A proxy occupation force?
Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Is Pakistan under occupation? If one is living in the capital, this seems to be the picture as our democratically elected leaders and their state apparatus increasingly behave like an occupation force. Perhaps given our ever increasing concession to the US, one can actually regard the Pakistani state as a proxy occupation force for the US. How else can one explain the present government's desire to recreate the "Green Zone" of Iraq in Islamabad? After all, Iraq's Green Zone basically was necessitated to protect the hated American occupiers and their local Quislings. Obviously, for an occupation force their lives are more valuable to them than the lives of the local people.
In Islamabad, the Navy had sealed its E-8 occupied area from the common Pakistani while the civilian citizen of the capital has not created any hurdles in the movement of naval officers in their residential and workplace areas. More recently the Air Force took the same apartheid-like approach for their E-9 occupied area so a civilian has to undergo many trials before moving in these areas – if allowed at all.
But is this how our democratically elected leaders also think? Now for our civilian leaders it seems all citizens are suspect, barring officialdom and the members of parliament. Too bad elected people can easily forget who sent them there in the first place. So now, thanks to the desire of the new leadership to isolate itself and become an occupation force rather than a representative government, we can undergo the same experiences as our brethren in Iraq. Now if only the wild boars could also realise that, democracy or not, leaders in Pakistan will protect their isolation, come what may, so their forays into the presidency will only result in dire poisoning! Of course, at the end of the day, if people rise up against occupation and increasing hardships, what happens to the self-designed occupiers? A problem has to be resolved and mere cutting off from the problem is no solution but an impediment towards one.
Coming back to the Pakistani state and its concessions to the US, while a complete picture is probably not possible, one does not require an in-camera briefing to make some general assessments as to what has been conceded by Pakistan post-9/11 to the US. But a reminder would be timely right now when we are seeing a resumption of the silence on continued US attacks in FATA against our citizens and our sovereignty.
Certainly, in the early days of our entering the US-led "war on terror," we offered certain strategic bases of which Jacobabad has since been returned apparently over two years ago (or so one is informed, but there is always the trust factor that is not totally there for us ordinary citizens). In any case, since our initial giving on this count, we have clearly given some base-like facilities to the US around Warsak, although, ostensibly, here there are only "trainers" for the FC and other Pakistani units involved in anti-terror operations. But as we all know, even the presence of a few US trainers requires a whole base-like infrastructure in terms of food (they do not trust the local variety), entertainment, logistics, communications (heaven forbid that they have to rely on ours), security, and so on. So, even if informally, we have a base presence in the Warsak area now. As for the Shamsi base in Balochistan where there are Predators, one can safely assume that the US would find it tempting to target Iran from this prime location (westward of Khuzdar). It is time we took back this base which is undermining our own regional security parameters.
Beyond bases, Pakistan also agreed to information/intelligence sharing and so all the equipment at airports, ports, and so on, through which information is gathered is shared with the Americans. But it seems there is little reciprocity from the US side on this count. What is unclear, and I wonder if we will ever know truly, the compromises made by Pakistan on renditions and the handing over of Pakistani citizens to the US. What we do know is that some agreement on this count was also put in place, with some individuals actually making money as a result – to Pakistan's eternal shame. It would also appear that this agreement continues since Zardari, despite grandiose statements, did not even mention Dr Afia Siddiqui's name while in the US recently.
It also appears that we allowed, and continue to do so, 24-hour overflights for US and NATO tactical operations over/through Pakistani airspace. Such instructions have been given to our air traffic controllers. In addition, over briefings given in the past, we were told that all Predator/missile attacks the US undertook were initially done with permission from Pakistan. But now it appears they have stopped seeking that permission. In fact, the Libbi strike was also carried out without Pakistani permission so we do not know when the US altered policy and chose not to inform, let alone seek Pakistani permission for attacks on Pakistani territory.
What we do know is that there was no agreement on ground attacks by US forces. Tut since the present government has been in power a question mark hangs over this aspect of so-called cooperation with the US. Especially since, after Zardari declared in New York, that Pakistani forces had not fired on US intruders, there has been not even a murmur of protest at the increasing US violations against Pakistani sovereignty and Pakistani citizens. In fact, so emboldened have the US and NATO become that, for the first time, in a reversal of the earlier stance, the NATO command has declared support for US intrusions into Pakistan! So, an intelligent conclusion would be that our new government has added to the concessions made by Musharraf.
As for the money Pakistan supposedly has received in return, first it should be clear that no amount of money can justify handing over a chunk of our sovereignty to the US for military purposes. In any case, the Coalition Support Fund went to the government and was to be shared 40:60 by them and the military, but from all accounts the military never got the full 60 percent. As for weapons, it is a cruel joke that continues to be played on the Pakistanis – or is our military so desperate for US equipment and training? It should not be since the army especially has managed without for many decades.
In any case, the largesse of night-vision goggles and supplies for our Cobra helicopters is hardly state-of-the-art transfers! More humiliating for the army has been the regular accounting of these goggles by US personnel which requires the army to collect all the goggles from far and wide and show them to their Yank givers before being returned to use! Now we had yet another absurdity of the US giving us a 32-year-old frigate which we have to restore at a cost of $65 million. If you want to see a proper military partnership simply look at what the US is giving India in terms of weapons systems and weapons technology and then realise where you stand with the so-called ally, the US!
But if our parliamentarians still think the US is our ally, Boucher's latest visit should have made things clearer. No talks, the Americans simply want to kill all our people who they classify as Taliban! This has been the other compromise we made with the US: No successful talks with our people on the pattern of the IRA-UK-Ireland talks and others of a similar pattern–only military response. After all, what seems to have remained hidden to all our leaders, although it has been clear to the rest of us for some years now, is the disruptive and negative US agenda for Pakistan. But our rulers continue to play the US game and our legislators do not seem to have the will to assert their democratic force to change course for the better. There are other solutions to our terrorism/extremism problem, but someone in power has to be prepared to move away from the US and listen to their own people. Till then, they are becoming our occupiers by proxy.
The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org