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Stew in your own juice

Stew in your own juice

Author: M Rama Rao
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 25, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/171777/Stew-in-your-own-juice.html

This week another self-righteous groan was heard in Washington on happenings in Pakistan -- but why should this surprise Hillary Clinton? As Indians can't we just watch our own borders?

Blind, deaf and dumb. This is what the United States has been towards the unfolding Islamic Revolution in Pakistan over several years. So much so, it cannot take the high moral ground as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to do, and declare that Pakistan today posed a 'mortal' threat to the world and that it is itself facing an 'existential' threat.

Islamic Emirate in Swat is not a sudden development. It has been in the making for the past five years. Maulana Fazlullah started his FM Radio station in 2004; he created his Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) two years later while his father-in-law, Sufi Mohammad Khan, remained content with his very own Tehrik-i-Nifazi-i-Shariat Mohammad (TNSM). Both enjoyed the patronage of General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, as the liberal sections of Pak media have been testifying for a long while. The United States cannot claim to be ignorant of the rise of 'Radio' Maulana and the Sufi's activism. It happened a long before the 'Swat deal'.

Also known to the Americans is the fact that the Pakistani Army has no presence worth the name in the entire Swat belt and the adjoining Buner, which has now come under the sway of Pakistani Taliban. From the hills of Buner, the Taliban have access to the flatlands of Swabi, which lead directly to the four-lane highway that runs from Peshawar to Islamabad. Now they can hop into Gilgit with effortless ease. Already the Shias of Northern Areas have started losing sleep and are worried over a likely tie-up between TTP and Sunni Chilasis. The Chinese too have reasons to worry. And, spurred by survival instinct, they have begun to directly deal with the Pakistani Taliban, bypassing Islamabad.

Taliban don't have to seize Islamabad to take over Pakistan. They have in their grip the entire country barring Sindh. In Karachi, migrants from Bihar are standing up to be counted. Unemployed youth are joining their ranks in their hundreds every day as Taliban has succeeded in projecting their mission as a class war.

Conventional wisdom tells that the seeds of Talibanisation were sown by Gen Zia-ul-Haq. But to give all the credit to this son of an Imam is perhaps unfair. His talent lay in exploiting the Americans' concern over the Soviet presence in Kabul. Field Marshal Ayub Khan gave an Islamic orientation to the Pakistan army by invoking Islamic sentiment and national pride first during the operation in the Rann of Kutch and later during the1965 war which he projected as a virtual jihad between Islam and Kufr' by invoking 'Kalima-e-Tayyaba'.

Yahya Khan had allowed the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) cadres to be enrolled in the Army primarily to fight 'insurgency' in East Pakistan. But it helped to create a ready-to-launch platform for Zia's radicalisation of the army. His successors contributed to further advance the cause. The crowning glory of these efforts was the creation of Afghan Taliban by ISI with the knowledge and approval of Benazir.

Nawaz Sharif never shied away from openly flaunting his ties with the religious right and the Army. And Pervez Musharraf perfected the double games Pakistan has become famous for. On the one hand he had convinced the Americans that he was their best bet (till he spoiled his copy book) and on the other hand sacked Major General Amir Faisal Alvi, who had successfully mounted the Angot Adda operation (2004) against the militants. It was the only operation against militants during his entire reign and it resulted in the death of a top militant Abdul Rehman. Militants killed Alvi last November on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Islamisation of Pakistan Army can, in fact, be traced to the early days under Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Because the first military operation by independent Pakistan was against Kashmir. The attack was mounted in the cause of Islam and in the name of Muslim community. Jinnah's successors are loath to agree that Islam has nothing to do with Kashmiriyat and its Sufi traditions. And are pursuing the same old policy - 'no truck with India unless Kashmir is resolved to their satisfaction'.

The rulers in Islamabad have successfully managed to sell this theory to their patrons in Pentagon and the State Department. Now this myth is so ingrained in American psyche that Washington is going the extra mile to persuade Delhi to yield on Kashmir so that Islamabad can divert its energies towards the Durand Line.

The US is unwilling to factor in the reality. In fact, it takes pleasure in being a detached ignoramus. As Washington's primary goal is not peace in Kashmir or tranquillity on the India-Pak border, but peace in Kabul, Pakistan fits the bill.

The Generals in Islamabad know this well. So they not only play truant but also become defiant in a bid to make themselves counted in Washington. When the trust deficit levels increase, as they often do, the Generals turn to Riyadh to put in a good word and the royal family obliges them as they have done early April after a stand off over replacing pro-Islamist Frontier Constabulary with the Punjabi dominated Pakistan Rangers to fight the Taliban.

There is one less documented fact about the Pakistan Army - its close ties with militant groups and with the growth of kidnappings for ransom. Afzal Kasab, the lone gunman caught during 26/11 in Mumbai has provided the first formal insights into the Army-ISI- Militant axis.

A report titled 'Tale of militants, motivation and reach' (The Dawn, April 15) tells how Army Captains and Majors are working with the Lashkars of different hues both during service and after retirement. The report is an offshoot of the investigations into the kidnap of Indian film maker, Satish Anand, last October. Taliban provided the infrastructure and intelligence inputs for the plan. And the retired Army seniors carried out the plan for a price.

The report confirms what is being talked of so far - the mushrooming of freelancers across Pakistan under the benign eyes of the Army. It is they who are hiding the trail to the GHQ from Taliban/LeT camps. Americans know the new enterprise since their own Daniel Pearl became its victim seven years ago.

So, Talibanised Pakistan is a US problem. Hillary Clinton must realise that this is the price of blind faith in the Pakistani Army and for continuously arming it. India has no reason to worry or a need to yield to Washington to provide breathing space to Islamabad. In fact, it has every reason to sport a smile as US grapples with the challenge, which is a result of Pakistan mindset that it's a part of Muslim Middle East and its history began with the landing in Sindh of Muhammad Bin Qasim in 711 AD.

- The writer is Editor, South Asia Tribune

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