The events of September 11, 2001, have transpired to be a tremendous watershed for Pakistan. Since then Pakistan has followed a trajectory of events that has been almost unprecedented in Pakistanâ€™s history. Yet despite this trajectory being largely plotted by Pakistanâ€™s own rulers the irony is that Pakistan now faces a terrible and perilous situation. Today American warplanes attack Pakistani territory and kill itâ€™s citizens with impunity. Instead of defending Pakistanâ€™s sovereignty against these attacks, the Pakistani government has launched itâ€™s own military operation fighting itâ€™s own people that has displaced over 3.4 million people as Pakistanâ€™s rulers plead they fight for Pakistanâ€™s survival. Moreover random bombings occur in the country that have created a sense of fear in the people.
The build up to this tragic situation has unfolded over the last eight years.
In the last 2 years, since the twilight of the Musharraf regime, the Westâ€™s political and military focus has shifted away from Afghanistan to Pakistan itself. Despite the fact that these Western armies have failed to pacify Afghanistan themselves and are actually seeking to negotiate with parts of the Pakhtoon resistance, we find Western leaders have made accusation after accusation against Pakistan itself.
The British Foreign Secretary David Milliband claimed in March 2009 that â€œThe reason that we’re in Afghanistan is precisely because 9/11 was launched from the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Shortly after that in April 2009 the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said â€Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.â€ This was followed by the British Prime Minster Gordon Brown who in his recent April visit to Pakistan said â€œThere is a crucible of terrorism in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.â€ This was then followed by a statement from General David Petraeus, prior to the launch of the Swat operation, who said that Pakistan had just 2 weeks left to destroy the Taliban or risked falling itself.
These statements from these Western leaders in the space of a few weeks show how their political discourse has developed into outright hysteria in such a short space of time. No one has ever claimed before, let alone provided any evidence, that 9/11 was executed from Pakistanâ€™s tribal areas. To believe that the Pakistani state itself will fold under the pressure of a few thousand irregular fighters, 5000 at best as claimed by the Zardari regime, is an even bigger lie than Millibandâ€™s 9/11 claim. Pakistan has a modern professional 650,000 man army that has successfully held off the million plus soldiers of India on numerous occasions, most recently demonstrated in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks and bellicose Indian threats. To peddle such propaganda is the height of deceitfulness and actually reveals the fallacy of the Westâ€™s â€˜Talibanisationâ€™ argument. Pakistan is not in danger of falling and in fact coupled with Zardariâ€™s Nizam-e-Adl manoeuvre, this propaganda was actually a crude attempt to try to turn Pakistani public opinion in favour of the military operation underway in Swat.
America itself has failed to control Afghanistan; it badly needs the Pakistan army to conduct this operation to save itâ€™s failing occupation u aJAfghanistan. This operation is designed by the Zardari regime to punish the people of Swat for their support to the fighters who attack the American and NATO supply convoys heading for Afghanistan and for their Pakhtoon brethren across the border who are fighting the American led occupation. By displacing up to a staggering 3.4 million people from the area, the Zardari regime, coupled with the terror of the American drone strikes in the area, has effectively cleansed the area of itâ€™s population and thereby sought to increase the security of the American and NATO supply lines. By creating an area free from itâ€™s population, the Zardari regime has also created a buffer zone along the Afghan border in order to stem Western losses inside Afghanistan.
In the process Zardari has created the biggest humanitarian refugee crisis the world has seen since the Rwanda genocide in 1994 according to the United Nations. With no independent journalists allowed inside the theatre of operation, it is anyoneâ€™s guess as to how many men, women and children have died, how many have been injured and how many have lost their homes and had their livelihoods destroyed in the process. At the height of the Irish conflict, the British never attacked the entire Catholic population in Northern Island to stop the IRA bomb attacks in mainland Britain. Even the Indians have not resorted to such methods in Kashmir. To argue that such an approach will stop a few alleged terrorists is untrue; such brutal tactics are the collective punishment of an entire population and were deployed by the Israelis against the Palestinians in their recent slaughter in Gaza. On Zardariâ€™s political epitaph history will record his bloody tyranny.
Yet for Pakistan the political fallout is yet to come. No country can simply attack itâ€™s own civilian population and not suffer from the inevitable consequences. A government which attacks itâ€™s own people with fighter jets and artillery shells will no longer be seen as a legitimate ruling entity; it will henceforth only be seen as an occupying force. It will lead to further ethnic division and fighting within a country whose federation is not known for itâ€™s political strength. The end result can only be more bloodshed on both sides, with Muslim fighting Muslim, threatening a civil war. Not only will the people of Swat suffer but the Pakistan army will also be sucked into an occupation that will weaken it over the duration. Nobody can argue that this is in Pakistanâ€™s interest.
This though is the calculus being applied by policy makers in Washington and London. For this campaign in Pakistan is not just about Afghanistan and the support to the resistance against the American occupation by their brethren tribes in northern Pakistan. It is about dealing with the greater revival of Islam throughout the Muslim lands, a call which the people of Pakistan are strongly embracing. During the cold war, the West was preoccupied with the Soviet threat. In fact the same people that they call â€˜terroristsâ€™ today were the same ones they called â€˜Mujahideenâ€™ and â€˜freedom fightersâ€™ as they funnelled billions of dollars in weapons and aid through the CIA and Britainâ€™s MI6 using Pakistanâ€™s ISI agency. But today, as the Islamic revival takes place whilst global Capitalism is in crisis, a Muslim country which has nuclear weapons, a strong military and the potential for change is strategic nightmare for Western policy makers. No longer will they have obedient political stooges to do their bidding; instead they face the prospect of an ideological Islamic state, the Khilafah, which will be governed by Islam in the interests of itâ€™s people, outside the scope and control of Western powers. This is the real issue behind the facade of the Western propagated â€˜terrorismâ€™ agenda against Pakistan.
Those who claim that this is Pakistanâ€™s own war against terrorism are being deceptive and offer an incredulous argument. Before the events of 9/11 there was no fighting between Pakistanâ€™s security forces and those who lived in the tribal areas. In fact there was no history of suicide bomb attacks either. The tribal areas were at peace whilst the Pakistan army was busy consolidating Musharrafâ€™s rule in the aftermath of the coup overthrowing Nawaz Sharifâ€™s regime. Pakistan not withstanding the spontaneous random acts of sectarian violence, was at relative peace with itself. It was the American occupation of Afghanistan and the continued support for this from the Pakistani rulers which has triggered the instability in the tribal areas. The argument that it has no choice in the face of declining American power is false. America is powerless to act against North Korea which has just conducted itâ€™s second nuclear test.
If a fledgling power like North Korea can defy America, then Pakistan with itâ€™s advanced nuclear and missile programs can also ignore Americaâ€™s demands.
It is clear that Pakistanâ€™s rulers have not stopped to properly evaluate the situation which Pakistan finds itself in. To resort to military attacks against your own people is an act which will only bring more turmoil; America despite all itâ€™s wealth and military might has not been able to subdue the people of Iraq and Afghanistan over these past years. This indicates a total absence of thought and the abject failure of Pakistanâ€™s politicians. This viewpoint does not even stand the scrutiny of pragmatism and in truth represents dogmatic political support for a military offensive that is a dangerous error of judgement.
In the aftermath of Musharrafâ€™s Lal Masjid massacre the Americans together with the incumbent rulers have learnt their lesson in the art of black propaganda. The rulers are deliberately trying to exploit the terrorist outrages in the country to shore up political support for their deeply unpopular alliance with Americaâ€“ â€˜Pakistan firstâ€™ is the rallying cry for the faithful. How can Pakistan be said to be put first when itâ€™s villages are being attacked by America at will? The Zardari regime claims to be acting to restore the writ of the state, to restore itâ€™s honour; yet the Americans have attacked countless number of times, violating the writ of the Pakistani state, to murder itâ€™s men, women and children with their indiscriminate drone strikes. The Zardari regime continues to condone this, there is no honour in that.
Supporters of the Swat operation also conveniently ignore the role of the American FBI and CIA who now have numerous bases throughout Pakistan; they were instrumental in the kidnapping of Dr Affia Siddiqui and her children who is now held in an American prison. One only has to google the word â€˜CIAâ€™ to reveal itâ€™s dirty history in destabilisation and black operations abroad. No responsible government would allow a foreign power to establish itâ€™s intelligence apparatus on itâ€™s soil with a free hand. This though is exactly what Pakistanâ€™s rulers have done, they have handed over Pakistanâ€™s internal security. These are the actions of a foolish and immoral regime.
It is no coincidence that the Western media and itâ€™s officials openly talk about Pakistan collapsing; this is what they want, they want to create a new Iraq. The Westâ€™s target is Pakistan itself and it will not rest until the Muslims of Pakistan stop aspiring to be ruled by Islam, something that will not happen. Islam runs through the veins of the Pakistani people and attempts to forcibly remove the Islamic identity are doomed to failure. Moreover over the last sixty years western values such as secularism and democracy have failed to bring prosperity and good governance to the people of Pakistan; both military rule and democracy have failed. The Muslims of Pakistan live with this legacy of failure everyday. This is because they are alien to the Muslims and you cannot superimpose western values without justifying their basis. To do that you would have to make an argument against Islam itself.
Pakistanâ€™s secularists also fundamentally fail to realise that the West is not just fighting a military battle but an ideological war, first and foremost. Most of them believe that by siding and supporting Americaâ€™s â€˜War on Terrorâ€™, Pakistan will be let off the hook whilst the ruling elite think they can make a few billion dollars in the process. If Pakistanâ€™s secularists hope that by offering the blood of their fellow citizens as sacrifice to appease the West will work, then they are wrong. Tony Blair, the Iraq war architect, declared in April 2009 â€œThe ideology, as a movement within Islam, has to be defeated. This battle cannot so easily be won. Because it is based on an ideology and because its roots are deep, so our strategy for victory has to be broader, more comprehensive but also more sharply defined. In the use of hard power, we have to understand one very simple thing: where we are called upon to fight, we have to do it.â€ The West is undermining and attacking Pakistan because of itâ€™s Islam. The West will not stop until it ends what it sees as the political threat emanating from Islam in Pakistan.
Pakistan faces a stark choice; it can either remove the American presence from inside Pakistan and end itâ€™s partnership with America or it can continue on itâ€™s present course. If it chooses to continue on itâ€™s present course then it is walking a path of inevitable self destruction.
Atif Salahuddin is a Pakistani analyst who specialises in International Relations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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