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Posts Tagged US-PAK RELATIONS

Pakistan’s bloopers Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan’s bloopers

Asif Haroon Raja

Inconsequential Western Pacts

In search for security in the face of India’s belligerence and dangerous designs together with Afghanistan’s hostility, Pakistan blundered to join SEATO and CENTO in 1954 and earned the hostility of Afghanistan, former Soviet Union and China. India took these western pacts as an excuse to make a U turn on Kashmir issue.

The defense pacts helped Pakistan under Ayub Khan to develop its economy and defensive capability, but the pacts were designed to contain communism and not to provide security against India or to help in resolving Kashmir dispute. These pacts proved inconsequential during the wars with India in 1965 and 1971 and played no role in preventing truncation of Pakistan in 1971.

Despite the fact that Pakistan played a key role in the China-US détente in 1971, enabling USA to withdraw its forces from Vietnam, the US always kept India above Pakistan, knowingly that India was aligned with Soviet Union.

Supply of arms by the US and western countries to India after the Indo-Sino border clash in 1962 impelled Pakistan to lean on China since arms provided by the two rival camps had tilted the military balance in favor of India. This shift irked USA.  

War against Soviets and Fallout Effects

Pakistan again blundered to let the US make FATA a launching pad and use Jihadis as proxies to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1980s in return for $3.5 billion economic/military assistance spread over 5 years. Although the Jihad directed by the ISI achieved its goal of ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan, but Pakistan had to suffer at the hands of nexus as well as that of Al-Zulfiqar throughout the 10-year war.

The Afghan Jihad gifted Pakistan with drug and Kalashnikov cultures which militarized the society and intensified sectarianism. It also bred misgivings in Pak-Iran relations.  

Instead of rewarding Pakistan for the huge price it paid to defeat a super power and for paving the way for the US to become sole super power, it was not only left high and dry by self-serving USA but also punished for pursuing nuclear program, which it had ignored till 1989, by imposing harsh sanctions in 1990. Worst was Indo-US embrace in 1991 followed by Indo-Israel alignment, giving shape to Indo-US-Israel axis, which raised the specter of Islamic bomb.

Sanctions under Jewish AIPAC inspired Pressler Amendment weakened Pakistan’s economy, multiplied its debt, impacted the democratic era (1988-1999) and handicapped Pakistan to combat fallout effects of Afghan war.

The only positive outcome of the bloody war was the completion of nuclear program under Gen Ziaul Haq, which was otherwise not possible. It raised the stature of Pakistan among the Muslim world. Fear of bomb in the basement prevented India under Rajiv Gandhi from converting Indian Exercise Brass-tacks into full-fledged war in 1986/87. Likewise, war over Kashmir in 1990/91 in the wake of armed uprising in Indian occupied Kashmir was also averted due to nuclear factor.  Benazir rather than fulfilling American agenda of rolling back nuclear program enhanced missile program.

In the First Gulf War in 1991, while Egypt got its $7 billion external debt waived off without deploying a single soldier, as a reward for legitimizing the US-NATO intervention in the Gulf, Pakistan got nothing despite deploying over 10,000 troops in Saudi Arabia because of the then Army chief’s pro-Saddam statements which annoyed Saudi Arabia and USA. 

Pakistan’s support to the Taliban from 1996 till September 2001 antagonized Northern Alliance (an amalgam of non-Pashtun Afghans under Ahmad Shah Masood) and brought them under the influence of Iran, India, West and Russia.

War on Terror after 9/11

Pakistan once again blundered after 9/11 by ditching friendly regime of Taliban in Afghanistan at the behest of Washington and befriending untrustworthy USA that had left Pakistan in a lurch during its testing times.

Pakistan learnt no lesson from the repeated betrayals and happily accepted all the demands of USA under the fond hope that this time it will not deceive and will compensate for its past wrongs by making Pakistan prosperous in return for fighting the US imposed war on terror on its soil. But the US had a fixed agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program covertly, separating Baluchistan and making Pakistan a secular state. Gen Musharraf and not Pakistan was made the darling of the west.  

Pakistan after earning the animosity of Taliban on account of its full support to the US to occupy Afghanistan also antagonized the tribesmen of FATA when the Army launched an operation in South Waziristan (SW) in 2003 at the bidding of USA to flush-out Al-Qaeda and its supporters.

Pakistani Taliban started a guerrilla war against the Army and in December 2007 formed Tehrik-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) under Baitullah Mehsud with tentacles in all the seven agencies of FATA.

The Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban believing in one ideology are in collusion and pursue shared goal of establishing Islamic Emirate. The two entities had however divided their areas of responsibility; Taliban confining their fight in Afghanistan against occupying forces and their collaborators and the TTP fighting against Pak security forces. Their partner Al-Qaeda remained operative on both sides of the divide. Haqqani network aligned with Taliban headquartered itself in North Waziristan (NW) and remained friendly toward Pakistan till their ouster in June 2014. 

The TTP was hijacked by foreign agencies in its formative years and was heavily funded, equipped and trained to fight Pak Army and to convert Swat, Bajaur, SW and NW into fortresses.

Annoyed by Musharraf regime’s decision to impose ban and freeze funds in 2002/03, Kashmir focused Jihadi groups and other militant groups veered towards TTP. By 2013, an amalgam of over 60 militant groups had come under the wings of Hakimullah led TTP in NW.

TTP leaders had pledged allegiance to Taliban supreme leader Mulla Omar in 2008 and had accepted him as Ameerul Momineen. Their pledge remained intact till mid 2014 after which many pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakar Baghdadi since they had got a wind of death of Mulla Omar in April 2013 which was intentionally kept secret.

Syria-Iraq based ISIS has made inroads in Afghanistan with the help of India and has established itself at Nangarhar and is in collusion with Khalid Omer Khurasani led Jamaat-e-Ahrar, an offshoot of TTP and with Fazlullah. The two had fled from Mohmand Agency and Swat to Afghanistan after the military operation Rah-e-Rast in 2009. Fazlullah was nominated Ameer of TTP after the death of Hakimullah in early 2014. 

Operation Zarb e Azb launched in June 2014 succeeded in pushing out all militant groups including HN from their last stronghold in NW. All the runaway TTP leaders and fighters have been given sanctuaries by NDS and RAW at Nuristan, Kunar and Nangarhar from where they are undertaking cross border terrorism inside Pakistan. HN is fighting its war from eastern Afghanistan, its traditional stronghold.  

The US, India, Afghanistan, Israel, NATO strategic partners based in Kabul since November 2001 have been constantly weaving plans and conspiracies to harm Pakistan. They have been fueling terrorism in Pakistan with the help of their paid proxies in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi and at the same time pressing Pakistan to do more.

Unable to stabilize Afghanistan after fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda for 15 years, both Kabul and Washington are blaming Pakistan for its failures. The duo wants Pakistan to fight elements of Afghan Taliban and HN, supposedly in FATA and Baluchistan, and to force them to lay down arms and sign their drafted agreement.

Field commanders of Taliban movement disfavor peace talks since they have suffered the most. After forcing USA to pullout bulk of ISAF troops in December 2014, they have gained a definite edge over the ANSF supported by a small US-NATO force and initiative is in their hands. 29 districts are in their full control and 34 districts are being contested. They don’t want to come to terms with collaborators who have plunged the country into the vortex of vices which they had eliminated during their 5-year rule. They don’t want an agreement on dictated terms and without meeting their basic demands.  The Taliban and HN feel that Pakistan is once again siding with their opponents to undermine their sacrifices. In its bid to please the US and unpopular unity government in Kabul, Pakistan is fast losing whatever goodwill Taliban have for it.

India has successfully brainwashed all segments of Afghan society and poisoned their minds against Pakistan. There is widespread hatred against Pakistan both at government and people to people levels.

Destabilized Afghanistan suit USA and India since it enables both to retain their presence and continue with their covert operations.

Entry of Russia in Afghan Affairs

After China, Russia has begun to slowly make inroads into Afghanistan. Its entry in Afghan affairs is likely to change the dynamics of Afghan imbroglio.

The newly emerging politico-economic axis of Russia-China-Central Asian Republics-Pakistan which is drawing strength from CPEC is likely to grow stronger if Iran and Turkey, both resentful of USA joins it.

There are reports that Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban to tackle the threat from the ISIS, aspiring to establish Khurasan State. Russia is also pleading the Taliban case in the UN for taking off their names from the blacklist. The Taliban have exuded confidence in the Russia-China-Pakistan grouping to pursue peace in Afghanistan.

Supply of arms to the Taliban by Russia is worrisome for Kabul and Washington. After all, Moscow has not forgotten and forgiven the perverse role of USA in its fragmentation. Provision of stingers to the Mujahidin in 1988 had forced the Soviets to hasten their exit from Afghanistan. To avenge its humiliation, Russia may be aspiring to make Afghanistan a graveyard of USA. This wish is achievable if it supplies surface to air missiles to the Taliban, enabling them to contest the airpower. If so, it will make the position of 12000 strong Resolute Support Group based in five military bases tenuous.          

Pakistan’s Responses

Pakistani leaders have been dancing to the tunes of America, myopically thinking that by abiding to its dictates, Pakistan will remain safe and so will be their power and wealth. Lure of dollars and fear of USA were other factors which made the weak-kneed and morally corrupt rulers to stick to their policy of appeasement. They made no change in this self-defeating policy despite suffering colossal human and financial losses. 

While the US has spent $1.7 trillion in Iraq war, and over $1 trillion in war in Afghanistan including $104.1 billion in its reconstruction, it grieves over $20 billion given to Pakistan in the last 15 years, 50% of which is CSF (close support fund – repayment of provisions and services provided by Pakistan). As against this meagre assistance, Pakistan has incurred an economic loss of $118 billion in fighting the war and has also suffered 60,000 fatalities.

Excessive tilt of USA towards India as exhibited by Indo-US economic, defence and civil nuclear deals, revelations made by Raymond Davis in January 2011 about American dangerous agenda, stealth raid in Abbottabad in May 2011 followed by Memo scandal in October and deadly assault on Salala in November that year, do more mantra, condition based aid and stoppage of CSF brought no change in Pakistan’s US centric foreign policy.

India’s open ended belligerence when seen in context with ever growing Indo-US collaboration culminating into 3 military agreements in 2016 and the US outright biased stance against Pakistan having a direct bearing on security of Pakistan forced our policy makers to lean more heavily upon China and to get closer to Russia.

Tiding over energy crisis, righting economic indicators, curbing terrorism and above all CPEC have helped in improving the overall economic health and image of Pakistan and instilled confidence in the rulers to confront internal and external challenges more confidently.

However, the US enchantment that was at the verge of fizzling out has been reinvigorated by Donald Trump’s telephonic chat with Nawaz Sharif. He showered heaps of praises upon him and Pakistan, referring him as a terrific guy, rating Pakistanis among the most intelligent people, amazing and exceptional. These accolades coming from the most freakish and bigoted US President astounded all and sundry. Anti-Nawaz and anti-Pakistan elements were expecting a roughshod treatment from loudmouthed Trump. His unexpected tributes and exclusion of Pakistan from the banned Muslim States has made Nawaz and his team rapturous and they are still in a state of ecstasy. Idea of getting out of the US spell has been shelved.

While the Muslim world is tense and scared, Pak leadership is relaxed and appears to be all set to once again get duped and fall into the deceptive trap and get bled. They are optimistic that the US under Trump will not betray Pakistan and will be more friendly and cooperative in addressing socio-economic and security concerns. This confidence has been further bolstered by friendly chat of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa with US Secretary Defence Mattis and US Commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson, both admiring Pakistan’s sacrifices and role in war on terror and wanting a holistic review of Pak-US relations.   

Future Challenges

The challenges faced by Pakistan are however far from over. Up to 80% success has been achieved against terrorism which had become an existential threat to the existence of Pakistan. The current government deserve credit for giving a go-ahead to intelligence driven operations in NW, Baluchistan and Karachi, and the national action plan. However, the Army, Rangers, FC and ISI deserve special applause for achieving spectacular results in all the three troubled regions.

100% results couldn’t be achieved due to safe havens provided to the runaways of TTP in Afghanistan, backing to BLA, BRA and BLF in Baluchistan by foreign agencies, and obstacles created by Sindh administration in Karachi. All random acts of terror in Pakistan emanate from Afghanistan.

On the economic front, notwithstanding upturned macro-economic indicators, bullish stock exchange, healthy foreign exchange reserves and fast-paced development works, constantly increasing debt burden is a matter of anxiety. Not so satisfactory progress on 20-point NAP needs acceleration.  

Management of western border by Pakistan is not to the liking of Kabul and India since it will curtail cross border terrorism. This process as well as return of Afghan refugees, rehabilitation of displaced persons and FATA reforms must continue without any letup. Likewise Rangers operation in Karachi must reach its logical end at the earliest.  

Success in war on terror, economic turnaround, CPEC, and Russian support have defeated India’s plan to isolate Pakistan and to get it declared a terrorist state. Although Pakistan today stands on a stronger wicket, agenda of Indo-Afghan-US nexus against Pakistan remain unchanged.

Till 2008, Russia was anti-Pakistan and pro-India. Change in regional dynamics has brought a thaw in Pak-Russia relations and the latter is now keen to develop stronger economic and defence ties with Pakistan. Russia is mindful of the Afghanistan based Daesh and wants Pakistan’s cooperation to build a firewall against the emerging threat. For this reason, Russia is taking deep interest in Afghan affairs and has cultivated ties with Taliban much to the chagrin of Kabul regime and Washington. Russo-China-Pakistan grouping aimed at restoring peace in Afghanistan and CPEC has once again enhanced the importance of Pakistan. Friendly regime in Kabul is a geostrategic necessity for Pakistan.    

Recommendations.

Pakistan policy makers will have to play their cards shrewdly and configure the foreign policy best suited to guard Pakistan’s national interests. While keeping USA and EU in good humor and engaged in mutually beneficial economic/military cooperation, but without compromising core interests and dignity, efforts should be made to further expand economic/military cooperation with Russia, draw it towards CPEC and to make Pakistan member of Eurasian Economic Union.  Besides veering Iran into CPEC, Gwadar port should augment Chahbahar port. Land, air, maritime and internal security must be strengthened to ward off external threats and treacherous designs. Focus should be on getting rid of foreign crutches and instead strengthening own economic legs by drawing full benefits from the emerging opportunities provided by CPEC so as to make Pakistan politically, economically and militarily self-reliant.

The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defense analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraja.gmail.

Additional Reading from

Geo-Strategic Significance of Pakistan

1- INTRODUCTION:

Pakistan is located at a region which has great political, economic and strategic location. It has been hub of activities of great powers for last 20 years. It has witnessed intervention of three great powers i-e Britain, USSR, and USA. Its significance was further enhanced during cold war when it becomes ally of US policy of containment of USSR and now the post cold war era has witnessed its significance particularly after the events of 9/11.

2- PAKISTAN GEOGRAPHICALLY LOCATION:

Location: Southern Asia lies between 24 and 36.75 northern latitude and between 61 and 7505 eastern longitude.
Area: 7, 96000 sq.km.
Towards north apart from the state of Kashmir is china. It shares 400 km long boarder with china.
Towards north Tajikistan though no boarder but a narrow strip as Wahkhan strip separate the two.
Towards east, Punjab-Rajasthan boarders which is 1650 km long
Towards west, Afghanistan border of 2250 km.
Towards south, Arabian sea / Indian Ocean. Coastal belt is about 700 km.
Pakistan significance is enhanced as it lies near the Persian Gulf where 65% of the world’s oil is produced.

3- STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE:

a) Proximity of great powers:

Pakistan is located at the junction of great powers. In its neighbor’s one world power Russia and the other emerging power china lies. Any alliance among world powers enhances its significance. This factor has been utilized by Pakistan after 9/11. Security and business are two main US interests in the region while Pakistan is playing a front line role in the war against terrorism. Apart from this US interest in the region to contain the growing china, nuclear Iran, terrorist Afghanistan and to benefit from the market of India. Today the political scenario of the region is tinged with preemption policy and US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran’s nuclear program, India’s geopolitical muscles (new strategic deal with US) to gain hegemony and to counter the rise of china. Which has earned all the qualities to change unipolar world into bipolar world? In all these issues, Pakistan is directly or indirectly involved especially after al-Qeada operations. The American think tank has repeatedly accepted that war against terrorism could never be won without the help of Pakistan. Pakistan has rigorously fought and an ongoing operation in Waziristan is also targeting the suspected Taliban in the bordering area.

b) Gateway to central Asia-(oil and energy game):

Central Asia is the center stage of new Great games. Western quest for resources- oil and energy resources in the central Asia. After USSR decline, new quest started which is as manifested by politics of oil. Pakistan is located very close to the oil rich Middle Eastern countries. The belt started from Iran and extended to Saudi Arabia. Thus, Pakistan can influence shipment of oil. Iran is struggling to export its surplus gas and oil to eastern countries, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkmenistan pipeline projects highlight the position.

In the energy scarce world, Pakistan is located in the hub of energy rich countries i-e Iran and Afghanistan: both are energy abundant while India and China are lacking. China finds way to Indian Ocean and Arabian sea through Karakoram highway,

c) Significance as a Transit economy:

Pakistan has the potential to develop transit economy on account is its strategic location, land locked Afghanistan now at the phase of reconstruction finds its ways through Pakistan. China with its fastest economy growth rate of 9% us developing southern provinces because its own part is 4500 km away from Sinkiang but Gwadar is 2500 km away. Moreover, Pakistan offers central Asian regions the shortest route of 2600 km as compared to Iran 4500 km or turkey 5000 km. Gwadar port with its deep waters attracts the trade ships of China, CAR and south east Asian countries., also the coastal belt of Balochistan can provide outlet to china’s western provinces to have access to middles eastern markets with the development of coastal highways and motorways.

d) Important link in the chain of Muslim countries:

If we look at the map of Muslim countries, Pakistan occupies a central location. Towards west of Iran, china extends to North Africa. Thus it can actively participate in the activities of Muslim world-economic development, transport of resources and above all combat terrorism.

e) Only Muslim country with nuclear capability:

In the region Pakistan is the only Muslim country having nuclear capability which has great influence on the political, socio-economic activities in the region and the maintenance of status quo in the region.
f) China’s link to the Middle East:

Pakistan is the only direct and shortest link between China and the Middle East. Imagine the impact of China on the Middle East, if this link is fully functional. Gwadar Port located in proximity of Arabian Gulf and Central Asian Republics provide it unique opportunity to serve both. Pakistan needs to capitalize on them through better diplomatic ties with Arab states and CARs. It is therefore anticipated that oil reserves and other resources of CARs would gradually become the focus of world attention in coming years. However, in case of “exports to and from CARs” a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is must. The port will also help in promoting trade with Gulf States possessing 63% of world’s oil reserves and will prove instrumental in promoting trans-shipment essentially of containerized cargo besides unlocking the development potential for hinterland. The most important factor that makes Gwadar Port strategically unique is the location with respect to other major ports in the region, which are all located on the other side ofthe sea. Gwadar port being towards north can easily provide services and facilities to CARs, Afghanistan and China.

g) Reduce Indian hegemony in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean:

India has a shared interests with the U.S. and NATO in the subjection of Pakistan. Pakistan would cease to be a client state of the U.S. or a manageable state, because of a likely revolution that would occur in the scenario of a broader war in the Middle East against Iran or a far larger Eurasian war involving China and Russia. Nuclear weapons in the hands of such a revolutionary government in Islamabad would be a threat to Indian national security, NATO operations in Afghanistan, and Israel. It is in the shared interests of the U.S., NATO, Israel, and India to neutralize such a strategic and tactical threat from emerging in Pakistan. This is why NATO has underpinned the objective of balkanizing Pakistan and why the U.S. has talked about taking over Pakistani nuclear facilities via the U.S. military. The subjection of Pakistan is also territorially and militarily to the advantage of New Delhi, because it would eliminate a rival and allow India to gain territory that in the view of many Indians was lost with the partition of India in 1947.

4- CONCLUSION / ANALYSIS:

Geo strategic means the importance of a country or a region as by virtue of its geographical location. Stephen Cohn describes this importance “while history has been unkind with Pakistan, its geography has been its greatest benefit.”

Pakistan is a junction of south Asia, west Asia and central Asia; a way from resource efficient countries to resource deficient countries. The world is facing energy crises and terrorism. Pakistan is a route for transportation and a front line state against terrorism. Moreover Pakistan has been traditionally ally of emerging economic giant; china. So in the vague of any change in world politics, Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance would further be enhanced.

 

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Pak-US relations transitory in nature

Pak-US relations transitory in nature

Asif Haroon Raja

images-8Delving into the history of Pak-US relations spread over six decades one finds that the US relationship was always transitory in nature. After the birth of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan managed to keep foreign influence at bay. Through their strength of superior leadership and character, they overcame plethora of teething problems mostly created by the British and India. The country not only survived but succeeded in developing its own economic feet. After the death of Liaquat Ali in October 1951, regionalism raised its ugly head and it became easier for the US to expand its perverse influence in Pakistan because of self-serving mini-mind leaders.  

The US influence over Pakistan has remained ever pervasive. Not only governments have come and gone under the directions of Washington, its economic health has also been regulated by it. Whenever the US desired to fulfill its interests in this region with the help of Pakistan, it uplifted its fortunes by doling out aid generously and winking at aid giving agencies to do the same. Aid injections are however strictly regulated in a manner to keep Pakistan afloat but dependent. Aid flow and goodwill prevailed as long as Pakistan leadership abided to its commands and served its interests loyally.

No sooner the US objectives are achieved, or it finds that Pakistan’s enthusiasm in performance of its assigned tasks is waning, or is becoming reluctant or defiant, or tilting towards some other power; its friendship turns into coldness and at times hostility. The chosen leader suddenly turns from an asset into a liability and is either humiliatingly ousted from power or murdered. Pakistan was punished when it lost its utility value, or for its defiance through sanctions, media war, coercion and fomenting internal instability to bleed its economy.

The US needed Pakistan’s services in early 1950s because of Communist threat and made it member of SEATO and CENTO. Pakistan joined the western pacts under the belief that it would remain secure from expansionist India. Moreover, all our political leaders and Governor/President after Liaquat Ali were pro-US. The US had no other alternative in this vital region since India was the camp follower of former Soviet Union and had refused to become part of defensive arc stretching from Turkey and Iran to Pakistan.

Even in those hey days during which Pakistan was termed as the most allied ally of the allies, the US stance was unfair. During 1962 Indo-China border conflict, the US falsely assured Ayub Khan that if he didn’t take advantage of the precarious military situation of India, it will help in resolving Kashmir dispute. Pakistan thus missed a golden chance to reclaim Kashmir. The US started building up Indian military in the aftermath of its humiliating defeat in the conflict, which enabled Indian Army to raise five additional infantry divisions between 1962 and 1965 and tilt the military balance in its favor.

During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, the US stopped economic as well as military aid including spare parts to Pakistan knowing that USSR was continuing to deliver India’s entire military needs. The US did not take into account that Pak military was entirely dependent upon US manufactured weaponry and was five times inferior to India both in men and material. Lowering of stocks of war munitions prevented Pakistan military from taking the war into Indian Territory and accepted Indian requested ceasefire after Indian offensives were effectively blunted on all fronts. Stoppage of economic assistance seriously impacted Ayub’s ambitious second five-year development program (1965-1970), which had all the potential to address east-west inequities and to turn Pakistan into an Asian tiger.  

President Ayub Khan remained in very good books of USA as long as he leaned heavily on USA but was unceremoniously ousted from power when he started tilting towards China. Moscow felt highly offended when Pakistan under Gen Yahya Khan acted as a conduit in 1971 to bring a thaw in China-US relations and decided to punish Pakistan. The turning point in Pak-US relations came during the 1971 Indo-Pak war when Pakistan’s repeated requests to help save marooned East Pakistan from falling were ignored by Washington while Moscow provided full support to India. ZA Bhutto was made a horrible example when he refused to stop nuclear program which started in 1976 in response to India’s nuclear explosion at Pokhran in 1974.    

After betraying Pakistan in the 1965 and 1971 wars against India, the US again befriended Pakistan in 1981 to help fight the proxy war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. All the sins of President Ziaul Haq were ignored when he agreed to make Pakistan the frontline state of the US led Free World and assist the Mujahideen. His inclination towards Islam and continuance of nuclear program at Kahuta were accepted by Reagan and he was eulogized as a great Mujahid.

No sooner the objectives were accomplished in 1988; Pakistan’s sacrifices were forgotten. Zia the prime mover of Afghan Jihad was first terrorized through Ojhri Camp disaster in May 1988 and when he didn’t buckle, ‘Get Zia’ plan was conceived. He died in a C-130 plane crash on August 17, 1988. Although the crash of the most secure aircraft still remains a mystery, it is generally believed that CIA was behind it since Zia’s image in the Muslim world had shot up sky high and he had successfully weaponized nuclear program. He was all set to impose Shariah in Pakistan and had made a permanent place in the hearts of Afghans. He had become a danger man for the US and hence had to be got rid of.

Pakistan was abandoned with indecent haste and harsh sanctions were imposed under Pressler Amendment to force it to roll back its expensive nuclear program. Benazir Bhutto was twice brought into power in 1990s to denuclearize Pakistan, but each time she refused to oblige. Nawaz Sharif became a marked man after he refused to succumb to US-UK pressure and carried out six nuclear tests in May 1998 in response to Indian tests. To punish him, conditions were created for his removal from power and takeover by Gen Musharraf in October 1999. This crucial change was affected in anticipation to 9/11 and the agenda the US had chalked out against the Muslims. Nawaz survived death sentence by the skin of his teeth owing to Saudi intervention.  

After 9/11, the US once again offered its hand of friendship. President Bush led team deceived Gen Musharraf that it will make Pakistan its strategic partner and resolve all its economic problems if it agreed to become the frontline state in the war on terror. Pakistan was assured that this time the US would forge lasting relationship based on mutual trust and friendship and will not repeat past mistakes. Pakistan was taken out of the intensive care unit and given a new lease of life for next few years but the economic progress achieved during Musharraf regime proved short-lived since economy was consumer oriented.

Benazir Bhutto was all set to take over as PM for the third time, but was bumped off on December 27, 2007 since she had once again started to deflect from the route prescribed by USA. She was required to share power with Musharraf and not to confront him. Surprisingly, among the list of suspects, CIA doesn’t figure out. Five years and nine months have gone past and her murderers have still not been traced. After her murder, NRO cleansed dream team of PPP-MQM-ANP was installed by USA in March 2008 to serve its interests without demur.  

Musharraf was allowed to go in exile since in that timeframe he had become a liability. He was to be re-launched at an appropriate time. Whatever economic gains made during his tenure went down the drain because of poor governance, incompetence and corruption of the PPP led regime. Pakistan lost many times more than what it had gained through US aid.  

Although Pakistan rendered huge sacrifices in fighting US imposed war, the US neither acknowledged its sacrifices nor compensated it for the human and material losses it incurred since the puppet regime was taken for granted. The relations remained uneasy all along due to distrustful and bossy attitude of the US and GHQ’s reluctance to obey Washington’s command blindly. Frostiness turned into near hostility in 2011 as a consequence to Raymond Davis incident, stealth attack in Abbottabad and attack on Salala border post killing 24 Pak soldiers. Between December 2011 and July 2012, Pak-US relations were at lowest ebb. Thereafter the relations have begun to improve steadily although not without hiccups.   

This process of giving artificial respiration through US aid,  IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, ADB when Pakistan’s services are needed followed by policy of coercion to compel it to tow its line has been going on since 1953. It is a coincidence that whenever the US had to fulfill its strategic interests in this region, Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator. One window operation suited Washington to elicit quick responses rather than having to deal with multi-layered parliamentary system. For its crucial endgame in Afghanistan, the US tried its best to force Gen Ashfaq Kayani to take over the reins of power but the latter refused to oblige and let the change take place through democratic process.     

Lot of water has flown in River Indus since September 2001, when the US at its pinnacle of glory had ordered Pakistan to facilitate its intrusion into Afghanistan. After twelve years, the US has lost its splendor and is caught up in dire strait because of higgledy-piggledy situation in Afghanistan. It is requesting Pakistan which it has been drubbing on account of its uncommitted sins all these years to facilitate its safe departure from Afghanistan. It is urging Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to talk and arrive at a negotiated political settlement so that it could leave behind stable Afghanistan and friendly government. Under the changed environment there is visible change in the behavior of US officials. Rate of drone strikes has come down significantly and targets are chosen with care.

Tone and tenor of US officials have become affable and conciliatory. Despite the apparent thaw in relations, it will be early to jump to conclusion that all friction points have been removed and trust restored. Such assuring words and promises had been uttered by US officials’ way back in 2001 but their stance started changing after 2004. Thereon, it became difficult for Pakistan to ascertain whether it was an ally or foe of USA.

Even after its reassurance that the US would refrain from committing past mistakes and would make amends for the excesses committed, it keeps India and Afghanistan on higher priority. TTP and BLA are still being funded and used to destabilize Pakistan through proxy war. Ongoing escalation of tension along the LoC together with tantrums of unpredictable Karzai and spate of terrorist acts in various parts of Pakistan are designed to put pressure on the new government to pick up cudgels against the militants in FATA rather than initiating peace talks. Acceleration of militancy in Balochistan is aimed at giving a message that establishment of nationalist government led by Dr Malik has not lessened the resolve of separatists seeking independence of Balochistan.

Other objectives are to sabotage IP gas pipeline and Gawadar projects. Likewise, stepped up terrorist acts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are aimed at undermining PTI government advocating peace talks with Taliban. Karachi is being bled to further bleed the economy of Pakistan. Projected peace talks with TTP are resented and US toadies are applying all tricks to kill the initiative taken by All Parties Conference (APC).  

Apart from application of pressure tactics to keep Pakistan tamed, the US is bent upon making India a global power, a permanent member of UNSC, a counterweight to China and a dominant player in Afghanistan. To this end, the US has taken practical steps to strengthen India economically and militarily. It would like settlement of Kashmir issue but on Indian terms. It will not benefit Pakistan at the cost of annoying India. In other words, as a policy it would always prefer India over Pakistan and in case of Indo-Pak war it will stand behind India.

In the backdrop of foreign policy framework of USA in which Pakistan doesn’t figure out, we must be careful in jumping to wishful conclusions. We shouldn’t lose sight of prudence and should remain vigilant not to again get deceived by sweet talk of US leaders asserting that they want to move to ‘full partnership’ with Pakistan. Rather, our leadership should be mentally prepared to get ditched once again after completion of ISAF’s drawdown in December 2014. Rather than keeping all our eggs in the basket of untrustworthy USA, our policy makers formulating national security policy should distribute the eggs pragmatically and give top priority to national interests.

Holding of Defence Committee National Security Council to take stock of internal and external security issues, on-going Rangers led operation in Karachi under the captaincy of Chief Minister Sindh to tackle lawlessness after taking all stakeholders on board, and holding of APC to discuss ways and means to tackle extremism and terrorism are steps in the right direction. It was satisfying to hear all the participants of APC condemning drones as illegal and agreeing to take up the matter to the UN, terming terrorism as a blowback from Afghan war and endorsing holding talks with Taliban with no strings attached. It was rightly decided to abandon policy of fight-and-fight or fight-and-talk and to give peace a chance.

Reaffirmation of complete trust and confidence in the armed forces and extending full support to them in tackling security challenges was gratifying. Praying for the martyrs in war on terror and extending sympathies to the bereaved families and calling upon provincial governments to provide assistance to them were praiseworthy gestures. It is also good to hear that TTP has welcomed the offer of talks and expressed willingness to hold negotiations without conditions.

Having made all the noble declarations, what is now needed is sincere and honest implementation of resolution in letter and spirit and not like the previous two joint resolutions of APC/Parliament. While the news of troops falling back from Shangla, Dir and Malakand in October in phase 1 and from Swat in phase 2 was being greeted, ill-fated martyrdom of Maj Gen Sanaullah, Lt Col Tauseef and L/Naik Imran in Upper Dir on 15 September on account of IED has vitiated the atmosphere of peace talks. IED was in all probability planted by fugitive Fazlullah’s men assisted by external forces to sabotage peace talks. Anti-state elements and spoilers need to be kept under strict scrutiny and exposed.        

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist and author of several books. asifharoonraja@gmail.com    

                               

 

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