Original Articles

Is it a time for soul-searching in Pakistan? – by Rusty Walker

 

Related post: To the honourable generals of Pakistan army – by Rashid Aurakzai

After Friday’s suicide bombing in Charsadda by the Pakistan’s Taliban, the first major attack to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death, Pakistanis should be alerted to the new round of anti-American sloganeering. The double suicide bombing on the paramilitary police training centre was a cowardly attack on unsuspecting newly trained paramilitary cadets, unarmed, in civilian clothes, relaxed and ready for a 10-day leave. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan coldly stated, “This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Just last week the Taliban threatened to attack security forces to avenge bin Laden’s killing by the US helicopter raid in Abbottabad. Make no mistake about it, this is not about the U.S., and it is time for Pakistan to do some soul searching about root causes.

To confuse matters more, senior Pakistani police officials are now saying that the Charsadda suicide attacks were probably retaliation for an army offensive in Pakistan’s tribal areas and not for the death of Osama bin Laden as the Paskitani Taliban claimed.  

However, fewer people are falling for the smokescreens set up by the Pakistan security establishment to deflect attention away from their strategic goal of using Islamist mercenaries as an instrument of foreign policy. 

Those who can see through the security establishment’s double game should be clear in their minds that the Charsadda bombing was directed by ISI to prove to the US and to the Pakistani public that Pakistan army is a victim. 

In an otherwise intelligent article, found at this link, entitled, “Our Own Destroyers,”

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=46782&Cat=9  the writer, Ayaz Amir predictably repeats the current Pakistani mantra, now expecting to gain new momentum with the tragedy at Charsadda, “Let us condemn the US by all means,” for its action in Abbottabad. Amir, who makes a good deal of sense in the article, makes the comment on the U.S. in passing; as if it is understood by all, only then can we move on. His argument for a re-examination of Pakistani “cherished concepts,” is sound advice, but then he leads once again to the “party-line” of anti-American rhetoric, i.e., we may criticize our duplicitous Pakistani military and ISI, as long as we all end up agreeing that we all are against the U.S.. This is counterproductive and short-sighted. 

The tacit understanding is that the U.S. is the enemy. The Charsadda will be framed as revenge against Pakistan because of Americans. This diverts attention away from the real enemy. The narrative goes: sovereignty breached, drones dropped and UBL nabbed, embarrassingly found in our midst, foreign aid is only to control us, etc. An objective observer could conclude there are reasons WHY the U.S. was forced to have your “sovereignty breached, drones dropped and UBL nabbed in our midst.” Namely, the CIA can’t share information with the ISI or it is compromised, the TTP goes unharmed by Pakistan military, and UBL was ignored. By the way, U.S. foreign aid has not managed to influence Pakistan in any way. This money is diverted internally, from the intended civil society, to military with no complaints from either your government, or your civil society. This is an internal issue within Pakistan.

The issue in the article I mention above suggests that the status quo in Pakistan never seems to improve. But, keeping the current status has to do with a real and present danger. While, President Zardari, the PPP (and recently the Finance Minister, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in a speech to business men in the U.S), all confirm that a secular, pluralistic and economically successful Pakistan can be achieved and is the goal. Alas, no one dares challenge what prohibits these goals: the Army / ISI duplicity. Anyone, including the government, who challenges the security establishment, is at risk of becoming another victim of assassination – or, worse, a military coup. This is the same reason the blasphemy laws haven’t changed- fear. Even given, that the fear may be understandable, how long do we want to live this way? I propose that it isn’t the U.S. that is the enemy. The enemy is from within.

The military has always been the power base for Pakistan, historically ready to insert a coup and impose martial law under the auspicious of control, using the excuse of alleged corruption of politicians (corruption can be manageable- it is endemic in much of global politics. This doesn’t make it acceptable, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Corrupt officials can be brought to justice, but an authoritarian military, unchecked, can be a nation’s worst nightmare); and a coup thus, takes control of the nation, “for the nation’s own good.” My thesis is not to demonize the military and ISI, per se. Let’s be fair. Objectively speaking, the Pakistani Army and ISI are NOT inherently bad to the core. This is a matter of civilian control of the military, and reorganization. Both Pakistan military and ISI have done good things for the country. Let’s face it, the ISI has worked WITH the CIA in many common goals in the past. It’s raison d’être should be national security. The Pakistani military, on one hand, has been a force for good – international security, active during the floods, providing a nuclear stalemate in the region, past successful campaigns into Waziristan, but on the other hand, following “strategic depth,” has shot itself in the foot, and used too much of the Pakistani budget for arms instead of education and societal infrastructure. So, the issue may be a singularity- the unofficial policy of sympathy with Islamists that the military/ISI allows to infest its ranks.

Unless General Kayani and General Pasha come to their senses, are replaced, or effectively overruled by the REAL civil society aligned with the elected government, there will continue to be clandestine ops that ends up with the UBL’s of the terrorist world in your backyard, Mulla Umer stashed away, and harmful alliances with the Haqqani network continue, creating a divisive relationship with the U.S. and ultimately, not protecting the non-radical Pakistani society. I hardly need to remind anyone that this includes continued discrimination of Balochs, Shiite minorities, tribal safety and women’s rights. The current situation includes this, and billions of U.S. Foreign Aid for military build-up, justified using the evil-India rhetoric. Meanwhile India uses its wealth to repair infrastructure and economic growth. The other paradoxical reality is that even given 100 Pakistan-nukes, the military consensus is that India would still overwhelming win, in a war with Pakistan. However, both countries would be devastated. Just as in the Cold War US vs. USSR, such a war would make no sense for either nation. Why not reach out to India? Answer: pretending that India is a threat, keeps the duplicitous Strategic Depth connection with radicals necessary, and diverts money to the military. Why not partner with the U.S. against the terrorists? Reach out to the U.S. to concentrate foreign aid away from military and into province-infrastructure? Because of similar old narratives, stale historical baggage, and perceived missteps by past U.S. policy still clouds current reasoning. In blaming America, we don’t have to take responsibility for our own fate, and we can remain victims. The military will protect us. But, who will protect us from the military?

A solution might be a powerful secular leadership from the top, or a grassroots uprising from below, that connects Pakistani people and with elected officials, in taking back civilian control of the Pakistan Army and over ISI leaders. Another abiding truth: the powerful Pakistani Army, together with ISI intelligence, in partnership with U.S. drones, rooting out its Islamist fundamentalists, have the capability to decimate the entire radical element in FATA with virtually no collateral damage within a year’s time. Then, resources could be infused into educating the disenfranchised, advancing the fiscal welfare of the marginalized, bringing minorities into the fold, and building communities.

I will admit that the other alternative is to turn to China. I believe that China can help Pakistan only in the short run, given its self-absorbed and brutal authoritarian history, it is an unstable ally. Despite the articles that exaggerate their achievements, this year the UN report states that: China’s poor population, live on less than $1 a day, tallied 150 million. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/soc4772.doc.htm

The current narrative in the U.S. of moving away from Pakistan and closer to India, to force Pakistan to get serious with terrorists, is as equally ill-conceived  notion as the Pakistan/China alliance (to be clear, I believe both the U.S. and Pakistan should do business with China, I am only referring to military alliances). But, this is not the final reality in Pakistan. With new claim that the Charsadda attack was brought on by the U.S., further unnecessary souring of relations will benefit the terrorists only. It is no wonder Pakistan cannot work with the U.S. for common goals in this environment of double-bating.

No wonder the American public opinion is turning against Pakistan- Pakistan refuses to work with the U.S. in capturing al Qaeda, then condemns the U.S. for going after al Qaeda ourselves- note that it was a surgical strike accomplished with the smallest U.S. troop footprint imaginable. Followed by the American President bending over backwards to include the great things that “Pakistan government” has done to “assist” in the war on terror. Who among us, do not realize, that if the Pakistani military had been tipped off about bin Laden, bin Laden would have been tipped off as well? What do the Pakistani people expect? Pakistan is a U.S. “ally,” but, an atypical ally in this sense: How can the U.S. trust Pakistani military, when the Pakistani civil society and elected government cannot trust its own military or security establishment?

CNN’s Eliot Spitzer reported May 12, 2011 on, “In the Arena,” that their sources within Pakistan uncovered that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s speech in National Assembly was written and provided “not by the Pakistani government, but by the Pakistani military.” Their guest, Fareed Zakaria when asked, “who runs Pakistan, the elected government, or the military?” Zakaria stated, “the Military.” He went on to say that it is understandable that the U.S. picks the military to communicate with in Pakistan because of the solid organizational structure of the military, but that it is “short-sighted.” In other words, it is a mistake for the United States government to deal with the military, Zakaria then sensibly suggesting that the United States government think “long term” and should deal only with the elected government. The implication being that if the full weight of civil society joined with the Pakistani government the military could be pressured to step back and allow the elected government to conduct policy. This is a powerful thought. As for PM Gilliani, his loyalty to the PPP is putting him under enormous pressure of the Taliban and perhaps it is understood that he has to use political caution for self-preservation.

Here is an excerpt from the telecast:

Zakaria: Support Pakistani people, not military

How defeating is the current situation, though, when elements of the military insist on protecting its own personal radical Islamists? Where is the largest group of terrorists in the world? Pakistan. Who is currently available for the U.S. to work with for common goals-minimizing and eradicating Wahhabi jihadists? Answer: the Pakistani military. Now, is it any wonder the choice was to cross Pakistani borders to take out the person most responsible for 3000 innocent deaths on American soil. No- I don’t think Pakistan should be condemning the U.S. Perhaps it is the people of Pakistan that need to do some soul searching.

Rusty Walker

About the author

Rusty Walker

About the author: Rusty Walker is a world-travelled, Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Rusty Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan.

14 Comments

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  • Great artcle, Rusty! Welcome to LUBP. Keep up your good work. Even if you are not a Pakistani, you are doing a great job for the people of Pakistan. Many thanks, mate!

  • Thanks a lot Rusty for your article. It’s always a pleasure reading them. I think it is extremely confusing to read and watch Pakistan media. Dont know what world they live in.

  • Thank you Ahmed! Yes, sir, it is confusing perhaps because there are those that benefit by keeping the public confused. I know that my country is equally confused and these reports and sober analyses helps to rediscover our common ground, and calm the heated rhetoric. Hopefully, we can shed light with the torch of freedom, liberty, plurality, and education for the youthful minds, our children, coming up, that can make such a difference.

  • Mussalman, your opinion is one shared by many in Pakistan, and we hold different world views: Saudi Arabia is the cause of most of the terrorist funding in the world today. It uses oil money to keep in power. If you are sympathetic to the Sunni/Salafist/Wahhabi causes you will find much to love in your friendship with rich and deceptive Saudis, who persecute the Shiites and play a double game with the U.S.
    Good luck with China.

  • There is surely mistrust between Pakistan & US and this can only be resolved, if both sides sit together and chalk out their differences.

  • Very well written and well argued. Keep up the good work, Rusty. We need more of you in the US and elsewhere to develop a realistic understanding of the “Military Republic of Pakistan”.

    Until and unless Pakistan army’s Jihad Enterprise is boldly confronted and dismantled, Pakistan, USA and the entire world will remain vulnerable to terrorism.

  • Thank you, Abdul, you are so right. Sometimes I think the emergence of a strong, young leader that could inspire the entire country to action might be a game changer, perhaps, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. I am not too familiar with him, but his speeches over the last year or so were inspiring. If so, first and foremost would be comprehensive security measures for safety, and the appointment of a strong PPP supporter for new military and ISI leadership.

  • The Kakul Syndrome

    By Habib Sulemani

    (for the silent revolution in Pakistan)

    God Almighty! Generals fake
    They’ve put country at stake
    Generals mean personal gain
    The armed forces’re in pain!

    Generals’re bloody fool
    Take a bath an’ be cool!

    Military men’re public servants
    Not masters from the heavens!
    But they’re arrogant an’ cruel
    Don’t care for common people

    Generals’re bloody fool
    Take a bath an’ be cool!

    You own huge firms an’ agriland
    Turning country into terrorland!
    No-one among you bothers at all
    Where the terrified people stand!

    Suffering from the Kakul Syndrome
    You’re always out—even if at home
    By providing terrorists sanctuary
    You’ve failed to protect country

    Still you behave like intellectuals
    Not men behind petty squabbles!
    You’ve lost every single battle
    Yet foolishly believe: you rattle!

    Generals’re bloody fool
    Take a bath an’ be cool!

    After failure on geographical borders
    You champion ideological frontiers
    It’s easy to fight on ambiguous front
    Cos you like a lavish bedroom stint!

    Using a pawn religious leader
    Or an ISI-paid TV anchor
    You can make storm in teacup
    Change system—down to up!

    The generals’ve taken refuge
    In ideological war an’ abuse!
    Don’t try to fool world anymore!
    Don’t you see outside an uproar?

    Generals’re bloody fool
    Take a bath an’ be cool!

    See the writing on the wall
    Only you’re sick not we all
    The military is vanguard
    Of a scary fanatic world!
    The nation wants to know your aim
    You’ve multiplied the double game!

    You’re soldiers or businessmen?
    Playing tricks on the politician!
    You didn’t defend country borders
    With broken oath, you’re traitors!

    There is no escape from the law
    Dug earth with your filthy paw!
    You can’t deceive the tax payers
    God has heard people’s prayers!

    You’ve lied to the nation
    Not once, again an’ again
    You’ve neither mind nor a soul
    An’ you’re always playing foul!

    Generals’re bloody fool
    Take a bath an’ be cool!

    It’s time to take a dose of wisdom!
    Stop violation of our basic freedom
    Respect democracy at home
    Or face the doom an’ gloom!

    NOTE: Anyone, especially websites, newspapers and magazines, can use this spontaneous poem to spread awareness among the people. © Habib R. Sulemani

    http://theterrorland.blogspot.com

  • @ Mussalman
    How can u say that only china and Saudi Arabia are our friends? US have been giving aid whenever there is a disaster here in Pakistan, whenever we are in trouble US gives us aid. They have been giving us aid for a better infrastructure and power plants. Therefore, we cannot ignore all these factors my friend.

  • a well written article by mr.walker. sir, u r one of those few western analyst who have a deep understanding of the way things work here in pakistan.otherwise, most of the western journalists rely on either pakistani establishment view-point or their puppet pseudo-intellectuals analysis 2 understand pakistan’s current geo-political situation(with a clear motive to undermine the democratic government). Also,unlike many western analyst u have hopes from bilawal bhutto 2 fulfil the dream of a ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’ pakistan.this has surprised me because most of ”our analyst” r counting on fatima bhutto to take over the ppp and challenge the ‘zardaris’. And she drew a lot of coverage in the western media too.(for her book, columns and ANALYSIS,which to me lack intellectual depth and reasoning). anyways, a well researched post and congrats,once again

  • Thank you, Najia, I am humbled by your praise and encouraged to try even harder to extract the truth and attempt to keep spirits high in Pakistan. People have given their lives for this cause (Z. Bhutto, BB, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, are just a few); the least we can do is try to continue the fight.
    It is difficult for Americans to understand Islam, let alone, Pakistan. There are many more intelligent souls than myself, that somehow perpetually fall for the obvious ploys of those that mix just enough truth with fiction, such as Fatima Bhutto, to mask reality. Fatima (notwithstanding, the wonderful and reverent name that she has) does not honor her mother’s pure unrealized dream of true plurality. The anti-West, anti-American rhetoric, is different in tone from her mother. When Benizar Bhutto took the United States to task for its missteps, there was never bitterness, and always fairness. And, as difficult as it was us Americans to hear her criticisms t the time of my country, I believe she was always right and I could not fault her reasoning-also, she believed in the U.S., and her disappointments were not unlike my own.

    If she had lived, or, rather, survived, things would be different in Pakistan than now. As you well know, sir, BB dreamed of ridding the Constitution of religious Shar’ia laws, and with her Sunni and Shi’ite parents was the perfect person to address minority oppression, and make the uneducated aware that secular is NOT anti-Islam. Certainly, an openness and lack of oppression is what the brilliant Jinnah had in mind.
    Thank you, again for your kindness, Najia