John Abizaid, US Centcom Chief (R) meets Pakistan Vice Chief of
Army Staff Gen. Muhammad Yousaf Khan in Rawalpindi
Newest American Badge Means Deeper Trouble
NEW DELHI: Two days before Colin Powell flew in to Islamabad,
this time to deliver an ultimatum on how Pakistan’s efforts
to catch the top leaders of al Qaeda should proceed, General Pervez
Musharraf looked a worried man before 500 invited tribal leaders
at the Governor’s House in Peshawar.
soldier-president waved a foreign news magazine which had a story
about Pakistan’s not doing enough to track down al Qaeda
leaders, allegedly hiding in the tribal areas of the North West
Frontier Province. The
general told the tribal jirga that the foreign militants must
be expelled from Pakistani territory and failure to do so would
have “very serious repercussions for the country”.
kind of repercussions, he did not say. But bold words that there
were no foreign forces hunting for al Qaeda on Pakistani soil
and that he would rather resign than allow American troops to
operate inside his country carried insufficient conviction.
himself admitted before the tribal elders that over two dozen
Americans were already inside NWFP, searching for clues to the
whereabouts of al Qaeda’s top guns. Add this to the US Secretary
of State’s conferring on Pakistan the status of a Major
Non-NATO Ally and the follow-up proclamation by President Bush
ending the sanctions that had so long signified American disapproval
of General Musharraf’s coming to power by a coup.
earlier reports in the international media that American and British
forces were ready to jump into Waziristan make the picture complete.
What General Musharraf is worried about gets clear enough.
is understandably incensed that Mr Powell stopped here on his
way to Pakistan, talked about many things but did not utter a
word about the new MNNA badge he was going to pin on General Musharraf’s
Delhi had a right to be told beforehand what Pakistan’s
new international military status might mean for India. BJP-led
India has done much to please America but is not prepared to be
taken for granted, especially when a significant upgrading of
Pakistan’s strategic resources is engineered.
is New Delhi ready yet to wear the livery of the kind bestowed
on Pakistan. The expressions of Indian unhappiness have had some
effect and Washington appears to be anxious now to offer some
compensation acceptable to New Delhi. India may soon be offered
assurances that the US will treat Pakistan as an MNNA only in
the context of al Qaeda and the Taliban in NWFP.
For General Musharraf his newest American badge means deeper trouble.
The MNNA status is a double-edged sword. The unilaterally imposed
alliance is a goad Washington will use to force General Musharraf
to prosecute a total war on the tribals of NWFP until they are
cured of all tendencies towards hospitality to al Qaeda and the
a war may have disastrous consequences for Pakistan. The British
were the last in a long line of foreign conquerors to learn that
the fiercely self-willed tribes like the Waziris, Mehsuds, Mohmands
and Afridis were best left to their own medieval lives in their
mountain fastnesses on the border between Afghanistan and pre-partition
India with the minimum possible interference from outside.
Lord Curzon discovered a hundred years ago that the “forward”
policy of his predecessors was a waste of men and money. He withdrew
British forces from most of the tribal areas and retained only
a few strong points which could be connected by road or railway.
Yet the British had to cope with many tribal rebellions until
a few years before the handing over of power in that area to Pakistan.
then Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan decided to abandon
even the handful of fortresses the British had retained and hope
for Islam and economic development to integrate the tribals of
NWFP with the rest of the country at an unhurried pace.
policy was actuated not so much by magnanimity as the wisdom of
averting costly recurrent wars with truculent tribes which could
inflame the then flickering passion for a Pashtunistan —
independent or as a part of Afghanistan.
are warnings already of another Bangladesh in the making in NWFP.
The opposition to General Musharraf is uniting against the Pakistan
army’s operations in South Waziristan. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal
(MMA), the Islamic alliance now in power in NWFP and Balochistan,
is bitterly complaining that under American pressure Pakistani
troops are killing Pakistani citizens.
army says on the other hand that foreign terrorists, sheltered
by a few of the tribes, are killing in cold blood captured Pakistani
soldiers and therefore there must be collective punishment according
to an old tribal tradition dictating mass demolition of homes.
A rebellion in NWFP’s tribal areas broadening into a civil
war looks likely . General Musharraf has little hope of freeing
himself from the trap he is now in.
Faced with a 48-hour ultimatum after 9/11, he placed his Pakistan
at the American Bushmen’s disposal and has been forced into
acting as an anvil to a US hammer.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed confessed last weekend
that the Pakistani army operation in South Waziristan was “to
avoid any external interference”.
taped call by Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2, for General
Musharraf’s overthrow added, in a curious way, to the compulsion
for the present leader in Islamabad to do against his own people
as Washington wants.
cannot pause to consider the opposition’s advice that the
campaign against al Qaeda calls for more tact than force since
the Pakistani tribesmen are traditionally against surrendering
themselves or their guests.
now dressed as a Major Non-Nato Ally, is breathing impatiently
down General Musharraf’s neck. “Non-Nato” is
a strange reminder of the Nato treaty provision for one ally rendering
military assistance to another after “mutual consultations”
in certain security situations. - Courtesy Deccan Herald