Making Sense of Pakistan

Pakistan never ceases to confuse. Hakimullah Mehsud was a threat to Pakistan, ruthlessly killing Pakistanis, soldiers and civilians alike, blowing up men, women and children, the young with the ol...

Pakistan never ceases to confuse. Hakimullah Mehsud was a threat to Pakistan, ruthlessly killing Pakistanis, soldiers and civilians alike, blowing up men, women and children, the young with the old. He threatened to annihilate the Pakistani state. Yet when a drone killed him he was called a martyr as politicians and TV anchors went into collective mourning.
Many Pakistanis don't understand their country either. Nazir Naji wrote a long piece in Dunya News condemning Taliban apologists. How can they have any sympathy for the murderer of young women and children he asked? Saleem Safi asked in Jang, "When will our policy makers and rulers understand that if Pakistan is Terrorstan today it is because of policies based on hypocrisy, lies and conflict….The nation is kept in the dark while an atmosphere of dangerous confusion prevails…Truth is sacrificed at the altar of politics and journalism."
Imran Khan is chief of the Pakistani apologists. With blinkered reasoning he ascribes Pakistan's internal turmoil to American presence in Afghanistan-Remove one and you remove the other. It's what scientists call a causal relationship, except that in this case there is no causal connection. Pakistan's trouble with its religious extremists is a home grown thing; the American presence solicited not imposed. The US did impose itself in 2001 after the Twin Towers attack but even that was an outcome of Pakistan's own policies.
In 1979 Pakistan was in dire straits. Pakistan's first elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had been hanged. The United States had lost interest in the country. Pakistan was an international pariah. President Daoud of Afghanistan firmly believed that Afghanistan's boundary was the Indus River. Bhutto had abandoned Kashmir and Zia unable to revive Western interest in Kashmir, had also lost US military assistance for his army. Then, Daoud was killed in a coup, the Khalq and Parcham factions of the Afghanistans PDP quarrelled, Noor Mohammad Tarakki strangled in bed was replaced by Hafizullah Amin and Soviet troops marched into Afghanistan to stop the infighting.
Zia saw his chance. He lobbied hard to get America involved in Afghanistan. President Carter was still not quite interested but Reagan was, and he persuaded himself that the Islamist fighters of Afghanistan were the moral equivalent of the founding fathers of his own country. These fighters with leaders such as  Burhannudin Rabbani and Gulbudin Hikmatyaar nurtured by Pakistan to destabilize Daoud but driven out to Pakistan now emerged as the core of the Mujahideen that harassed the Soviet Army without respite.
Pakistan began wooing the US right from birth seeking US security cover against India and subventions from its treasury. Liaqat Ali Khan asked for American aid and defence guarantees in 1950. "Our army can be your army" Ayub Khan said to the US Assistant Secretary of Defence in 1954.  Yahya Khan and Ayub Khan offered the US military bases in Pakistan and Zia renewed the offer. Hussain Haqqani in his thoroughly researched book 'Magnificient Delusions' shows American Presidents from Eisenhower to Carter seriously questioning the advantage of the Pakistan connection, but always letting themselves be persuaded by the earnestness with which Pakistan wooed them.
The Russians left in 1989, unwilling to sustain the high attrition rate of fending off the Mujahideen. As the USSR crumbled America lost interest in the region. Military and civilian aid was suspended in 1990 when Bush felt he could no longer certify that Pakistan was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. Pakistan was now free to pursue Zia's vision of replicating the Mujahideen strategy in Kashmir, and even in the Soviet Union.
The US returned to the region post 9/11. Pakistan which had sponsored the Taliban and had links with the Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda pretended to fall in line complaining that America should never have abandoned the region. It played a cat and mouse game with the US, yielding up Arab and Uzbek fighters but defending the Taliban types in Quetta and nourishing the Kashmir Jihadis in low key. It believed it could isolate and sustain components of the terror groups that served Pakistan's strategic interests while throwing the Americans some scraps from the table.  
The circumstances of Pakistan's birth produced one natural enemy-Afghanistan. India became an enemy because of Kashmir. Thereafter the country obsessed over fears of an Indo Afghan alliance. Pashtunistan prevented Pakistan becoming friends with Afghanistan. After the Taliban takeover Pakistan finally had a friendly regime but it carried baggage in the shape of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda lured the Americans back, with hostile intent this time.
Pakistan's troubles are therefore not just due to American presence in Afghanistan. They are self created and self invited, arising out of Pakistan's world view as a centre of world Islamic struggle. To that end it promoted sectarian feeling and encouraged sectarian groups to dedicate themselves to the cause, of Kashmir on the eastern front, the various factions in the Afghan Mujahideen and the Taliban in the west, and saddled itself domestically with the outgrowth of sectarian sentiment after the Lal Masjid incident, the Tehrik e Taliban. It had all sides covered but left itself no escape route. Its scenarios had no exit door if they failed to play out.
Frustrated in Afghanistan by America's extended presence and thwarted in Kashmir Pakistan's strategic assets foreclosed instead on their creator. The frontier Taliban, a collection of disparate groups, coalesced under Nek Mohammad, followed by Baitullah Mehsud and after him Hakimullah Mehsud. All these leaders, while sworn enemies of the US presence in Afghanistan also attacked formations of Pakistan's army compelling it to retreat from the frontier in a series of peace agreements. The army then came to a secret agreement with the US allowing drones to target Al Qaeda remnants and their Pakhtun supporters in Waziristan. Nek Mohammad was killed, then Baitullah Mehsud and now Hakimullah. TTP revenges itself on Pakistan.
Pakistanis distinguish between the good Taliban which fights Americans in Afghanistan, and the bad Taliban, the Pakistani wing that attacks Pakistan. Pakistani's explain the conundrum by conspiracy theories. India and Israel they say are not only funding the TTP they were also behind the suicide bombings, of the attacks on Shias and Ahmadis and so on. Stories were spread that the bodies of Taliban killed fighting the Pakistani army were uncircumcised.
This Indian conspiracy theory is the subject of the hit Pakistani film 'Waar' which depicts India as the culprit creating mayhem in Pakistan. Pakistan's ability to see the TTP as a creation of India, America and Israel, and simultaneously mourn Hakeemullah as a martyr may amaze Indians but it confuses Pakistanis as well. Hakeemullah Mehsud carried a bounty of five million dollars, dead or alive. Why would America offer a reward for and then kill its own agent? The Pakistan Government too had a bounty of five crore rupees on Hakimulla Mehsud. This could only have been because the TTP was an enemy of Pakistan; why then this breast beating over his death? Killing him must be a good thing if he was an Indian agent; it would be equally welcome if he was an enemy of Pakistan. Only two months ago the TTP killed Major General Sanaullah. Last July Gen. Kayani said Pakistan's main enemy was internal terrorism. TTP set conditions for talks, Pakistan wanted unconditional discussion. Who seems to be dictating here?
Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan's Minister for the Interior said that the killing derails the peace process, yet no peace process had begun. Imran Khan threatened to stop NATO supplies through Khyber. Yet he had nothing to say when three Members of the National Assembly belonging to his Tehrik e Insaaf, were killed on the orders of Hakimullah Mehsud. Does Imran stand for Pakistan or the TTP?  
Something is seriously amiss in a country where the army connives at drone attacks on the TTP but mourns their effect; where the government claims its biggest terror organization is a creation of the enemy but is anxious to preserve it. It shows mental confusion; a failure to recognize the real problems of Pakistan, which lie within; in its world view, its paranoia, its assumptions.
In search of identity Pakistan invented many myths, about its origins, its existential self and its prospects. A poor country starting out with nothing Jinnah immediately adopted the notion of Pakistan's strategic indispensability to the western world. The Americans were willing to use Pakistan services but not at the price of defending Pakistan against India. They never accepted the moral suasion; never believed Pakistan's myths, but were always drawn in by the prospect of beating the Russians, or getting Osama bin Laden, or as now, disentangling from the web Pakistan constantly spins. Accompanying this external myth was an internal monologue that supplemented armed confrontation with ideological fervour. Pakistan is ultimately caught in the maze of contradictory narratives. As a supplicant for aid can it treat the main donor as an enemy? Can it promote Islamist violence in the neighbourhood without a blowback at home? Can it pump up ideological fervour and remain a democracy? Pakistan doesn't understand the questions obviously so it doesn't need to give any answers.

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