By Asif Haroon Raja
The US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has emerged as the chief basher of Pakistan.
He has been spewing venom against Pakistan from the time he took over as Director CIA. He was the one who advocated making drone as a choice weapon in war on terror and in accelerating drone war in Pakistan since 2009. This is notwithstanding that the final approver is President Obama and he signs the death warrants. Despite Pakistan’s loud protests to put an end to extra judicial killings through drones which kills 97% of innocent people, Panetta arrogantly says that drone strikes would continue. His attitude towards Pakistan, particularly Pak Army and ISI has always been abrasive and hostile. All the statements he made on Pakistan as head of CIA and now as Defence Secretary were stinging and threatening.
Stiff necked and arrogant by nature, Panetta sees everything in Pakistan with a jaundiced mind. We recall how he behaved after the shocking 2 May stealth raid in Abbottabad, asserting that either Pak Army/ISI were complicit or inefficient. He is principally responsible for dissuading Obama to extend a formal apology over Salala incident. He has been trying to intimidate Pakistan to reopen NATO supply lines and made an issue over cost of transit fee for containers. He provocatively stated that the US will not pay excessive transit fee of $5000 per container knowing well that the US is currently paying five times more to the Central Asian States to transport supplies via northern route. He is the one having created hype over conviction of traitor Dr Shakil Afridi who worked as CIA agent and was linked with a terrorist group Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) in Bara. Afridi-Mangal Bagh connection is another clue that CIA is connected with LI.
Finding that his bullying tactics are not working because of the solid front put by Gen Kayani and new DG ISI Lt Gen Zaheer, his blood pressure has risen so high that he has become a madcap. On his recent trip to New Delhi, in an attempt to irk Pakistan, he sang the tune of Hillary Clinton provoking India to play a more active role in Afghanistan. At Kabul, he growled that the US is at war in Pakistan’s FATA. He said that the US had reached its limits of patience and it couldn’t tolerate Haqqani terrorists residing in North Waziristan (NW), come across the border, attack and kill ISAF troops and returnback to their safe havens. He warned that Pakistan must eliminate insurgents’ safe havens in NW.
Let us examine the grouses of Panetta whether they have some meat, or are capricious and motivated. If the militants belonging to one-third force of Haqqanis under Sirajuddin are crossing over from 2-3 crossing points into adjacent Paktia and Khost provinces where bulk of Haqqanis under Jalaluddin are operating in eastern Afghanistan, why can’t ISAF and ANA equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment intercept the infiltrators crossing the border by manning border posts and mining crossing places? NATO hadlaunched an operation in Khost last year; why couldn’t it subdue the main body of HN or was it just a ruse to lure Pak Army? Why have most of the border posts opposite NW and South Waziristan (SW) been withdrawn? Why can’t the infiltrators be caught and killed when they marry up with their comrades across the border and then travel upwards towards their intended targets well in depth?
Why does the 480,000 strong combined force of ISAF-ANA-Afghan Police-US security contractors expect Pak security forces to singly take on the dual job of fighting the militants in all the seven tribal agencies and adjacent settled areas as well as man over 1000 border posts all along the porous western border and also checkinfiltration while the other side conveniently adopts a rearward posture to avoid battle casualties and bad mouth Pakistan? It complains like a fidgety and nagging mother-in-law. It wants Pakistan to continue deploying 147000 troops along its western front without expecting payments for services rendered. Rather, it wants additional forces at the cost of thinning its presence on eastern front to launch another military operation in NW but without asking for reimbursement of dues. Stoppage of $800 million CSF is not aid money but the arrear repayments of 2010/11, Washington owes to Pak Army.
The US is at war with Pakistan since 2002 but kept it hidden till Obama took over in January 2009. By accelerating drone war in FATA and stepping up covert war and propaganda campaign after declaring Af-Pak region as a single combat zone, the US had subtly converted its covert war to overt war. Since March 2009, SW and NW have been mercilessly hit by CIA operated drones killing hundreds of innocent civilians, mostly aged men, women and children, sleeping in their houses. Although big claims have been made that high profile al-Qaeda leaders were targeted by drones, the fact is that 97% of victims are civilians and veracity of 3% killed militants has never been substantiated. If the safe havens are in NW as alleged by Panetta, it boggles one’s mind as to why the Predator and Reaper drones, supposed to be precision guided systems didn’t destroy any of them? The only restraining reason could be that the US considers all the towns and villages in NW as sanctuaries and want Pak Army to destroy all of them.
If the ISAF with the help of ANA had been successful in overpowering the strongholds of Taliban in Eastern and Southern Afghanistan, which constitute 60% of total territory of the war torn country, it could then justifiably lament over the adverse impact of safe havens across the border and blame Pakistan? Reality on ground is that the ISAF and ANA have utterly failed to contain the rising power of Taliban what to talk of subduing them. It was because of stiff resistance put up by the Taliban that the US was compelled to order complete withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by December 2014. Hardly a day passes when no clash or bomb blast takes place resulting in fatality of occupation troops and such incidents occur in all parts including Northern, Western and Central Afghanistan including Kabul.
So how come, the whole onus of ISAF’s performance is attributed to few crossings in NW by elements of HN? How come, a tiny portion of HN in NW has become such a dreadful monster that it has crippled the military power of US-NATO-ANA? If it is such a horrifying fiend, why it is expected that it can be tamed by Pak military? Safe havens and HN are not the problem; the real problem is that groups under the command of Maulvi Nazir in SW, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Haqqani group in NW refuse to tow American line and are not confronting Pak Army. The US is forcing Pakistan Army to mount an operation in NW so that all militant forces including pro-Pakistan groups gang up against it.
Let us now examine the conduct of Pakistan’s so-called allies bunched up in Kabul. Isn’t it true that the CIA invited RAW to Afghanistan to undermine Pakistan? Isn’t it a fact that the US and Karzai regime helped India in establishing dozens of Pakistan specific consulates filled with RAW officials and in establishing over 100 training camps closer to Afghan-Pakistan border to train saboteurs and in allowing India to transport thousands of tons of arms, ammunition, explosives and military trainers to Afghanistan under the garb of road construction projects? Who would believe that RAW, and RAAM created by former, carryout covert war against Pakistan at a massive scale without the knowledge and connivance of Washington, US military, NATO and CIA? It is now an established fact that a group of six colluding intelligence agencies under CIA stationed at Sehra Naward near Kabul are assiduously working on an agenda to secularize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan.
Who can deny that Pakistani Taliban were the creation of CIA and Mossad to defame Islam and Afghan Taliban, and to incapacitate Pak Army? Who doesn’t know that Nek Muhammad was the first one cultivated by CIA to confront the Army, and when he learnt that he had been wrongly briefed and he signed a peace deal with Lt Gen Safdar at Shakai Fort in June 2004, he was killed by CIA operated drone. It is a well known fact that Abdullah Mehsud after his arrest in Afghanistan in November 2001 was shifted to Gitmo Prison where he was thoroughly brainwashed and then infiltrated into FATA via Afghanistan in 2005 to galvanize Taliban movement. Likewise, his cousin Baitullah Mehsud was also brought in line and the two worked independently but in unison to establish TTP. Both had been led up the garden path that the US will help in creating Islamic caliphate in FATA.
Pakistan has ample proofs of foreign support to Mullah Fazlullah in Swat. He and his followers after being dislodged from their base have been provided safe havens in Nuristan and Kunar from where they are carrying out acts of terror in Mehmand, Bajaur, Dir and Chitral duly aided by Kabul regime and agencies. Unlike state sponsored cross border terrorism from across western border, Pakistan or its Army and ISI are not involved in abetting cross border terrorism into Afghanistan or even in Kashmir where genuine freedom movements are waging. While the other side has no proof against Pakistan, the latter has abundant proofs against Afghanistan based intelligence agencies.
It is an open secret that the training centre run by Mossad in Badakshan for which Muslim religious teachers were provided by India imparted ideological training to young recruits and trained them as suicide bombers. Targets given to them were military convoys, mosques, shrines, funerals, wedding parties, schools and religious scholars. Can the US deny that Blackwater secretly inducted in Pakistan in early 2008 is the extension of CIA? Documents seized from the car of Raymond Davis and diary containing addresses and phone numbers revealed that he and his colleagues were linked with all terrorist groups in Pakistan and a huge CIA network was operating in Pakistan.
Isn’t it true that despite the policy of appeasement, top officials of Pakistan have been off and on mentioning in categorical terms that RAW is involved in Balochistan? PM Gilani had handed over proofs to Indian PM Manmohan at Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2009 which shook him. India’s RAW-run websites like http://www.saag.org openly claim India hand behind Balochistan. Karazi has been shown proofs by ISI on several occasions that Afghan soil is used by RAW and others to destabilize Balochistan and FATA. Dissident Baloch Sardars like late Balach Marri, Brahamdagh Bugti and several others that led the insurgency were provided safe havens in Afghanistan and were patronized by CIA, RAW, MI-6 and Mossad.
All these agencies have established their tentacles in Balochistan and in league with BLA, BRA and BLF are involved in attacking security forces, target killing non-locals and Hazaras, abductions, and mutilation of dead bodies. 30 Farari (training) camps are operating in Afghanistan and 121 in interior Balochistan to train Baloch terrorist groups as was disclosed by IGFC Balochistan in his press conference on 2 June. He said our agencies are confronting 20 foreign intelligence networks in Balochistan. Several runaway Baloch rebels are living in luxury in European countries and USA and are encouraged and helped by foreign powers to pursue their separatist agenda. US Congress, Senators and media are audaciously running a campaign for independent Balochistan.
Having forced the Army to take up a backseat, the rebels and their mentors now want the paramilitary forces to also pack up and clear the way for foreign intervention unopposed. For this reason, issue of missing persons is being blown out of all proportions. Retired Justice Javed Iqbal heading the Commission on missing persons stated that there was concrete evidence to show that foreign intelligence agencies were responsible for making Balochistan restive as well as the disappearance of Baloch nationalists. He decried the baseless propaganda by foreign and local media about missing persons that FC and agencies were involved in this racket.
What I have failed to comprehend is the infuriation of chief justice Iftikhar over the press conference of IGFC Balochistan Maj Gen Obaidullah concerning foreign intervention and worsening law and order situation of Balochistan. He has further tensed the situation by stating that he might summon Gen Kayani before the court if enforced disappearances didn’t get controlled. I went through the contents of IGFC’s briefing and found nothing objectionable in it. He substantiated what Justice Javed had said and is doing a wonderful job to preserve the sanctity of the federation under adverse conditions. He should be encouraged rather than discouraged particularly when the police and civil administration are not playing their due role to provide security to the people. Now that his services have been placed directly under Chief Minister Raisani, the latter should order elimination of rebels training camps which are training target killers and saboteurs and terrorizing people of Balochistan. I am sure, the US and India so fond of eliminating sanctuaries and training camps in other countries would have no objection to this act against terrorism. Or else, the US could be requested to divert few of the drone strikes from FATA to Balochistan to destroy Farari camps.
Pakistan’s alliance with the US has proved very costly. It suffered a loss of 40,000 human lives, $70 billion economic loss and extreme social trauma. Pak security forces have suffered 5000 fatalities while combating militants, mostly aided by foreign powers. No other country involved in fighting terrorism can match Pakistan’s sacrifices. Had it not been for the excellent fight put up by the Army, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Khasadars, Police and tribal Lashkars and routing the strongholds of the militant forces in Swat, Shangla, Malakand Division, tribal agencies of SW, NW, Bajaur, Mehmand, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber and Dara Adam Khel, as well as provincially administered tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, terrorism would have flooded Pakistan and then spilled over to India, Iran, Afghanistan Central Asian States, China and Russia. ISAF could not have stayed on for that long in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan is absorbing the major brunt of terrorism as a frontline state at a very heavy cost and easing the pains of all these countries. Its sacrifices are unparalleled and resolve unshakeable.
Instead of appreciating its difficulties and rewarding it for what no other country could do, Pakistan is being unjustly distrusted and punished by the US and neglected by the world. Pakistan’s interests are disregarded and sovereignty repeatedly violated. Pakistan has been rendering full support to USA even after finding out that it was being treated as a foe. NATO containers were allowed to transit through Pakistan from October 2001 till 26 November 2011 free of cost. Pakistan continued to follow the policy of appeasement despite Washington’s spiteful attitude and didn’t run out of patience. It blocked the supply routes only when the US arrogantly refused to own up its mistake of brutally killing 24 soldiers of Pak Army at Salala and to tender an apology and to stop mutilating Pakistan’s sovereignty by ceasing drone attacks.
The US wants the supply routes to be reopened or else it will block the aid supply and may even impose sanctions, or attempt another unilateral military action. The US behaved in a similar haughty fashion when Raymond Davis was arrested and when the US Navy SEALs carried out a unilateral strike in Abbottabad. Believing in the dictum of ‘might is right’, power drunk American leadership wants Pakistan to accept its insults, humiliations, discriminations and lies without uttering a word of protest and behave like a slave country. America is the most impatient and trigger-happy country which acts on its whims, but Panetta incongruously says the US is losing patience. His Asst Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy also came with a swollen head thinking that the threatening posture of his boss might have softened up Gen Kayani, but he got the shock of his life when Kayani fittingly refused to meet him. Times have changed and earlier the US understands it, better will it be for it.
It is time for the US to admit its follies in Afghanistan and stop playing a double game of fighting and talking with the Taliban in the same breath. Time for fighting is over and now the entire focus should be on negotiations to ensure a safe and speedy withdrawal of 130,000 troops and heavy equipment stranded in Afghanistan. At the same time, the US should also pick up moral courage to admit that it has made mistakes in dealing with Pakistan and should take immediate steps to alleviate the hurts it has caused to Pakistan and to remove its security concerns. Both are possible only if Obama wriggles out of the heavy-handed influence of Pentagon and CIA and relies more on Pakistan to help in ending the endgame on a positive note favorable to all the stakeholders. At the same time our leaders should also become more assertive in highlighting the perverse role of foreign powers in internal affairs of Balochistan and present solid proofs to the world bodies and international community at the earliest.
The writer is a defence and security analyst and a freelance columnist who writes for national and international newspapers/websites and has authored several books.