Deliberate Lies
By Shireen M. Mazari

As Pakistan faces up to all manner of political and other challenges domestically, in the US and Britain it is open season on the Pakistani state and nation. Supposedly respectable newspapers and television channels have launched critical blitzkriegs against Pakistan and the issue is not simply the President and his uniform or democracy -- although these two issues have provided the façade for the present anti-Pakistan diatribes. What is important to note is the deliberate manipulation of facts or even outright lies to condemn Pakistan with.
Take the case of The Times of London and its editorial of August 14, 2007. Reflecting the British imperialist mindset's still unreconciled trauma over the partitioning of British India and the historic antagonism for Pakistan that has been there from Mountbatten down, the newspaper chose to print an outright lie in order to try and justify its assertions. This lie claimed: "Today there are 120 million Muslims in India, more than the population of Pakistan". According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2005-06 the total estimated population of Pakistan at the time was 153.96 million -- it has surely grown since -- out of which the total number of Muslims was 96 per cent or 147.80 million. Now one assumes The Times cannot be ignorant of basic facts so obviously there was a deliberate attempt to tell a big lie and hope to get away with it!
Nor is this all. Following the hysterical calls by US politicians to attack Pakistan and accusations flowing from Washington that somehow Pakistan was the global center for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the US National Security Archives have released an unnamed and undated "US intelligence document" entitled "Pakistan: The Taliban's Godfather?" The allegation contained in this document is that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with financial and military assistance and the documents used to support this allegation are freshly declassified documents relating to Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban pre-9/11. Of course, Pakistan was one of the three Muslim states to have recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan so there was nothing clandestine or underhand about the Pakistan government's support over the seven-year period leading up to 9/11. But even here, the reliance is primarily on declassified State Department cables, US intelligence reports, a few statements by Pakistani officials and a report produced by Pakistan's Interior Ministry warning President Musharraf of a Taliban-inspired militancy in the tribal belt -- a report that, interestingly, was "obtained" by the International Herald Tribune in June 2007. Surely an investigation is needed to find out how such a sensitive document went to a foreign media publication.
However, coming to the main issue, that of US State Department and US Intelligence reports, we all know how credible they have been in the past in the case of Iraq. While the extent of the aid given to the Taliban both overtly and covertly by Pakistan is an issue of debate, it is the conclusions arrived at in this Taliban File project that are contentious and do not reflect all the facts, including some that are cited in the published cables themselves. For instance, there is the US Embassy Cable of February 17, 1997, which reports that there is little evidence of direct military aid from Pakistan to the Taliban "as Pakistan only admits to sending flour and fuel". Interestingly, amongst the cables included in this document are some that also point to Russian and Iranian aid to the Northern Alliance. The fact that India's known links to the Northern Alliance leadership (many of whose families were supported by New Delhi in India itself) are glossed over should not come as a surprise given the person who in 2003 initiated and compiled the Taliban File for the National Security Archives was one Sanjit Gandhi.
In short, to rely on Pakistan's past relationship with the Taliban regime to condemn it now on such contentious and dated documentation, as well as the timing of the Report's release shows a mala fide intent by US institutions -- which should not come as a surprise in the present anti-Pakistan environment dominating the US political and media landscape. This is like saying that the US, because it supported the Saddam regime for decades including supplying it with WMD, must still have maintained links with this regime through the CIA even though it officially did an about-face! But then there has never been much rationality in the US cyclical hostility towards Pakistan especially in the wake of its nuclear capability. That is why new surveys are now coming out where US experts see Pakistan as a leading future proliferator and so on!
Of course part of the blame rests with our ruling elites also since we are zealous in not only showing our divisiveness domestically to the world at large but also seeking external interventions. Of course, we have issues but these should be resolved by us without interventions from outside -- especially from inherently hostile powers like the US and Britain. After all, the people of Pakistan provided the moral force for the judiciary in the crisis it confronted. Yet we have certain political leaders seeking US "guarantees" to underwrite political deals. Worse still, the same leadership also seeks to exploit the terrorist problem in Pakistan by simplistically declaring that terrorism will disappear with President Musharraf's exit! Such simplistic and dangerous assertions can only appeal to the irrational American political mindset. Mercifully not all our mainstream political leaders are seeking to exploit such dangerous issues to garner Western support.
Whatever our domestic political battles, let us be clear that the US is now on a course aimed at undermining the Pakistani nation and state. Our nuclear capability is one of their strategic targets. A tactical target is our relationship with Iran since undermining that would totally destroy the IPI project and isolate Iran in the neighborhood. That is why Pakistan's recovery of 21 Iranian nationals kidnapped from Sistan and brought to Balochistan needs to be appreciated. The abductors were said to be linked to Jundullah, a terrorist group being used by the US to destabilize the Iranian regime through Sistan province. Condoleezza Rice, at the start of her "Middle East" tour in July 2007, had declared that Iran was the most important challenge to US interests. Given how threatening these interests are, Pakistan needs to interact more actively with Iran to ensure that they (the interests) are thwarted.
The latest move, which needs to be countered, is US efforts to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. This is simply one more effort to squeeze Iran but it bodes ill for the region's stability. Similarly, the efforts by the US to create an anti-Iran Arab block will only create further cleavages within the domestic polities of the Arab World, especially in the Gulf. It was ironic to hear US Administration members bemoan the fact that Iran is seeking a greater influence in Iraq when the US along with Britain have occupied that country and are already exercising a deathly influence over the beleaguered Iraqi people!
All in all, we need to separate our domestic issues from external machinations so that we can see the threatening impact of the deliberate lies being churned out by external powers in a bid to undermine Pakistan.
In a lighter vein, is it not time the British monarch stopped holding two offices simultaneously -- that of head of state and head of the Church of England. After all Britain is a multi-religious society and the latter office being held by its head of state negates its claimed "secular" character.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 


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