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Old Wednesday, December 21, 2005
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The viceroy syndrome continues

Shireen M Mazari

As US vice president Cheney visits Islamabad, we should remember this is merely a stopover en route from Kabul for the opening of their new parliament -- for which the US, as an occupying/liberating power can rightfully claim credit. And, of course, as we have never ceased to point out on so many public fora, we are truly grateful for the help provided for the earthquake relief by the US -- as we are to so many other countries and foreign groups who perhaps do not seek so much public acknowledgement but have done more in terms of their resources than the more powerful members of the international community. Also, their work in the field does not tie up our security resources in terms of providing protection, in contrast to US and NATO forces whose relief effort, laudable as it is, involves tying up at least 7000 Pakistani soldiers simply for their protection! Just as an aside, it was highly intriguing to discover a NATO vehicle accompanied by their Pakistani safety escort, patrolling Khayaban-e-Iqbal in Islamabad, the other day. What could they have been doing? Surveillance work of some sort perhaps?
Back to the issue at hand, we also need to remember that Cheney is the main source of support for the US's use of torture, and is at the heart of the religious right lobby within the Bush Administration. His oil interests and his views on Iraq are too well-known to recount again, but we should know what he is all about. Even more important, his stopover comes in the wake of the viceroy-like pronouncements of the US ambassador in Islamabad. Despite some sort of an explanation put forward by our Foreign Office, the fact of the matter is that if he had been misquoted, his embassy would have put out a clarification. Moreover, according to many journalists who were present on the occasion, he did make the pronouncements that were reported in the press. And we know that US ambassadors in Islamabad do tend to bestow upon themselves viceregal airs and go on to pontificate on all manner of internal matters of the sovereign state of Pakistan.
Why should Crocker be perturbed about jihadi groups providing relief to their brethren in AJK? He talks of them not having renounced violence, but obviously he missed their early statements that they were now involved in a different kind of jihad -- that of providing succour to the traumatised Kashmiris. Or perhaps Crocker finds the word 'jihad' itself discomfiting just as we find the word 'crusade' hard to digest. If that is the case, he needs to deal with that issue because jihad is an integral word of our Islamic faith and hence cannot be done away with. Incidentally, given that the US is practicing covert and overt violence, including using chemical weapons and torture, in Iraq and elsewhere, it was a trifle ironic to find Mr Crocker wanting to see a renunciation of violence.
Even more galling was the Ambassador's statement on Pakistan's past experiences with democracy. Good or bad, it is not for the US to dictate what kind of democracy they would find acceptable in Pakistan. Perhaps they have got carried away with their mapping out of the political constructs in Iraq and Afghanistan! In any case, Mr Crocker did no service to the present leadership of the country by this outburst.
In fact, there have been some disturbing developments relating to the US that have converged publicly around this time. There were the revelations of secret prisons and torture by the US in the territory of its allies in Europe; there was the continuing saga of Guantanamo Bay; and, there was the announcement that the Pentagon is to invest $400 million in psy-ops targeting foreign populations and the media. We know that this includes buying air time on foreign television channels, but does it also mean slipping in texts into school textbooks? Was the poem found in a Pakistani English text book there by design -- and some uncooperative person discovered the message before it could be disseminated? Anyhow, clearly one should now look warily at all news stories portraying something positive of the US in case they are part of the Pentagon's psy-ops.
With all these revelations in the media, it has been equally surprising to find that our media has ignored a rather crucial piece of information regarding nuclear and missile proliferation. Given how once again Dr Khan is being pilloried and news of the arrest of his Dutch 'friend' is in all the foreign and Pakistani media, how has it escaped us that a US federal court found US citizens guilty of violating US export control laws in order to sell missile technology components to India? This happened on November 22 this year, when a US federal court found two defence companies in New England and their top executives guilty of selling technology to India that helped it to improve the Agni missile. The law breakers had managed to export a control panel, needed to operate a production size hot isostatic press, to India's Defence Research Development Laboratory in April 1988. According to the court, the defendants' provided equipment to India which "may facilitate nuclear weaponry and thereby threaten stability in South Asia." We all know how India's nuclear ambitions progressed up to 1998, but why should this important news be of no interest to the media as opposed to a story relating to Dr Khan's Dutch connections?
The issue is important, because presently there is a concerted effort to push under wraps Indo-Iranian nuclear cooperation -- both at the level of the two states, which continue to have a nuclear cooperation treaty since neither has rescinded it, and at the level of individual Indian scientists. Iran's efforts to deflect its nuclear issue on to Pakistan are unfortunate, but why is the rest of the international community not prepared to examine the Indian connection to Iran? Is there a more insidious long term intent discernable here, especially on the part of the EU and US? After all, the US is undermining the NPT itself with its nuclear agreement with India and many European states are also moving to provide India technology contrary to the Nuclear Supplier Guidelines. Is this also part of the Pentagon's plan to protect certain interests of its strategic allies, especially those which may call into question the efficacy of US agreements?
Unfortunately, Pakistan seems to be a choice target to attack on all issues -- as if extremism, violent religious cults, corruption and political inadequacies are peculiar only to us! Perhaps we present an easy target because we are highly critical of ourselves. To read the press would be to believe that nothing is right with us. This is certainly not the reality on the ground, despite all our faults. We are allowing ourselves to be overcome by a negative milieu in which all and sundry feel they can lash out at will and get away with it. Mr Crocker certainly felt that. Yet, there should be no room for a viceroy in the sovereign state of Pakistan.
The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad
Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.!!!
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