Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The American Threat: A Pakistani Perspective

Given the difficulty of sitting in the U.S. and figuring out anything about Pakistan, taking the “agnostic” perspective is perhaps the wisest. Therefore, without personally adopting any position on “the truth,” let me consider some possibilities. It is possible that a global jihad posing an existential threat to the Western world is emerging out of the remote “Pushtun mountains” along the ill-advised Pakistani-Afghan border dreamed up long ago by the self-important British. It is also possible that the whole thing is essentially a plot dreamed up by power-hungry Westerners. It is more likely a combination of the two seasoned by a strong dose of incompetence on the part of American decision-makers who now have quite a post-Cold War record of insisting on adopting policies that visibly undermine global peace and American security.

Wherever one may place one’s bets on the three above alternative explanations of what is really going on in South Asia, no one can deny the following: to the extent that the “truth” is close to the “existential jihadi threat” interpretation, it is important for Americans to realize that some Pakistanis believe the opposite – that this is all an American plot. And, again, without judging the issue, one must admit that the propensity of Washington decisionmakers to harp constantly in public on the need for Pakistan to defeat “the Taliban” because of the danger of nuclear weapons falling into their hands only makes it easier to sympathize with this “American plot” scenario.

So Americans should read the comments below by a Pakistani writer with their emotions held in check and with a willingness to try to understand how the world may look from the perspective of people who, like Americans, are confused about “the truth” but do know that American bombs are falling on their heads and driving them by the hundreds of thousands into refugee hell from which no exit route is visible.

According to Ahmed Quraishi:

In less than two years, the United States has successfully managed to drop from news headlines its failure to pacify Afghanistan. The focus of the Anglo-American media – American and British – has been locked on Pakistan. In order to justify this shift, multiple insurgencies and endless supply of money and weapons has trickled from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan into Pakistan to sustain a number of warlords inside Pakistan whom the American media calls ‘Taliban’ but they are actually nothing but hired mercenaries with sophisticated weapons who mostly did not even exist as recently as the year 2005.

No other nation in the world would have tolerated half the arrogance that the Americans are showing Pakistan. But thanks to a mistake by former President Musharraf – sometime in late 2006 when he consented to allow the U.S. to manipulate domestic politics through direct engagement with Benazir Bhutto and other players – Washington was given a free hand to deal directly with individual players inside Pakistan and recruit supporters and proxies.

Today, there are many parties inside Pakistan that are pushing the U.S. agenda and very few of those who would come out and condemn how the U.S. media and officials are single-handedly tarnishing Pakistan’s image worldwide to justify a military intervention.

This is precisely why senior Pakistani military officers are gradually coming out of their self-imposed ban on public activity to counter this nasty American psy-ops. Pakistanis need to watch this carefully.

After an unsettling argument that Washington is preparing either for invasion or the sponsoring of another coup—as if the bitter lessons of Vietnam leadership musical chairs and the pathetic Pakistani history of Pakistani military exploitation of the Pakistani people were not enough evidence that more military dictatorship is no answer--Quraishi asserts the following specific recommendations that will surely grate on American ears:

1.American Anti-Pakistanism: The most spectacular, anti-Pakistan media campaign ever against our country has been launched by the U.S. media and continues unabated, with the purpose of softening the international opinion for a possible military action against Pakistan. And there is no question that this campaign has some backing from official U.S. quarters as was the case in the propaganda that preceded the invasion of Iraq.

2. Stop Grooming & Training Separatists Inside Pakistan: With prodding from CIA, academic programs are being launched in the U.S. that advocate the breakup of Pakistan and the creation of smaller entities. This has to stop.

3. Terrorism Inside Pakistan Is Not The Main Story. The real story is America’s failure to bring peace to Afghanistan despite the passage of seven years on its direct occupation of the country. Terrorism in Pakistan is a result of the American failure in Afghanistan. We trusted the Americans. And what did they do? They let Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora, and then the Americans refused to listen to our advice and filled the puppet government in Kabul with the same people who helped Osama escape.

4. Don’t Lecture Us On India: The United States and its sidekick, Britain, have decided that India will be their slave-soldier in Asia in the 21st century. They want India to fight China and stabilize Afghanistan. They now want Pakistan to accept Indian military and intelligence presence in Afghanistan, forget about Kashmir and the water disputes, and turn the Pakistani military into a little more than a local police force tasked with killing anyone who doesn’t like America’s occupation of Afghanistan.

5. India IS Pakistan’s enemy until proven otherwise through actions and not words: Someone has to teach Mrs. Clinton, President Obama and their other team members some lessons in strategy. India continues to prove by actions that it is an enemy of Pakistan. This does not apply to the people of India but it certainly applies to their government and their intelligence services, their media, and their ‘non-state actors’. The world should know that India in 1972 launched a unilateral invasion of Pakistan exploiting a domestic political crisis and helped break up Pakistan. We have never done anything similar to India before that year. This naked aggression by India was never condemned by the so-called leaders of the free world and continues to be overlooked. India is portrayed as a responsible country despite having committed aggression against a smaller neighbor without provocation. Can the Americans guarantee India will not do this again?

6. The Afghan Taliban Are Not A Threat To America: The Afghan Taliban have never operated outside their country and are attacking American and other occupation forces inside Afghanistan as a result of the occupation. Washington should stop deliberately confusing the world about the difference between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. The al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that should be eliminated, and has considerably been eliminated.

7. Eliminating Afghan Taliban Is Not Pakistan’s Responsibility: It is America’s responsibility to bring the Pashtun in Afghanistan into the power structure and defuse tensions.

8. So-called Pakistani Taliban Are No Threat To America: Although money and weapons for these militants are coming from U.S-controlled Afghanistan, many of the recruits and fighters are Pakistanis and we will deal with them any way we deem fit. It is not for Washington to decide how we do this.

All these recommendations by this Pakistani writer can be debated; none can legitimately be dismissed.

  • Concerning Recommendation #5, for example, that India really is Pakistan’s enemy, this perception results primarily from the use of the Indian threat to Pakistani military dictatorships desiring to solidify their control and from Indian backstabbing of Kashmiris. All should recall the two critical facts of Pakistani history: first, it was the repressive behavior of West Pakistani civilian/military elites toward East Pakistan, which won a democratic electoral victory 40 years ago, that resulted in the transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. Second, it was Nehru’s decision to break his own promise of self-determination for the Kashmiri people that led down the slippery slope to create the Kashmiri conflict that has endangered Pakistani-Indian relations ever since. Islamabad needs to recognize the first fact. New Delhi needs to 'fess up' to the second.

  • Concerning Recommendation #8, for example, the assertion that the insurgents are no threat to the U.S. is probably largely true, but it is also probably the case that every American bomb that kills innocent Pakistanis pushes not just the Taliban but all other Pakistanis further down the road to becoming enemies of the U.S.

  • And most of all, concerning Recommendation #4 that America should not lecture Pakistan, the fact is that all parties to this developing disaster deserve to be lectured to and, frankly, slapped around. There is more than enough mythmaking, official distorting of history, and exploitation of others to go around. I challenge anyone to identify a single significant actor that is innocent.

Americans who want to avoid the collapse of Pakistan…either into another exploitative military dictatorship that will manipulate the U.S. for its own benefit or into an anti-American radical religious state…need to consider these recommendations very carefully.

No comments: