Ignorance, confusion or a sinister deliberateness?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Shireen M Mazari
The post-Mumbai signals coming from the leadership in Islamabad has proven one thing: ignorance is a costly burden the nation of Pakistan has to bear. But increasingly the question that keeps coming to the fore is whether our leaders are truly mired in their own ignorance, or in a state of genuine confusion, or is there a more sinister agenda being played out. After all, even the most ill-informed leader has at his disposal expertise and some institutional history from the national civil and military bureaucracy – even if one were to forget the growing relevancy of specialised professionalism. So is something seriously wrong with the Pakistani leadership today or is there a covert agenda that is being played out? Let us look to the facts that have hit us since Mumbai.
The most recent incident was the incursion of Indian fighter planes into Pakistani airspace at two sensitive spots – Lahore and AJK. Given that the Indians had been ranting and raving about carrying out surgical strikes against targets in Muridke and AJK, these intrusions were significant. Yet, in the mildest of language the Pakistan Air Force, which mercifully proved quick to scramble in response, referred to these violations of Pakistani airspace as “technical violations” – that is they did not penetrate deep into our air space. But there was never any doubt that the intrusions were probes into our scramble time. But what did our political leadership do? They immediately went to bat for the Indians by referring to the intrusions as “technical faults” – similar I suppose to PIA’s many delays! In fact the president even used hand actions, perhaps to show his aerial knowledge to the British prime minister standing next to him, to explain how the “technical fault” had occurred! Now, the disturbing question is: were the president, prime minister and information minister really unable to distinguish the meaning of “technical fault” and “technical violation”. It is distressing because apparently the military had briefed these leaders on the meaning of the latter! It is only on seeing the helpful role being played by the Pakistani leaders that the Indians went along and said no intrusion had really taken place except inadvertently. Inadvertently and simultaneously, in two different locations? I ask you how gullible the Indians think we are – or perhaps they are judging us by our present leaders!
War in not a feasible option for India or Pakistan but surgical strikes are definitely being contemplated by the Indians. After all, they are seeing our governments’ (previous and present) acquiescence to constant drone attacks targeting our nationals including women and children so they feel they may “get away” with a few surgical strikes especially with US and UK backing. But the key to their success would lie in their ability to get their planes back safely. Hence the need to test our scramble time. It is in this context also that the controversial call to the president makes sense – again a test of our ability to move to alert status. On Monday, December 15, there was some news flowing in that at 11:30 am Indian intrusions had again taken place along Narowal, near Kalakhatai and Narang Mandi but that the GoP had blacked out this news from the media. However, this information could not be officially verified. What was known was that now NATO planes had joined US drones in violating our airspace in Balochistan near Chaman. So what is happening? Is our military losing its ability for rapid response to military threats against the country? Or is there something more sinister going on at the covert level?
After all, it is now becoming evident that the US is targeting our military and its related organisations, especially the ISI. Ever since the ISI fell out with the CIA about a year ago, it has become a target of US intrusiveness. Apart from the rantings of the US administration, equally ignorant but failed American politicians are also now telling us to “bring the ISI under Islamabad’s control” - presumably meaning “civilian control”. Perhaps these ignoramuses need to be informed that the ISI is already under prime ministerial control. Instead, our political leadership continues to allow such poisonous foreigners to hold forth on issues they are barely informed about. And we know how the US acts on ignorance – Iraq is the present reminder but US history is replete with such horror stories of imperial arrogance. While on the subject, perhaps our president could have reminded Britain’s Gordon Brown that it is his country that has been refusing to sign an extradition treaty with Pakistan – so why should we now make unilateral concessions once again?
And what of the now-forgotten blunder of the prime minister declaring to send the ISI DG to India without realising the consequences. Was this mere ignorance, confusion – given how the presidency then distanced itself from this decision and eventually the GoP declared that that was never the intent – or again a failed move in a more sinister agenda?
Which brings one to yet another absurdity – that of the UN Security Council Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions Committee (originally set up under UNSC resolution 1267 of 1999 where first it was just targeting Taliban and then Al Qaeda was added on) adding the Jamaat-ut-Daawa and four Pakistanis to its terror list as defined by the requirements of the 1267 committee. These names had been there for some time but on earlier occasions the committee, comprising 15 members of the UN Security Council, had failed to put them on the proscribed list. This was a result of our professional diplomacy and support from allies like China. From information acquired from highly reliable sources, it appears that the Chinese once again approached us but we chose to allow the committee to put these names on the proscribed list. One absurd explanation is that our government felt this would ease pressure on Pakistan – pressure on what? Another case of a costly ignorance, confusion, or something more sinister? After all, with the ISI and the Pakistani military being targeted, all these moves spurred by the US in the UN Security Council when linked together move us further down an abyss where the eventual target will be our nuclear assets. Or is the larger picture not visible to the present leadership – both civilian and military?
Ironically, the ignorance of the US and its allies is such that they let the UN Security Council ban a dead man – Mohammad Ashraf. He apparently was the finance secretary of the Daawa but died six years ago in Hyderabad, according to a Pakistani news report. The UN really should have better information before it acts. But what is even more bizarre is the declaration by our political leaders, including the foreign minister that Daawa is not a terrorist organisation – then why was there no proactive diplomacy in the corridors of the UN? (The committee’s meetings are closed-door meetings but the agendas are published beforehand within the UN and interested states can get more details from their allies in the UN Security Council.) Of course, eventually some of the information will be given to the GoP regarding intelligence received from certain countries which led to the move in the first place. But the damage has been done.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the UN Security Council’s anti-terror committees are seemingly targeting only Muslim groups and entities while other extremist groups using violence are being ignored. After all, if rogue elements in the Indian army have been in cahoots with Hindu extremists of the VHP and RSS to carry out terror attacks against Pakistanis – such as the Samjhauta Express attack, why are these names not being considered by the UN Security Council? Why is our leadership silent on this count? By ignorance, confusion or sinister design? After all, the VHP and RSS can be linked to the BJP and to the Indian army so they would all come under the purview of the UN Security Council surely? Why is Pakistan inactive on this count?
I leave it to fellow concerned Pakistanis to connect the dots for themselves (it’s all in the linkages which reveal the bigger picture) to see where we are being led since 9/11, either by a fatal ignorance, confusion or sinister design.