Fitting the Ominous Pieces Together
By Shireen M Mazari

The Pakistan-US relationship is revealing its inherent dialectic at an almost spiraling pace. Almost everyday, the US fires a new salvo against Pakistan which has the latter coming out with damage control statements -- which are increasingly becoming meaningless given the almost immediate contradiction in terms of US actions along the international Pakistan-Afghanistan border accompanied by statements from Washington.
There is a growing seriousness to the way in which various events are linking up and the pattern could not be clearer. Many of us had been predicting the possibility of an US ingress into Pakistan with the latter's nuclear assets being the long-term target. Also, with US military journals suggesting the redrawing of the borders of the larger Muslim states, Pakistan needs to realize that its tremendous contribution to the war on terror notwithstanding, it would come under increasing US fire and pressure. That is what is now beginning to happen.
By first identifying recent developments, one can then trace out some increasingly obvious patterns. Amongst the important recent developments are:
*The introduction of bills before the US Congress, making aid to Pakistan conditional upon US presidential waivers/certifications on a whole set of issues ranging from nuclear proliferation, terrorism and secularism.
*Following this, US defense officials' statements before the US Congress in which they have claimed that the US has all the authority it needs to indulge in hot pursuit into Pakistani territory. Despite claims to the contrary by the hapless Pakistan Foreign Office, the US has asserted this right by indulging in such actions, including bombing Pakistani territory with all the collateral damage that ensues, and killing or kidnapping Pakistani citizens with impunity. As some of us have been reiterating, for Pakistan verbal claims to the contrary have lost all credibility and it will have to take some symbolic punitive action against all ingresses across the international border into its territory to put to rest US claims of rights over our sovereign territory.
*Even more threatening has been the response to this claim by some US Congressmen who are seeking to advise their government to strike even further into Pakistani territory to attack "munitions' factories". Of course this could be an open-ended action against our strategic assets.
*Then there are US efforts to poison the Pakistan-Iran relationship, to not only undermine the pipeline project but also to destroy any strategic understanding that may evolve between these two important Muslim states. This is an important policy goal for the US, which is also seeking to destabilize Iran covertly through support for the separatist Iranian Baloch movement based in London. The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Sistan (Iranian Balochistan) are part of this covert operation and has led to suspicions in Iran that Pakistan may be allowing the US access for such a nefarious design. While this is totally incorrect, unfortunately perceptions can sometimes create a false reality, which has a dangerous multiplier effect. Iran needs to realize that Pakistan has its own problems vis-a-vis the BLA and the US, since the latter, most questionably, has refused so far to declare the former a terrorist organization despite Britain having done so. Interestingly enough, the EU has also not done the needful and Pakistan needs to question US and EU long-term intent towards Pakistan.
*The stationing of US naval strike forces in close proximity to Pakistan's coastal waters and commercial routes -- again a form of pressure through a threat of use of force which such positioning implies.
* There is also the "coincidental" EU action aimed at undermining Pakistan's trade by closing access to EU markets through a refusal to sign an FTA with Pakistan while seeking one with India. The timing is certainly interesting.
* Finally, there is the use of Pakistani writers, along with US and European media persons, to orchestrate the imagined links that still prevail between religious extremists and segments of the Pakistan military! This, of course, not only bolsters suspicions about the Pakistan military abroad, it also seeks to create cleavages between the military and civil society in Pakistan, as well as within the military itself. It is in this context that one can view the recent international and now Pakistani launch of Zahid Hussain's book "Frontline Pakistan". To create credibility it was first feted in Britain -- since we still maintain a colonial hang-up in terms of giving more credence to all things foreign. The usual commentators praised the work -- Seymour Hersh and Ahmed Rashid, the doyenne of the West in terms of his histrionics about Talibanisation and Islamic extremism. One had hoped that Zahid would rise above his desire to play to the Western gallery, but it seems the temptations are simply too great.
Despite claims to the contrary, the book shows little signs of serious research and relies a great deal on his earlier columns. Since he is unable to identify most of his crucial "exclusive interviews", one cannot be blamed for assuming that many of these may be figments of his own imagination since the book is full of contradictions. He cannot decide whether to praise President Musharraf for being a "moderate and pragmatic" man who took on the extremists, or condemn him as being a "doyen of the jihadists and their allies". In fact, this contradiction regarding his assessment of President Musharraf runs right through the book as does his confusion over whether there is an imminent threat or not to Pakistan from the extremists. Some absurdities also abound such as a claim that people in shalwar kameez stand out as Pakistanis in Jalalabad! The book has many such contradictions and factual confusions, but that will not matter to the Western audience which is the prime target for the book. Unfortunately, like some others in this land, as Ayaz Amir pointed out last week, in our rush to curry favor with the US and Europe we pay scant regard to intellectual honesty. After all, we can disagree on the notion of national interest, but let us be honest to ourselves at least.
So one can see the pattern that is being enforced by the US and its allies within and outside of Pakistan: Discredit and pressure Pakistan on all fronts -– including undermining its relations with Iran -– while fomenting dissent from within through Pakistani sources. That is why there is a growing confluence between statements and actions coming out of Washington, US forces and from Europe -– and what is actually happening on the ground in the triangle of Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan.
What is the desired end result? To undermine Pakistan politically and militarily within the region, and eventually target its strategic assets, so as to create a permanently compliant Pakistani state which allows the targeting of other powerful Muslim states of this region. Pakistan has always been seen as a spoiler by the West because of its commitment to Muslim causes and its self-belief and innate confidence that it matters -– regardless of the problems that may beset it at any given time. That is why we were able to achieve our nuclear capability –- against all odds. That is not acceptable to the US and its allies in the emerging global environment. So the increasingly overt threats and negative policies targeting Pakistan even while the latter is expected to continue being the frontline state in the war on terror.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.