(THE ARTICLE IS WRITTEN BY AHMED QURAISHI - REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE HIS OWN. I HAVE DECIDED TO PRESENT PAKISTANI RIGHT WING VIEWS HERE TOO - SO THAT IT GIVES A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PERSPECTIVE INTO OUR REGION. HIS SITE: WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—There is little question that an American-occupied Afghanistan has emerged as the biggest security threat to Pakistan. But you wouldn’t know it watching the Pakistani ruling elite, busy in creating the world’s most bloated government – more than sixty ministers in the federal cabinet, some without even office space. This elite is also busy in smuggling out millions of dollars in illegal wealth out of the country.
The most disturbing part is that the PPP government, which came to power in Islamabad through an arrangement exclusively brokered by Washington, is unwilling to confront the Americans. The CIA is attacking Pakistani territory with impunity, where it already maintains an elaborate intelligence presence on the ground. Afghanistan, in effect an American base, is the main source of inspiration, funding and weapons to terrorists spreading chaos in both NWFP and Balochistan. Our spooks have stunning information about how our so-called allies are protecting terrorists whose only job is to attack Pakistan. Yet our government refuses to allow the parliament to have a meaningful debate and its unanimous resolution has been ignored by the two governments in Islamabad and Washington.
And now we have 40-feet wide billboards that have mysteriously sprung up on the main roads of NWFP showing the map of a new country – Pashtunistan – with meticulously defined borders that incorporate most of northwestern Pakistan. The Pakistani Pashtun, the bravest and the most loyal subjects of the Pakistani state, are being pushed toward separatism with full speed. This ‘billboard campaign’ has to be the boldest statement of rebellion and separatism ever made in the history of nation-states anywhere in the world. Yet it’s business as usual in Islamabad.
This is not about blaming others for our problems. Some parts of the American political/security establishment are involved in an ambitious plan to secure America’s position in and around Afghanistan. This apparently entails empowering India and removing a little ‘nuisance’ called Pakistan. American officials dismiss Pakistan’s legitimate strategic interests as ‘obsessions’. In 2007, the outlines of an American media campaign began to emerge, harping on the theme of the looming disintegration of Pakistan. A series of fantastical op-ed pieces started appearing in U.S. newspapers and magazines about the Iraq-like break up of Pakistan. This continued up until after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto four days before New Year ’s Eve 2008. Part of this campaign was a map published by the U.S Armed Forces Journal that showed Pakistan reduced in size after the break up of its two provinces of Balochistan and NWFP. Coincidentally these are the same areas where insurgencies sprang up from nowhere after the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.
Pakistani security analysts have been warning since 2007 that Pakistan is committing a blunder by allowing Pakistani politicians to conduct their separate foreign policies with foreign countries, especially with United States whose massive agenda of redrawing the map of the region is a direct threat to Pakistani interests. America and Britain in particular have a history of orchestrating coups and covertly funding chaos and insurgencies and changing governments in our part of the world. It is foolish to expect Washington and London to treat a country like Pakistan on equal footing. Yet it is stunning how our political and military leaderships have allowed Washington, its diplomats and its spymasters to directly access political parties, invite them on secret, all-expenses-paid trips to Washington and have direct say in Pakistani affairs. The American intervention, starting late 2006 and early 2007, effectively managed to bring a regime change in Islamabad, thanks partially to the blunders of the previous regime. There is no free lunch and the Americans have specific expectations from the new rulers in Pakistan: The permission for increased American military operations inside Pakistan, meeting the American desire for clipping Pakistan’s intelligence capabilities, and changing the military’s orientation from a standing army into some kind of a police force focused on fighting insurgencies.
The deliberate destabilization of Pakistan through American military and political interference will result in turning large parts of the country against the federal government and increasingly draw the military into a civil war that will bleed us for decades to come in the presence of covert support from Afghan soil. The result would be a weakened Pakistani state unable to sustain control over its territory and over its vast arsenal of nuclear and strategic assets. The Americans are also keen that Pakistan is entangled again in the IMF cobweb, which basically means one more American control over Pakistan. Interestingly, the only thing that appears to be stopping the current government from cowing to American diktat is domestic political reaction. Apart from the IMF option, we are yet to see any real moves to deal with the economic crisis.
How long will the Pakistani state continue on this path of self destruction? It is also time for Pakistani commentators and civil society activists to realize that their idealism has resulted in encouraging the people to vote for the same tried, tested and failed politicians who cannot deliver. Our civil society activists need to stop viewing every call to reform our democracy and political system with an eye of suspicion. What would it take for our liberals and commentators to understand that even good ideas, like local governments, don’t work under our paralyzed political system? It is time to reorient the Pakistani state and government structure. Special interest groups cannot be allowed to have permanent monopoly over our politics. Political parties need to be forcibly democratized to allow the ascent of Pakistan’s middle class in politics. Ethnic politics, the new Trojan horse of anyone who wants to meddle in our affairs, have to be ended through legislation and by creating more provinces on administrative lines and by strengthening Pakistani nationalism. The question is: Who will do this? The current crop of politicians can’t. The military is not trained to do this, at least not alone. I am afraid we are soon approaching a situation where something will have to be thought of outside the box.
It’s either this or more separatist billboards in the future.