Published in NATION Pakistan on 25 Dec 2010
The message being sent to Pakistan in the post Wikileaks scenario is ominous and bereft of diplomatic dignity. “We will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with,” said President Obama. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, put it more bluntly: “Don’t just put a finger in their chest, put a fist in their chest.” As predicated in my columns, USA is expanding the drone war into Pakistan while our national leaders continue to put a façade of protest in the backdrop of tacit compliance.
If USA is adamant in pushing its own interests in Afghanistan and remains insensitive to Pakistan’s security, ethnic and other social concerns, Pakistan is well within its right to pursue its own ends of policy. After all it was these objectives that formed the basis of Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in the war against USSR and allowed free access to Afghans for over two decades. More than 70% population of Afghanistan is ethnically, linguistically and culturally linked to Pakistan. Despite the Durand Line, the ethnic Pashtuns and Gujjars have been flowing to and fro for centuries. The Powindas, as we call them, have rights to grazing meadows, encampments and movements as if it was their own country. Cognitively they are as much Pakistani as those living on this side of the divide. A deliberate effort is now being made to label this cross border movement as sanctuaries and lump the blame for failures on Pakistan.
Pakistan’s objectives have been consistent and USA was aware of these sensitivities once it embarked on its Shock and Awe in Afghanistan. To expect Pakistan to forego these historic, cultural, family and religious linkages to the chagrin of its public sentiments and long term interests is tantamount to asking Pakistan’s surrender.
Agreed, that within the big power play, small countries enjoy little freedom of action, but as the war of non state actors expands, the lesson is clear; it is possible to resist and defy super powers with a cause that has public appeal. Non State Actors like Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Wikileaks have proved so and Nation states backed by its people must do so as well.
On the systemic spectrum of national power, these idiosyncratic notions of leadership, national character, morale and ability to seize fleeting opportunities is what all successful nations of the world have capitalised on. Many have reinvented themselves in crises. Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Germany, the Balkans, Iran, Venezuela and the people of Afghanistan poignantly demonstrate what national will and character can accomplish. Amongst these, countries have achieved indigenous self reliance while challenging the international equilibrium through prolonged struggles based on inherent motivations, dignity and self respect.
USA too went through this phase during the American Civil War but forgot the sociology of a conflict when it shifted its national purpose and strategy to the use of Long Arm for global dominance. As more economic centres to balance the US Global Dominance will emerge, the competition will stiffen and tensions heighten. Hence before this multilayered balance of power stabilises, USA seeks to permanently entrench itself in the region to reap resource benefits and dominate the underbelly of Russia and China. In the bargain, it also establishes a strategic presence in the Islamic Heartland that it perceives as a future threat much beyond the non state actors.
In this quest to seize the global resources of the future, US in the short and medium term will not hesitate to use its Long Arm through fanning, prolonging and expanding conflicts in the zones of strategic importance. The entire arc from West to Central Asia is one such zone of conflict in which USA factorises Israel and India to act as two important citadels on the flanks. Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the eye of this storm.
This entire zone lacks democratic credentials. Most of the countries in the region are Muslim with dictatorships and kingdoms supported by USA. The publicly acclaimed US slogan of bringing democracy is a farce to say the least. It supports dictators and divisive religious policies to cement its presence in the region to the extent of interventions at the micro levels. USA calls all the shots.
First in line are the dictators and kings who need a US umbrella for their survival and reciprocate the services by allowing their sovereignty to be nibbled. The Saudis will not hesitate to request USA to bomb Iran to pulp or choose to look the other way if Israel does so. Egyptians and Jordanians will look the other way when Israel kills and maims Palestinians or constructs illegal housings.
Then there are countries vacillating between dictatorships and sham democracies with weak institutions, dependant on US/Arab support for economic and political survival. These countries are also exposed to the strings of International Financial Institutions whose controls lie in Washington and represent another dimension of non state interventionism. Pakistanis will permit micro management of its affairs and look the other way when US drones kill more innocent than Al Qaeda. Afghans will play sides and stack away millions of dollars just in case they have to make the run once they are ousted.
Third are the sea of emotions of deprivation, political marginalisation, betrayal, strong feelings of ethno-religious identity and surviving on the fringe. Their political leaders in power do not represent their feelings. These are the neglected lot whose emotions overflow the brim; who can act violently to preserve their national identity whilst some could fall victims to the extremist agenda. These are the downtrodden that hold the key to the fleeting opportunities of national character and morale.
It is time to admit that the resistance to US occupation in Afghanistan is as much indigenous as it was during the British Afghan Wars and the Soviet Invasion. It is not led by the Taliban alone but also comprises politically and ethnically diverse groups such as Younis Khalis, Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Haqqanis. As the resistance increases, in Kanduz and northern Afghanistan, it also indicates that despite a decade, the fire of Afghan pride is conflagrating. If USA does not resort to engagement methods other than the long war, it assures that it will meet its biggest defeats at the hand of rag tags for the second time after Viet Nam.
It is high time the US Policy Makers realise; once bitten, twice shy.