The chickens coming home to roost
The Special Corps Commanders Conference chaired by COAS General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani expressed its concern over the negative statements emanating from the US. At the same time it rejected all allegations against the ISI regarding support to the Haqqani network. The conference concluded its statement by reiterating the military’s commitment to enduring peace in the region. Centcom Commander General Mattis held meetings with the COAS and CJCSC General Wyne to address the irritants in the Pakistan-US relationship. On the face of it, although not much is known about these exchanges, the tone of the Corps Commanders and the CJCSC appeared to be one of seeking to defuse tensions. This relatively sober response from the top brass of the military should come as no surprise. They know perhaps better than anyone else the stakes involved. Nevertheless, given the unprecedented belligerent tone of the American statements, the defence forces seem to be preparing for the worst case scenario: attacks by the US forces against the Haqqani network’s safe havens in North Waziristan (and perhaps Kurram Agency).
Following in the military’s footsteps, the government seeks to mobilise all the political forces in defence of the country’s sovereignty, implying also defence of the military-dictated foreign and security policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan. After contacting most of the political leadership of the country, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has convened an All Parties Conference on September 29. The purpose obviously is to garner political support across the board for the military’s stance. What helps this process of course is the hackneyed appeal to patriotism, which, as everyone knows, is often the last refuge…
On the other side of the divide, Republican Senator and member of the powerful Armed Services Committee Lindsay Graham wants Pakistan “put on notice” regarding its ties with the Haqqanis. White House adviser David Plouffe says the Obama administration is considering various options to persuade Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network. That could include a suspension of aid, which in any case has been made conditional on cooperation against the network as far as the latest package of $ 1 billion passed by Congress is concerned.
While all this verbal sparring is in progress, Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of firing more than 300 rockets and artillery shells across the border over the last five days, causing civilian casualties and damage. Our military has denied any such barrage. The chorus advocating Afghan retaliation against Pakistan for an earlier alleged barrage was held back by President Karzai in July. However, the cause for concern is that if these bombardments are traced to our side of the border, Kabul would have a strong international diplomatic case for retaliation, particularly since it would be able to point to the cross-border insurgency emanating from safe havens in Pakistan. Needless to say, the issue needs to be understood objectively. Whereas Pakistan stands accused of harbouring and encouraging the Taliban insurgency, Afghanistan (and the US/Nato combine) can at best be blamed for their inability to deny our Taliban (the TTP) safe havens courtesy the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan. If Pakistan reserves to itself the right to retaliate across the border for attacks from that side, could not that very argument be turned against Pakistan? Obviously wisdom requires that all sides proceed with caution, exercise restraint in public statements, and ensure that the greater objective of the anti-terrorism campaign, peace in the whole region, is enabled through trilateral cooperation.
As to the reflexive argument in parts of our media that the Haqqanis were sourced by and still retain links with the US, it is a fact that both Washington and Islamabad created, funded, armed, trained and unleashed extremists in the name of jihad, an enterprise that has come back to haunt all sides in this potpourri. The blowback from the ill-thought-through reliance on fanatical forces to wage jihad is now here in full force. However, there is no satisfaction in this prediction coming true. Only a sad wisdom that the chickens are finally coming home to roost. What should not happen however is that fissures between the ‘allies’ cause the terrorists to break out in whoops of joy while they continue their deadly work.