Wikileaks, an international whistle-blowing website, recently leaked US and Allied forces military documents highlighting the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. One of the many things highlighted is Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI’s, double game in the War.
If you followed the mainstream media in US and UK, the two main allies of Pakistan in the war against terror, you would imagine that the leaks produced something astonishing. But as host of Colbert Report, Comedian and political satirist Stephan Colbert, said sarcastically on Wednesday, revelation that Wars lead to death of troops and innocent civilians, and that Pakistan is hardly a trustworthy ally are really shocking!
It must be noted that while contents of documents may be taken as foregone conclusion by many, the leaks themselves show that out of 180 reports on alleged Pakistani duplicity, only 27 are held to be ‘fairly reliable source’ and even of those 27 reports, many are questionable. Like the report of Beer for NATO soldiers being poisoned by ISI. We must also remember that these are documents report life as American and other ally soldiers see themselves on ground, these aren’t conclusive facts. Most of the information is fed in by Pakistan’s rival Intelligence agencies, Indian RAW and Afghani NDS or by informants which at times are giving news to reinforce perceptions in exchange for money.
However that said, it isn’t really a news that Pakistan has been playing host to certain groups of Taliban. It is no secret that elements in Pakistan establishment have provided support to many Jihadi organisations, only this June there was news of Punjab Government paying money to banned groups and the pictures of province’s Law Minister holding hands with a leader of a banned outfit had flooded the internet early this year (including this website). New York Times has in past reported that Pakistan has broached the topic of being the mediator of talks between their preferred group of Talibans and the US. Reports suggest two prominent groups are of Haqqani and Gulbadin Hikmatyar.
Observers, more eloquent than I, have pointed out the pitfalls of pursuing this agenda in the international scenario. I would be looking at it with a little different angle at first, why does the Pakistani establishment actually think it proper to pursue such an agenda?
Pakistani ISI sees itself as being the main think-tank behind Pakistani foreign policy. It usurped this role during the Zia era, and has ever since remained more or less in charge. Instead of Intelligence gathering, ISI also has control over what intelligence they should gather; where, what and how much resources should be used and what goals may be attained. Decision-makers, be that Democratic leaders or army dictators make decision in a information vacuum. Their only source for decision makers information is ISI, who also have the editorial powers.
It is similar to Magician’s card trick. There is an illusion of choice, from a full deck of cards. Yet more often than not you choose the card he wants you to choose. That is the whole trick.
It goes without saying that what ISI does is beyond their job description. They justify it to themselves (and any sympathetic listener) that only they have required ability, experience and talents to make such vital decisions.
In case of Afghan War, it is an open secret that current US administration is not interested in staying a minute longer than is required in Afghanistan. They have already given 2014 deadline. When they do leave, it will inevitably be too early, because infrastructures can’t be manufactured externally and it definitely can’t be done within a single generation. There then would be a weak regime put in place which is likely to be toppled soon by Talibans or more likely insidiously penetrated by them. There are already reports of that. It is also quite likely that the Americans would leave after having a tacit understanding established with Talibans. Where does that leave Pakistan?
After fighting this war as a vanguard American ally, Pakistan would get most of the blame from new Afghani government, for good reason. The northern Alliance harbor reminiscent resentment with Pakistan for their earlier troubles and Talibans do for their recent troubles.
Indians, who have their own scores to settle from Kashmir, would be happy to fund any organisation, or state for that matter, that is willing to dent the old enemy. And with a ‘greater Baluchistan’ movement also going on at Iranian Border, Pakistan seems to be sandwiched in a quite antagonist neighborhood, where no one seems to like it. Future does looks dull. So come 2014 American withdrawal, all hell breaks loose. To counter this possible scenario, ISI has decided to make mend bridges with previous allies Talibans and Al Qaeda and they offer support to any group that is willing to be their ally. They shall try to build goodwill and get these people involved in any future setup. Quite similar to American intelligence withdrawal after the USSR retreat.
As we can see, for ISI there are no morals involved, it is mainly politics and case of survival. What is evident from this is that ISI has predicted only for worsening scenarios, and no possible room for allowing a better situation to emerge. There is no plan in place to say ensure that there is less distrust with Indians, which would say possibly dissuade them from pursuing any Afghani misadventures. There is no plan in place to placate the Baluchi movement by providing them with a greater political voice and working with Iranians on that front. And there is certainly no movement towards working with Afghanistan’s democratic government, possibly come to a bilateral understanding with them. These avenues are not pursued by ISI specifically because they are not inclined to follow them. They have a confrontational predilection because ISI is made up of Army men, trained to be fighters. Diplomacy is art of statesmen. One of the reasons why there is a direct correlation between democracy and prosperity is that democrats, coming from a proper gross root level, are trained in the technique of compromises and synergy. Hammering out possible peaceful and mutually win-win scenarios are possible only where there exists an attitude to understand their benefit and tools to follow them.
It is then highly disheartening to know that current democratic government of Pakistan, which has at its disposal some individuals who can perform as statesmen, surrendering its foreign policy and initiative to the men in uniform. A peaceful resolution in such a situation is highly unlikely and if it does happen, would be due to mere fortunate happenstance rather than design. So I leave you with this question; Do we want our future to be ruled merely by chance?