June 05, 2011

A rogue state on the loose

June 06, 2011 6:10:16 AM

Balbir K Punj


With Pakistan fast descending into jihadi violence and chaos, the global community can no longer pretend that Islamabad is in control of affairs.

It looks almost as if with every passing day global concerns over the future of Pakistan are rising. This alone explains why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to Islamabad along with the Chief of Staff of the US military, Admiral Mike Mullen. Earlier, the CIA chief also visited Pakistan.

The top level visits by the Americans follow the Pakistani Prime Minister’s attempt to juxtapose China against the US as the latter wants President Asif Ali Zardari and Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani to explain the presence of Osama bin Laden for six years in Abbottabad despite repeated denials by Islamabad of any knowledge of his whereabouts.

Faced with mounting pressure from the US, Mr Gilani slyly described China and Pakistan “like one nation, two countries”. It is clear that Islamabad has decided to play the Beijing card every time Washington, DC turns the screws on Pakistan. And Mr Gilani knows that Pakistan won’t ever be disappointed on this count.

After all, the Chinese have maintained a studied silence on the Americans discovering Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. China’s silence is in sharp contrast to repeated demands by the US, which has chosen to ignore Islamabad’s protests over the unilateral action by American forces and the violation of Pakistani sovereignty, that Pakistan must come up with a credible explanation.

In response, Mr Gilani has secured a promise from China for more fighter aircraft and other military hardware to demonstrate that the two countries enjoy a ‘strategic relationship’. Pakistani ‘sources’ have even claimed that the Chinese will now have a naval base at Gwadar Port that Beijing has helped build.

All these decades Islamabad was happy to be Washington’s messenger boy while the US was busy trying to contain and encircle Soviet power. For the last several years since 9/11, America has been using Drones to zero in on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets at random with heavy collateral damage while the Pakistani Army registered its protest — but only for form’s sake.

Moment by moment the Pakistani state is exposing its cracks and dents like a battered car. It protests against the American intrusion at Abbottabad. Within 48 hours President Barack Obama reiterates that more such raids would be conducted if merchants of terror were found hiding in Pakistan.

Now we are witnessing a series of terror strikes, beginning with the Taliban’s raid on the naval air base at Mehran. The Pakistani state seems to be so bereft of any credible explanation for the Mehran raid that pro-establishment columnists in that country are claiming that America and India could have sponsored the attack.

The steady loss of any credibility that may still attach to Pakistan’s claim of innocence about major terrorist strikes in the world is being ensured by the daily exposure of rogue elements in the Pakistani state apparatus through depositions in the Headley-Rana trial in Chicago. As the Chicago courtroom exposures erode the faux innocence of the Pakistani establishment, the world is getting to hear how that country’s military-jihadi alliance nurtures terror and religious extremism as a part of Islamabad’s state policy.

The objective situation that prevails calls into question the very basis of the American (and Indian) strategy of shoring up Pakistan’s civil authority against radical Islamists on the march. Both Mr Obama and Ms Clinton appear to be willing to strike but afraid to wound in their approach to the Government and military of Pakistan.

Despite the exposure of Pakistan’s duplicity on Osama bin Laden — he was living in his hideout at Abbottabad all through the years the Pakistani Government and Army (as well as the ISI) were claiming he wasn’t there — Ms Clinton said in Islamabad that only some elements in the Pakistani Army were to be blamed. At the same time Mr Obama has publicly rebuked the Government and Army of Pakistan for being obsessed with pursuing anti-India centric policies.

But neither praise nor criticism by America seems to cut any ice with Pakistan any more. Islamabad is clearly beginning to lean more towards Beijing than Washington. And the Chinese are being more than happy to reciprocate through words and deeds. This is borne out by China’s promise of new fighter aircraft for the Pakistani Air Force. Pakistan has reciprocated by making public what has been known all along: That China is welcome to set up a naval base at Gwadar.

It is possible that there are differences between the Pakistani Government, the Army, the ISI and the many jihadi outfits that the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment sponsors on what should be done within Pakistan. But on one point all of them are united: Their perception of India as Pakistan’s enemy. Just because they are obsessed with India, they believe India, too, is obsessed with Pakistan.

On his return from his official visit to two African nations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has explained in some detail as to why he is trying to convince Pakistan that letting the terrorist organisations exist is not in its own interest and why India must seek to strengthen the civil authority in Islamabad over the other claimants to power.

Mr Singh’s approach is flawed. It only strengthens the Western view that if India agrees to settle the Kashmir dispute to Pakistan’s satisfaction, the civilian Government in Islamabad would gain enough traction to bring the all-powerful Generals of Rawalpindi under its control and authority.

Meanwhile, security affairs analysts in Washington are now worried over the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of jihadis. In a recent article, Newsweek has claimed that with Pakistan stepping up its production of plutonium, it could soon have an awesome stockpile of nuclear warheads far outnumbering those of other countries.

Simultaneously, the chances of jihadis raiding bases where strategic weapons are stored have soared following the Taliban’s daring attack on the Mehran naval air base.

Is the Government of India alert to this possibility? More importantly, have the Prime Minister and his team bothered to contemplate on the consequences of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into jihadi hands? The international community and India in particular must think about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan and what it could lead to.


1 comment:

Charles Frith said...

Yeah nice. First the US screws over Pakistan by threatening to bomb them into the stone age if they don't help. Then they turn to Indian/Pakistani tensions to stir it up with articles like this. India should stop acting like a snake and stand up for its neighbour instead of fellating the Pentagon.