By Rajeev Sharma
India has been crying itself hoarse for a quarter century that Pakistan is aiding and abetting terrorism in India. This started when terrorism in Punjab was in its bloodiest form. Nobody listened. A decade or so later India started saying that Pakistan is the greatest IT factory in the world – IT in this context did not mean Information Technology, but International Terrorism. This happened 1989 onwards when the Soviet Union had collapsed and disintegrated and Jammu and Kashmir was burning, thanks to thousands of loose cannons in the form of Mujahideen who had become unemployed with the fall of the Soviet Union and had immediately been given “employment” in Jammu and Kashmir. Again nobody listened.
But post 9/11, Pakistan’s truth started dawning on the wise Americans and they started whispering about Pakistan’s duplicitous behavior in hunting with the hound and running with the hare. Heads turned globally this time, but nobody cared. The Pakistani military establishment with its intelligence agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the vanguard continued with its business as usual. Since then, the American whistleblowers – think tanks, media and public servants – started speaking against Pakistan loudly, unequivocally. The ISI continued its business as usual.
But in past few months, the American shrill has become more than rhetoric and assumed a threatening tone. American officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, issued blunt statements about Pakistan with increased frequency. Still, Pakistan terror machine continued to attack India and Afghanistan at will. The harshest American statement against Pakistan came in September 2011 when Admiral Mike Mullen, the just-retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI and was responsible for the attack against US embassy in Kabul a few days prior to that. On October 6, 2011, which coincided with Dussehra in India, none other than President Barack Obama slammed Pakistan for maintaining ties with “unsavoury characters” and asked Islamabad to be peaceful with India. Time will tell whether Obama’s enough-is-enough hard talk will silence the jehadi guns in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s close alliance with different terrorist groups has never been a secret. The on-going US barrage of allegations against Pakistan for supporting the Haqqani Network has blown this fact out into the open. Till now, Pakistan has been able to fend off such allegations made by India with the help of the US and other western nations which chose to turn a blind eye to the deep nexus between the militants and military. Now that the US has decided to turn against its `strategic ally`, Pakistan has no choice but to put up a defiant face of a cornered thief.
The western nations must accept their share of responsibility of making Pakistan into a `terrorist state`. For over three decades, the US and other countries had pumped billions of dollars and weapons into Pakistan first to defeat the Soviet Union and then to take on al Qaeda. So when Pakistan launched its jihad against India, the US chose to ignore the Indian plea for an international action against Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism. The US raised the bogey of Kashmir to justify Pakistan’s proxy war. In fact, Kashmir became a raging fashion among policy makers and think tankers who argued that unless India resolved the issue of disputed territory, Pakistan would not give up violence. In a way, the west justified and condoned the violent proxy war unleashed by Pakistan on the Indian people.
Now the table has turned a full circle. The US forces are being targeted by terrorist groups supported by Pakistan Army and ISI. One such group is the Haqqani Network, a traditional ally of Pakistan Army since the Afghan Jihad days. This group is not only being supported with funds and weapons, but ISI and Pakistan Army are also feeding them intelligence inputs and advance warnings to subvert pre-emptive actions by the US forces in Afghanistan. Without the support of ISI, the Haqqani Network can be decimated within a few weeks. But with the ISI and Pakistan Army lined up to defend the Haqqani Network, it is next to impossible for the US forces to take out the terrorist group which is today the biggest threat to its strategic objectives in Afghanistan, and in the region. The only way out perhaps is to carry out a Special Operations mission quite similar to the one which took out Osama bin Laden in May this year.
Pakistan is spewing fire at the US allegations. There is lot of dust and din being made inside and outside the country. But these are empty drums beating and do not deserve much concern. Pakistan’s argument that it cannot take action against the Haqqani Network because it believes the terrorist group is not responsible for the attacks on the US forces. Second, Pakistan believes that the real threat is from other groups operating in Afghanistan. These are part of Pakistan’s traditional denial mode when it comes to its proxy terrorist groups, be it the Haqqani Network or Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. It is not that the Pakistan Army is not capable of containing these terrorist groups, it has done so in the past with success, but that it is not willing to do so. With the US declaring the withdrawal date of 2014, Pakistan believes that it has a chance to play a big game in Afghanistan and for that it needs its proxy groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban.
The spat with the US, incidentally, gives the inept, corrupt and weak civilian government a chance to flex its muscles. The Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, cornered by circumstances and some of his Corps Commanders, is not yet ready to rock the boat. The country is in a mess in terms of economy and social fragmentation and Kayani, who has witnessed the humiliation of his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, is not interested in jumping into the cesspool. There is no way he can turn around the country unless of course he decides to strike a better relationship with India. The sound bytes of injured innocence and defiance by Prime Minister Gilani and his ministers give them some semblance of legitimacy and an excuse to camouflage their disastrous performance as leaders.
In the midst of these allegations and defiant statements, what stands out clear is one stark fact—Pakistan is a terrorist state and should be declared as such. The US and allies must now move towards declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state and impose restrictions and sanctions as required by such declarations.