Bashing Pakistan
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

It seems no matter what we do as a country in the context of the war on terror, we will continue to be the West's whipping boy -- especially the US media. Given the close links with this media and the US Administration -- the two together having set the dubious tradition of embedded journalism (another name for self-censorship) to paper over the overwhelming abuse of human rights in Iraq, alongside the overall abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay. Finally, George Bush has accepted and defended the US's right to use torture as a tool in the war on terror. So on what grounds can the US State Department continue to produce reports critical of human rights abuses by other countries, most of which happen to be developing countries. Meanwhile, allies like Israel never have anything to fear as they continue with their state terrorism.
Be that as it may, as far as Pakistan is concerned, it can never do anything right. The latest accusations come once again from that anti-Pakistan newspaper, the Washington Post, which now claims that the key to the whole resurgence of the Taliban is simply Pakistan. The person who wrote the piece for this paper, CNN's so-called terrorism expert Peter Bergen, falls into the typical US mindset of seeking simple explanations that will sell (and what better than to lay all the sins of bad US policies in Afghanistan at Pakistan's doorstep -- a militarily strong Muslim state with a nuclear capability which will always sit uncomfortably with the West).
As one continues to read Bergen's tirade, it becomes clear that what is frustrating the Americans is the ganging up of disparate forces to fight the US in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani -- both past foes of the Taliban -- seem to have joined forces with their former opponents to fight US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Even when Hekmatyar was being supported by the US and Pakistan, during the fight against the Soviets, he was not given to taking instructions from Pakistan. Hence, it hardly seems likely that Pakistan would now have persuaded him to join the Taliban when it has itself turned against them. But logic has never been an American strong point and the world continues to suffer for this shortcoming.
Surely it is time the US and its coalition partners undertook a serious review of their Afghan policy. One British officer has resigned and gone public with his criticism of this faulty policy. As for those Pakistanis who pander to what the West, especially the US, wants to hear, perhaps those listening to them should try and understand that these individual experts and NGOs rely on their funding from their Western donors --and criticizing Pakistan pays for their lifestyles. It is time for Pakistan to follow India and Indonesia's lead and respond forcefully to NGOs such as the International Crisis Group whose study of madressahs in Pakistan, which used almost a single source for most of its data and claims, was questioned by scholars in the US. But the damage had been done. How long will we indulge such agenda-driven NGOs in the name of "freedom" and "liberalism"?
Coming back to the US, its arrogance continues to grow vis-a-vis Pakistan and the hostility is building up to time with President Musharraf's visit to the UN and US. A US spokesman in Kabul haughtily declared in a style reminiscent of imperialism that the truce deal signed by the Pakistan government in North Waziristan would be "monitored". Even more disturbing is a news item that appeared in an English newspaper which said that a special US unit can enter Pakistan at will to hunt for Osama. Have we been so cowed down by America that we are now formally undermining our sovereignty voluntarily to it? According to this report, which cites, yet again, the Washington Post, complaining that "Pakistan will permit only small numbers of US forces to operate with its troops", and therefore US troops say they have too little to do.
Even one US soldier operating with our troops is one too many. As for US soldiers having little to do, surely they must be joking, given the dire law and order situation in Afghanistan. The fact that they still have not stabilized that country shows how much work there is for them to do, or do they want the NATO troops to act as cannon fodder for their faulty Afghan policy? In any event, it is high time the US assumed responsibility for its failures in Afghanistan -- despite their high tech weapon systems and randomly distributed largesse amongst the warlords.
The Post continues its litany against Pakistan by declaring that "not a single senior Taliban leader has been arrested or killed in Pakistan since 2001", but how many Taliban "leaders' have been identified and named by the US post-9/11, apart from Mullah Omar? Clearly, the newspaper is confusing the Taliban with Al Qaeda where the leaders are identified down the hierarchy and many of them have been captured either by Pakistan or with the help of Pakistan. But such recognition would not gel with the Pakistan-bashing being conducted by the US media presently.
In all this, it is strange that given the US and Europe's vocal condemnation of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims, there has been little condemnation of the act of terror against Muslims as they were praying at a mosque, in western India. The Mumbai blasts were lead stories in the Western media but where were the headlines reporting the death of over 40 Muslims, with dozens more wounded, in Malegaon caused by a series of bomb blasts? One bomb went off inside a mosque, another outside its gate and the third in the town square. A clear case of targeted terrorism against the downtrodden Muslims of India.
However, equally obvious is the fact that the killing of Muslims by Hindu terrorists seems to be acceptable to the West even as they rant and rave against "Islamic militants". The Bush-Blair combine's silence is the most damning. Similarly, the US and the Karzai government ignoring the office of the BLA in central Kabul is a clear signal that both these players are giving this terrorist outfit at least their tacit blessing.
Under these circumstances, Pakistan must chart its own independent stance to fight terrorism both within and outside. And it must now evolve a more encompassing strategy, unlike the US approach of relying primarily on a military strategy, to deal with the root causes of terrorism. We have been reiterating the need to deal with root causes at the declaratory level and the Waziristan truce deal is one small step in this direction. But we must do more and we certainly should not be detracted by US criticism of our approach – especially given their own dismal failure so far in Afghanistan and Iraq – and Lebanon also. Given the new vitriol coming out of Washington against Iran, we should prepare ourselves for the worst from the Bush-Blair combine even as we chart a more rational course in our own war on terror.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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