Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

'Frontline' Pakistan will take us all back

Another blast in Kashmir, and this time the Western world pays a little attention, finally yielding a reluctant admission of the obvious – that terrorist outrages in India are no different from those that find innocent victims in the affluent West, and that behind all these excesses is a single, though loosely integrated, and vast network, a terrorist Internationale, that now extends across the globe, and indeed, often across all ideological affiliations as well. Every western intelligence agency has been fully aware of the details of the growth of this terrorist Internationale, but these nations chose to ignore these developments in the absurd belief that they would never become targets of its wrath. Indeed, these habits of thought are still to be entirely wiped out, despite the enormity of the September attacks in the US and the documented presence of terrorist cells in Europe and America. Western perspectives have yet to come to terms in full measure with what they have known for decades, and what they have found to be politically or strategically expedient to deny.

The creeping shift in public postures notwithstanding, actions and policies are still to fall in line with the current "global war on terrorism" perspective, and the US – strongly supported by the UK, and adequately supported by its other NATO allies – still chooses as its "frontline" partner the state perhaps most active in sponsoring and supporting terrorism: Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan’s role in creating and nurturing the forces of Islamist extremist terrorism is far more significant than Afghanistan’s, and the Taliban is little more than a child of Pakistan’s creation. There is little evidence, moreover, that Pakistan has, despite apparent US pressure, chosen to alter the perverted course of its history, and terrorist strikes in J&K have, in fact, seen a sudden spurt in the post-September 11 phase.

The ethic of expediency, once again, is said to guide the wisdom of the American choice of partners. Pakistan and its ISI, with their deep and continuous involvement in Afghanistan and with the Taliban, have, it is argued, the most ‘reliable’ intelligence that could help locate America’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden and his network of terrorist camps. Pakistan is, consequently, cast in the unlikely role of a ‘frontline state’ in the war against terrorism. The fact that Pakistan is on the frontline in this war may, of course, be conceded; the moot question here is, on which side of the battle lines does it stand?

Any objective assessment of the internal conditions and the long-term policies of the Pakistan State would demonstrate a fundamental and irreducible opposition between what that country’s ruling elite perceives as its strategic interests, and those of the emerging alliance against terrorism. This implies that the US reliance on Pakistan could be one of the worst strategic blunders for a multiplicity of reasons. Even as US Forces are massing for the imminent attack, there is continuing evidence of some Pakistani military presence in Afghanistan, as well as the ongoing mobilization of Islamist fundamentalist forces from J&K, PoK and within Pakistan, who are being actively, if unofficially, encouraged to join forces with the Taliban. The much valued Pakistani ‘intelligence’ moreover would, on the one hand, tend to vanish in the rapidly changing scenario of any possible ground engagement in case Pakistan actually and fully throws its lot in with the Americans. On the other, to the extent that Pakistan continuous to play its current dual and duplicitous role, it could lead American troops into high cost engagements over an extended period of time, even the prize catch, bin Laden, continues to elude them.

The American engagement with Pakistan appears, in some measure, to be based on the old adage, "set a thief to catch a thief." This may be useful if a specific criminal is narrowly targeted. If, however, it is crime itself that is to be countered and neutralized, such collusive arrangements have, through history, proven to be uniquely and overwhelmingly counterproductive. It is inescapable, now, that the global community in general, and USA in particular, concede the reality that any fight against international terrorism must necessarily take into account the relationship between Pakistan and the terrorist Internationale. It would be useful for the West to examine very closely the activities of Pakistani diplomats – especially those with roots in the ISI – in various Western countries over the years, and they would find that the web of terror intensely and imminently threatens many nations in Europe as well. "Diplomatic" activity in Germany is a good case in point. In the beginning of 1994, Lt. Gen. A. Durrani was appointed as the Pakistani ambassador to Germany. Earlier, as a military attaché, he had co-ordinated the clandestine procurement of nuclear equipment by Pakistan from then West Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. During his tenure as ambassador it was widely believed that his role was to co-ordinate the clandestine procurement of nuclear material from Russia and the breakaway states of the Soviet Union as well as the secret supply of arms and ammunition to the Bosnian Muslims and units of the Harkat-ul-Ansar and the Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad operating in Bosnia. Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, is known to have assisted Durrani in the task of organizing Islamist terrorist networks in and from Germany.

There is, of course, some evidence of rethinking in the US strategic community regarding Pakistan’s role and significance even within the limited campaign against Afghanistan, and it is now increasingly clear that the force of the attack, whenever it may be executed, will come from the North – in co-ordination with the forces of the Northern Alliance and from bases in Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan, even as all alternative political avenues are explored to establish a viable transitional regime to replace the Taliban. Simultaneously, a worldwide intelligence based operation appears to have been initiated to attack the financial base and to uncover operational and sleeper terrorist cells. This is consistent with the more effective strategy of engagement that targets the tentacles of the terrorist network and then work inwards, rather than the present publicly held posture that uniquely targets bin Laden and the shifting core of the terrorist network in Afghanistan. It must, however, be understood that the global war against terror will have to be fought in a scenario as complex, confused and murky as the intelligence operations of the Second World War and the Cold War.

In India emerging counter-terrorism perspectives appear to be based on the mistaken notion that the problem can be favourably resolved by throwing in our lot unreservedly with America and its allies. This is dangerous, and entirely misunderstands the imperatives that drive long-term US policy, which has a peculiar proclivity to shift with that country’s own perceived interests. More problematic is the fact that this perspective is based on a projection that retains Kashmir at the center of the Indo-Pak imbroglio. It is, however, my firm conviction that terrorism in Kashmir will decline gradually, even as terrorist activities other parts of India, and particularly in Delhi and Bombay, increase. This will enable Pakistan to deny involvement, and argue that Indian Muslims have been pushed to a point of no return by the government’s "atrocities". The rise in SIMI’s activities and presence is at least one indication that the groundwork for such a gameplan is already in place.

(Published in The Pioneer, October 6, 2001)





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.