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
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
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)