Idiot Bomber and Hillary (Daily Times) 14 may 2010

“Sub-prime bomber.” “An idiot bomber.” That’s how Faisal Shahzad who tried to blow up Times Square has been labeled by the American media. Tehrik-e-Taliban proudly owned the “idiot.” So far nothing is surprising if one understands the complexities of the on-going ‘Jihadi’ streak among the rabid Muslims across the globe.

But the knee-jerk reaction, of otherwise mature politician, Hillary Clinton was indeed surprising for many Pakistanis who expected sagacity from the lady Secretary of State. Her tough statement did not help either the US or the Pakistanis who believe that the war against Jihadis is the war of the people of Pakistan. Such a hawkish view in the US has been rightly questioned by Robert Wright, the author of “The Evolution of God” in his article in IHT. In his article ‘Jihadi intent’ and the making of a terrorist he has rightly maintained: “They (American hawks) need to seriously ask whether the policies they favour have, while killing terrorists abroad, created terrorists both abroad and – more disturbingly – at home. These possibly counterproductive hawkish policies go beyond drone strikes – a fact that is unwittingly under-scored by the hawks themselves.”

Interestingly the military leadership of the US has shown more restrain in issuing hawkish statements against Pakistan. One view is that may be it’s because the US military which is involved in an operation in Afghanistan understands the ground realities more than the civilian leadership in Washington. This may be correct. But another reason for not shooting out harsh statements by the US military leaders is that they are engaged closely with our army Chief Pervaiz Kayani. Every other day we host either General McChrystal or General Petraeus. So it’s the better communication which helps.

Back home broadly speaking there are four positions taken by the intelligentsia about the Afghanistan imbroglio since 9/11. First, point of view is that of rabid Islamists who say that Pakistan should not have given in to the American pressure and should have continued to support the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The advocates of this policy option live in their ideological trance and are disconnected with the reality. No doubt that the American reaction on 9/11 was rash and unbecoming of a super-power. One would have expected sagacity and statesmanship from the US leadership. But having said that once the US decided to go after Osama bin Laden, Taliban were given a fair chance to disassociate from the global Jihad mission of Al Qaeda. Supporters of Taliban in Pakistan should recap the recent history of post 9/11. When Pakistan which had installed Taliban in Afghanistan and supported it financially, morally and militarily asked Mullah Omar to choose between Osama and Pakistan, he opted to side with Osama. (Isn’t it a sour dividend on our heavy investment in building strategic assets in Afghanistan). In this situation we can blame Musharraf for his other sins, but we cannot question the policy of withdrawing the support of Taliban, at least officially. The consequence of resisting the US would have been disastrous for Pakistan economically, politically and militarily.

Second position is bewildering and ‘sethish’. This is that Pakistan has sold itself very cheap and should have asked for much more. Interestingly the protagonists of this position easily swim to and fro between the Islamic morality and pure materialist narratives. Pakistan may not have milked the Americans and Western countries as much as these people want, but the fact remains that much of the Musharraf era high growth was because of the deal struck by his shrewd Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz. He got all the bilateral debt rescheduled for 35 years and at minimal cost. The fiscal space created by it stabilised Pakistani currency and allowed substantial rise in the development spending which fueled the economy.

Third position is that Pakistan should not have taken any action against Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in the country. The supporter of this view are often found arguing in the media that till the time we did not go after these Taliban and other ‘Jihadi’ outfits the country was not facing terrorism. Now this is in complete disregard of the international law and the fact that Pakistan is bound to act as a responsible country. No civilised and responsible country in today’s world can afford to breed and nurture terrorist organisations which can destabilise the neighbouring countries. UN can impose strict sanctions on such a country. There was peace in the country because our establishment was covertly abetting with the terrorist organisations. As a matter of fact empirical evidence is that they still follow this policy selectively and support some organisations which cooperate with them.

This brings us to the fourth position, which is taken by saner segments of the society. The fact is that the holders of the above three positions should first do some introspection. If the policies suggested by them and their mentors were in the interest of the people, then why are we suffering today. Dispassionate study of our past policies of hunting with the terrorists shows that the whole game of using non-state militant groups to further the country’s national security interest was counterproductive. Today we are reaping the harvest in the killing fields of Pakistan of the sordid policies of our establishment.

Whether there is a realisation in the establishment that this dangerous policy has to be changed by 180 degrees or not, is not certain. My friend former Ambassador Zafar Hilali says that the policy is changing. “It’s like a huge passenger liner where the tail of the ship takes time to change the direction,” Zafar says it drawing an analogy. I wish he is right because he has access to the establishment’s top bosses. Sitting at a distance and analysing on the basis of available facts only, unfortunately I am not that optimistic. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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