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Terrorism hits Pakistan: Why the Mullahs and Milit
Date: Wednesday, 14 October 2009, 2:58 pm

Terrorism hits Pakistan: Why the Mullahs and Military oppose the Kerry-Lugar Bill
Wed, October 14, 2009 10:50:28 AMFrom: Tarek Fatah View Card

October 14, 2009
Terrorism hits Pakistan:
Why the Mullahs and Military oppose the Kerry-Lugar Bill

Tarek Fatah

Averroes Press

The attack by the Taliban on Pakistan's 'Pentagon' in the garrison city of Rawalpindi had barely been quelled on Sunday, when jihadi militants struck an army convoy on Monday in the Swat valley, killing 40 and inuring dozens more.

It was the forth terrorist attack in less than eight days, but it was the raid on Rawalpindi that has stunned governments around the world and left the people of Pakistan in a state of shock.

How could the Taliban infiltrate Pakistan's most guarded military institution, take senior military officers hostage and then engage in a 22-hour battle that left 20 dead including a Brigadier and a Lt. Colonel. Was it an inside job? Did the attackers have links to rogue elements of the Pakistan ISI?

Earlier in the week, the Taliban had struck the city of Peshawar, killing 49 fellow Muslims, mostly children. This recent upsurge in jihadi terrorism inside Pakistan must be seen in context of other developments.

They follow a new bill approved unanimously by the US Congress that seems to have unnerved shadowy rogue elements in the Pakistan Army's intelligence service, the ISI, who fear an end to their ability to turn on and off, at will, military and financial aid to the very Taliban they claim to be fighting.

These rogue generals, some retired and others still in service, are hell bent on creating conditions for the overthrow of the democratically elected civilian government in Islamabad and replacing the PPP government with politicians that are willing to toe the line of the military.

The four terrorist attacks in Pakistan this bloody October were preceded by an audacious attack by the Taliban on an isolated US military base in Afghanistan in the town of Kamdesh. Reports say over 300 Taliban fighters attacked the US base under cover of fog, When the battle was over 24 hours later, eight Americans lay dead, dozens more were wounded and the Taliban attackers vanished into the mountains with at least 25 Afghan policemen as hostages

Lost in the details of this deadly fire-fight is the fact the US base was located near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and the large Taliban attack force is suspected to comprise fighters who had been driven out of Pakistan’s Swat Valley by the Pakistan Army. Had the Pakistanis extended their fight beyond Swat, the Taliban would have been caught in a pincer, but for some odd reason, the offensive was eased and this allowed the Taliban to move across the border.

As if this message to the US and Afghanistan was not enough, the Taliban attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which the Indians say had the backing of the Pakistan ISI. The claim has been vigorously denied by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, but few observers doubt the hidden hand of Pakistan's rogue generals in this attack.

Elsewhere, the Pakistan Army is for many months claiming that it is preparing an imminent assault on South Waziristan where the bulk of the Taliban, Uzbek, Chechen and Arab al-Qaeda leadership is hiding. If the Pakistan Army strikes hard, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will meet their Waterloo, but hesitation and internal bickering has allowed respite for the boys of Bin Laden, allowing for their Taliban allies to hit deep inside Pakistan.

It appears that despite the resolve of the Pakistan government and the ordinary people of the region, powerful forces within the Pakistan establishment are working to undermine the government of President Zardari and the Army Chief, General Kayani.

Unless stability can be secured in Pakistan and the democratically elected civilian government is allowed to govern, no amount of US military involvement or increase of troops will be able to stem the rot. Without a strong civilian government in Pakistan, efforts to tame the Taliban in Afghanistan are bound to fail. The Taliban were created by elements of the Pakistan intelligence and military, and these generals, though retired, are still pulling the strings in this complicated great game.

While efforts to introduce democratic institutions in Afghanistan have had a poor outcome, the fact is Pakistan, despite repeated intrusions by its military, is a democracy with an elected parliament, prime ministers and president who are for the first time in its history, working in tandem with each other as well as with the country’s military. The parliamentary opposition also has a healthy working relationship while regional parties like the MQM in Karachi and the ANP in the Northwest, both back the ruling PPP.

Also for the first time, Pakistan is represented in the US by an academic and political insider, not a patronage appointee--a retired general. Ambassador Husain Haqqani knows the workings not just off the Pakistani political elites, but also has intimate knowledge of the US Congress. Haqqani, who taught at Boston University before carrying the Pakistani flag in DC, is one of those few Pakistanis who is equally at home at a Red Sox vs. Yankees game as he is at a cricket match between India and Pakistan. The Financial Times named him as the one of the world’s top-50 diplomats.

This however is not sitting well with elements in Pakistan’s ruling elites who benefitted immensely from their connections to the military dictatorships of General Musharraf and the late General Zia-ul-Haq. These are men and women who despite being secular in their personal lives, cater to the Islamist agenda of Osama Bin Laden and play the pro-Taliban card when it suits them. They include hosts of leading TV shows, retired military generals, NGOs, so called civil society leftwing organizations and self-styled think tanks that churn out non-stop hatred of what they refer to as the Zionist-Hindu-US imperialism.

The thought of peace between India and Pakistan on one hand and Pakistan and Afghanistan on the other, terrifies these champagne socialists draped in pan-Islamic nationalism.

The opponents of détente between Pakistan and its eastern and western neighbours are so riled up, they have targeted the recently passed Kerry-Lugar bill by the US Congress that authorizes $1.5 billion worth of US aid every year to Pakistan primarily for economic assistance for five years with a possibility that it could be extended to subsequent five years i.e. 2015-2019.

For the first time in US-Pakistan relations, American aid will be directed at Pakistan’s economy and social infrastructure and not entirely towards its armed forces. The result is an uproar among the beneficiaries of the country’s military-industrial complex whose sense of entitlement seems to be in a state of disbelief.

What should have been cause for celebration has been turned into accusations that the US is set on invading Pakistan and retired generals have come out to raise alarm, “Pakistan is in danger of losing its sovereignty.” Money from Gulf Arab States and Saudi Arabia is pouring into Pakistan's Islamist coffers by the billions and then seeping into Taliban and Al-Qaeda hands who now have allies among Pakistan's secular chattering classes and the officer elite. They feel deeply threatened by US aid reaching the poor of Pakistan and bypassing the generals almost altogether.

Buried deep inside the Kerry-Lugar bill is a line that has unnerved the Islamists and their military and media allies.

The bill states quite explicitly: “No security assistance and offer to sell major defence equipment to Pakistan may be provided, until the Secretary of State certifies that the security forces of Pakistan are not materially or substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.”

This clause is unprecedented and places the Pakistan Armed Forces firmly under the thumb of the civilian government where it should have been all along. In the past, US policy makers trusted the Pakistan Army to be its ally, not the elected democratic government. This change of policy by the Obama Administration has stung the beneficiaries of the Islamist agenda in Pakistan.

For the first time in decades, a US administration is backing an elected civilian government over its traditional military allies. This is almost a U-turn in American strategy in the Third World and bodes well for the world. Credit should go to Senators Kerry and Lugar as well as Ambassador Haqqani.

For the time being, it will be well worth ignoring the screams emanating from Pakistan’s upper-class elites whose commitment to Islam does not extend beyond their anti-American rhetoric and subservience to Saudi funded Islamism. The poor masses of Pakistanis will benefit from the billions that will build their schools, hospitals and roads in places rarely frequented by the bourgeois shariah Bolsheviks and their wine sipping generals.

The traditional power elites of Pakistan, who have benefited immensely by playing the Mullah-Military alliance, have now whipped up an anti-American hysteria in Pakistan with hopes of derailing the government’s efforts to fight the Taliban and eliminate Islamic extremism in the country.

They have depicted Ambassador Husain Haqqani as an American agent and President Zardari as a sell-out who is soft on India and warm to Kabul. Pro-Islamist media commentators are frothing in anger, demanding Ambassador Haqqani be dismissed for his role in securing the aid package, which forces the generals to respect parliament's supremacy over the nation's armed forces.

These shadowy characters trying to get a regime-change in Islamabad, should realize if Ambassador Husain Haqqani is dismissed under their pressure, he will be end up as a bigger thorn in their side. He is a scrappy fighter who will go back to the academia and make sure his next book rips apart the secret nexus between the Taliban and the forces inside Pakistani establishment that back the jihadis.

If the civilian government of Prime Minister Gilani and president Asif Zardari is allowed to fail or fall, economically or politically, even a million American GIs will not be able to stop the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from taking over Afghanistan. The defeat of the USA in Afghanistan will have far-reaching consequences for the West.

To win in Afghanistan, sending more troops is not the answer. The US will be seen as an invading force no matter how many roads and bridges it builds; no matter how many candies it distributes to Afghan kids. Strengthening democracy and building the socio-economic fabric of the society is the only way, but the first step should be in Pakistan.

The West has an opportunity that it should not let to pass. The Pakistani people have shown tremendous maturity in defeating the Islamists in the last election. In the current military offensive against the Taliban, the people of Pakistan were solidly behind their army as were the people literally liberated in the Swat Valley.

If President Obama wishes to rescue American prestige and wishes to avoid a defeat in Afghanistan, he should first strengthen the civilian democratic government in Islamabad. If the rogue retired generals of Pakistan and their Islamist media cohorts succeed in toppling democracy in Pakistan, all is lost.

The road to Kabul travels passes through Islamabad. Without a stable civilian democratic government in Pakistan, there is no possibility of even a semblance of victory in Afghanistan. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”