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The Empire of Deceit

Pick up a textbook of abnormal psychology and go to the chapter on sociopathic personality disorders - you will find a disturbingly accurate portrait of General Pervez Musharraf, the man who currently heads, in Bernard Henri Levi's words, "the most delinquent of nations" in the world. Astonishingly, the world continues to invest extraordinary faith - and a great deal of money - in this nation and leader, ignoring the enormous cumulative mass of evidence of enduring pathologies in both these.

Regrettably, India is among the countries that has been a willing dupe of this deceptive, manipulative and conscienceless leader - a man who has repeatedly been proved a habitual and inveterate liar - and this is sadly manifested in the latest initiative to establish the ludicrous "joint mechanism" for counter-terrorism that once again creates a parity between one of the principal victims of terrorism in the world, and the principal source and sponsor of terrorism. This comes shortly after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had squarely declared that Pakistan was, like India, a "victim of terrorism".

What is the impact of such actions? Evidently, the intent is to mollify and cajole Pakistan - a country that, even the most ignorant among us are aware, has long used terrorism as an instrument of state policy and geo-strategic extension, and continues to do so - to dilute (even the most ambitious appeasers would not suggest 'abandon') its campaigns of terrorism and subversive extremism. What they do, in fact, is legitimise Pakistan in the eyes of the world, reinforcing the fiction that Musharraf is the "best bet" against an otherwise inevitable takeover by the "mad mullahs". This is utter nonsense, and on stilts. It is, moreover, a projection that Musharraf and his Government have sought assiduously to promote, a projection that has yielded enormous rewards in foreign assistance.

It is under this benign dispensation that Musharraf's Pakistan has consistently remained a "minimal satisfier", doing as little as is possible to secure itself against punitive action, but preserving its instrumentalities and networks of terrorism, sustaining its campaigns of terrorism at currently available levels of deniability and the international "tolerance of terrorism".

Thus, when the Indian Prime Minister speaks of Pakistan as a "victim of terrorism" and enters into a "joint mechanism" with Musharraf within days of the Mumbai attacks, despite official disclosures of direct Pakistani and ISI involvement, this creates the space for Pakistan to vigorously continue with its dual strategy of simultaneously talking and killing.

The rationale of this strategy is now increasingly visible in Pakistan's proxy "re-conquest" of Afghanistan through the Taliban. After 9/11, and under the US threat - by Musharraf's admission - to bomb Pakistan "back 'into the Stone Age", Pakistan apparently disowned the Taliban and claimed to be enthusiastically "hunting"' the Al Qaeda. In reality, a duplicitous policy helping relocate these organisations, and allowing them significant operational space on Pakistani soil, was combined by a pretended participation in the "war on terrorism".

Hundreds of low value Al Qaeda cadres were arrested and handed over to the US - most of them to be subsequently released as worthless. A handful of "high value" targets have also been arrested in Pakistan, but this is almost invariably on specific Western intelligence which Pakistan has not been allowed to deny or ignore. Pakistan's "cooperation" in the war on terrorism has been, and remains, entirely coerced, except in the case of a handful of domestic sectarian terrorist groups and a few "renegades" who had turned against the establishment in Pakistan.

At the same time, the Taliban has been actively supported to recover from the reverses of Operation Enduring Freedom, and has carried out a systematic campaign of escalating terrorism in Afghanistan from bases and operational headquarters in North Balochistan, NWFP and Waziristan.

Today, exhausted and desperate Western Forces are striking deals with local Taliban commanders, and there are suggestions that the US is again looking at the possibility of accommodating an oxymoronic 'moderate Taliban' in Kabul. Pakistan has managed to wait out the storm, with its strategic tool, the Taliban, more or less intact. The calculation has been that the US and Western powers will eventually lose patience in Afghanistan and return, in desperation, to the earlier "franchise" arrangement, restoring Pakistan and its Taliban proxies to influence over Afghanistan.

This, precisely, is the calculation with regard to the terrorist enterprise in India as well. Gradually, the permitted space for terrorism will expand under the umbrella of Western indifference, exhaustion or preoccupation elsewhere - in Iraq, West Asia, concerns on 'homeland' security, the management of rising terrorism in Europe and, if the Americans are entirely divested of all sense, a possible war in Iran - allowing Pakistan to restore its campaigns of terrorism in India to pre-9/11 levels, or to escalate these well beyond. Indian reactions have little influence on these calculations, as India is seen to be too weak and too politically divided to engage in any coherent strategy that could alter Pakistan's will and capacity to continue with this strategic overreach.

It is useful to recognise, in this context, the reality of Pakistan's enduring pathologies, its military-mullah combine, its strategic and ideological proclivities, the role of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and of terrorism in furthering the ambitions of this national "elite". The ISI is, without qualification, the principal terrorist outfit in South Asia. All other Islamist terrorist groups and their fellow travellers that we speak and hear of in this region - the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Harkut-ul-Mujahiddeen, the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, and the motley crew of lesser jihadis - are no more than the instrumentalities, the agents of this principal.

Pakistan will not - and cannot - abandon these instrumentalities or the ISI's plots because, in doing so, it will have to discard the only mechanisms it possesses to secure and retain an influence, both in the region and globally, that is grossly out of proportion to its natural and national endowments. Take away Islamist extremist mobilisation, terrorism, intimidation and blackmail from Pakistan, and it will quickly lapse into the status of a bankrupt, third-rate power, rapidly disintegrating in the neglected margins of an indifferent world.

( Published in The Pioneer, October 6 , 2006)





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