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Pakistan- The Core Issue

  1. The core issue of instability and violence in South Asia is the character, activities and persistence of the militarized Islamist-fundamentalist state in Pakistan, and no cure for this canker can be arrived at through any strategy of negotiations, support and financial aid to the military regime, or by a ‘calibrated’ transition to ‘democracy’.
  2. Footprints of Terror: The ‘footprint’ of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from 9/11 – where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan – to major acts of terrorism across South Asia and South East Asia, as well as major networks of terror that have been discovered in Europe.
  3. The State as Suicide Bomber: Pakistan has harvested an enormous price for its supposed ‘cooperation’ with the US, and in this it has combined deception and blackmail – including nuclear blackmail – to secure a continuous stream of concessions. Its conduct is little different from that of North Korea, which has in the past chosen the pathway of nuclear escalation to secure incremental aid from Western donors. A pattern of sustained nuclear blackmail has consistently been at the heart of Pakistan’s case for concessions, aid and a heightened threshold of international tolerance for its sponsorship and support to Islamist terrorism. To understand how this works, it is useful to conceive of Pakistan as a state acting as a suicide bomber, arguing that, if it does not receive the extraordinary dispensations and indulgences that it seeks, it will, in effect ‘implode’, and in the process do extraordinary harm to others. Part of the threat of this ‘implosion’ is also the specter of the transfer of its nuclear arsenal and capabilities to more intransigent and irrational elements of the Islamist far right in Pakistan, who would not be amenable to the logic that its present rulers – whose interests in terrorism are strategic, and consequently, subject to considerations of strategic advantage – are willing to heed. This is the bluff that the Musharraf dictatorship has confronted the world with, and it has allowed the General to dismiss an elected government; to rig elections; to continue supporting the operation of terrorist groups from, and the existence of their infrastructure on, Pakistani soil; and despite all this, to secure massive financial and political rewards, instead of the natural penalties that should have attached to such criminality of conduct.

    1. As is the case with North Korea, Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons pushes the world’s ‘threshold of tolerance’ much higher than would be the case in dealing with a non-nuclear entity. It is not possible to deal with a nuclearized Pakistan on the same terms as a non-nuclear Afghanistan or Iraq. Pakistan is aware of its power, and has not hesitated to use it to extract maximal concessions. Even though it does not have capabilities of directly threatening US interests, it can use patterns of ‘lateral deterrence’, threatening to use its arsenal against other states friendly to the US.
    2. It is crucial to note in this context that, if the Islamist terrorist groups gain access to nuclear devices, Pakistan will almost certainly be the source. In October 2002, after the US had discovered clinching evidence of contacts between bin Laden and two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists, Pakistan had been forced to arrest these scientists – Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid. According to American sources, a third Pakistani nuclear scientist had tried to negotiate the sale of an atomic weapon design to Libya. Eventually, however, Pakistan simply decided not to press criminal charges against any of these scientists. At least another six Pakistani scientists connected with the country’s nuclear programme were in contact with Al Qaeda and bin Laden.
    3. Pakistan has projected the electoral victory of the fundamentalist and pro-Taliban, pro-Al Qaeda Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the November elections as ‘proof’ that the military is the only ‘bulwark’ against the country passing into the hands of the extremists. The fact, however, is that the elections were widely rigged, and this was a fact acknowledged by the European Union observers, as well as by some of the MMA’s constituents themselves. The MMA victory was, in fact, substantially engineered by the Musharraf regime, as are the various anti-US ‘mass demonstrations’ around the country.
    4. Nevertheless, whenever there has been sufficient international – and particularly US – pressure on Pakistan to act against this lobby, Pakistan has reluctantly cooperated, with no significant demonstrations of ‘public anger’ from the extremist lobby. In the process, the Musharraf regime, after taking some initial and token action against various Islamist extremist groups in the country – including the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, all of which are on the US list of international terrorist organisations – now allows each of these to function with complete freedom, albeit under changed names, though under the same leadership.

  4. The ‘Other Face’ of Pakistan’s ‘Moderate’ Dictatorship: Pakistan has made a big case out of the fact that some of the top line leadership of the Al Qaeda has been arrested in the country with the ‘cooperation’ of the Pakistani security forces and intelligence. The fact, however, is that each such arrest only took place after the FBI and US investigators had effectively gathered evidence to force Pakistani cooperation, and little of this evidence has come from the Pakistani agencies. Indeed, Pakistani agencies have consistently sought to deny the presence of Al Qaeda elements in their country, and to mislead US investigators to the extent possible. This deception has been at the very highest level, and Musharraf himself, for instance, initially insisted that he was ‘certain’ that bin Laden was dead. When the bin Laden tapes began to surface – and most of these, again, leave behind a trail that comes from Pakistan – he insisted that, though bin Laden may be alive, he was certainly not in Pakistan. He has also repeatedly stated that there are no Al Qaeda elements in Pakistan. Pakistan’s cooperation in the various arrests that have been made is, without any measure of doubt, coerced.

    1. It is notable that the arrests of several senior Al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Yasir al Jaziri were not from localities in the madrassa (seminary) dominated poorer quarters, but from some of the best quarters of Karachi and Islamabad – localities, moreover, dominated by military officers and government servants. A serving major was also implicated in colluding to provide shelter to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. The fact is, significant factions of the Pakistani Army and the Inter Services Intelligence – with the backing of various Pakistani terrorist groups that they were instrumental in creating and sustaining – have been actively facilitating the relocation of the Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan. While incontrovertible evidence of Musharraf’s personal complicity is not available, or, indeed, possible, the collusion of substantial segments of serving Army and intelligence officers is visible.
    2. The idea that the Pakistan problem can be ‘solved’ by liberal ‘developmental’ financing by the international community is a myth. Each dollar of ‘development aid’ or ‘financial relief’ to Pakistan releases a dollar of domestic resources for further militarization, radicalization and extremist religious mobilization. The problem lies at the very foundation of the Pakistani state and the ‘two nation theory’ that led to its creation: the theory that people of different religious communities cannot coexist. This has become the central pillar of the edifice of the military-feudal-fundamentalist combine that has ruled Pakistan for the last 56 years. The problem of religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan can only be resolved through the ‘deconstruction’ of this Pakistani state, and by dis-empowering this combination of forces through a fundamental ‘regime change’ that goes well beyond a change of leadership, and comprehends a change of ideology and systems of governance. Pakistan will have to be disarmed, denuclearised and democratised if it is to be saved from the extremist forces that currently threaten to consume it.

  1. Kashmir – An Ideological Conflict: Pakistan has consistently projected Kashmir as the ‘core issue’ of conflict in South Asia. The fact, however, is that the conflict in South Asia cannot be resolved within Kashmir, through any of the projected solutions of communal bifurcation or partition along religious lines. Such ‘partition’ would, in fact, validate Pakistan’s underlying ideology of religious ‘ghettoisation’, and would be only one stage in the process that can consistently end only with the ‘liberation’ of all of India’s 150 million Muslim’s from the ‘oppression’ of the unbelievers. Indeed, within the pan-Islamist ideology, such a possible outcome would only be a prelude to the wider jehad to bring the entire world of ‘unbelievers’ within the fold of Islam. The fact is, the confrontation between India and Pakistan is not about territory – in Kashmir or elsewhere. It is an irreducible ideological confrontation between a pluralist secular democracy, on the one hand, and a religious fundamentalist, intolerant and exclusionary ideology, on the other, that denies not only rights, but also basic humanity, to those who do not submit to its belief system. The Cold War hostility between the US and the Soviet Union provides an analogy to this pattern of ideological confrontation: once the ideology that sustained the Soviet Union was abandoned, the animus between the two peoples dissolved; while the ideology controlled the centers of Russian power, there was no possibility of settlement between the two countries. So, indeed, is it between India and Pakistan.
  1. Any ceding of territories in Kashmir to Pakistan, or the creation of a separate Muslim majority state or quasi-state entity would create a vast and uninterrupted area of potential instability and Islamist extremist mobilization extending from West Asia through Central Asia and across Afghanistan and Pakistan into Kashmir. A very substantial proportion of this region, especially extending through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, the Northern Areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and much of any such territories that may be separated from the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir, comprise harsh, inhospitable and poorly policed terrain, which would provide an ideal safe haven for Islamist extremists and terrorists.
  2. India has long been fighting the world’s battle against Islamist extremist expansionism, and remains a bulwark against this movement in Jammu & Kashmir.

  1. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) & the Northern Areas: Populations in the areas illegally occupied by Pakistan have never been granted civil, political or human rights by Pakistan, and remain economically backward and severely deprived even by Pakistani standards. The Northern Areas, particularly, have been separated from the rest of PoK and are not even given limited protection under the Pakistani Constitution. The Shia population who constitute a majority in the Northern Areas has been subjected to repeated and genocidal campaigns of repression – at least one of which was led by General (then Brigadier) Pervez Musharraf himself.
  2. Democracy: The effort to orchestrate a transition to democracy through a controlled military regime is fundamentally flawed, and has, in fact, immensely weakened democratic and secular forces in Pakistan, even as it has further entrenched the military-jehadi-feudal combine of revanchist forces in the country.






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