By Sajjad Shaukat
The grim tragedy which the United States suffered on September 11, 2001 through suicidal bombings on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon resulted into the death of more than 55000 innocent persons. This still remains fresh in the minds of Americans and people of other countries.
In the drastic aftermath, the US held Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden responsible for the incident and attacked Afghanistan where he had taken shelter.
A majority of the small and major countries joined American global war on terror, and Pakistan also joined it as the frontline state. Some Pakistanis criticized the then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in this respect. But, they do not know that we are living in a world of unequal order. Financial dependence always brings political dependence in its wake. And, while making decision on foreign issues, a number of factors are considered. In these terms, Pakistan not only faces acute financial crisis, but also depends upon foreign loans, while all the major financial institutes like IMF and World Bank are controlled by America. Besides, Pakistan also faces hostile factor of India. Taking cognizance of all the related-factors, Islamabad decided to join the US war on terror.
In the aftermath of 9/11 events, the then President George W. Bush threatened all the countries, including major powers by saying, “You are either with us or with terrorists.”
In his book, “In the Line of Fire”, Gen. Pervez Musharraf pointed out that the then US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage had told the director general of Pakistan’s intelligence—the choice was clear—with America or the terrorists. And, if Pakistan chose the terrorists, it should be “prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age.”
Now, American President Donald Trump is taking the US back to the Stone Age owing to his political follies and by continuing the phony global war on terror in its worst form.
However, Pakistan was also granted the status of non-NATO ally by Washington because of the early successes, achieved by Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al Qaeda militants. Within a few years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, they started accusing Pak Army and ISI of supporting the Afghan Taliban. US high officials and their media not only blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, but also presumed that a plot to attack the US homeland would be prepared in FATA (Tribal areas) where safe-havens of Al-Qaeda exist. They also constantly emphasized Pakistan to ‘do more’ against the militants and continued drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas by ignoring the internal backlash in the country.
As part of the US double game, America ignored the sacrifices of the Pakistan’s armed forces which had broken the backbone of the Taliban militants through successful Swat and Malakand military operations, while country’s primary intelligence agency ISI had arrested renowned Taliban commanders, including other militants and masterminds of Al-Qaeda, namely Abu Zubaida, Khalfan, Abu Hamza Rabia, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bardar etc. In this context, the then Interior Minister, Rehman Malik stated on, May 2, 2011 that ISI has castigated more than 2,000 suicide attacks. In this respect, on the one side, American high officials admired Pakistan, while on the other; they continued their blame game against Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies.
Meanwhile, on 26th of November 2011, two American Apache helicopters and two F-15 Eagle fighter jets targeted the two Pakistani posts, situated on Pak-Afghan border at Salala in the Mohmand Agency and martyred 24 Pakistani military personnel indiscriminately.
That aerial attack was coordinated and deliberate, its second phase carried out by American forces after the Pakistan Army informed the International Security Force (ISAF) command in Afghanistan that their forces were attacking Pakistani troops–and despite this information, it continued.
In this regard, a NATO inquiry said that both sides had made mistakes. Islamabad categorically rejected the inquiry report.
Reacting to the Salala attack, Pakistan had blocked the NATO ground lines of communication to Afghanistan and demanded an apology from the US before the supply line would be unblocked.
Pakistan’s parliament unanimously had approved recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) in connection with the re-engagement with the United States. Besides other matters, the recommendations included an immediate cessation of drone attacks and infiltration into Pakistani territory, entailing some conditions regarding supply to NATO forces in Afghanistan across the country.
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the November 26 incident in Mohmand Agency, Pakistan’s bold steps such as vacation of the Shamsi Airbase, boycott the second Bonn Conference and rejection of the US investigation report regarding the deliberate attack on Salala Army check-posts intensified tension between Islamabad and Washington.
Some American top officials had accused Pakistan-based Haqqani militants behind the well-coordinated attacks in Afghanistan, which occurred on April 15, 2012. US aim was to pressurize Islamabad for restoration of the NATO transit routes.
It is notable that confused in their goals, sometimes US high officials praised Pak sacrifices regarding war on terror, sometimes, admitted that stability cannot be achieved in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan, sometimes, threatened Islamabad to abandon the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project and sometimes, realized that US wants to improve its relationship with Pakistan, but at the same time, they accused Islamabad for safe-havens of militants in the country. While in connivance with India and Israel, America has been continuing its anti-Pakistan activities by supporting militancy in Pakistan and separatism in Balochistan province.
Cold war had already started between Pakistan and the United States when hundreds of CIA agents entered Pakistan under the guise of diplomats to destabilize the country. On January 11, 2011, Raymond Davis who was CIA agent killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.
Differences had also increased between Islamabad and Washington, because Pakistan’s superior agency, ISI interrupted covert activities of the American so-called diplomats. Notably, ISI thwarted the anti-Pakistan activities of the agents of Blackwater and CIA which had started recruiting Pakistani nationals who were vulnerable. In this connection, with the pre-information of ISI, Pakistan’s police and other security agencies arrested a number of secret agents. On many occasions, ISI helped in stopping the clandestine activities of the CIA spies who were displaying themselves as diplomats. On the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. On the other side, US withheld $800 million in military aid to punish its army and ISI.
At present, the same situation like that of the Salala assault has developed between Pakistan and America in its worst form in after Trump’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric which clearly exposed the US double game with Pakistan.
In his speech on August 21, 2017, while announcing the US new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia, American President Donald Trump, particularly, singled out Pakistan for criticism.
Using tough words against the American ally Pakistan, Trump revived the old blame game of his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama regarding the cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan by saying that Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations”, and threatened to target the terrorists’ sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Trump stated, “We have been paying Pakistan billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting…that must change immediately.”
As regards Pakistan’s regional rival India, Donald Trump added, “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan…We want them to help us more with Afghanistan.”
By following Trump’s remarks against Pakistan, a day later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Washington “would consider cutting aid to Pakistan, increasing the use of drone attacks within its territory…We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region.”
On August 26, this year, John Nicholson, the US military commander in Afghanistan, who has repeatedly admired Pakistan’s armed forces owing to their successes achieved against terrorism, set aside his previous statements and allegedly stated that Afghan Taliban leaders and the Haqqani Network were being given sanctuary in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.
Taking cognizance of America’s false accusations, Islamabad denied that it offers sanctuary to any armed groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and the government and military have rejected Trump’s strategy.
In this respect, Pakistan’s National Assembly (Lower house of parliament) has unanimously passed a resolution on August 30, this year, calling on the government to consider suspending supply lines to the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. The resolution urged the government to review all cooperation with the United States. It also called on the government to consider the postponement of any visits by US delegations to Pakistan or by Pakistani delegations/officials to the USA and to formulate economic policies to deal with any situation arising out of the absence of US financial assistance.
Earlier, before tabling the resolution, politicians of the ruling party and leaders of the opposition parties strongly rejected America’s accusations against Pakistan.
Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar and politician of the ruling party said that the issue of US continued criticism on Pakistan will not stop by mere resolutions and condemnations and needs a major overhaul of the entire narrative towards the US. Nisar stated, “US policy in the region has failed miserably…Pakistan is not responsible for its failures…US did not ask Pakistan before going to Afghanistan…US has held talks with the Taliban in the region, but all hell breaks loose when Pakistan wants to do the same.”
Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan stated on August 22 and 23, 2017, “Just as India blames Pakistan for the indigenous Kashmiri uprisings when these are a result of its own failed policy of repression in the Indian Occupied Kashmir…So the US again blames Pakistan for its deeply flawed and failed Afghan policy stretching over a decade…We must also reject being made scapegoats for the policy failures of the US and India…the new US policy is aimed at de-nuclearising Pakistan…India’s major role in Afghanistan as per Trump administration’s new strategy for the region will have adverse impacts on Pakistan…Trump had threatened Pakistan in open words and undermined the country’s major contributions towards that war. It seems Trump has no knowledge of this region. He does not know the dynamics of over a decade-old war the US has been fighting in Afghanistan…The Trump’s new strategy will further weaken the US government and its economy…If you want peace in Afghanistan, you need Pakistan. More troops and money will not serve the purpose.”
According to the statement of Inter Services Publication Directorate (ISPR) issued on August 23, 2017, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan was not looking for any material or financial assistance from USA but trust, understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions…peace in Afghanistan is as important for Pakistan as for any other country. This he said, while speaking to American Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale who called on Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ (Army headquarter) in Rawalpindi.”
Pakistan’s top political and military leaders on August 24, 2017 offered a stark response to Trump’s false accusations in the meeting of the National Security Committee, telling him that scapegoating Pakistan will not bring about peace in Afghanistan. The civil and military officials demanded that the US military should eliminate militants who use Afghan soil to stage attacks in Pakistan. It also called for recognition by the Trump administration of Pakistan’s many sacrifices—thousands of civilians and security forces have lost their lives in the country’s fight against insurgency and militancy on its own soil. The war on terror has also cost this Islamic nation $120 billion in economic losses. The committee reiterated Pakistan’s commitment that it will not allow its soil to be used for violence against any other country—“We expect the same from our neighbors”, it said in a reference to Afghanistan and India.
The committee pointed out that Trump’s claims of giving billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan were “misleading…that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance.” The meeting pledged to continue helping international community to ensure peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said, “Terrorist sanctuaries are present in East Afghanistan. It is from these safe havens inside Afghanistan that terrorist attacks are being launched on Pakistan.”
Besides, after the threat of Trump, protest-marches and rallies erupted in Pakistan against America. Police fired tear gas shells on the protesters on August 27, this year in Karachi when they were trying to reach the US Consulate. In some other cities, including Islamabad, thousands of people protested against the US, chanting slogans against Trump and America.
In the meantime, on August 27, 2017, Pakistan postponed a planned trip to Islamabad by Alice Wells, the acting US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. A planned trip by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif to the US has also been put on hold. Now, he will go to China and Iran.
Meanwhile, Pakistani diplomats have been holding a flurry of meetings with regional allies, mainly China to shore up support for the country’s position that it has been fighting the Taliban and does not offer sanctuary to any militant outfits.
Notably, on August 22, 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed Beijing’s support to Pakistan during a meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua hours after the US President Trump criticized Pakistan for allegedly offering safe havens to agents of chaos in South Asia. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying asserted that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made great sacrifices and important contributions in the fight. Chunying called on the international community to recognise Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism.
Besides China, Russia and Iran also rejected American new strategy for Afghanistan and recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices during war against terrorism.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan province and Karachi. Army and ISI have broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. These operations are obtaining their objectives effectively and rapidly. Peace has been restored in various regions of Pakistan, including Karachi and Balochistan.
But, recent blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country show that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage to destabilize Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
While, in the recent past, new wave of terrorism in Pakistan, killed several innocent people, while various terrorist outfits, particularly the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL), and the affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA) claimed responsibility for these brutal acts. TTP based in Afghanistan has its connections with ISIL and other terrorist organizations and affiliated terror groups, including Baloch separatist elements, and all these outfits are promoting the anti-Pakistan agenda of the foreign entities against Pakistan. As part of the double game, CIA, RAW, Mossad and Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) which are in collaboration, are using these terror outfits in weakening Pakistan and especially Balochistan in order to fulfill the covert strategic aims of the US-led India and Israel against Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.
These external secret agencies are especially supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly, Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is behind several terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has also become center of the Great Game due to the ideal location of Balochistan.
Besides already mentioned reasons, the US, India and Israel have been destabilising Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. Nonetheless, they want to shift Afghan war to Pakistan.
Undoubtedly, in connection with the 9/11, Pakistan sacrificed more than any country against terrorism and faced countless losses such as collateral damage, economic crisis and political instability. While, Pakistan faced a continued wave of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings.
Taking note of the US double game, Pakistan is preparing a new strategy by reviewing its relationship with America.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations