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Default Pakistan’s northern Iraq

Pakistan’s northern Iraq
July 7th by Ahmed Quraishi.

If Pakistan were Turkey, Pakistani military commanders would have been publicly warning by now to send fighter jets into Afghanistan to pound the secret supply routes that are being used to fan terrorism and separatism in northwest and southwest Pakistan. The Afghan support bases for terrorism in Balochistan and the NWFP are well known by now to Pakistani spy agencies and we’d be justified to act. The purpose wouldn’t be to start a war but force an end to the export of terrorism into Pakistan, especially the Indian intelligence and terror-training outposts on Afghan soil. This is how Turkey dealt with the situation when northern Iraq turned into a haven for anti-Turkey insurgents right under the watch – and possible encouragement – of the United States military.

This scenario might appear farfetched at the moment, considering that last week another US citizen has become the recipient of our highest civil award, Hilal-e-Quaid-e-Azam. That is the third (or the fourth?) American to do so in less than a year. Islamabad’s power corridors are sniggering with the quip that US citizenship has become the newest prerequisite for the prestigious award.

But banter aside, the situation on the Pakistani-Afghan border stands on the precipice of anarchy. Just when the Pakistani Army was preparing to corner master terrorist Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, the CIA ordered a drone attack in North Waziristan targeting the pro-Pakistan tribal commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. He was at peace with the Pakistani Army for more than a year. The CIA action has opened a new warfront for the Pakistani Army that would make nabbing Baitullah more difficult.

If the – deliberate? – American blunders continue, we will end up with a fully fledged civil war in our entire northwest. Washington has already messed up Afghanistan, and until a few months ago was itching to put boots on the ground in Pakistan. A full-fledged civil war would give the Americans that chance. The Kabul ruling elite and their Indian ally want nothing more than to see such a situation. It is not in Pakistan’s interest to fight the Pakhtoon, let alone our own Pakistani Pakhtoon.

We need to eliminate the terrorists who call themselves Pakistani Taliban. But in order to do so we need to shift the focus back to Afghanistan. US top diplomat William Burns has already asked the Indians to scale down or close some of their “consulates” that act as terrorist planning and training outposts inside Afghanistan. Indian officials have avoided discussing this demand in public, thanks in large part to the evidence reportedly exchanged through the Pakistani-American military channels.

Now Pakistan needs to build on this through a series of fresh policy initiatives on Afghanistan. Let’s test America’s sincerity by making it clear that a US victory in Afghanistan shouldn’t come at the expense of Pakistan’s legitimate security interests. Let’s achieve our goals together instead of handing Afghanistan over to anti-Pakistan forces. It’s either this, or we stop NATO supplies.

We should also declare that, unlike Al Qaeda, the elimination of the Afghan Taliban or any other local Afghan faction is not a strategic objective. We are not occupying Afghanistan, America is. And it needs to take responsibility. Mullah Omar can in fact help Pakistan neutralise the criminals inside Pakistan who are butchering Pakistanis. This will also help us identify and neutralise the fake Taliban.

The Americans’ position that the resistance they face in Afghanistan comes from our tribal areas should be countered. A fresh report by a US think tank shows the Afghan resistance entrenching itself in the north. So it’s not just the Pakistani tribal belt. The main issue is the pacification of the Pakhtoon and other areas inside Afghanistan. Do this and the problem can be resolved inside that country.

We need to start seeing US-occupied Afghanistan as Turkey’s northern Iraq. It’s either this or we end up making America’s war against the Pakhtoons our own.
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Saqib Riaz(TIPO KHAN)
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