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Old Wednesday, June 18, 2008
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America: dubious ally or outright enemy?

By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What have we been reduced to as a result of our successive leaderships' kowtowing to the US post-9/11? What many of us had feared and written about at the time seems to have come true -- be it the growing US intrusions into our territory or the periodic diatribes from the US against Dr A.Q. Khan whenever they feel Pakistan needs to be put under pressure. However, nothing reflects our state's sovereign bankruptcy as much as the audacious threats issued by Afghanistan's Karzai of sending in his Afghan Army into Pakistan to take out "militants" and "terrorists." Here is a man who barely has power in his own capital, Kabul, and has hundreds of occupation forces from the US and NATO -- not to mention some Arab contingents from the Gulf states -- and he is actually threatening Pakistan, a country with a massive conventional military, and nuclear capability to boot.

Herein lies the irony of Pakistan's predicament post-9/11. Our military seems to have no stomach for fighting the violations of our sovereignty by the US and its allies. That has emboldened the US and they now feel they can target the Pakistani security forces directly -- as they did in March 2008 in Bajaur, and more recently last week in the Mohmand Agency which left 11 FC men dead, apart from the civilians that are a constant target of US and NATO forces -- especially as their frustration has grown over their lack of success in Afghanistan.

Since the war began in Afghanistan, one has seen only whimpers of protest from the Pakistani military and the government in response to brazen attacks on Pakistani soil by US/NATO forces in which many innocent Pakistani civilians have died. Sheltering behind these forces are the ragtag members of the "Afghan Army" -- which Karzai now wants to send into Pakistan! Karzai, whose security forces stood helpless in the face of a massive prison break, actually thinks the Pakistani military is so weak that the same ineffectual security forces can simply march into our country and carry out military actions against our people.

Our government, and our military, have reduced us to a laughingstock -- a joke of a nation that can be pushed around militarily by all and sundry. The point is, if our military is unwilling or unable to fight those who violate our sovereignty and kill our people, then what is the purpose of continuing to beef up and support this expensive organisation? Here we were thinking our investment in nuclear weapons and updating of conventional weapon systems would ensure that our borders were secure and any military threat from anywhere would be dealt with effectively by the Pakistan military. Yet nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, we continue to be subject to US military attacks as and when they choose. From all accounts, they do not bother to inform us either till after the event. And all we do is whimper a few protests.

When will we realise that if the US targets our territory it must surely fall into the category of "enemy" and be given a military response -- even if it is symbolic to begin with. The "enemy" within -- that is the militants -- we have to dialogue with, since they are our people and we need to bring them into the mainstream. As pointed out in earlier columns, all other countries have done the same. But we must also be cognisant of the far more dangerous enemy outside -- that is the US with its long-term hostile intentions towards Pakistan. Our leaders, who are surviving, or have come to power on deals brokered by the US, must be exposed and compelled to disown these deals and respond to the needs of the nation.

Increasingly, the hostile intent of the US towards Pakistan is becoming more overt as the Americans become more emboldened in the face of the vacillating and whimpering Pakistani ruling elite.

President Bush effectively endorsed Karzai's threat by trying to rationalise it. Worse still, the US has now declared that Dr Khan must not be released. On what authority can they make such demands, except that we have given up much of our sovereign space to them willy-nilly? Our rulers, and little differentiates one lot from another in terms of their efforts to fool the people while catering to their own coteries of sycophants, can hail abuse and threats on their local rivals or oppositional forces, but almost no substantive backbone is visible in the face of abuse from external enemies disguised as "allies," such as the US.

Where else but in Pakistan would the defence minister simply declare that we cannot give a military response to US attacks against our country? He is the same man who also declared that the US was not attacking us because they were using pilotless drones! Yet his party leader, Zardari, also declared in Lahore, if the press report is taken as correct, that the PPP "had the potential to, both give and take life." So once again, more bombast and once again derision of the people's will that was clearly reflected in the Long March. As for Governor Taseer's or Rehman Malik's efforts to try and play a numbers' game in order to undermine the people's force that was displayed in the march, the less said the better, given that neither individual has much credibility. We, the people, know the strength and camaraderie of the nation that was present in the Long March since we were all there and had the privilege to feel the hope, commitment and faith even the most downtrodden, alongside the most privileged, have in the notion of an independent judiciary.

But coming back to the strange servility our rulers continue to show in the face of foreign abuse, it is not just the US and Afghanistan that feel they can ride roughshod over us. While Zardari sends flowers to V P Singh, and our human rights' groups advocate pardons and release of Indian prisoners, including Indian spies, the Indian state continues to kill Pakistani prisoners and send their dead bodies back through Wagah. So while Indian prisoners go across Wagah garlanded from the Pakistani side, Pakistani prisoners come in wooden caskets, often with their body parts missing. Is this what the Pakistani state regards as reciprocity? Why has the Foreign Office not taken a strong position on this count? If the foreign minister would take some time to be in Islamabad, perhaps he would be more effective in protecting the interests of the Pakistani people and nation -- instead of only showing concern for the Afghans, and so on. He should know that he has enough time to project himself internationally once he has taken care of poor Pakistani lives.

But it appears that, as always, Pakistani lives come cheap and no one in the state structures is prepared to fight for them -- not the leadership and, unfortunately, not the military. As for the US, there are many dangerous developments that need to be put together to understand the long-term threat from this power. Many of us have been writing for many years now that the US is seeking to destroy the organisation of the military in Pakistan, as well as breaking up the country, given that our nuclear capability and our ideological moorings in terms of historically supporting Muslim causes have never sat well with the US.

If anyone still thinks that the publication of "Blood Borders," in which the breakup of Pakistan and Iran was a central contention, in the US Army Journal a few years earlier was an aberration, what do you make of a US consultancy firm, Ergo Advisors, paying high rates to Pakistani analysts, to give them intimate data on Pakistani army officers of the ranks of major general and brigadier from the armoured, infantry and engineers. The questions they were asking were pinpointed and dealt with family backgrounds, views on "secularism" vs Islamism, foreign investment, war on terror, future promotion prospects, age and so on. Now one wonders who would want such extensive information and for what purpose?

It is time we re-examined whether the US is really an "ally" or a dangerous enemy.

The writer is a defence analyst. Email:
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