Pakistan: Yet another US foreign policy calamity

Pakistan: Yet another US foreign policy calamity

After Iraq fiasco, fighting the war without end in Afghanistan, creating frenzy about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, loss of Russia as a partner, policies in the Balkans heading for the rocks, Cole bomber terrorist walking free in Yemen, emergency rule in Georgia, now yet another mega foreign policy calamity: chaos in Pakistan. A country in possession of some 60 nuclear warheads with two of its provinces controlled by Al Qaeda and Taliban and a country in which Osama bin Laden’s popularity exceeds 50%.
Chaos in Pakistan: Islamist Bogeyman

President Pervez Musharraf put Pakistan under emergency rule giving himself sweeping powers: sending the troops into the streets; police firing teas gas and clubbing protesting lawyers; detaining thousands of judges, lawyers, human rights workers, and his political opponents in particular members of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto supporters; forbidding newspapers and broadcasters from expressing opinions he doesn’t like; ousting seven independent-minded Supreme Court justices including the chief justice Mohammed Chaudhry and suspending the constitution. Several of those arrested were charged with treason for making anti-Musharraf speeches or distributing anti-Musharraf leaflets. Musharraf cited the country’s deteriorating security situation amid a rising Islamic insurgency. However, the police was rounding up lawyers dressed in trademark black suits and starched white shirts. Hence, the lawyers have become terrorists in Pakistan! The timing was days before an expected Supreme Court ruling on whether his election last month to a new presidential term was valid. The chief justice is now under house arrest surrounded by paramilitary troops. The bottom line, Musharraf is using the Islamist bogeyman while his real target is the Supreme Court, like Mubarak is using Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to present himself as the only safe choice for the West.

According to Secretary Rice, Washington was not consulted but she was only “disappointed with his decision.” President Bush, self-appointed defender of freedom and crusader against tyranny anywhere in the world, expressed hope that Musharraf “will restore democracy as soon as possible.” The U.S. wants democracy in Pakistan, Bush said “at the same time, we want to continue working with (Musharraf to) fight these terrorists and extremists.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to continue military aid because he does not want to disrupt partnership with Pakistan “in fighting Al Qaeda and other militants.” Presumably the lawyers are these other militants! The U.S. envoy Anne Patterson told the general that his measures had been “heavy-handed.” The conclusion is that the U.S. is buying into Musharraf Islamist bogeyman. During the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Bush became more assertive in a telephone conversation with Musharraf: “The United States wants you to have the elections as scheduled, and I want you to take the uniform off.” It appears to be working; Musharraf announced that Pakistan would hold parliamentary elections by mid-February.

Dictator Musharraf: Troubled Pakistan’s History

Musharraf, an army general, seized the presidency in a coup eight years ago and has been promising democracy ever since. This is his second coup. During his naked dictatorship rule there was no room for major opposition leaders to be in the country. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had to live in exile. For 32 out of its 60 years, Pakistan has been ruled by generals. In intervening intervals, it had 20 prime ministers including Bhutto and Sharif. Sharif, leader of the Pakistan’s Muslim League (N) was ousted by Musharraf in 1999 and then redeported to Saudi Arabia when he attempted to return to Pakistan last month.

Bhutto, daughter of Zulficar Ali Bhutto—a former prime minister who was hanged in 1977—, was welcomed by twin suicide blasts that killed 145 people in her jubilant homecoming procession in Karachi on October 18. She was lucky to survive. She returned after reaching a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf encouraged by the U.S., which included amnesty for her corruption charges. It might have included guarantees that the parliamentary elections will not be rigged against her Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) as Musharraf did before. Musharraf’s loyal supporter is the Pakistan’s Muslim League (Q), led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who stated that Bhutto herself was the terrorist with the aim of drumming up sympathy on October 18.

So how can the U.S. latch on a profoundly dysfunctional country like Pakistan as a crucial partner in Central Asia? General Zia set the stage in late 1970s.

General Zia played U.S. as Violin

This dependence on Pakistan did not start with 9/11. In 1977 General Muhammad Zia ul-Haqq, after overthrowing and hanging Benazir Bhutto’s father, became a dictator and announced that he wanted to establish a “genuine Islamic order” in Pakistan. He imposed harsh Islamic rules and declared that “in Islam there is no provision for Western-type elections.” He was supported by the party founded by Maulana Abu ala Maududi, Jammat-e-Islami, that was inspired by the Pakistani Muslim Brotherhood. Maududi advocated a Leninist revolutionary approach to Islamist politics in his book Jihad in Islam. He played the U.S. as the violin and managed to convince the U.S. to de facto outsource its policy in Central Asia to Pakistan. Jammat-e-Islami was a natural ally of Saudi Wahhabists.

Zia’s goal was to use the U.S. power to carve out a new Mogul empire extending from Pakistan to the Soviet republics of Central Asia. Original Mogul Empire (1526-1857) covered most of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was at the center of that policy, with Pakistan determined to install a compliant government in Kabul. It was Zia who encouraged Islamists in Afghanistan, both domestic such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf as well as imported Arabs like Osama bin Laden, to fight the Soviets while convincing Washington that the mujahideen were the best bet to defeat the Soviets in the 1980-89 U.S. Afghan proxy war against the USSR. 70% of the U.S./Saudi multi billion dollar funding went to ultra-Islamist anti-American Afghan parties. He supported the madrassas along the Afghan-Pakistan border to serve as recruiting grounds. Saudi/Pakistani complex produced Al Qaeda, Afghan Arabs and Taliban.

Zia authorized a Pakistani program to develop the nuclear weapons capability. The program was deliberately overlooked by Washington in order to further jihad in Afghanistan. Zia’s policies amounted to: screw India, deceive the U.S., spread Islamism, develop Islamic bomb and spread nuclear weapons technology.

Musharraf: Another Grandmaster of U.S. Manipulation

Musharraf is another Pakistani general-dictator who played the U.S. as the violin. Second to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan played a major part in 9/11. A point the 9/11 Commission failed to acknowledge. Nonetheless he became a crucial U.S. partner in the war on terror and a major non-NATO U.S. ally despite the fact that the U.S. policymakers were fully aware that Pakistan was at the center of the world’s worst Islamist terrorist networks: an exporter of terrorism especially into Kashmir and a creator of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He got a royal treatment in Washington and became the first South Asian leader to be invited to Camp David with a promise of $3 billion in aid. Currently assistance to Pakistan is estimated at more than $10 billion not counting the covert assistance estimated at $5 billion. Most of this assistance went to the Pakistani military. Pakistan’s debt burden was also eased. In return the Pakistani authorities have detained some 500 suspected members of Al Qaeda and Taliban.

On March 1, 2003, Pakistan arrested Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), 9/11 mastermind, a few hours before announcing that Pakistan would not back the UN resolution authorizing the war in Iraq. In March 2002, they captured Abu Zubeida, Al Qaeda’s operations chief, during the congressional debate on foreign aid to Pakistan and delivery of F-16 fighter jets. There were also captures of Yasser Jazeeri, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Faraj Libbi, claimed to be the new Al Qaeda #3, when the U.S. decided to make delivery of F-16s contingent on American agents getting the right to interrogate Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of the Islamic bomb.

U.S. counterterrorism analysts, in a document titled Al Qaeda better positioned to strike the West, have concluded that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its operational capability to a level not seen since just before 9/11. The network has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in so called Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), despite six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at its eradication. Musharraf made even a deal with FATA which sounded like capitulation to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. After collapse of the deal with FATA, due to storming of the Lal Masquid Red Mosque, the Islamist insurgents have scored a series of victories against so called Frontier Corps, an indigenously recruited force of some 80,000 troops. In late October, Islamists captured a dozen of Frontier fighters and paraded them before Western journalists. In August, 250 Frontier Corps troops surrendered without the fight.

Frontier Corps, according to the LA Times, are equipped often with little more than “sandals and bolt-action rifles” as they face Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters with assault rifles and grenade launchers. This arms imbalance has contributed to current Al Qaeda strength in the region. John Kringen, head of the CIA’s analysis directorate, testified in the Congress: “They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven. We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising.” Bulk of the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid have been spent on heavy arms, aircraft and equipment far more suited for a conventional warfare with India. As a result the Frontier Corps has been all but shut off from the U.S. military aid.

In addition, Musharraf has been let off the hook with regard to the vital issue of nuclear proliferation. On the other hand Iran has been built up as a major nuclear threat despite the fact that the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief, Mohamed El-Baradei, claims that Iran only wants eventually to become a “virtual nuclear-weapons state” like Japan while Pakistan has built an inventory of some 60 nuclear warheads.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, expressed his worry about the Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal by saying:”If there is [further] instability, Musharraf is going to have less ability to exercise tight control. Pakistan tends to leak. It has leaked vital nuclear weapons information. It’s the nature of the system. Albright was obviously referring to the illicit network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, who definitely deserves the title of the nuclear proliferation grandmaster. Musharraf pardoned Khan and didn’t allow for him to be interviewed by the U.S. authorities.

Cost/Benefit Analysis

Applying elementary cost/benefit approach to the effectiveness of the post 9/11 policies in Pakistani, we know that the cost is in excess of $15 billion while the benefit appears to be nebulous and not commensurate with the cost. After six years of alleged war against the Islamists, bin Laden’s popularity in Pakistan runs in excess of 50% while Al Qaeda in settled in the Pakistani safe haven and operates effectively from there