US Ike Lashes FATA-Pakistan

Posted in Pakistan | 25-Sep-08 | Author: Muhammad Aslam Khan

Pakistani civil right activists protest against the US missile strikes in the country's tribal areas in Lahore.

The first blessing is peace, as is agreed upon by all men

who have even a small share of reason….The best general,

therefore, is that one who is able to bring about peace from war[1].


Threat of US military incursions into Pakistan territory of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) lashed FATA metaphorically no less than Ike, evoking a sharp reaction from entire populace through the length and breadth of the country. Hundreds of tribal warriors who were cooperating with the Government, at least to the extent that they were not filling ‘Taliban’ ranks against America, stood totally charged with frenzy, claiming to organize a “lashkar’ of several thousand people and raid U.S. military installations inside Afghanistan. Malik Nasarullah Khan, an influential tribal leader of NWA2 instantly vowed to fight intruding US forces, alongside Pakistan Army. As if vast stock of existing monumental simmering ‘hate’ against US in NWFP/Pakistan was not enough, the US policy shift on the board sparked the nationalist ire of 160 million people overnight, now to stand against the US as defiants instead of allies.

George W. Bush team, in the percepts of ‘International Relations’ (IR) theorists, has remained plagued by persistent dichotomy between its slogans and acts. Some of the most learned scholars and the government top functionaries have admitted to be ignorant of the mystery of waging war on Iraq by George W Bush. George Packer’s comment about this aspect is overwhelming, ‘It still is not possible to be sure and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq war3.” Since the dawn of new millennium, disregard to challenges it faced that are, a larger crop of intellectuals has come to believe, its own ‘object d’art’, one thing has emerged totally clear that it has failed to contribute even by an iota towards restoration of peace and tranquility of the target nations, it swore to reconstruct and democratize. In fact, if any thing sustains, that is the destruction, blood and agony and world should have remembered US trails from Vietnam and Indo-China days, “Suppose that system of thought control reestablishes the doctrine that the United States remains exempt from the principles we correctly but hypocritically invoke in condemning the resort to force and terror on the part of others. Then the basis is laid for the next stage of imperial violence and aggression. As long as these doctrine hold sway, there is every reason to expect a re-enactment of the tragedy of Vietnam4”, thus wrote Noam Chomsky that holds like a thumb-rule for weaker nations even today. Beyond doubt, the miseries and schism among societies on the US hair-line-cross are widening in severity and relevance. In Iraq, the post-invasion analyses ultimately pressured US to acknowledge that it targeted Iraq under wrong assumptions and beliefs. In other words, the entire US population as well as the world was misled by a power that has onerous responsibility to lead us to the lasting virtues.

The series of aerial engagements over the past few months in FATA, to which sovereign status of the state was as precariously vulnerable as the ground incursions, could not condition, particularly the new military leadership and generally the emerging civil government. Within minutes of the US disclosure that its forces would operate in FATA, there was befitting response from Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS), firmly telling US that such ventures could never be feasible since Pakistan had the right of self-defense. Much sooner than the response time, whole Pakistani nation stood by COAS rebuttal which has become sick of supporting US beyond our capacity from the time when Pervez Musharraf had clung to his lonely plank, cheated own Army to save his ‘lolling-in-the perks’ posture. The melodrama was watched by entire nation during seven long years of a dictatorial rule propped up by U.S., Pervez Musharraf’s personal atrocities perpetrated on the individuals and the families notwithstanding that would keep him washing blood of the innocents off his hands like Lady Macbeth as long as he survives. The world, particularly the West, does not fathom the consequential degree of grief, Pakistan support for coalition forces has heaped on FATA as well as the whole country. String of indiscriminate counter insurgency operations ordered by the dictator conducted under US coaxing that, according to her were never enough, crystallized a great divide between the public and the administration approaches to the issues since 2002. The majority of ‘pashtuns’ in NWFP and FATA concedes to the US grievance that the coalition forces are being targeted by the Alqaeda-Taliban outfits who take refuge in FATA areas to recoup and refit for attacks in Afghanistan. The US appears determined to pulverize them disregard to the magnitude of accruing collateral damage and demands Pakistan do the same. Having superior means of battlefield intelligence gathering, US recently developed a sort of suspicion and a niche to undertake independent operations using predators and now active ground operations in FATA. Angoor Ada violation of 4 September 2008 when US troops conducted a swift ground operation has become difficult to digest. Here is the dissent of not only the Government and Pakistan Army but also of every individual of the state. Killing of innocent children and women is not acceptable at all because of foreign troop’s aggression and larger segment pleads for the dialogue through ‘jirga’ system that worked perfectly well since Pakistan’s colonial days to tackle all thorny issues. The situation even alarmed Netherlands based NGO, IKV Pax Christi, that chided the US new strategy as disastrous while US Congressman, Dennis Kucinich labeled Bush authorization of US attacks inside Pakistan a threat to world security, adding that, “ The President is once again violating International Law by invading yet another country which has not attacked the United states5.”

Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, a committed peace activist and a philanthropist, president and founder of WSN Foundation, in one of his recent articles sounded great concern against FATA bombing in isolation without engaging the conflicting parties through multi-pronged strategy. While listening to him in ‘Berlin Round Table of WSN (28-29 May 2008)’ in Hotel Adlon, Berlin (Germany), organized through his exclusive initiative, he particularly appeared moved about the pathetic plight of FATA population and those innocent women and children caught in the cross fire. He put forth the strategy to win the hearts and minds of the tribal people of FATA through combined application of soft power for the tribals in friendly mind-zone and hard power against the unyielding militants. His compassion for Afghan people is understandable because he traversed long distances with them during the Soviets occupation of Afghanistan when these people were termed as ‘holy warriors’ by the likes of Mr. Brzezinski. The conference addressed main issues like the threat to EU if it failed in Afghanistan, a radicalization of Pakistan and the breeding of terrorists in this strategically important part of the world. After my informal exchange of views with some of the participating6 scholars, EU States representatives, diplomats and retired generals on the sidelines of the conference, they wished to see NATO mission as success. However, they preferred strategies that should in essence build up the crop of friendly and cooperating tribals with the passage of each day by alleviating the hardships of those who do not support Taliban or Al-Quaeda. Now complicated security environments are surfacing with US/Afghanistan and Pakistan at the center stage. It would be pertinent to sum up, how the new democratic set up is emerging in Pakistan and the US role in it that is generally not in the international focus, as it would matter in the quality of response on both sides of the Durand Line.

The nascent civil rule in Pakistan that has taken feeble roots after demolition of dictatorship by the two leading political parties is just securing the grip to cleanse the domestic rot that Pervez Musharraf left. PML (N) party led by Nawaz Sharif has its own manifesto based on values while PPP led by Asif Ali Zardari, now President as well, has equally forceful agenda for the masses emancipation but differs with PML (N) on the mode and timings. The two parties, however, despite the sweet and sour somersaults of PPP, are alive to the fact that there is no room for both of them to steer in different directions. The president believes in playing ruses in the politics while dealing with difficult and contentious issues while political morality and ethics have low precedence for him. That has made considerable dent to his party’s popularity, which turns out to be the gain for PML (N). Fortunately, in all the four provinces, the sitting provincial governments are showing remarkable responsibility with a covert sense of competition among them, particularly the Punjab versus the rest. In Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif has commenced his ‘head-down on the wheel of good governance’, mode as an astute ship- captain, curtly questioning the corrupt and lethargic bureaucracy that is comfortably competing with the dictators since independence (1947), who ruined the country the most? Intelligentsia also believes that the President if unable to check the fondness of his hawkish party leaders and Governor Punjab to dethrone Mr. Shahbaz Sharif from the Chief Minister slot, he is unlikely to rule from the Federation pedestal peacefully. Such tremor in the domestic politics would alienate Peoples Party from the masses further. Instead the party stalwarts need to labor hard to improve party image as it is evident from the dictates of February General Elections, particularly in Punjab with the largest population. On the international issues, a thin crest of consensus holds between the two main political parties i.e. PPP and PML (N). Let us see, in the entire process, what had been the US conduct.

American meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs before and after the general elections to keep Pervez Musharraf firmly planted is an open secret but it failed miserably in the face of popular demand that Musharraf better quit the scene. In fact, mishandling of some national and international issues by Musharraf to appease USA blindly, added insult to the national injury when these episodes were made the subject of well-orchestrated campaign, launched by the ever-protesting opposition against him. Lawyers’ Movement led by Munir Malik and later Choudhary Aitezaz Ahsan afforded tons of support that continues until now. It thus, turned to be a recipe of disaster for Pervez Musharraf. Left with no option but to dump Pervez Musharraf, America embarked on an adventure to carve out a government that would protect their stakes in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan in total deviation to the accepted norms of International Laws. PPP, reluctantly recognized as an acceptable political party for US, became the right choice to do business with, not because it was the top of the list but because its several leaders including Mr. Asif Ali Zardari desperately needed bail out from the snares meticulously kept alive by Pervez Musharraf. Obliging them thus by securing waivers and blanket immunity from the alleged crimes in form of notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance at the behest of Pervez Musharraf, has placed PPP leadership in a tight grid-lock of the US with obligations slapped on PPP to pay back its debt of gratitude to Americans. The President and other party stalwarts may blow hot against US territorial incursions in public hearing but in reality, they are not going to radically alter the course of on-going docility and ambivalence meted to our Afghan-US policy. The choice would narrow down soon as anti-US sentiments would exacerbate and PPP would have no option but to bow out in favor of popular sentiments against US raids. Conversely, if the government sticks to the policy of US-appeasement, it would be a test case crisis for her to wade through because its stance would not be in harmony with the mainstream public.

Rightist and the right-leaning parties, maintaining clean reputation on the national index including PML (N), Jammat-e-Islami led by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Imran Khan’s PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) and Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s faction stand sidelined from the national power politics by America. No doubt, they have picked up bold stand on issues like restoration of judiciary to 2 November 2007 status, Kargil Debacle, Baluchistan, Lal Masjid and FATA crisis. US support for the government will continue through all kind of maneuvers on these issues as long as it toes US line of action. In other words, internal destability and political disharmony rampant in Pakistan, intelligentsia maintains, is the crafty firework of the US. Strange enough, US also wants to alter the essence of some sensitive institutions like Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) so that it is cut to her favorite designs. There is clear writing on the wall that longer the resultant chaos persists; it would achieve the capability of hatching out several new but dangerous issues that would be hard to tackle even by our Metternich or Castlereag, if at all we are lucky to find one. With simmering political dissention at its climax already, PPP would have excuses available to dump its failure on other political parties or the Army for not cooperating, even in the name of national interests. Tug of war would end up, may be in fresh elections or forms that are more dangerous if violence erupts and law and order situation deteriorates.

Now the big question comes up, why America is hell bent to attack the territory of its ally that has sacrificed several thousand troops, killed or maimed while collaborating with it in war on terror. In the process, our fragmenting national unity has never caught its (and also of the EU) attention because that may be a welcome change for her as long as US national interests stand served perfectly in line with Richelieu’s concept of raison d’etat, “interests of the state justify the means7”. Some incentives or geo-political and politico-military considerations that America seems to have are:

1) It is so because long drawn battles in Iraq and Afghanistan with defiant Iran, Russia, China (discreetly), Venezuela, not too happy Middle East, Latin American woes, recently Pakistan, not too supportive Europe down to the hilt, weight of responsibility as the super power and finally self-assumed obligation of its force projection universally has rendered the US leadership victim of siege mentality after landing in a sort of blind alley syndrome. Today after such moves as the one it is inclined to undertake against Pakistan, it may have allies but fewer trusted friends than a decade ago. Unfortunately, US Administration takes the entire world as loonies as if they have not followed her militarily jinxed adventure in past seven years. After 9/11, first attack Afghanistan, no; not a prestige target, attack Iraq! Iraq attacked under wrong assumption turned out to be a hard nut, go back to Afghanistan and now take a side roll to Pakistan! The super power has made football out of the planet and she is the referee herself. NATO allies made it clear to US instantly and rightly that their operational zone ends at Afghan borders. A message that must have sent chill to US provided its spine is left with some life. US not only hurled an irresponsible threat to its ally, Pakistan, but also embarrassed its NATO allies whom the threat perhaps hit like a bolt also.

2) US in the global power game are wary of China’s influence expansion in energy rich areas as well as the neighbors like Pakistan and Central Asia. The kind of destability simmering in FATA and adjoining Northern Areas through which KKH (Kara Kuram Highway) meanders, linking China to Gwadar Port shall seal not only Chinese global business prospects through this approach but also its geo-strategic posture. China has already clamored about the West’s inclination to stoke insurgency environments in Xingjian province of China. From Pakistan territory, covert physical incursions by US trained Uighar militants would become feasible to keep Gwadar Route and thus China on the hook.

3) Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline is almost a reality. On the other hand, reportedly Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already been provided with proofs of Afghan Government’s involvement or being a conduit in Balochistan insurgency that could not embark on this kind of adventure without US knowledge. While US bashing of FATA and hence Pakistan continues, igniting Balochs’ insurgency to challenge writ of Pakistani government would pay them rich dividends if peace becomes absent from Baluchistan. IPI middle segment of the three countries snipped off thus, the project would sit like a duck on the board. It would also reinforce the US efforts to strangle Iran economically under Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (no longer applicable to Libya). Along with that, there is persistent pressure on Pakistan through different guise and games to make its nuclear capability untenable by foreign powers that be. Erstwhile ‘Islamic’ bomb phobia now coincides with ‘Islam phobia’ that even some Western writers are persistently cautioning against to reject such notions but who cares.

4) Alarmed by the Russo-Georgian conflict and suspecting Russian desire to regain empire, the FATA adventure for US has relevance that offers her a pretext for shifting troops from Iraq and undertaking assembly of forces in Afghanistan being geographically contiguous to oil and gas rich Caspian Region. With Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline safety prospects getting murky and the Russian ability to militarize Caspian Sea bed in matter of days by employing its naval capability from Seaport8 of Astrakhan, US plan to shift Kazak oil and Turkmenistan gas to the Mediterranean Sea port of Ceyhan (Turkey) shall remain dashed. Russia and Iran have moral high ground to intervene as the Caspian Sea legal status is yet to be resolved among the Caspian littorals. Thus, the ‘New Great Game’ build up in Central Eurasia would force US to protect energy routes. This contingency would be possible to execute only if it has sizeable assembly of forces as deterrence or in worst-case scenario, a worthwhile capability for physical conduct of ground and air operations. Through prolonged stay in Afghanistan with a renewed focus on FATA, the base of operation would remain available to US against China or Russia. US would thus have superior strategic orientation. Note that it is already operating an air base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan and India, its new strategic partner after recent nuclear deal has one in Tajikistan.

How justified US contemplated aggression would be in FATA? In the language of IR, it is called, euphemistically, as ‘intervention’ and no world body including UN has been able to prescribe the ground rules for intervention. The debate rages among the scholars and the institutions to allow a margin of ‘intervention’ when it is on ‘humanitarian’ basis or is resorted to under the ‘right of self-defense. However, it has to satisfy a long array of preconditions. Majority of international lawyers, called ‘restrictionists’, opine that Article 21(4) of UN Charter renders even forcible humanitarian intervention illegal. Intervention based on right of self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter is again vetted through several conditions. The point is that UN ensures that such clauses are never transgressed in the power game. Some argued that while government and citizen have moral duties to rescue suffering humanity, these should be discharged by non-violent means since the use of force is always inimical to moral ends. If there is debate over whether the use of force can promote humanitarian values and long-term reconstruction in murderous and/or failed states, then there is also the question as to whether the states can be trusted with the responsibility to act as armed agents of common humanity9. In the current situation, US taken as a super power operating in an alien country can invoke none of the two clauses. Some international best practices exist where intervention was taken with or without the consent of world bodies but even those have remained a subject of great controversy. International intervention in Northern Iraq in 1991 had humanitarian motives as well as the outcome. Soviets intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 had neither humanitarian motives nor the exercise of right of self-defense. Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia in 1978 had no humanitarian motives but moot pretext of right of self-defense. However, when Khmer Rouge stood removed from the scene, it turned out to be the most useful adventure to serve humanitarian motives. In current case, where does Pakistan territory stand to be a legitimate target for intervention? If US do not renounce its intervention motives against Pakistan, it would cause ever-biggest laughter to the entire world community about the pretext of entering the Pakistan territory.

Above discussion leads us logically to some conclusions:

  • US war on terror is fast loosing credibility as the world has seen the overt claims much different from the covert thrusts.
  • Pakistan as an ally needs to be treated with respect and dignity. Its valiant forces are shedding blood for the security of the Western powers as an honest partner in the war on terror. Its civilian causalities (471)10 at the hands of suicide bombers until August 2008 surpass the figures of Iraq and Afghanistan for the same period.
  • War on terror has to be viewed in realistic and historic perspective and life of millions of people be not made hostage to the lurking hallucinations. Sincerity to the mankind must prevail than the Richelieu’s concept, which at times appeared a gaffe only but now taken as words of Bible because it suits a power that is addicted to ‘exceptionalism’. International organizations like, UN, EU, OIC and SCO have to play effective role. They should not remain mute bye-standers because their charters’ credibility as well as acceptability by the weaker and grieved nations is very high whom the threat of aggression haunts every now and then.
  • It is time that US permits breather to the FATA people as well as remaining Pakistani society and stops meddling in its internal affairs to enable them to chart their course as of free will. At the same time, Pakistani nation must make determined effort to measure up to the crises with bold and transparent approaches when every one puts aside his ‘self’ for the sake of country.
  • Pakistan must not provoke US unnecessarily but if the intervention (read aggression) is imposed on it, face it squarely without any foreign aid through the kind of sacrifices Pakistan is familiar with. There should be no room for despondency with its politicians at the helm of affairs. God has given Pakistan the best kind of a gift in form of a professional Army that is efficiently led and is traditionally battle worthy. Their conduct of operation under nerve testing environments of Siachin, Kargil and FATA entitles them for a very rich tribute and thorough commendation of their perilous professional pursuits.
  • Political parties’ race for grabbing bigger piece of pie has introduced an element that can be safely called as ‘dangerous’, which is the basic cause of the entire rot Pakistan is facing after elections. No foreign power can force the lawmakers if they shun horse-trading and remove ‘for sale’ tag from their mortal bodies to serve the country. The episode like offering one billion rupees bribe to a judge of a supreme court, Mr. Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday by a person no less than ex President Pervez Musharraf himself is dark chapter of history now. While the public must salute the fragile judge who contemptuously declined the ex President’s criminal offer, Pakistani nation should condemn bribe offering ventures that corrupt the virtuous persons vociferously in a manner that corruption seeking turns out to be a dangerous pursuit.
  • Seeing the past and present behavior of our ally, US, since mid 50s, the world remembers, that Pakistan have been loyal to US agenda like a proverbial turtle, ferrying a scorpion11 across the river on its back because they were allies. Protest by the turtle, once scorpion announced in the middle of the watercourse that he was going to sting him, was flung by the scorpion, saying: ‘well, live or die, sting I shall, that is my habit’. It is time that Pakistani nation perceives Pak-US equation in realistic order and dumps the emotional relationship away. Pakistan should be ready to be stung and at the same time, keep the contingencies handy to swim across the tides.

(BrigGen (Retd) Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi is a member of WSN International Advisory Board and also an author of a book, “The New Great Game: Oil and Gas Politics in Central Eurasia” published by a US publisher, simultaneously from New York, London and Swansea under his acronym, Dr. Makni)

End Notes

1 . Lynn Montross, ‘War Through Ages”, (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, Evanston and London-1960) p. 116.

[2]. NWA denotes North Waziristan Agency. Administered by Tochi Scouts, it has Headquarters at Mirnshah and is largely inhabited by Wazir and Dawarr tribes.

[3]. George Packer, “The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq’ (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 2005), P. 46

[4]. Noam Chomsky, “ Towards a New Cold War,” (The New Press, New York, 2003) p. 164

[5] . “ Bush Jeopardizing World SecurityThe News (Pakistan), 14 September 2008, p.1

[6] . To list some prominent participants, though the list is not exhaustive, were Dieter Farwick, Kunt Abaham, Gen (Ret) Goetz Gliemeroth, Riaz Hussain Khokar, Dr. Hein G Kiessling, Dr. Heinrich Kreft, Sir Paul Lever, Gen (Ret) Dr. Klaus Naumann, Dr. Henning Rieke, Abdul Aziz o Sager, Alexandre Stutzmann, Dr. Hans-Jurgen Wolff, Gen (Ret) Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, Dr August Hannig, Eckart von Klaeden, Dr. Rainer Stinner and a dozen more. The participants had the honor to dine with Guenter Schabowsky at Hartmann’s Restaurant, member of GDR, SED Politburo, who had opened the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

[7] . Henry Kissinger, “Diplomacy” (Simon & Schuster, London, Sydney, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Toronto, 1995) p.810.

[8] . Reference to Astrakhan as Seaport appears in some accounts but that is misnomer. It is not (Caspian) Seaport like the one at Baku, Neka or Turkmenbashi but the Russian naval facility located on Volga River, the largest river that drains into Caspian Sea near Astrakhan.

[9] . Nicholas J. Wheeler and Alex J. Bellamy, “Humanitarian Intervention in World Politics”, in John Baylis & Steve Smith(Ed): The Globalization of World politics, (Oxford University Press, 2006) p. 556.

[10] . “Pakistan Tops in Suicide Bombing DeathsThe News (Pakistan), 16 September 2008, p.1.

[11] . The metaphor is merely meant to highlight the degree to which Pakistani public has come to think of our one sided romance with United States through decades. However, Pakistan is certainly not a ‘Turtle’ and US is not a ‘Scorpion’.