Troika on rampage

Sikander Shaheen | US covert organisation Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) notorious reputation to eliminate its ‘enemies’ is known well to the world and its intensive efforts, which have been underway since long, to form a vicious alliance with Israel and India have finally begun to show.

For the last couple of years, the United States has been immensely pressurising Iran to curtail its nuclear programme. However, after Iran has refused to succumb to Western pressures regarding UN-brokered deal about uranium enrichment and has placed certain conditions on nuclear fuel swamp, US and its Western allies are desperate to tighten the noose around the country. A prosperous nuclear Iran is seen as a major threat to US and Israel. To curtail this threat, both the countries have intensified ties with India and are using Afghanistan as an outfit to ‘tame’ Pakistan, Iran and China as well. To mention the most, Iran has lately confronted assassinations and abductions of its nuclear scientists.

After the assassination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Dr Massoud Ali-Mohammadi on January 12 last in a motorbike explosion in Tehran, the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Ali Larijani categorically accused Israel and CIA of the heinous killing. “We had received clear information a few days before the assassination that the intelligence service of the Zionist regime, with the cooperation of the CIA, were seeking to carry out a terrorist act in Tehran,” Larijani had told a news agency, a day after the killing took place.

Another nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri at Malek Ashtar University in Tehran was abducted while he was on his way to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage in June 2009. Iran had accused US of involvement in the abduction.

Back in 2007, Times Online reported that Ardeshire Hassanpour, a nuclear physicist, had been assassinated by Mossad, the notorious Israeli intelligence agency.

Hassanpour reportedly worked at a plant in Isfahan that produced and processed Uranium Hexafluoride gas required for enrichment of uranium in another Iranian plant. Rheva Bhalla of Stratfor, the US intelligence company, claimed then that Hassanpour had been targeted by Mossad and that there was “very strong intelligence” to suggest that he had been assassinated by the Israelis, who have repeatedly threatened to refrain Iran from acquiring the nuclear bomb.

Apart from that, as reported by US Homeland Security Newswire and local Indian media, Israel and India, in December last year, had a series of meetings of joint defence working group focussing counterterrorism and intelligence sharing, delivery of weapons and enhancement of cooperation in research and development. Chinese news agency Xinhuanet’s report quoted a defence official privy to the meeting as saying that the main focus of the talks was on enhancing the counterterrorism cooperation based on intelligence sharing in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks.

More importantly, this meeting followed a low-profile visit of Israeli Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi to India earlier in the same month, during which he had met the top brass of the Indian armed forces. According to the news service, these developments can be evaluated in the pretext of reports that India has bought military hardware and software from Israel worth $8bn since 1999, making India the biggest buyer of Israeli arms across the globe.

Given that the US barely sees any signs of success in its so-called war on terror in Afghanistan, US and Israel are encouraging Indian military and economic presence in Afghanistan to serve the purpose. While Pakistan is asked to ‘do more’ the US and India, with the help of pro-American Afghan government, are all set to engage ‘likeminded’ and moderate Taliban into talks, to use them for destabilising Pakistan and Iran.

Under the scenario, the situation deems fit into what is described by some analysts as FINISH plan, abbreviated from “financial ruin, infrastructure destruction, nuclear scientists elimination, Indian hegemony, seizing of physical nuclear weapons and harassing Pakistan’s leadership and its public.”

US and Pakistan, strange allies

Dr Huma Mir | President Obama’s inaugural pledge to defeat Al Qaeda and Taliban appears in stark contrast to the ground realities in Afghanistan. Obama’s much hyped AF PAK policy is believed to have been practically castigated to history after multiple reviews. The US military’s assessment of the war in Afghanistan too paints a bleak picture. The Taliban today control more than half of Afghan Provinces where they have installed their own shadow Governors.

Despite having suffered the most due to the US adventure in Afghanistan, Pakistan today remains the most vibrant and loyal US ally. US, NATO and Pakistan are mutually dependant. The US and Western Forces operating in Afghanistan are dependent on Pakistan for 80% or more of their logistic support and of course they need vital intelligence. Pakistan needs US financial support, weapons and technology and some specialized training to fight the menace of terrorism. Unfortunately, Pakistan is taken for granted by the US; our blind support has drawn little sympathy for our own national concerns. There have been continued nasty outbursts by US leadership and officials against Pakistan, the “Do More” mantra has become a sickening buzzword.

As the US mounts pressure on Pakistan to open a new front in North Waziristan and around Quetta and to thin out troops from the Eastern Borders to commit on Afghan border, in last few weeks, there appears to be a diabolical worsening in US attitudes. First comes, Mr. McCain who says that the US would continue to use Drone Attacks, saying words to the effect that they care little for Pakistan’s sovereignty and cries from Pakistani leadership that Drone Strikes were counterproductive. Now comes Mr. Gates, the US Secretary Defence who states that in case of another terrorist strike in India, India would be justified in its military response against Pakistan. While Mr. Gates was conveying this not so veiled Indian threat, India committed two border violations. In this scenario, Mr. Gates plays the exact opposite of ground reality and says that he does not see any Indian threat to Pakistan. Mr. Gates made no reference to Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan and its support to the terror outfits in Baluchistan and FATA.

That much for Pakistan being a frontline US ally, remember US trumpets that Pakistan is their closest and most Valued Ally in the War on Terror. Meanwhile, against Pakistani protests the US drone strikes continue. More sinister is the fact that armed US diplomats and security contractors like Blackwater (XE), DynCorp etc travelling in vehicles with fake number plates and documents roam around our violating Pakistani laws with impunity.

The pressure being brought on Pakistan is because of the state of paralysis that US and allies are suffering in Afghanistan. In seeking a scapegoat for their pathetic military performance, the US continues to accuse Pakistani Military and the Intelligence Services of linkages with their Taliban and Al Qaeda adversaries in Afghanistan. Most absurd and illogical feature of these accusations is that while accusing the ISI and our military of playing ball with their enemies, they seek our military and intelligence cooperation and support. The latest figment of imagination is the “Quetta Shura”. Soon we will hear about the Chichawatni and Bhai Pheru Shuras too.

In routine, every few weeks, the US leadership, officials, think tank, newspaper, TV Channel or a court jester expresses DEEP CONCERN at the security of Pakistani Nuclear Arsenal and indicates fears of it falling into the hands of extremists. Often such CONCERNS are followed by controlled information leakage that the US has plans to TAKE OUT Pakistani Nukes if threatened by extremists. As our leadership starts responding to these absurd revelations, a kind hearted US official or political leader provides a verbal certification that Pakistani Nukes were safe as if he or she knew the way our nukes are deployed and secured. Pakistan has given more than its share to support the US operations. It opened its airspace and airbases, ports and allowed use of land route for logistic support of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. It has committed more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan Border in a very expensive low intensity conflict which has had devastating effect on our bankrupt economy and internal stability. What has the US given to our nation in return? The US has even held back our due share of Coalition Support Funds worth almost 2 Billion Dollars. US has not contributed a dollar to maintenance of our road network under their use. What happened to the promised ROZs in tribal belt, what has the US done to check flow of weapons and money to the Pakistani extremists from Afghanistan, what have the US done to stop the Indian managed training camps for Baluch nationalists on Afghan soil, what about preferential access to Pakistani goods in US and EU markets, etc etc. US has balked from providing the drone technology to Pakistan, they hav’nt given the additional helicopter gunships and ground mobility vehicles and vital spares that Pakistan has been asking for. Even the carrot in the form of Kerry – Luger Bill of a few billion dollars has been strangled and tied to notions which can only appeal to those who framed the policy.

US has been persistently demanding from Pakistan to shun its traditional threat perception and shift additional troops from Indo Pak border to the Afghan border to battle the Taliban extremists in North Waziristan. The US wants to use Pakistani forces as bait, US planners visualize that Pakistani action in North Waziristan could draw Taliban fighters from Afghanistan thus relieving the pressure there on US and NATO forces while Pakistan executes its dirty work. Pakistani security establishment has its own threat perception and have refused the US pressure. We have many options and Pakistan doesn’t have the time pressure which the US has. Pakistan Army’s categorical statement that it shall not open a new front till it has consolidated its gains in Malakand and South Waziristan is absolutely apt response. The timings of Pakistani assault in North Waziristan would be dictated by the speed of our consolidation and preparations and probable speed of US administration to meet Pakistani military demands rather than be synchronized to US desires.

It would be extremely interesting to follow the operations in North Waziristan as and when they come and its impact on the Afghan security scene. Will the Pakistani assault provide any relief to the Western Forces in Afghanistan or will it confirm the Pakistani viewpoint that the Afghan problem needs an Afghan solution. Demonizing Pakistan won’t win the war for the Western Forces in Afghanistan.

Welcome to the Stone Age

Samson Simon Sharaf | Did Richard Armitage make an understatement when he threatened to pulp Pakistan to Stone Age? And in reaction, had Pakistani policy makers averted a conflict through unstinted support and secure ultimate national interests? As I have repeatedly asserted, the public through media is merely exposed to a very small fraction of the reality eclipsed with subtle propaganda. The unknown is of grave concern. Eight years hence, after all that has happened, Pakistan’s security perspectives have only deepened.

The ‘shock and awe’ phase of the invasion of Afghanistan witnessed the worse use of violence for global domination. In deciding the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan (Afpak), the Capitol Hill strategists chose to ignore a basic lesson of the American Civil War in which the North despite a ragtag army defeated the more sophisticated South; any use of violence related to hate and revenge will ultimately fail. ISAF, USA and the Afghan Combine, unlike Pakistan have ceded more and more ground to the Afghan resistance. The third surge seems to be lea-ding nowhere and prospects of an imminent US withdrawal look dimmer by the day. The question arises, then why Afghanistan?

In a conflict not of our choosing, but in many ways of our own making, landmarks crucial to a winning national strategy are elusive. Following military operations, Pakistan holds more ground in troubled areas. However, in a counter insurgency operation, ground is not always the most vital. In a conflict lacking manoeuvres and firepower, the insurgent has the option to melt away and float in the milieu like fish in water. The method, time and target to strike are always flexible, invariably punctuated with surprise. In contrast, the security mechanism remains stretched to limits, predictable and static. Devoid of any noteworthy economic and moral support, for how long will the country be able to sustain an ongoing asymmetrical conflict that is now costing more than all the wars in the past combined?

The effects of the Afghan conflict on Pakistan are damaging on all counts. The malaise is like a squamous with tentacles spread to every sinew of our society. The military to some extent may succeed in dominating the geographical and cyber space, but what of the individuals whose mind cannot be reached and tamed and who have the capacity to proliferate? They inevitably matter in a society fractured by poor economic conditions, sectarianism, crime and population explosion. Seen in the context of the ongoing political controversies, economic recession and fault lines within the society, it will take a very long and herculean efforts to restore normalcy. Given the obtaining environments, conditions are most likely to worsen before we could hope for a turn for the positive. What happens during the interim and how, we as a nation contend is the concern of every Pakistani. Tragically, a national policy to win hearts and minds in general and at the grassroots in particular is conspicuously missing. For how long can we play the flute while Pakistan burns?

Barring military operations daringly led by young officers, all other indicators of a national well being have gradually plummeted. Unplanned urbanisation in mega cities is rapidly morphing into bigger pockets of poverty providing breeding grounds for minimalist agendas. Wheat, sugar, rice, cotton, fertilizer, pesticide, cement and communication cartels are on an unchecked loose. Value added exports are being manipulated to dwindle in face of raw exports, pricing issues, time delays, energy shortages, transportation costs and high interest rates. Agricultural products like cane, cotton, wheat and paddy have virtually suffocated through pricing mechanisms, water shortages and energy inputs. Two years of bumper crops are now hampered by lack of winter monsoons and extremely low water particularly in the river systems. The GDP other than the incidental 1.1 is virtually at a halt. Barring the import bill, Pakistan’s economic downturn does not appear to be affected by the global recession. The question arises that despite positive home grown indicators, why Pakistan’s economy is being allowed to slide into shortages, hyperinflation and dependency?

Just like the insurgents need a cause and outside support to sustain themselves, counties fighting them also need a powerhouse to defeat them. Even the best military plans are doomed to fail in the absence of an all encompassing national strategy. So far the entire might of ISAF and USA with full international support and massive resources has only resulted in ceding more areas to Taliban. In contrast, Pakistan despite economic constraints, manipulative political economy and practically non-existent international assistance/support has cleared area after area. In terms of success ratios to economics, the results have been at a fraction of what ISAF and USA spend in Afghanistan. Yet the unending chants of ‘do more’ grows vociferous and threatening by the day. India has been showered far more praises in this WOT than Pakistan that has done the donkey’s work and remains a donkey.

Gratitude to Pakistan in this disowned conflict usually makes headlines in form of leaks by the American and British media reflecting an uneasiness with Pakistan’s nuclear capability and complicity with terrorism. This propaganda is followed by statements of US and UK officials synchronised with threatening statements and posturing from India and their military establishment. With the Baghliar Dam in operation and numerous ‘run of the river’ power generating units on rivers leading to Pakistan in place, India manipulates water flow at will.

What has the government done to formulate a cohesive national policy?

Rather than venture on an all-encompassing national austerity programme, boost domestic growth particularly in the agrarian sector, facilitate value addition of exports and initiate rehabilitation plans for young men exposed to militancy, the government seems to adopt and pursue policies to the contrary. International financial institutions with their unfriendly conditions are back. Price structuring is grossly manipulative and exports discouraged. At the same time the government is involved in serious political differences with its allies, military establishment and the judiciary. Rather than channelise all efforts into the conflict and nation building, resources are being wasted on issues not of immediate significance. It appears that Pakistan’s policy makers have willingly chosen to recluse the nation to backwardness. President’s recent tirades are unequivocal in that ‘if we go, everything goes with us’. This is indeed a very poor reflection of a country and its leadership at war.

Least metaphorically, lanterns and candles are back but expensive. Earthen oil lamps have replaced energy savers and petromax. Raw brown sugar is now a household substitute. In rural areas, donkey carts and bullocks are becoming the preferred mode of transport. A generation bred on consumerism and leasing is rushing to cycle shops.

Being loyal that we are, we will do it ourselves and save USA the bother. Welcome to the Stone Age!

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