Apr 13, 2009
"The United States is now seriously considering destabilizing Pakistan..." cried an outraged Tariq Ali, historian, revolutionary activist, novelist and Pakistani expatriate, in a Democracy Now interview that aired on March 19, 2009. "...Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival," writes Pervez Hoodbhoy (Frontline, March 27, 2009), Islamabad-based physicist and political activist. An anguished Pervez Hoodbhoy has written in the same article of being among the small number of Pakistanis who have been for 20 years or more desperately sending out SOS messages warning of terrible times to come. As the War on Terror, freshly baptized under the name of Overseas Contingency Operations, works itself into frenzy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre, as the inexorable Predator drone attacks by the US military in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) continue to claim civilian casualties, as further drone attacks are promised in the face of remonstrances made by Pakistan's Government, as never-ending waves of fiyadeen bombings strike Pakistan's cities, and as the Pakistani Taliban prevail over the military, expand the territory under their control and threaten Islamabad itself, the horrified world finds itself bearing witness to the intensifying breakdown of the Pakistani state from internal and externally generated stresses and contradictions. Of the external sources of instability none has been more destructive than the so-called US-led War on Terror which upon shifting its focal point to the Afpak region seems to have addressed itself to wiping out any remaining cohesion that the beleaguered Pakistani state, putative US partner and most valued non-NATO partner, can be said to retain.
The unceasing drone attacks with their reckless and unconscionable contempt for Pakistan's sovereignty are taking place under the auspices of Barack Obama, the so-called good and law-abiding President as opposed to the unlamented, lying, warmongering, torture espousing George W. Bush. Pakistan's descent into the abyss is at least in part the result of deliberately executed US policy that places elite conceptions of US security and national interests ahead of the interests of its ally. Comments that were made by Senator John Kerry on an Islamabad visit (4/13/2009) are symptomatic of the Obama Administration's conceptualization of appropriate roles for Indian and Pakistan governments. The Senator remarked that both India and Pakistan expend too much energy and resources on the bilateral front. The worthy Senator might have gone so far as to be honest and inform the leaders of both countries that the Obama Administration expected them to place US interests ahead of national and regional interests. It is axiomatic that nations inevitably pursue their self-interest and obviously the US cannot be expected to form an exception to this rule. Still the cynicism with which US political and military elites go about laying down the law to sovereign countries is truly frightening.
Washington experts and the US media now speak openly of Pakistan's impending unraveling. Testifying before a Senate panel, General David Petraeus, chief of US Central Command warned that Pakistan could fall as a state (New York Times, April 2 2009). Another statement to this effect came from David Kilcullen, an influential counterinsurgency expert who has said that within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state (Washington Post, March 22, 2009). Concomitantly with talk of the disintegration of Pakistan US writers and analysts are displaying a tendency to speak of the Pakistan conundrum or enigma. For example, in an article in the New York Times Magazine (April 5, 2009), the writer says that Pakistan has made itself the supreme conundrum of American foreign policy. The definition of Pakistan as a conundrum is in fact both convenient and self-serving. There is no underlying mystery in the Pakistani dilemma, past and present. The bewilderment expressed by the American mainstream at the inexplicable twists of Pakistan's politics is symptomatic of an unwillingness to acknowledge the hand of successive US administrations in bringing Pakistan to its present impasse. This sordid history, tragic in its implications for the ordinary people of Pakistan, is one that has been abundantly narrated and documented by Tariq Ali, John K. Cooley and others. The recruitment of the Pakistani state as a US ally by the Carter Administration for the purpose of funneling arms to the Mujahedin and fighting a proxy war against the Soviet Union, the lending of US support for the military dictator Zia al-Haq (1977-1988) who implemented a toxic program for the Islamization of Pakistani life and culture and the training and funding by the CIA of Pakistan's intelligence services (ISI) all belong with the key episodes in this history. Today of course the CIA and the US military are engaged in stepping up drone attacks in FATA in the name of targeting Taliban militants. Matters were far otherwise back in the 80's when the US was aiming to emerge as the victor in the Cold War. "For the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and for General Zia al-Haq, Pakistan's military dictator and their partner in the jihad in Afghanistan, the gun-making, gun-running and gun-toting country of Pakistan's tribal northwest was the indispensable base to raise, train and launch an Islamic guerrilla army against the Soviet invaders," writes John K. Cooley. Once unleashed, the Islamist genie cannot be easily reined inŚas ordinary Pakistanis, especially womenn, victims of the consequences of US patronage of Pakistan's military, intelligence services and political elites have found out to their cost. India too has suffered from her proximity to a state in which an all powerful military dictated policies even during brief intervals of civilian rule and a sinister and bloated intelligence service engendered a jehadi progeny for the express purpose of carrying on a proxy war with the Indian state and subjecting the more powerful neighbor to an unremitting bleeding. The Mumbai attacks of November 26 are the most recent consequence of the hostility of sections, especially the Islamist component, of the Pakistani elite to Indian interests.
India which is still licking its wounds from the Mumbai attacks of 11/26 cannot afford to play a passive, acquiescent role as the US goes about stirring up mayhem in the neighborhood in the name of prosecuting the war on terror. India's political classes must recognize the inimical role that the US has played in the subcontinent in the past as well as the present and offer resistance to the continuing presence of the US in South Asia. Efforts must be made to seek a regional solution by reaching out to the sane, responsible sections of Pakistan's political classes and civil society. In this regard Pervez Hoodbhoy's warning is relevant: "I am convinced that India's prosperity - and perhaps its physical survival - demands that Pakistan stays together." This is not a question of being soft on terrorism or aiming to be a magnanimous neighbor. Self-interest if nothing else dictates that Hoodbhoy's caution should be taken with the utmost seriousness.