WASHINGTON DC, Aug 2, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Pakistan Getting Too Hot for the Generals to Handle

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, August 2: Following 9/11 many had believed that the world would never be the same again and that it had crash-landed into a century of terror. Retrospectively from now to 9/11, there has been no light at the end of the tunnel. Rather, invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has changed the entire global scenario making it more complex.

The universally accepted concept of state sovereignty has been shredded into pieces by those very powers that had accepted it as a sine quo non for a peaceful world order at Breton Wood when they established the United Nations in 1945, an institution that has now become anorchous.

Invasion of Iraq without the UN resolution and on the basis of sexed up dossiers based on piles of lies, reasserting might as right have plunged it into a situation where it has to face causes emanating from socio-economic and political injustices as weapons in the hands of terrorists.

Double standards practiced by world leaders who describe the thousands of innocent people they kill as 'co-lateral damage' while those fighting for their freedom from foreign occupation are called 'barbaric terrorists'. Their justification of evil on the ground of expediency has converted God's little earth into a cesspool of intrigue, machinations and chicanery now even beyond their own control.

Regretfully, Pakistan being one of the pawns in the great evil game continues to sink in a quagmire of unmanageable internal problems and ominous external developments. It is facing such Herculean difficulties that its military establishment needs to open its eyes and read the writing on the wall.

It boldly spells doom and disaster at each and every moment that goes by. A situation where even angels will fear to tread is being handled by Praetorian bravado. Dark clouds shrouding its future, its ruling military oligarchy needs to wake up from its suicidal inertia and surrender to the fact that Pakistan's increasing domestic and external problems are much too big and much too serious to be left solely in the hands of its generals.

Only a total national effort, mobilization of the masses and the best political brains can only steer it out of the stormy ocean to the safe shores least scathed.

No doubt General Pervez Musharraf has survived long enough on the reputation of him being the only Knight Templar in the service of war against global terror, his gilded veneer as irreplaceable is fast wearing of, his claim to be perennially useful is becoming more of a façade then reality and the truth is getting home that he is part of the problem of global terrorism rather than the solution.

London bombings of July 7 followed by a repeat performance on July 21 and more lethal than the previous at the Egyptian tourist resort at Sharm al Shaikh, have brought Pakistan once again in international glare as the epicenter of global terrorism. It goes to the credit of British authorities, especially its Metropolitan police, to have worked out painstakingly to nab those accused terrorists who abortively tried to cause more death and destruction in the otherwise most peaceful capital of the world. This is notwithstanding the controversy as a consequence of the shooting of one innocent Brazilian to death as a case of mistaken identity.

Whether it is in terrorism in London, Afghanistan, Iraq, Occupied Kashmir, India or Sharm al Sheikh, accusing fingers are instantly raised towards Pakistan while it was already at the receiving end due to Al-Qaeda's dastardly bombing of New York's Twin Towers in 2001. The growing distress among the peaceful and law-abiding Pakistanis in Britain is, therefore, understandable.

While they are whole-heartedly with the British authorities to destroy terrorism at its roots, their growing concern of backlash from the racist elements is also not misplaced. Like the bunch of terrorists who had their evil ways of doing things, racists too do get away with their ulterior motives when the society needs utmost peace and inter-communal harmony.

One could refer to a few incidents where the racists have targeted Pakistanis igniting a fear in a by and large peaceful community to the extent that a media survey conducted in Muslim areas indicates a growing desire among the Pakistanis to go back home. What has made their position more embarrassing and vulnerable is General Musharraf's quixotic swipe at Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him to put his own house in order. His assertion that it is more of an internal British problem while under his very nose continue to thrive terrorist training camps, amounts adding insult to injury.

While ignoring the fact and latest investigative stories by some daring Pakistani journalists (especially Amir Mir's "General Musharraf's Commitment to Wipe Out Jihadis Badly Exposed," SAT July 31) unveiling thriving new terrorist training camps and that most of the British origin Pakistani suspect terrorists had been to some of these, Islamabad seems to abdicate its responsibility by just issuing orders of clamp downs "as usual".

Musharraf's announcement that he would not allow terrorists any room in Pakistan, his decision for the registration of religious seminaries many of which are alleged to be training camps for both foreign and indigenous terrorists and his latest decision to throw out "foreign students" is much more of the same that has become a pet reaction from Islamabad whenever suicidal bombing incidents have taken place since 9/11.

Each time after such announcements follows a clamp down, hundreds of militants are also arrested only be to rested to be freed again when pressure on Pakistan eases. These operations are much similar to the one ordered by Musharraf in 2001 for de-weaponisation of the society.

All these pronouncements have proved to be much a do about nothing especially when authorities in Islamabad know that over a hundred thousand foreigners comprising Afghans, Yemenis, Saudis, Algerians, Libyans, people from Gulf States, Chechens, Bosnians, Central Asians and many others recruited for the American Jihad against the Soviet's occupation of Afghanistan were issued Pakistani passports and National Identity Cards by Pakistan's military government under General Zia and even after and they continue to operate freely from Pakistani soil even now. If the Egyptian authorities discover Pakistani passports in Sharm al Sheikh it is not necessary that those belonged to genuine Pakistanis. They could have belonged to those Egyptian nationals-turned-Pakistanis either recruited by CIA or Ayman Al-Zawahiri for the Afghan Jihad.

In this context the British authorities will do well to also probe the real causes of terrorism including how Muslim and other masses feel about war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They must lend their ears to saner voices like that of Tony Benn, Robin Cook, London Mayor Ken Livingstone, journalist Robert Fisk and MP George Galloway. Vast majority of such eminent personages and others believe in the conclusive words of Tony Benn that it was not about clash of civilizations or fight between religions but a conflict to control the resources of Middle East.

Moreover, we need to find out what went wrong locally as well that has given birth to suicide bombers on a soil that gives equal freedom to all without discrimination and where the British have shown great generosity in accepting, with open arms, people of other cultures, religions and ethnic bearings in their compassionate fold dominated by the spirit to share the good that they have.

Wiser are the words of warning in the current situation in the United Kingdom where Muslims especially Pakistanis fear a severe backlash, by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. The Archbishop has expressed his opposition to the proposed drastic measures that the government is planning to introduce to combat terrorism. He believes that the people must not allow themselves to "surrender to logic of fear" when faced with threats.

The British people also need to understand that one of the main causes of terrorism that it is related to Muslims lies in the policies pursued by the United States and its allies since the demise of the Soviet Union and end of Cold War. Sudden about turn soon after their arch rival stood buried in the debris of history, turning their faces away from those who they had used as fodders for their guns in the Afghan Jihad and switching off their funding pipelines to them --converted whole lot of their friends into terrorists -- Osama Bin Laden included.

Now the chicken are coming home to roost. Had they come up with a socio-economic development scheme for Afghanistan, on the pattern of Marshall Plan that turned a war-struck West Europe around and ushered in democracy, soon after the end of Soviet occupation, by now Afghanistan would have had its own democracy and its people would not have been carrying bombs round their waists but would have been involved in profitable economic activity to usher in peace and prosperity.

Since Pakistan remains the epicenter of terrorism and the menace is a much bigger problem and more complex then it is conceived by leaders in Washington, London and Islamabad, it requires to be addressed in a manner that cures the disease and does not kill the patient. Both Washington and London must get down to tell Musharraf point blank that he cannot combat terrorism by isolating the great majority of the people in his country by denying it its democratic right to vote in a government of its choice. The enormous magnitude of the terrorism requires a national effort to combat it.

By keeping former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of the mainstream politics, he has given an open field to the religious parties and extremists to call the shots. The recently passed Hasba Bill by the North Western Frontier Provincial Assembly and the evils it will unleash in the country should be nipped in the bud before it acquires the magnitude of a death-knell for the liberal and democratic forces in Pakistan. Hasba is yet another step towards Talibanisation of Pakistan and a powerful manifestation of Mulla-Military alliance.

In this context Washington would do well to listen to American experts like Stephen P. Cohen. In a paper read at a recent 'Crescent of Crisis' workshop, Cohen rightly pointed out that Pakistani population's "growing alienation from the State feeds into support for extremism." And this obviously is due to absence of democracy and a level playing field for popular leaders like Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Cohen has urged upon Washington to ensure that Musharraf moves beyond "rhetoric" to give content to his notion of "Enlightened Moderation" by supporting liberal and moderate trends in Pakistani society." Cohen's description of Pakistan as a State "chronically teetering on the edge of failure" should not be dismissed lightly.

While his paper deals with various issues related to Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation into Middle East, cross-border terrorism in Indian-occupied Kashmir, need to resolve Kashmir issue, lopsided economy, need for fostering democracy and strengthening of liberal and secular forces, he has highlighted the fact that despite Pakistan being a major recipient of US financial aid and arms since 1954, "Anti-Americanism is endemic".

In his view, Pakistan can be considered one of the most anti-American states in the world, which poses a threat to US interests in the region and beyond. He believes that Islamic extremism has flourished in Pakistan because of decades of support from foreign sources and Pakistan's intelligence services. This extremism has a strong component of anti-Americanism, has become widespread because of encouragement from Islamic extremists, perceived and actual American actions and intentions, and governmental inaction.

Cohen, however, does not mention that one of the major factors for majority of Pakistanis to be anti-American is Washington's sustained preference and support to military dictators and intolerance of popular and democratic leaders who could take an independent position on vital national issues. In this context one would refer to the example of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was made a horrible example for pursuing a nuclear goal opposed tooth and nail by Washington. Or for that matter, his daughter was taught a lesson for defying them by making Pakistan a missile-armed country.

Cohen accepts that the Islamist parties are far weaker than the centrist mainstream parties, and their victory in two provinces in 2002 did not represent a national trend, except to the degree that they were strengthened by anti-American feelings that are prevalent throughout Pakistan. He, perhaps inadvertently, ignored to state that the MMA was tacitly, overtly and covertly supported by the military establishment to be used as a trump card to blackmail Washington, that if Musharraf's power base is toppled, it would be the mad mullahs who would take over from him and Pakistan's nuclear assets would fall into their hands.

The professor believes that it would be difficult to persuade General Musharraf to democratize since the military is afraid that a return to complete civilian government means a return to policies inimical to the army's conception of "the national interest." Nevertheless, he wants Washington to insist that Musharraf allow the mainstream political parties - Ms Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N to function freely and be provided an even playing field.

Cohen has also overlooked the American factor that has helped sustain long military rules in Pakistan because Washington felt more comfortable in dealing with a military dictator rather than with an elected democratic government.

One would, however, agree with Cohen's conclusion that the Pakistan Army needs the radical Islamists as the 'threat' to hold up to its Western supporters, the Islamists are biding their time, burrowing into many Pakistani institutions while building their own infrastructure in the form of chains of madrassas throughout the country. Unless Pakistan democratizes, what is likely to emerge is a coalition of the army and Islamist forces and the potential radicalization of Pakistan."

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