By Lt Gen P. C. Katoch (Retd.)*
As Pakistan continues with its ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan, killing of Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan and indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of its own population along its northwest frontier, the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade and Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee has just concluded its hearing titled ‘Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism’.
As per Pakistan’s media: the US congressional panel has demanded cutting off all US assistance to Pakistan to persuade Islamabad to act against the Afghan Taliban groups allegedly using its territory to launch operations into Afghanistan; some US lawmakers and witnesses also suggested declaring Pakistan ‘a state sponsor of terrorism’ and imposing economic sanctions if Islamabad did not eliminate the alleged terrorist safe havens on its territory. During the discussions, many times Pakistan was called manipulative and accused of cheating the US. According to Congressman Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of House Foreign Affairs Committee, “they (Pakistan) are making chumps out of us. We are being so stupid. It seems like paying the mafia”. Former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad claimed that Pakistani leaders had played the American system for decades. Salmon endorsed Khalilzad by adding, “patsies chumps. Most Americans see out of this and yet our so-called leaders do not really get it”.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia created the Taliban and the Haqqani network and Pakistan was protecting them, continuation of US aid to Pakistan was ridiculous, adding, “people of Balochistan should understand that the US is on their side for their independence and self-determination from a corrupt, viscous terrorist supporting regime …. Same with the Sindhis, same with other groups in Pakistan.” Referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Tricia Bacon, Assistant Professor at American University said, “it is by no means a rogue institution within Pakistan. It does not operate independently or on its own. It is an instrument or an arm of the Pakistani army”. What the Pakistani media did not cover is that a range of lawmakers, analysts, and diplomats during the above discussions and simultaneously at the UN General Assembly called Pakistan a terrorist entity, that Pakistan should be denied foreign aid, and proposed that its leaders, including its military generals, be sanctioned and stopped from traveling to the US for consistently cheating the world community on terrorism.
Despite not one US Congressmen speaking in favour of Pakistan, no mention of Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism at the joint hearing of the House subcommittees on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade and Asia and the Pacific, Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Nawaz Sharif Sartaj Aziz downplayed the move, describing it as motivated by ‘baseless concerns of some US legislators’ The Pakistani embassy in Washington took refuge behind the fig leaf that Pakistan is partnering the US in fighting terrorism.
Never has there been such unraveling of the real face of Pakistan in the US. The decision for the above congressional hearing on Pakistan though warranted for past several years was perhaps egged on by Afghan President Asraf Ghani’s address at the recent NATO summit and arrest of 12 Pakistani national by Saudi Arabia for terrorist attacks during Ramadan. Ahead of the congressional hearing, Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq had made a strong statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee ahead of a Congressional hearing that included amongst other things: “Pakistani policy is the principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. More broadly, Pakistan’s use of extremist and terrorist proxies, including threatening India, is significant contributor to the global menace of Islamic extremism, which must be confronted if we are to succeed in defeating terrorism and extremism around the world; posing as US partner, Pakistan supports Taliban and the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network; since 2005, Taliban and Haqqani network have regrouped in Pakistan and waged a devastating insurgency against the US and Afghan forces; Pakistan views the Taliban as an effective proxy to ensure Pakistani dominance over Afghanistan; Islamabad believes continuing the war in Afghanistan will lead to US withdrawal which would change the balance of power against the current government and in favour of its(Pakistan’s) proxies. Ultimately, Pakistan seeks the overthrow of the current government in Afghanistan because it is not compliant, and Pakistan knows its double-game is risky, but it believes that the risk is manageable.
While addressing the NATO summit, President Ashraf Ghani had categorically stated that peace initiatives taken by Afghanistan with Pakistan are not successful as Pakistan differentiates between good and bad terrorists in practice, adding, “our regional initiatives with neighbours are beginning to yield significant cooperative dividends. However, the exception is with Pakistan”. He pointedly stated that despite clear commitments to the quadrilateral peace process, “Pakistan’s dangerous distinction between good and bad terrorists is being maintained in practice.” This was a clear indictment of Pakistan. Pakistan’s dual game in Afghanistan has already resulted in President Obama announcing that present US troop strength in Afghanistan will continue till 2017 and NATO funding of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) as well. Reverting to Kabul post the NATO summit, President Ghani also told the media: Pakistan should handover Afghan militants based in Pakistan and those who are opposing peace talks with the Afghan government; those differentiating between good and bad terrorism should pay the price, and; neighboring countries of Afghanistan should respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan and not allow insurgent groups to use their soil.
Ghani further said, “the key problem among our neighboring states is an absence of agreed rules of the game, thus we seek regional and global support in creating those rules, which will bind us to collective security and harmony”.
The question now is what will the Obama administration do post Pakistan’s severe indictment by the Congressional hearing? Will it continue to mollycoddle Pakistan as usual? Will it add more sugar to Pakistan now that China is blowing the truncheon in South China Sea post the Hague judgment, ignoring China and Pakistan are partners in terrorism and nuclear proliferation? Will the Obama administration dither because change in policy, though warranted in the past decade, may affect forthcoming presidential elections showing democrats in poor light? Pakistan’s military-ISI perceive themselves in smug position with China mothering them and being the nerve centre controlling the coalesced Taliban and Haqqanis, interlinking of Taliban, Al Qaeda-Haqqanis-AQIS, TTP support to ISIS, Al Qaeda allegiance to Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network in top echelons in Afghan Taliban, ISI supported by Pakistani regulars heading the Khorasan chapter of ISIS in Afghanistan and the like.
What the US and the world must realize is that small time measures like sanctions will not work, as can be witnessed by the hostile stance of North Korea – the other nuclear surrogate of China. China is following the legacy of Deng Xiaoping which planned going to the extent of nuclear war through her surrogates (North Korea and Pakistan) that doesn’t get traced back to China. President Xi Jinping would in all probability have no compunctions about this given the CPC’s aim of making China a “Great Power” even if taking on the world at large leads China to the path of Hitler’s doom. Much more than sanctions will be required to ‘save’ Pakistan.
*Lt Gen P. C. Katoch (Retd.) is a veteran of the Indian Army and a strategic analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]