Examples of this type of blackmail are rampant in the seven years of bad experience that Pakistan has had with the U.S. in Afghanistan.
By Ahmed Quraishi
Wednesday, 15 April 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—We knew there will be consequences. But not this fast. Pakistan stood firm as it received Mr. Holbrooke and Adm. Mullen last week. The payback, it appears, came in swift succession: Balochistan erupted in violence, and America’s B-team – Britain and India – chipped in to unsettled Pakistan’s weak rulers: Britain suddenly discovered a “very big” terrorist plot involving two dozen Pakistani students, and India claimed the Afghan Taliban were planning to sabotage Indian elections.
We in Pakistan have been seeing this pattern over the past seven years of our Afghan occupation alliance with Washington that we can now detect it with a naked eye. As always, the usual suspects are putting Pakistan on the defensive on issues on which they can furnish no evidence.
Washington can offer no evidence that OBL is in Balochistan [more on Balochistan in a moment]. The Brits can offer no evidence linking Pakistani students to what a British policeman described as a “very big” terrorist plot. Since there is no evidence, Britain has decided to arbitrarily deport the kids because British courts won’t be convinced and the plot theory won’t stick. And there is no way that Indian Premier Manmohan Singh’s election campaign firecracker about a Taliban attack on India can be verified or proven.
What is definite, however, is that the dramatic British and Indian claims came on the heels of Mr. Holbrooke’s bumpy visit to Pakistan and served no purpose – in the absence of evidence – except to increase pressure on Pakistan. Islamabad has asked London and New Delhi for evidence. In case adequate proof is not furnished, Prime Minister Gilani’s government should not hesitate in asking Washington to restrain itself and its regional watchdogs from deliberate demonization campaigns against Pakistan that arise every time someone here tries to show some spine. Examples of this type of blackmail are rampant in the seven years of bad experience that Pakistan has had with the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Balochistan is an example of this blackmail, a Pakistani province that is in the throes of a terrorist insurgency, remote-controlled from Afghanistan. The ugly murder of three Pakistani Baloch political activists and then the immediate reaction by the U.S. embassy, which appeared to complicate an already explosive situation, are intriguing to say the least.
Two Indian assets: Brahamdagh Bugti & Balaach Marri. Marri
died in an ambush in 2007 while crossing from Afghanistan to
Pakistan after meeting his sponsors there.
John Solecki, an American citizen and U.N. official, was kidnapped by terrorists trained and financed by Brahamdagh Bugti who was last sighted in Kabul. Indian ‘diplomats’ in the Afghan capital are some of his most frequent visitors. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad knows very well about Mr. Bugti’s activities. So do senior U.S. officials since Pakistan did share startling information with them on this subject. Mr. Bugti, a Pakistani citizen, enjoys Indian and Afghan safe houses provided by elements in the Karzai government in return for helping recruit young Pakistanis to wage war against their own country exploiting legitimate grievances. The three murdered activists were in contact with all parties including Pakistani security officials during the effort to secure the American’s release. Pakistani intelligence agencies do not gain anything from kidnapping the three, killing them and then throwing the bodies in full public view. If anything, the murder of the three activists was designed to create forward motion for the terrorist insurgency and put the Pakistani government in the dock. Contrary to the anti-state propaganda that seeks to exploit this incident, information suggests that the three activists became privy to a lot of information about the captors and their chain of links outside Pakistan. The contacts that developed between the three activists and Pakistani security officials during the negotiations apparently unnerved the shadowy captors. Multiple parties benefited from the murder of the three politicians and our security agencies are the least of these beneficiaries.
This is why the calls by some opportunists for a U.N. investigation are malicious to say the least. And equally reprehensible is the statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad on Apr. 9 that appeared to provoke the inflamed sentiments and pour fuel on fire. For Islamabad to allow such naked displays of challenge to its authority sends a message of weakness and invites more outside interference.
This whole regional dynamic can be traced to a core issue: Pakistan’s right to decide its national interest. For the United States to mislead Pakistan after 9/11 and turn the Afghan soil over to anti-Pakistan players in the region is not what we signed up for. It is preposterous for Washington to unleash a media campaign that portrays Pakistan and its intelligence operatives as supporters of extremism. National institutions are not purveyors of any ideology. They simply protect the nation’s interest using multiple tools. Imagine us in Pakistan launching a media campaign to expose how the CIA funded and armed Nicaragua’s rightwing Contra rebels in advanced terrorism tactics in the 1980s. Or how the U.S. proxy, the Unita rebels in Angola, planted landmines whose victims’ count today begins at 15,000 amputees.
The only way forward is for Washington to mind its Pakistani ally’s interests as it consolidates its own position in the region. Pakistan will not submit to Indian regional hegemony simply because that suits U.S. interests in this point in time.