Saturday, April 9, 2011


On the other hand, even if the US does not accede to its extreme demands like taking an indulgent view of its cross-border terrorism against India, supporting Washington DC will help to protect, if not further, what Pakistan perceives to be its two principal national goals. The first relates to keeping alive the Taliban, which it had founded with the help of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in May, 1994. The second relates to ensuring the survival of fundamentalist terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Harkat-ul Mujaheedin (HuM), Hizb-ul Mujaheedin (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Al-Badr Mujaheedin (AM), it has established, financed, provided and armed to conduct cross-border terrorism against India.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) established the Taliban with the help of the CIA to gain control over Afghanistan. One of its principal aims in this, as well as its earlier participation in the war in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, was to gain strategic depth vis-a-vis India by having a client regime in Kabul and, subsequently, further its expansionist designs in Central Asia. The US also wanted a regime in Afghanistan which would ensure undisturbed flow of crude oil from Central Asia to Pakistani ports like Karachi and eventually, to refineries of its oil giants.

Pakistan needs to keep the Taliban alive to retain the control it has established over almost the whole of Afghanistan through it. It also needs to keep alive the terrorist militias for conducting its proxy war against India through cross-border terrorism, and for fomenting secessionist movements in different parts of this country. Its lending of full support to the US in any attack on Afghanistan will not in conflict with the twin objectives. It is not difficult to understand why. Very few men of Osama bin Laden's terrorist outfit, Al Qaida would be in Afghanistan by the time the US military attack begins. Given the experience of US air strikes against them in August, 1998, following their bomb attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania earlier that month, the bulk of them must have started moving out of their camps and bases even before the terrorist strikes on September 11.

While some of them perhaps remain in Afghanistan to fight US troops if they move in, the natural destination for others is Pakistan where they can lie low until the storm passes. The ISI has been working in close cooperation with bin Laden. Besides, organisations like the LeT, HuM, HM, JeM, AM and so on, have themselves established contacts with both the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Significantly, Pakistan kept its border with Afghanistan open though the US requested Islamabad to close it in the immediate aftermath of last Tuesday's terrorist outrages.

By cooperating with the US, Pakistan would not, therefore, be helping to liquidate bin Laden and his men. Rather, it seems to hope that such cooperation would spare its own terrorist training and staging camps from American retribution. If that happens, it will emerge from the conflict, that appears to be round the corner, with at least a section of the Taliban and its own terrorist training and staging camps and their inmates safe and ready for further action. It is, however, not taking chances. Camps run in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan, by organisations like the HuM, HM, JeM, Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami, Tehreek-e-Jihadi Islami and the Muslim Mujaheedin, for training terrorists for infiltrating into India and committing terrorist acts, are being closed down. The trainee terrorists are reportedly moving into safer areas. Thus even if these are bombed, the trainees would live to fight another day; the same applies to people who are with the Taliban and Al Qaida.

If the US seriously wants to squelch terrorism, it should ask Islamabad to not only hand over personnel of the Taliban and Al Qaida who have moved into Pakistan but act firmly against those of the LeT, HuM, HM, JeM, AM and so on. Failure to do so will not only be inconsistent with its resolve to wipe out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, but invite trouble for itself in the future. Pakistan's fundamentalist terrorist outfits, causing death and destruction in India, also hate the US, which they regard as the principal supporter of Zionism and the source of all moral pollution in the world. Yossef Bodansky, Director, US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, quotes, in his highly informative book, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, Prof Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, leader of the Markaz-al-Dawa al-Irshad (whose striking arm is the LeT) as saying that the White House was "the source of all mischief in the world" and the day "was not far off when the mujaheedin will blow it up through their jihad".

The Pakistani Army will revive the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organisations in future if they now escape by and large untouched. It has been thoroughly infiltrated by hard-line Islamic fundamentalists who are also bitterly anti-American. In 1990, its chief, General Aslam Beg was ousted when he was about to stage a coup "in defiance of American hegemony". Khaled Ahmed, who writes this in his chapter 'Fundamental Flaws' in On the Abyss: Pakistan after the Coup (HarperCollins publishers India), says that his successor, Gen Asif Nawaz, a secular person and a professional soldier, began taking action against fundamentalist Islamist elements in the Pakistani Army. He removed not only Lt-Gen Hamid Gul as head of the ISI but also Maj-Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, who retaliated by trying to stage a 'revolution' in the Pakistani Army's headquarters "because he was made to salute American officers" while on duty in Gilgit. In December 1996, Gen Nawaz, who was under tremendous pressure from fundamentalist Islamic officers appointed to the Intelligence Bureau by Mr Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister, died following a heart attack. He was widely suspected to have been murdered.

Gen Jehangir Keramat, another professional and secular soldier succeeded him. Fundamentalist elements, however, continued to be a formidable presence in the Pakistan Army. According to Khaled Ahmed, Gen Keramat's weakness became clear when the Army's journal, Hilal, published an editorial against him for "secularising the Army", and he was unable to dismiss or sideline the senior officer who had it written.

The ISI too is intensely anti-US. It made sure that the fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was dominated by fundamentalist Muslims. Bodansky writes, "The ISI adamantly opposed supporting Afghan resistance organisations associated with the pre-dominantly tribal traditional Pushtun population, who are essentially pro-Western. Instead, the ISI insisted on diverting more than 70 per cent of the foreign aid to the Islamic parties-particularly Hizb-i-Islami-who were inherently and virulently anti-American.