Specially contributed to the LUBP, this post was first published at These Long Wars blog
If there is one thing that has “obsessed” me over the last few days of being too farigh over the internet, it’s Afghan peace. Specifically, what-the-eff’s going to happen when the Americans leave, how the Americans will leave, and whom will they empower when they leave. It’s a depressing topic to broach. The actors who can screw it all up are well outlined in my Foreign Policy lifted Order of Battle for Jihadi Islam across Pakistan and Afghanistan, and our old familiar friends in the Pakistan military establishment and their intelligence hands. Sigh. Anyway, I made the google rounds to see what we can come up with and the google God was not favourable.
God was also not favourable during Ashura, with some random jerkoff throwing a grenade in Peshawar at a procession, and now we have a mortar attack in Hangu. Not unrelated is the atmosphere of intolerance peddled by our religious extremists, and the toleration and manipulation of these intolerants by our establishment.
I cam up with articles related to old peace talks with narco-terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar dating from June-July, the text’s of a “possible” peace deal, articles about talks about talks from October-November (which we know is related to the ultra-fake Mullah Mansoor) and something by Arnaud de Bochgrave that had promise, but died half way through. And speaking of died halfway through (keeping his role in bombing Serbia in the late-nineties in mind) R.I.P Richard Holbrooke.
You know, I have a theory. That anybody who works, mind, body and soul to actually change Pakistan can actually die from over-exertion. My exhibit A for that was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, now exhibit B just might be Richard Holbrooke. And sometimes the sincerity of that effort gets people killed. Exhibit A, B, C and D are of course, Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. They were killed by enemies of the reform they promised. Except maybe Zia, who was killed possibly by people inside the army sick of him and his clique tying up promotions. But I digress. RIP Mr Holbrooke, nice to hear you were talking about Af-Pak peace right uptil the last minute. Even if it may have been jokes, peace is what we need to get to.
Anyway, coming back to the Fakileaks, which I`m sure drew you into this whole blog piece, my point is that any weird behaviour by our military establishment has to be looked at in the context of the eventual withdrawal of US forces and what they might leave behind in Afghanistan, the response of the psychopaths who have taken control in FATA, and the potential for greater chaos in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Althought let`s see how Ashura day`s toll of attacks turns out, it could be a bellweather for how raring the fanatics are to have a go inside Pakistan. Reports out of Karachi indicated a police administration in hyper-drive to try and control as many fanatics as possible. By the end of the day we will know if they succeeded. And beyond that, a question has to be asked of whether the militants themselves have been intimidated into pulling a strategic retreat to avoid ruining their oh-so-Stirling reputations. The militants by my account may not want to call “too” much attention to themselves. But of course there are random hotheads like the jerk who threw the grenade, and the one who lobbed the mortar.
Anyway, returning *again* to Fakileaks (sigh) there was Cyril Almeida’s article which I went to first thing on Dawn, and lo and behold my surprise when I saw it repeated on Five Rupees by Ahsan. Cyril Almeida’s piece nicely referenced YRG’s smalltimey-ness in the PM Gillani Vs PM Fahim debate. The second article Ahsan referenced was a piece by Azhar Abbas (the one who works for Geo, and his brother is *the* military spokesman of the ISPR). I had skimmed the article as it had been linked to in the twitterverse, and the tweeple tweeting it used it as an explanation for why Zaid Hamid was suddenly back on the scene. In that article though, there were a few responses that stuck out at me:
“Maliha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the UK and US saying that “There is acknowledgement in private about mistakes made in the past. But it is not translating into a long term strategic plan”.“
To this I say “Of Course!” Pakistan needs a long term strategic indigenous plan, because dammit, its not like that the religiously fanatic folk aren’t thinking long term.
Returning back to what Azhar Abbas said:
“Our policy on the drone attacks is very clear and I don’t think there is any change in the policy, though for public consumption the government and the establishment will continue to oppose the attacks in the media,” said Mushahid Hussain.
Lodhi is even more critical of this style of policy. “No government can afford to have a covert policy of cooperation and overt position with the public, which is at odds with that policy,” she said.
This cognitive dissonance within the government’s own body is what creates the atmosphere for things like the Fakileaks scandal to be concocted.
But the big question is: Is it really a tactical move? Or is this the main strategy and the fight against extremism merely a tactical diversion?
This I’ll come back to later. Continuing:
Although, the intelligentsia, including media persons in Pakistan, are quite divided along ideological lines, WikiLeaks’ exposes are further crystallising this tendency. But the most disturbing aspect is the way Pakistani power brokers are trying to promote a particular mindset.
First off, the phrase intelligentsia is a little bit too high brow for Pakistan. It’s more like, “What’s been left”, after years of Ziaism, societally enforced lip service to Islam, 3 and a half decades of overt military rule, and a constant state of low intensity violence. But my bitterness digresses. In this little media/coffee klatch bubble of dueling electrons, dependent on black/grey fortunes or corporate/state enterprise jobs, yes, there has been a clear cleavage down the middle between those who want to live in a normal country and those who are materially satisfied but religiously conflicted with the current situation.
Many observers believe that in the days to come, one should again expect a rise in the extremist mindset.
Somebody said that would explain Zaid Hamid’s re-invigorated presence online and on television.
This will not just be restricted to the print media or TV screens, but will be visible on the streets of Pakistan as well.
Hello JI rallies on blasphemy.
It may be a welcome sign for those who wanted it as a tactical move.
But the coming months and years will tell us how flawed a move it is. General Zia is not here to see the monster he had created that had devoured hundreds of innocent lives.
His policy has divided and damaged our society almost beyond repair.
Tell us more.
The current policies will only make the situation worse for Pakistan.
Well then we need to stop fighting over faking cable and get to work on some sort of Afghan peace plan. There are Arab strategists thinking ten, twenty years down the road on how to build a khilafat in Pakistan. The more serious quote is this:
“Or is…the fight against extremism merely a tactical diversion”
This is the part that disgusted, and partially scared me. Is the fight against extremism a diversion just so that the military can shelter Mullah Umar, possibly Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Ladin? If a hemped up Californian Christian hippie can feel he’s getting close enough to be a few valleys in Chitral away from OBL, this tells you FUCK loads about what the hell our Military Establishment may be hiding or purely ignoring. Considering that Mullah Umar may have direct support from some of the JUI-F types, but Osama Bin Ladin and Ayman Al Zawahiri are providing direct inspiration for the sectarian terrorism in Pakistan. Is the Pakistan military establishment receiving money from the Saudis and Gulf to ignore where these people are hiding? The number 1 and 2 of Al Qaeda are criminals and murderers of Pakistanis. If as Ghost Wars says, that OBL travels with an entourage of a hundred stateless Arabs, Central and South Asians Muslims, arranged in concentric layers of security then it is very likely that, if our military hasn’t been beaten back by it, it has certainly run into it a couple of times.
Although, to be honest, I have to wonder about knowledge of militant activity down the chain of command. The last commander of XI Corps (the Corps that did all the fighting in Swat and Waziristan) lost his son in a gun-and-suicide attack. I am not trying to be insensitive when I bring this up, but it is a fact that has to be faced. Does this mean that he might have known where Ayman Al Zawahiri and Osama Bin Ladin were and did not act? Wow, that would take a lot of gumption.
It’s facts like these that put a two-by-four into speculation that the Pakistan military is only acting against militants tactically rather than strategically. Of course going against militants strategically would mean trying to clean up Madrassahs, the JUI-F, the JI and a host of other publicly appearing promoters of religious extremism. It would also mean giving Mullah Umar, and much of the Quetta Shura, and men in various managerial positions of various formerly Kashmir-centric groups the AQ Khan treatment.
The A.Q Khan treatment where we skip the public apology and appearing in public part and move straight into indefinite home detention, with restricted movement and little hope of leaving the area. This way these gentlemen do not get kidnapped, caught and made to squeal (on the Pakistanis) by various Indian or Western intelligence agencies. And the little boys, and boy-brained-men, they commanded have to all be accounted for, put on lists, and be educated/re-educated/de-programmed. Some with blood on their hands would have to be forced through the judicial system, while some others who escape and start killing (as they have been doing now for the last three years) would have to be killed, or threatened with death if they threaten to kill.
That would be Pakistan taking it’s strategic priorities seriously. Only part of this has happened, and that too haphazardly. This in a way belies claims by Indians, or worries by Pakistanis that the attacks on militant strongholds in Hamaa, I’m sorry, Swat and Waziristan, were not war crimes with no justification, or military displays to distract the west . No. Up till this moment in time, December 2010, they appear to be war crimes that had a purpose. To kill people who were set on the course of destroying everything left in Pakistan. It will be up to the Pakistan government’s capacity to rebuild, restore and re-autonomise the local populations of the regions that we had to invade and kill Taliban in, to make sure that the lives lost were not lost in vain.
In the meantime, as we demonstrated at least in the major cities, we have a minor moral victory, with Ashura passing “peacefully”, but this sort of tactical thinking has to stop. We have to move beyond the tactical thought processes into a strategic offensive against the sources of extremism within our country, primarily the lack of control of our security forces, and the aid that provides to religiously inclined assassins. Civilian security forces must be strengthened, expanded and aided in their evolution, maturisation and sophistication. Simultaneously, it will have to be public movements of Pakistani people, in concert with their political parties that take control of their public bodies. And looming above and beyond this, will have to be a plan for peace along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and in Afghanistan itself.
Enough people have died, either violently or from the bad health that this region’s bad politics resonates with. Even if their leaders and friends are men and women with moderate amounts of blood on their hands, there is time and there are resources to control the situation, create an environment for a succession to a new generation of leadership, and prevent the situation from crossing a moral event horizon.
RIP Richard Holbrooke