By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
In Pakistan, Pandora box is almost opened, if not from both ends, but atleast from one side, heavy bombardment has started. The other end has confined to ‘cool’ respond sofar or we can say to gentle reaction and using some adjectives in denying, refuting or rejecting allegations being levelled by ousted and disqualified prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif.
Nasim Zehra, author/anchor has rightly termed the fall-out from former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s interview about Mumbai 26/11 as ‘nauseating hysteria’ that has reduced us to reactionary self-flaggelation. Indeed, Pakistan is no banana republic that a statement like Nawaz’s can put pressure on the army or Pakistan at international forums.
However, it did impact back home. In a hullabaloo of orchestrated reaction, the National Security Committee met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in chair and top brass in attendance to reject Mian Sahib’s statement as totally absurd. It is another story that later official media circumcised the contents of SKA’s press conference in which he claimed that MNS was distorted. PTV only used the presser after ‘necessary omissions’ or censoring it.
Writes Nasim Zehra: “Indian hysteria is contrived and concocted on news that is old and commented upon several times before. How many people from Pakistan: former DG FIA, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, NSA General Durrani and many commentators have specifically mentioned Mumbai and Pakistan involvement, even in India.” Indeed. And regretfully we go berserk like European Jews when holocaust is not mentioned in their perspective. In this contest don’t forget the oft repeated confession of General Pervez Musharraf who feels honour to remind us that he nurtured and nourished LeJ, LeT etc and Hafiz Saeed to support people of Kashmir fighting for freedom against the Indian army. To him to this day Hafiz Saeed is a national hero. I believe someone is writing an interesting book bringing on record how people are divided by the dark state with reference to Imran Khan’s disclosure that once he was requested by leaders of Sipah-e-Sahaba to broker peace between SeS and Shias to end the fratricidal conflict they were being egged on by the army.
Today, Pakistan is the twin target of American policy towards Iran and Pakistan’s own nuclear programme. President Trump’s success in tackling North Korea has made him more reckless. With India supporting him, his troops firmly holding onto Afghanistan and a puppet government to back him, he feels that he is in a comfortable position to first prick Pakistan using soft diplomatic paddling, and then slowly moving onward to strike the final blow.
Ever since Mian Sahib’s interview Pakistan has hit jackpot of controversy. The demand for putting the former PM in a pillory for committing an act of treason is rising like crescendo and why not he has ventured to walk into the hornets’ nest and vultures who thrive on media’s affection are out there to devour him. And in this state of confusion worst confounded is our myopic vision that cannot see beyond usual suspects. People who matter think that the solution to our problem lies in blaming the usual traditional suspects while forgetting that currently we are paying for not ‘doing more’ as demanded by our erstwhile friends of 60 years. They have been given the impression over the years by our people that it is us who have that much of influence in Afghanistan that we can get them suzerainty of the strife-torn country on a platter by bringing the Taliban and other forces on the conference table to agree to a political settlement. Whether one likes it or not, Pakistani establishment has been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds since the time of General Pervez Musharraf and because of his policy to keep the American support for him on his leash. He had neither domestic following nor electoral legitimacy. His mainstay of power was his uniform as Army Chief and externally American support. He would do anything that Americans ordered him. He dropped as hot potato the patronage he had been giving to organisations such LeT, LeJ etc when served a notice by erstwhile US Secretary of State Colin Powell – “you are with us or with them”.
President Field Marshal Ayub Khan recorded in his book of lamentations – Friends Not Masters (or book of Shikwa and Shikayat) how Americans betrayed him and Pakistan. His friendship with Washington had given it not only a foothold for its armed forces to operate from it, an airbase near Peshawar to fly its spy planes over the Soviet Union, a carte blanche of ingress in government, Establishment, intelligence agencies and political parties. This penetration was so deep and widely spread that one could see and feel American influence in everything. According to martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his book Myth of Independence, Americans had a say in posting of section officers in the government. This infliction on our sovereignty was covered by an illustration of Pakistani flag with rising crescent along with American-star spangled handshake stamped on containers carrying wheat in our days of wheat shortage – a sure sign of over-dependence.
Today Pakistan is twin target of American policy towards Iran and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. President Trump’s success in tackling North Koreans has given him confidence to be more reckless. With India supporting him, his troops firmly holding onto Afghanistan and a puppet government to back him, he feels that he is comfortably in a position to first pin prick Pakistan by soft diplomatic paddling to move slowly onward to strike the final blow.
Most regretfully Establishment’s myopic vision cannot see through the American game. It is happy with its claims that it has demolished all terrorists’ safe heavens of Haqqani Network and other Taliban and that it is no more dependent on the Americans. And in a policy change it is mainstreaming the terrorists. It is said under the cover of mainstreaming Taliban are returning back into Wana and North Waziristan. There is genuine reason for PTM to raise its concern especially when the whole idea of mainstreaming is projected on TV channels by such defence experts like Lt General (Retd) Amjad Shoaib who claim access to eyes and ears of the top military brass. Besides, it is intriguing quiet on the fate of terrorist TTP leader Ehsanulah Ehsan living in comfort as a state guest after being involved in the massacre of over 150 APS children.
Pakistan needs to put its priorities right. Instead of resorting to tit for tat diplomacy it needs to be pragmatic while dealing with Washington. It must remember that the Americans would not let it get away easy. After all they have invested billions of dollars to sustain our defence infra-structure and they are not going to leave us ever. What we need to do is to put the house in order, have civil and military leadership on same page and to see that both do not create new fissures to give space to outsiders to take advantage. One must underscore the fact that fissures within such as current Pakhtun agitation could prove to be more lethal in unravelling the country than machinations from outside. By not redressing the Pakhtun and their grievances, space is being given to Americans and others to exploit the situation to their own advantage.
(The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)