The monster Pakistan created came back to haunt the master with a reprisal attack in response to a helicopter attack on a madrasa alleged to be a terrorist training camp as thousands of armed tribals protested against the Army action. While the Army assault killed 80 suspected Taliban terrorists, the reprisal killed 35 soldiers.
Inaugurating a security seminar, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf asserted that those killed were not “innocent Taliban” and dismissed claims to the contrary as “lies.” He said that his Government had actionable intelligence derived after days of surveillance and that the Army knew “who they are, what they are doing” and said “They were all militants, using weapons, doing military training within the compound.” He vowed further military action against militants.
Heavily-armed tribals in Bajaur tribal area that borders Afghanistan and neighboring North Western Frontier Province disagreed saying that the attack by the Army showed a complete capitulation by the Musharraf regime to American diktats. They claim that those killed were “innocent” and said that the Musharraf’s actions are driven by Washington ever since the 9/11 incident. Their allegations were fuelled by a couple of reports one quoting a senior official saying that Pakistan’s policy after 9/11 was instituted under duress and another that alleged that an American Predator Drone (unmanned aircraft) fired a missile on the Madrasa. Another commentator accused excessive force when ground troops could have cordoned off the area and arrested those inside instead of slaughtering the inhabitants. New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded an independent inquiry into the incident.
Predictably, the Government has rejected the drone story saying that it was its helicopter that fired the missile but admitted that it used intelligence from the US to initiate an action only to withdraw it soon after. However, Pakistan has not refuted the comments about being forced to toe the US line or defended its action. Instead at the 99th Corps Commanders’ conference, Musharraf insisted that he would continue to take military action against militants asserting that “Terrorism is a threat to our national security, which will be combated and crushed at all costs.”
Actually, no one can fault with that statement. Most observers in the world, including Pakistan , are bothered with the inconsistent positions Musharraf takes in defining and portraying terrorism. Only a few weeks ago, he agreed on a joint mechanism with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh only to refute any responsibility for terrorism from Pakistan when confronted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House. Soon after announcing intention to make peace with India over Kashmir , he accused India of repression of liberties in Kashmir . Right after getting an official to announce that his policy to fight terror was under duress, he ordered the bombing of the Madrasa claiming it was populated by terrorists. Castigating the Taliban for terrorist activities, he signed a peace agreement to withdraw all operations against the Pakistani Taliban freeing them up of all pressure to continue operations against Afghanistan . He claims that the Army had collected actionable intelligence only to be countered by an Army commander that they got the intelligence from the US (which was later withdrawn). He calls terrorist movements in Kashmir an indigenous freedom struggle even when Pakistan ’s Ambassador to the US Mahmud Ali Durrani admitted that his nation helped the terrorist movement at “some time” but is now “trying” to prevent infiltration. He boasts of being a front-line fighter against terrorism but refuses to ban organizations such as Jamat-ul-Dawa which every independent investigator has found to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
In a recent hard-hitting editorial, the Los Angeles Times accused Pakistan ’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) “and probably the senior military leadership” of “tolerating, if not, backing Taliban forces.” Castigating the US Administration blinded policy of mollycoddling a “flawed but friendly Musharraf” in the belief that there is “no alternative” to “the only practical bulwark” needed “against a radical Islamist takeover of a crucial nuclear state.” The editorial accused Musharraf of “legitimizing the very Taliban” that he had “pledged to eradicate.” It suggested that the new Congress should stop the “$3 billion in military and other aid each year” that the US gives Pakistan until the use of “Pakistani territory, tribal or not,” to provide “sanctuary to Taliban fighters who kill U.S. and NATO soldiers and destabilize the Afghan government.”
The Jane Intelligence Digest recently cited Afghani sources to point out a mushrooming number of ISI-supported Taliban training camps and jihadist madrasas along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Christina Lamb in The London Times pointed out that “In almost five years since the fall of the Taliban in Kabul, not a single Taliban leader or commander has been arrested in Pakistan” but “they operate openly from there, particularly around the town of Quetta, long known as Taliban Central” often living in “residential areas, even a military cantonment.” Lamb concludes that it is “the West’s failure to see Pakistan as the real battleground of the war on terror is undoubtedly one of the reasons the Taliban have re-emerged as such a threat.”
Whatever the Western world’s, particularly the Bush Administration’s, compulsions are, it is more than evident that Pakistan is slowly slipping into anarchy and unraveling as a nation. The open rebellion in the tribal areas over this bombing incident, the widespread hatred in Baloachistan over the killing of Nawab Bugti, the reparations-like surrender of the Pakistani Army to the Pakistani Taliban, and sectarian violence in Sindh, are indicators. Clearly, the policy of puppet regime in Pakistan is not working.
Disregarding all these indicators, US State Department Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher allayed fears in Pakistan and that Republican rout in mid-term elections will affect its current policy of appeasement. Claiming to have “across the board” support from US politicians for the “war against terrorism, its support for Afghanistan, partnership for Pakistan,” Boucher said that the US will continue to “put in time and resources both for Pakistan and Afghanistan” for a “for a long time.” Does that mean that current US policy of aid without questions or responsibility, a policy followed during the fight against the erstwhile Soviet Union , will be followed?
If that is so, the biggest fear for India is will the US abandon the region as it did after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Is its “planned” withdrawal of its forces replacing them with NATO forces in Southern Afghanistan an indication? Does the US view the “war on terrorism” to be over with the inevitable death of Osama bin Laden?
These are questions that India should ask the US.