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Pakistani rogues

Pakistani rogues

Author: Hiranmay Karlekar
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 16, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/169854/Pakistani-rogues.html

ISI's protection of Mehsud is in keeping with its policy

Reports that 'rogue' elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate were enabling the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud to elude capture and helping the fundamentalist Islamist militia to widen its offensive in southern Afghanistan, are surprising only on one count - the reference to 'rogue' elements. The ISI is a rogue organisation in its entirety and is more responsible than any other institution for Pakistan' failure to emerge as a stable democracy and for promoting the Taliban.

Steeped in the same ethos as the Taliban, the ISI has been interfering in Pakistan's politics both overtly and covertly for decades. In Pakistan - Between Mosque and Military, Mr Husain Haqqani, currently the country's Ambassador to the United States, writes, "In 1976, soon after Zia-ul Haq's appointment as Army chief, the ISI presented a position paper for (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto, recommending that he hold early elections and renew his mandate. In October, Lt-Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan, the ISI chief, sent another paper to the Prime Minister that spoke of him in glowing terms and repeated the proposal for holding elections."

Mr Haqqani then adds, "The ISI's keenness in advising Bhutto to go for the polls is significant in the light of subsequent events. Bhutto scheduled the election and was overthrown by the military following mass protests resulting from allegations of rigging the polls." He further states that Bhutto, who was executed by Gen Zia who had staged a coup in July 1977, wrote to the Supreme Court, while awaiting execution, hinting that a conspiracy by the Army and the intelligence agencies had trapped him.

According to Mr Haqqani, Bhutto's "suspicions, though difficult to prove, were not completely impossible either. The image of Pakistan's military had been completely rehabilitated by the time the ISI was encouraging Bhutto to hold elections." It had expanded beyond what its strength was prior to the 1971 India-Pakistan war, was much better equipped, and the United States' embargo on arms sales had been lifted. He then stated, "Under such circumstances, it is possible (although by no means a proven fact) that General Zia-ul Haq and at least some of his fellow generals thought it was time to reassert the military's primacy (in national life)." This could not have been done with a strong Prime Minister like Bhutto in saddle.

Apart from dwelling on the ISI's widely suspected role in Bhutto's electoral defeat and subsequent judicial murder, Haqqani has detailed how it had also manipulated the 1998, 1990 and 1997 elections in Pakistan besides engineering the formation of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and making sure that Gen Pervez Musharraf remained in office as President after the 2002 election.

As for its protection of Mehsud, the ISI had set up the Taliban with the help of Quetta's transport mafia and the Central Intelligence Agency in 1994. The distinguished Pakistani writer, Mr Ahmed Rashid, writes in Descent into Chaos: How the War Against Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, "At the time of 9/11 there were more than 40 extremist groups in the country who had links with the ISI and the mainstream Islamist parties. Some of these groups, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, were directly set up by the ISI."

Al Qaeda's attack on New York's World Trade Center was followed by an US-sponsored invasion which drove the Taliban and the Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan in November 2001. While claiming to be a firm ally of the US in the latter's war against terror, Pakistan enabled Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, to sneak into its tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. Rashid writes, "The ISI gave refuge to the Taliban leadership after it fled Afghanistan, and to its allies, such as Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hizb-e-Islami Party, who returned from exile in Iran and operated freely in NWFP under ISI protection."

The ISI will persist in patronising Mehsud and other Taliban leaders whom it considers to be its instruments in re-establishing Pakistan's hegemony in Afghanistan, as long as the latter is not ruled by a stooge of Islamabad, and Pakistan's military establishment can milk the US by projecting the spectre of an imminent Taliban take-over of the country. If US President Barack Obama's 'AfPak' policy remains unchanged, the process will continue.

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