Permission to attack not granted
Dr Shabir Choudhry 26 July 2007
Many think Pakistan’s turn has come, and it is because of this Western media has systematically started talking about strikes inside Pakistani territory. A number of Western officials and some Think Tanks believe that General Musharaf has not been able to root out Al -qaeda and Taliban bases from the country.
Some even think that General Musharaf has become a part of problem and is no longer a part of solution. Some even say that he always had his feet on two boats – on one hand he is a main ally of the USA against ‘war on terrorism’ and on the other hand Taliban and other extremists receive ‘weapons, sanctuary, guidance, training and finance’ from Pakistan. In support of this view people give examples of last year’s peace accord with in Wazirstan (which ended after invasion of Red Mosque) and close relationship with MMA, which in view of some has resulted in intensification of extremist forces in various parts of Pakistan.
Some even say that script of the Red Mosque episode was also written, promoted and executed by the government, which went wrong, but still has helped the government to present itself as a bulwark against extremism. After ‘success’ with Red Mosque operation and subsequent compliment motivated Pakistani government to send forces to build on its success by eradicating Muslim rebels in the tribal areas and other parts of the country.
This policy in practise means that they, with superior weaponry and better command and control will be involved in fighting those Muslims who were regarded as Mujahideen not long ago. Under new terminology all those who challenge ‘writ of government’, whether they are in a mosque and ask to close brothels, or in tribal areas fighting forces of occupation in the neighbouring Muslim country, are called terrorists and ‘shar – pasennds’, and must be eliminated from face of earth.
America is of course seriously concerned about rise of these ‘shar – pasennds’ in Pakistan, and some American experts demand that George Bush, should order "targeted strikes or covert actions by American forces", if Pakistan is unwilling or unable to do more. The US officials have made it clear that all options are being considered, which means possible attacks inside Pakistani territory on ‘actionable targets’.
Pakistani government thinks such attacks will undermine its sovereignty, if it is not undermined already. Pakistani government seems to be very concerned about its writ, and such attacks will clearly undermine its writ and sovereignty. The government of Pakistan has shown its determination to establish its writ by eliminating ‘rebels’ in Red Mosque and in a cave of Balochistan where Nawab Akbar Bughti was hiding.
Sovereignty and writ is a sensitive issue for the government and that is why various officials have shown their reaction to this news that the US forces might strike targets inside Pakistan. The message from Pakistan is clear: no permission to attack inside Pakistan is granted. But critics point out what if such action is taken without prior permission, as it happened in the case of an attack on a mosque in Wana?
This reminds us of a joke where a Sardar jee in a uniform was guarding a building and one person asked permission to go inside. Sradar Jee refused permission. This man saw many other people going in to the building and Sardar Jee did not stop them, so he said to Sardar Jee, you have stopped me going in but why are you not stopping these people? Innocent reply was that they did not seek my permission to go in.
Pakistani government officials say that there is no need for America to send American troops inside Pakistan, as Pakistani troops are competent enough to deal with Taliban and other ‘terrorists’. American action will not only undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty and its most cherished writ, but will also provide fuel to anti American sentiments.
Moreover the US should trust that under General Musharaf Pakistani troops have graduated in art of killing their countrymen, and in this regard do not hesitate to demolish mosques, madrassas, desecrate holy Quran and move in mosques with shoes and blow them with bombs, and still claim that sanctity of the mosque is not undermined. Apart from that why should America endanger lives of its soldiers in fight against Muslims, when there are plenty of Pakistani soldiers who are willing to do this job on behalf of America and kill other Muslims and die for this noble cause?
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said: that fulfilment of military need is government’s responsibility and Pakistan won’t need any assistance from other countries. The Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri was more specific, he said: “Let the United States provide us with actionable intelligence and you will find that Pakistan will never be lacking.” He said Pakistan army was ready to take on Al-qaeeda provided we know where are their hideouts.
Pakistani Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam also assured America that Pakistan’s sincerity and commitment should not be doubted, she said: “We are committed and we will take firm action on the basis of information gathered by us through our own means or concrete or actionable intelligence shared with us”.
I totally agree that Pakistan’s loyalty should not be doubted in this matter. Pakistan is the only country which has done so much to please the Americans. They have risked security, stability and future of their country in order to protect and advance American interests for many decades; and General Musharaf has been so loyal and dedicated that he even sold Pakistani nationals, destroyed mosques and killed own citizens without any remorse.
What Americans need to do is to identify targets and then they can be rest assured that Pakistani government will do its best to fulfil the tasks given. They need to understand that once Pakistani authorities know its target they will, despite opposition, eliminate it as they did with Nawab Akbar Bughti and Red Mosque.
If Americans are still not persuaded then they, like a lion of a jungle can make and amend rules as needed. They can issues threats or even fire missiles as they did on mosque in Wana where 82 men and children died; and they could trust loyalty of Pakistani government that they will accept responsibility for any such action as they did with the Wana incident.
Americans need to understand that their direct action will create more problems not only for them, but also for their friends and puppets in Pakistan. Military muscle could be used to kill and destroy, but it doesn’t help to win heart and minds of people, especially in a country where religion and anti America feelings are deep rooted. In any case in the tribal areas there is no visible or identifiable target to strike at, and military strike on mere suspicion could result in death of innocent people, which will surely exacerbate already extreme bad situation.
Best way forward is to keep on paying the Pakistani government, provide them with logistic support and let Pakistani army do the ‘dirty job’ of monitoring the rugged borders, attacking mosques and killing innocent people in disguise of ‘ war on terrorism’. Also America should use their influence that Pakistan becomes democratic, stable and economically stable country, as apart from Iraqis, people of Pakistan also deserve to benefit from fruits of democracy.
US talks of democracy and wants to bring democracy to other countries, yet strongly supports dictators in the Muslim world, and that contradiction increases hatred of America in the Muslim world. Now that there is a genuine desire and movement in Pakistan to get Pakistan back on track to democracy, American support for General Musharaf is fuelling the anger of Pakistani people.
America’s long - term interest does not lie with a military dictator who is fast losing support in the country; and war on terrorism cannot be won by unleashing brute military might and killing innocent people who could be persuaded to become bulwark against extremism and hatred. Violence breeds more violence and if this cycle of violence continues then there will be more militants, ‘terrorists’ and ‘shar – pasennds’ then the government can possibly imprison or kill.
Apart from that America and other countries interested in winning a ‘war on terrorism’ must use their influence to get the Kashmir dispute resolved because this is a major source of tension in the region, and has been the biggest source of recruitment for jihadi groups. If this dispute is resolved peacefully according to expressed wishes of the Kashmir people then it can promote peace and stability in the region; and Kashmiri culture of secular traditions and tolerance will help to fight back extremism, communalism and hatred.
Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: email@example.com