pakistan’s perfidies,” one US newspaper expressed outrage that after accommodating the world’s arch-terrorist for six years, Pakistan had resorted to “lies, bluster and sabotage” to deal with the fallout. There was a limit to US patience, the paper warned, adding that Pakistan was perilously close to it.
In the eyes of the West, Pakistani duplicity has been made worse by the fact that Pakistan has been the recipient of “generous” US aid. In her press conference in Islamabad last month, Hillary Clinton advised Pakistanis to shun anti-Americanism, reminding them that her country had provided more aid than China, Saudi Arabia and everyone else combined. She evidently got her sums wrong, because she left out of the equation the value of the political support given to Pakistan by China, or of Chinese assistance in setting up nuclear power plants despite US opposition.
The media in other Western countries has been almost as scathing as that in the US. The Economist, a normally sober British weekly, commented that “high-risk duplicity” has long been the hallmark of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Germany’s leading daily, the super-staid Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that Pakistan’s duplicity was a reflection also of the country’s moral depravity.
Not to be left behind, British Prime Minister David Cameron has also weighed in in typical British fashion. He has all but pronounced that the Pakistan government had been complicit in providing a hiding place to Osama bin Laden. It was unbelievable, Cameron said, that Pakistani authorities did not know Osama was hiding not far from the capital and there were questions he would be asking the Pakistan Government and that he would want answered.
Much of the venom directed at Pakistan is owed to the West’s growing frustration at the failure of its own policies in Afghanistan, for which Pakistan serves as a convenient scapegoat. It is remarkable that while Pakistan is being castigated for its failure to locate Bin Laden for six years, few in the West are asking why it took the Serbian authorities 15 years to catch Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general wanted for the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, including the massacre of some 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, their hands tied behind their backs.
While taking Pakistan to task for its alleged double-dealing, the Western media has been silent about US duplicity towards Pakistan. One exception is a special report by Reuters last month. It said: “The reality is that Washington long ago learned to play its own double game. It works with Islamabad when it can and uses Pakistani assets when it’s useful, but is ever more careful about revealing what it’s up to.”
There are at least four ways in which Pakistan has been duped by the US intelligence. First, with its vast technological and financial resources, the CIA has set up a spy network in Pakistan that rivals the country’s own agencies. The US has been helped by the liberal issuance of visas to US agents by our ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani, the setting up of hundreds of safe houses in the country and the freedom given to the US spies to move around in vehicles loaded with advanced technical hardware.
Second, the government has allowed the CIA to set up the capacity to intercept not only wireless messages like mobile telephones but also landline and internet communications. David Ignatius, a well-informed columnist of The Washington Post, has written that if the ISI had transmitted information about sheltering Bin Laden, US intelligence would almost certainly have picked it up through surveillance. As the US media has reported, the US agency also monitored telephone calls between Pakistan’s political and military leadership immediately after the Abbottabad raid.
Third, the US has been spying on Pakistan through stealth drones flying in Pakistani airspace without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities and in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. These drones are also equipped to eavesdrop on electronic transmissions in Pakistan.
Fourth, the US has used its intelligence-gathering capability not only to track Al-Qaeda but also keep an eye on the country’s nuclear weapons, possible links and contacts between the ISI and Islamic militants and imports and exports of nuclear-related equipment and material.
Our civilian government, like the Musharraf dictatorship before it, bears much of the responsibility for having allowed the CIA to make inroads into Pakistan that threaten our national security. Zardari is so keen to ingratiate himself with Washington – in the hope of retaining US favour and saving his vast overseas wealth – that he is unable to say no to any US demand.
US duplicity towards Pakistan does not stop at their intelligence-gathering activities. It is also evident in their policies towards the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group. While ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to force it to take stronger action against them, the Americans have themselves been pursuing a dialogue with both, as part of a policy of reconciliation and reintegration of the Afghan insurgency.
Talks with representatives of the “Quetta Shura,” which were started by the US several months ago, have recently been accelerated. Three meeting have been held in Qatar and Germany. Pakistan is not being kept in the picture. Instead, Mullah Omar was included in the list of five high-value targets given by Clinton to Pakistan on her visit last month, which Pakistan must capture either itself or jointly with the US.
Also on the list is Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani. At the same time, the US is reportedly trying to approach Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, as well as representatives of Gulbadin Hekmatyar, either directly or indirectly, to test if they are prepared for peace talks.
The message conveyed to Pakistan by Clinton’s visit was clear. If Pakistan did not get the five most-wanted on the American list, the US would act unilaterally. We should be under no illusion that if the US succeeds in locating the targets, it is not going to ask for Pakistani cooperation before hitting them.
Pakistan would hardly be in a position to counter such an attack militarily. What we need to do now is to build political and diplomatic barriers against that eventuality. We should start by publicly and formally rejecting the US claim, asserted also by Obama, that the United States would be within its rights to take unilateral action against high-value targets in Pakistan. Pakistan’s stand, based on international law and the UN Charter, should also be placed on the record of the UN Security Council by circulating it among the members of the Council. In addition, Pakistan should make clear its rejection of unilateral US action in other appropriate international forums such as the annual general debate in the UN General Assembly.
Pakistan needs also to seriously rethink its policies towards its own Taliban. The terms offered by the Kabul government to the Afghan Taliban for reconciliation and reintegration – acceptance of the country’s Constitution and severance of links with Al-Qaeda – could be replicated by us in our country. If the TTP and its affiliates are prepared to accept similar terms, they should be given a general amnesty and allowed to function as political parties. A beginning should be made with the Swat Taliban, both those who are in the custody of our authorities and those who are still committed to fighting the government.
Source: The News, Pakistan