Will “PakMil” recognise the real foe?

By Dr Shireen M Mazari

It is ISI bashing time again and this comes easy for the Western and Indian media especially, but also for the media at home since the ISI has figured as a larger than life organisation since the US-led war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And undoubtedly the ISI has at times been highly controversial in the activities it has undertaken especially domestically. Both during period of civilian democracy and military rule, the ISI has been used by those in power and even today the ruling party is not devoid of this temptation, unfortunately.

Of course, like all intelligence agencies with an external agenda, such as CIA and RAW, the ISI has its own external agenda. But it needs to also be understood that the ISI is not an independent entity and the decision-making hierarchy of the organisation comes on routine postings from the military, primarily the army. So its external activities reflect the policies of the government, but especially the military. Be that as it may, post-9/11, the ISI has had to pay for its past sins in seeing itself demonised by the US and India – even though the former is supposed to be an ally of this country. Every time the chips are down for the US in Afghanistan, somehow or the other the ISI is lambasted by “leaks” to the Western, especially the compliant US media. It would appear that the CIA’s failures, as well as the US and NATO military failures, are all a result solely of the ISI! Now if only the ISI was really so effective, efficient and powerful, India’s occupation of Kashmir would have ended and Afghanistan’s future would have been moulded according to its desires! Unfortunately, that is not the case and the ISI is as riddled with inefficiencies as any large bureaucratic organisation is, but undoubtedly, it has better ground intelligence in this region than the US and its CIA since the latter has a blunderbuss approach to human intelligence gathering and has no sensitivity to nuances of any kind.

Be that as it may, the latest round of ISI bashing rather obviously sponsored by the CIA to hide its own failures in Afghanistan, once again, has come with the WikiLeaks’ story. Apart from The Guardian newspaper which showed some healthy scepticism about the leaked information, for the biased US media like The New York Times this was a journalistic feast – enough to feed the deep-seated anti-Muslim and especially anti-Pakistan bias that now dominates the American media. But let us get some facts straightened first and one has to concede that WikiLeaks itself is credible anti-war site. But what the media has done in terms of factual distortions of even these unverifiable leaks is dangerous and cannot simply be ignored by Pakistan because we are once again the targets. First of all, the leaked documents are based entirely on field reports filed by a variety of operatives in Afghanistan, allegedly primarily belonging to the Northern Alliance. Second, out of the 92,000 leaked documents, only 180 contain ISI references and of these only 30 mention the ISI in negative terms regarding Taliban-supporting activities. Third, of these 180 documents with references to the ISI, most of these reports have a disclaimer by the author at the end where the source was referred to simply as an “informant” and it was stated that this source was either not reliable or working only for monetary gains for either the Afghan intelligence, Indians or Afghan warlords! Or else the source was referred to simply by initials! Interestingly where the ISI is mentioned, it also states in the disclaimer that the information cannot be verified and therefore cannot be “used to make policies” (all this is on the website). So where does that leave the actual content of these leaked reports?

Officials in Pakistan are convinced that the CIA, when it found out about the leaks, sought to divert the expansive details of its own failures in Afghanistan by shifting the focus on to the ISI – a favourite bete noir of the Western media. According to WikiLeaks the source for the leaked documents sought to prevent the publication of some of them for fear of sensitive information! There is also a feeling in some quarters that the CIA has deliberately chosen to once again target the ISI because of the rising anti-war tide within the US. Most observers in the know now recognise that the US and NATO have lost the war militarily in Afghanistan and bad intelligence is certainly one of the causes. So what better way to escape blame than to put everything on the ISI. The timing of the “leaks” is not without purpose.

Be that as it may, the fact is that it is time for Pakistan to sever its links and cooperation with the US. How can we have information and intelligence sharing with a country that has systematically done and continues to do a hatchet job on our premier intelligence agency, as well as the Pakistan military in general? From our nuclear programme to the ISI, there is a continuous ongoing war being waged on us by the US. It may not be a military war but it has economic, political, diplomatic and psychological components. What is simply absurd is why the “PakMil” – a term Mullen has coined to show his intimacy with General Kayani and is used only by him when he meets the COAS apparently – is not seeing the ground realities? Instead of the ISPR issuing press releases now suddenly condemning the drone attacks in an attempt to fool the Pakistani nation, when they know only too well that these are being carried out with the support of the Pakistan civil and military leadership, the military should take a long hard look at what the US is doing to Pakistan on all fronts. If the Pakistani government, including the military, sees the drones as doing more harm than good, why do they remain complicit in this policy? Should they not send a clear message to the US by downing one of these drones? Read more of this post

UN exposes myth of ‘Quetta Shura’

ISLAMABAD – A series of meetings among key Taliban leaders, top United Nations officials, and Indian and US diplomats took place during December 2009 and January 2010, prior to the one reported in a questionable news item carried by foreign news agencies.

After the publication of the particular report revealing a secretive meeting reportedly held on January 8 in Dubai between UN Afghanistan’s Chief Kai Eide and some moderate Taliban representatives allegedly hailing from ‘Quetta Shura’, this newspaper contacted its sources in United Nations Assistance Missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and representatives of some credible stakeholders, who said that such kinds of covert meetings had become a routine affairs and were extensively been held in Kabul with the active collusion of Indian consulates. It was the result of these negotiations that Hikmatyar’s spokesman had hinted about dialogue with Afghan government provided that ISAF and NATO devised a roadmap regarding their eviction from Afghanistan. Contrary to Taliban’s expectations, the London Conference did not address the issue of troop surge and laid the provisions of training programmes for Afghan National Army instead, which led the Taliban to reject London Conference.

However, given that the particular news item surfaced just a day after London Conference, its timing and ‘selected venue’ make the entire affair very suspicious as a concocted plan to malign Pakistan. It is widely believed among diplomatic circles that US has deliberately floated this unfounded news among the sections of media and associated it with ‘Quetta Shura’ only to breed the evasive notion that unrest in Afghanistan was nurtured and sponsored by Pakistan.

In addition, the statement, quoting a UN official in the specific news report as saying (about Taliban) “They don’t want to vanish into places like Bagram,” bears less relevance with existing scenario in the wake of UN’s demand regarding expediting the review process pertaining to Bagram detainees. The closure of notorious base is under heated discussion.

It needs to be questioned since when did the term ‘Quetta Shura’ which had been coined just recently, started existing, while bordering areas of Afghanistan, especially North Waziristan and FATA, had been slammed by the West and Afghanistan for sponsoring cross-border terrorism. After Pakistan’s military command and key regional players have taken a tougher stance on Indo-US nexus and it became evident that Afghan terrorism is indigenous and its corruption-ridden government is incapable of combating the menace, Quetta has been selected as a new scapegoat for the purpose.

The news regarding ‘Quetta Shura’ has proved this perception true that all those calls seeking Pakistan’s support in London Conference are likely to be given a reversal in the days ahead and India was deliberately kept out of London Conference to avoid negative fallout.

After UN has given a clean-chit to Pakistan and has categorically slammed Afghan government in its reports exposing massive corruption, administrative deficiencies and rigged presidential elections coupled with UN’s statement in the Security Council that Pakistan has suffered more than any neighbouring country ever suffered, US needed a loud excuse to justify its nexus with India in Afghanistan, and the ‘Quetta Shura’ is ‘destined to do the favour.’

Pakistan’s neighbouring countries say their concerns regarding the planted London moot were not unfounded and the signs of malicious Indo-US alliance are evident. These neighbours’ reservations surfaced out of tiptoe meetings in Afghanistan. US, UN and Indian diplomats have met Taliban and are still believed to be meeting them mostly in Kabul, its suburbs and unspecified venues in Middle East and Europe. by Sikander Shaheen

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