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جمعہ، 24 ستمبر، 2010

Is TTP a Blackwater extension?

Mahmood Ghaznavi

Urdu columnist Nazir Naji in a column on September 23 rightly pointed out that it were the US and allies who launched TTP (Pakistani Taliban) against Pakistan. It is now being concluded that the it was not the TTP, nor were the so-called Punjabi Taliban, but Blackwater involved in the GHQ attack last year. Thus unequivocally, Pakistan has become epicentre of covert wars on its territory. Virtually, it is becoming impossible to disclose that who is fighting against whom in the fight against terrorism. Is it a war against terror or war against Pakistan? Newspapers and media have given different versions of controversy theories pertaining to involvement of foreign intelligence networks in Pakistan. Certainty prevails among masses that Pakistan has became hub of foreign intelligence agencies, networking and operating on will and ubiquitous militancy is abetted by these secret agencies with an ambition to destabilise Pakistan. Therefore, it would be too unrealistic to believe that a handpick of terrorists are waging such a persistent fight against highly equip organised army without a foreign support when no native assistance is available to these militants.
Various incidents in recent past support the belief that CIA operations have in fact have became looming threat to Pakistan instead of terrorists. According to world’s leading newspapers CIA is conducting these operations in liaison with notorious private security firm Backwater (now known as Xe). CIA awarded contract to Blackwater for operations in Afghanistan in 2002 to operate along the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders. New York Times reported that their first known contract with CIA to conduct operation as part of a secret programme to assassinate top al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan materialised in 2004. Initially they assisted in gathering intelligence and help secret US military campaign to load laser-guided bombs on remotely operated Predator aircraft.
However, it’s increasing role in the campaign shows the extent to which the CIA now depends on this private contractor to carry out some of the agency’s most crucial assignments as its sphere hasn’t remained confined to hot pursuance of al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Gradually this agency assumed the security of the largest under construction US embassy in the world (Islamabad) and protecting the US diplomats. Later reports suggest that Blackwater has established network of informers in the tribal belt and Balochistan and are also involved in contacting members of separatist and ethnic political parties. 

 Using perfect cover of NGOs Blackwater is today operating freely in Pakistani cities including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore Peshawar, Quetta and elsewhere, an accusation denied by American embassy in Islamabad. Security agencies in Pakistan have observed that this private contractor is extending its contacts at ground level and establishing contacts with ‘enemies of Pakistan’ in area adjoining Afghanistan. In month of August security agencies got information of Blackwater operating from the office of an NGO and leased a house on Chinar Road, University Town in Peshawar. Later the head of this organisation was expelled from Pakistan and his visa was cancelled.
Similarly, cases have come forward of US citizens moving freely in major Pakistani cities in tinted glass cars. Daily incidents have been reported regarding them carrying sophisticated weapons and quarrelling with police officers on question of disclosing their identity. They claimed themselves to be embassy officials and therefore, are allowed to carry weapons for personal security. It could be ascertained that after US was not allowed to operate its ground forces in Pakistani territory, CIA would have hired these freelance mercenaries (claiming to be US diplomats), to operate secretly and forward US interests in the country. Despite successful military operations in Swat and tribal agencies the surge of terrorism has engulfed the settled areas. It means that the terrorists have been supported to penetrate and armed in the cities to spread reign of terror.
Present situation needs urgent solution, much more than lip service and criticism. If the present trend of CIA covert operation continues, government would be unable to justify its position on alliance with United States. Now when CIA spokesman George Little has admitted to being in contract with Blackwater and President Obama has refused to exclude Quetta from the domain of drone attacks in pursuance of Taliban leadership, Pakistan has to be more assertive regarding its relations with United States. It could also lead Islamabad to start rethinking its US and Afghan policy instead of paying heavy prices in war against terrorism.
Recently a senior Pakistani official in Washington has stated that “if US went ahead with its plan to launch drone strikes in Quetta then it would be ‘the end of the road’ for the US-Pakistan cooperation in the fight against extremist groups”. Thus explaining the bottom-line of cooperation and the limits to which assistance could be provided to US.
Though pressure on Pakistan to do more stems from the weak political government in Islamabad, nevertheless, Washington should be frankly informed that government can not compromise on state sovereignty. Likewise, growing public opinion against the drone attacks, CIA covert operations and growing US interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, could threaten the present regime and progress towards strengthening democracy.
At the time when federation in attempting to realign aggrieved Baloch people and responding to major economic and political challenges, threats to its territorial sanctity and malice intentions of enemy in disguise must be aggressively tackled. Entities working against the interests of Pakistan including CIA should be barred from operating in the country. Likewise, movements of diplomats be restricted and must not be allowed to visit prohibited areas without intimating relevant authorities. Others not adhering to the law of land could be declared persona non grata and expelled from the country.
If United States intrinsically intends to help Pakistan, then let the government makes decisions for itself. Propaganda against state institutions, doubting Pakistan’s intentions to fight militancy and playing covert games by supporting anti-state elements should be replaced by refocusing on joint efforts to defeat militancy and terrorism in the region.

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