The Osama Bin Laden episode has raised serious questions on the credibility of Pakistan’s armed forces and intelligence agencies. Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI-Dte) and Armed forces are facing tremendous US pressure after the Bin Laden’s incident. This article aims at few pertinent issues; first, violation of Pakistan sovereignty, second, sequential propaganda against Pakistan army and ISI-Dte, third, goals and objectives behind such misinformation against ISI-Dte, fourth, Pakistan army’s role and sacrifices in the war against terror, Al-Qaeda & Taliban, and lastly, a possible way out from this deadlock.
The US covert operation in Abbotabad is a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a grave threat to the national security of Pakistan. This is the time for Pakistan military and civilian leadership to wake up and take effective measures against the violation of Pakistani dominion. America should have consulted and coordinated such an operation with Pakistan, because it was Pakistan’s lead which helped America to kill Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan has been a sincere partner in the war against terror, it has captured hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and suffered thousands of civilian and military causalities – but despite that Americans doubt Pakistan’s intentions.
Pakistan has to revisit its policies vis-à-vis America. Now every Pakistani citizen asks the question how long will Pakistanis suffer unilateral CIA’s drone strikes, Raymond Davis type secrete operatives and Abbotabad sort of covert operations inside Pakistan? There must be an end to such malpractices by the US in Pakistan.
It is imperative for Pakistan to re-examine its security apparatus and come up with a foolproof plan to counter such malpractices in the future. If we don’t take concrete steps today, tomorrow other countries like India or Afghanistan may also carry out such strikes inside Pakistan against alleged LeT camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) or in Quetta against an alleged presence of Taliban leadership. To avoid such eventualities in the future our armed forces and intelligence agencies must revamp their plan of action and come up with an adequate response, only then they can repair their tarnished image after the bin Laden incident and restore the morale of the Pakistani nation.
Another important issue is the sequential propaganda against Pakistan’s prime intelligence agency, the ISI-Dte. According to the latest Wikileaks report, a secret US list, dated 2007, of “terrorist and terrorist support entities” have listed the ISI as a terrorist group, along with 70 other groups, including Iranian intelligence and the Taliban.
Such allegations are unfortunate and based on false notions. These reports are based on a US narrative which has one-sided truth. No professional intelligence agency in the world leaves any inkling behind. If, this is the case then why is the United States still seeking Pakistan ISI-Dte’s help in the war against terror. The US has acknowledged Pakistan’s role in the war against terror. According to Hilary Clinton, “the United States has no stronger partner than Pakistan when it comes to counterterrorism efforts against extremists who threaten us both. We recognize the many sacrifices Pakistani people have made in the war against insurgents”.
But the dual policy of the US has weakened the ties between both countries. In his recent remarks Admiral Mike Mullen said that Pakistan’s intelligence agency has ties to a Taliban faction, which is fighting in Afghanistan. Such allegations are based on presumed notions. There are many groups other than Haqqani network who are fighting against Americans in Afghanistan, including Taliban, Hekmatyar Group, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan- (IMU), Chechens, Tajiks, Arabs, War lords, Drug Mafia, factions from Lashkar-I-Jhangvi, Lashkar-I-Tayyba, and Hizb-I-Jihad etc. One Haqqani group alone cannot make any difference against 150,000 US led alliance and Afghan forces. In reality America is losing ground in Afghanistan; they want a decent way out. The US wants to put their failures on Pakistan. That’s why time and again they allege that Pakistan’s ISI-Dte is supporting militants. America must increase its check posts close to the border with Pakistan and keep constant vigilance by surveillance drones on the movement of the insurgents.In addition to that, instead of blaming Pakistan, US led alliance must do more in Afghanistan against other warring groups.
Another regrettable development was an assessment presented to Congress by the White House, in which the White House noted that the Taliban had gained strength in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and that there was “no clear path” toward defeating insurgents who hide out in Pakistan, beyond the reach of U.S. and NATO troops. This report is contradiction to the ground realities. Pakistan has deployed almost 150,000 troops in the tribal areas. It is fighting militancy in Orakzai agency, Bajaur agency, Mohmand agency, South Wazirstan agency, Khyber agency, and Kurrum agency. Pakistan army has lost almost 3,500 soldiers and hundreds of officers in the war against terror. It has also installed almost 850 check posts close to the border with Afghanistan.
If we compare it with the US, Afghan and NATO forces in Afghanistan, then we can say that most of the operations in the recent past in Afghanistan have been failures. There are not more than 200 check posts by the US led alliance on the border with Pakistan, giving enough room to insurgents to enter into Pakistani tribal areas and roam freely at the Pak-Afghan border area. Pakistan’s efforts for counterterrorism can never be forgotten, such reports are not at all helping either party in the war against terror. In reality the US has no clear path in Afghanistan. The US and its allies in Afghanistan are in hurry and want to exit from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Latest Pentagon report affirms their intentions. According to Pentagon U.S. and allied forces had made “tangible progress” against the Taliban over the past six months and those conditions were right to withdraw at least some U.S. troops this summer. In fact US led alliance had been failed to control Afghanistan. Most of the Southern parts of Afghanistan are under strong Taliban control and they are gaining momentum in the Eastern parts. Opium production and Drug trade is still intact and being trafficked to Russia, Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, Europe and other parts of the world. Suicide attacks, assassinations, rising crime, drug mafia and war lords are still intact. “Tangible progress” claimed by Pentagon is in fact a “Tangible failure” and just a fantasy. Purpose of such claims is to get support of the people back home and to start pull out from Afghanistan in July 2011.
After the Osama Bin Laden incident there had been vicious allegations by the US senators, Afghan government and India that Pakistan may have been involved in protecting the Al-Qaeda chief. Same stories of possible Pakistan’s involvement in this case have been published in the foreign print and electronic media. Main purpose of such blame game is to pressurize Pakistan Army and ISI-Dte to take action against North Waziristan tribes. They might also assume that under pressure Pakistan will not oppose more US drone strikes even in settled areas and this pressure tactic will also allow more CIA covert operations inside Pakistan, possibly in major cities like Quetta, Karachi, and Peshawar.
CIA’s ingress would increase inside Pakistan after bin laden episode to track, locate and eliminate Taliban leadership and deal with mid level and low level commanders to get safe and respectable exit from Afghanistan. There had been reports in the US print media that Gen David Patreus will fight his third war in Pakistan. There would be dramatic increase in the US drone strikes and covert operations to hunt down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership.
It is necessary for the international community to support Pakistan after this incident. Al-Qaeda and TTP will target Pakistan now to establish their credibility. Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terror. If Pakistan is not supported now and blame game continues then it would benefit Al-Qaeda and other militant groups. Pakistan army and ISI-Dte is committed in the war against terror, it can never support those people who killed 30 thousand Pakistani civilian and military personnel. Unjust allegations and propaganda against Pakistan’s ISI-Dte will not benefit either party.
There is a need to bridge gap between both countries to stem out militancy from the region. War in Afghanistan cannot be won without the support of Pakistan, sidelining Pakistan would further deteriorate situation in Afghanistan. Sincere efforts are required from Pakistan, US and Afghanistan for the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s sovereignty should be respected and protected at any cost, to avoid any possible clash in future there must be close coordination and cooperation between CIA and ISI-Dte; only then they can effectively stem out militancy from the region and ensure long term viable peace at the regional and global level.
Originally published in Weekly pulse English magazine Islamabad. http://www.weeklypulse.org/details.aspx?contentID=595&storylist=9