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Obama's Pakistan policy: old hat

Obama's Pakistan policy: old hat

Author: Samuel Baid
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 4, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/167127/Obama%E2%80%99s-Pakistan-policy-old-hat.html

In his first meeting with the newly installed US President this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to extract a hard-hitting statement from Washington on Pak-sponsored terrorism

On the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in London this week, the United States President, Barack Obama, and India's Manmohan Singh agreed to intensify cooperation to combat terrorism emanating from Pakistan. The transcript of the conversation said the two leaders talked of how they can "coordinate effectively on issues of counter-terrorism". Obama also raised the idea of easing tensions between India and Pakistan through "more effective dialogue". The Indian Prime Minster reiterated that Pakistan must bring to justice the people who had authored the November 26 attack on Mumbai and that New Delhi would like to make this a precondition for the resumption of the dialogue process.

Nobody has any illusions as to the difference that talk like this is likely to make to Pakistan's campaign of promoting terrorism. In fact, Pakistani leaders have now launched an ingenuous strategy of compulsively accusing India of carrying out such acts of terror. They have blamed India's intelligence agency for the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the March 30 attack on the mosque. But why this accusation when the people in authority know who are the culprits? A possible reason is: the authorities are trying to cover up the truth. The truth is that all terrorist organisations who commit such acts are closely enmeshed in the body of the Army/ISI. If you try to wrench out these organisations from the body of the Army/ISI, you will do irreparable damage to the Army/ISI. The guilt of this unholy alliance is, therefore, sought to be justified by referring to Kashmir.

As it happens, the Pakistani propaganda seems to be miles ahead of India's truth persuasion techniques. President Obama betrayed his vulnerability to Pakistan's campaign of lies when he said on March 27 that he was more interested in the larger question of Indo-Pak peace than the export of terror. In fact, he made it pretty much clear that Uncle Sam still viewed India and Pakistan as Siamese twins. The current US administration's policy, as articulated by Obama, would be to "lessen tensions between two nuclear-armed nations that too often teeter on the edge of escalation and confrontation, we must pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan." On the same day, Admiral Micheal Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was important to defuse tensions on the Kashmir border, so Pakistan can step up its fight against militants in the borderlands with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, at another level, Pakistan is being mollified with billions of dollars worth of assistance to fight the Taliban. So, it is no surprise that official Pakistan is continuing to strike all the right postures. "We either surrender Pakistan to Taliban or fight them," announced de facto Interior Minister Rahman Malik when he visited the Manawan Police Training Centre in Lahore on March 30 after the attack in which eight policemen died, three attackers blew themselves up and one was captured alive. Malik told newsmen that the captured man had come from Afghanistan and had been living in Lahore for two weeks.

It must be conceded that the threat to Pakistan's existence has become more serious ever since Taliban began extending their lethal activities to Punjab - the country's dominating most important Province - with the help of existing terrorist organizations there like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - all with links to the Army and ISI in varying degrees.

The foundation of religious militancy - or rather terrorism was laid by General Zia-ul-Haq in the wake of the United States-led war to oust the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Those days propagation of intolerant and obscurantist interpretation of Islam had become the most lucrative business in Pakistan. A large number of Madrassas sprang up in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan and Punjab with American money and arms.

From the point of population, Punjab is the largest province where Hanafi Brelvis were most influential. Their beliefs and practices made them closer to Shias than to other Sunnis. In Southern Punjab, Shia feudals had tremendous social, economic and political influence. After 1947, Muslims who migrated from East Punjab in India to Pakistan were rehabilitated in Southern Punjab. Gen.Zia, himself a migrant from Jalandhar, exploited them to push his Islamic agenda.

In 1984 he blessed the formation of Siphah-e-Sahaba, a rabidly anti-Shia organisation in Jhang in Southern Punjab. Sipah-e-Sahaba wanted the Shias to be expelled and shared Deoband's idea of a Sunni Islamic society. During the Afghan war of the 1980s, the Deobandi influence surpassed the one of the Brelvis in Punjab. The Deobandi madrassas in NWFP and Punjab produced Taliban to fight in Afghanistan in the 1990s. From Sipah-e-Sahaba came out a much more radical group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which keeps close links with al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Gen.Zia also helped in the formation of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) by allotting a very large chunk of land to its mother organisation, the Markaz Dawat-al-Irshad. Its founder, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, has pro-Wahabi leanings. The Lashkar is a protégé of the Army and ally of al-Qaeda. Another ally of the Army and al-Qaeda is Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was involved in the Wall Street Journal's reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi.

In Punjab there is prosperity in cities and towns but comparative poverty in rural areas from where students are taken for Madrassas for free food, clothing and eduction. These students are supplied to militant organizations. But Ayesha Jalal, a Pakistani scholar, writes in her book "Partisans of Allah - Jihad in South Asia" that recruits to militant organizations in major cities of Punjab have come from Government schools and colleges. The province provides nearly half the manpower to all militant organizations in the country. Most Pakistanis killed in Afghanistan and Kashmir have been Punjabis.

With this supporting network, which enjoys the patronage of the Army and the ISI, Taliban have no problem in taking over Punjab. For suicide bombing Taliban do not have to get boys from tribal areas: Punjab itself supplies suicide bombers to Taliban to conduct terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The March 30th attack on the Police Training Centre was an indication that Taliban want to terrorise and break the police force just as they did in tribal areas to establish their own writ. The mystery why there was no police when the Sri Lankan Cricket team was being attacked by terrorists in Lahore on March 3. It is also a mystery why the police did not know that a truck was being loaded with RDX in Islamabad to smash against Marriott hotel last year.

- Now, who in Pakistan will fight Taliban?

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