For decades, the people of Pakistan have suffered due to the CIA and ISI `s murky ties. These ties have led to the strengthering of Islamist forces, the natural allies of the GHQ in Pakistan.
By Farhat Taj
Raymond Davis, an American national accused of being a CIA contractor in Pakistan and charged with killing two Pakistani citizens in January 2011, was released by a Lahore court on March 16, 2011. The US authorities said Davis was protected by full diplomatic immunity but the Pakistani government refuted the US claim. He was immediately flown out of Pakistan after his release. Reportedly, Davis was released after paying Rs 200 million as ‘blood money’ to the legal heirs of the deceased.
Who actually ordered the release of Davis in Pakistan and on what grounds? What are the implications of the release for the people of Pakistan, especially in militancy-hit areas like FATA?
It should not be ambiguous that the release came into being due to successful negotiations between the CIA in the US and the ISI in Pakistan. The PPP government, which has long ago surrendered its authority over foreign relations (especially with the US) to the military establishment, has no role in the release. The same is true about the PML-N led government in Punjab where Davis was kept under detention. Without the establishment’s involvement, the Pakistani judiciary could not have ordered Davis’s release. Justice to the heirs of the men killed by Davis is irrelevant in the establishment’s paradigm of national security. There are reports that the heirs of two of the dead men have been forced to accept a compromise for Davis’s release. The brother of the third man, Ibad-ur-Rahman, killed by a US diplomatic vehicle that rushed to Davis’s help, has told the media that his family is not part of the compromise nor has it been taken into confidence by the authorities.
The CIA and ISI have had uneasy relations since the post-9/11 US attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The US invaded Afghanistan without having addressed Pakistan’s concerns in Afghanistan vis-à-vis India. Lieutenant General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then ISI Chief, reminded the US of Pakistan’s long history with the Taliban. The then US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, categorically told him: “History begins today.” Pakistan was forced into the US-led war on terror against the Pakistan-backed jihadi government in Afghanistan. Pakistan had no choice but to double deal with the US in the war on terror and this is what it has been doing to this day. To address immediate US concerns, some of the pro-Taliban military authorities like Lieutenant General Mahmoud were removed. But this does not mean that the army and the ISI were totally cleansed of the pro-Taliban people. General Safdar Hussain is a case in point. Through him, the Pakistan Army signed deals with al Qaeda-led militants in Waziristan and slaughtered traditional tribal leaders there. This jihadi general even had the audacity to publicly question the US presence in post-9/11 Afghanistan at the time of signing a deal with al Qaeda in Waziristan. Above all, the generals engineered an artificial insurgency in FATA. These generals have always been part and parcel of the ISI’s game to overpower the people of FATA through militants fully backed by military headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.
It is thus no wonder that the Americans have been constantly questioning Pakistan’s commitment in the war on terror. The CIA has had tense relations with the ISI all throughout the war on terror. “Did Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, fall victim to this misunderstanding (between the CIA and ISI over the war on terror) and has he been released after the problem was sorted out?” asks Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known Pakistani defence analyst, in a recent newspaper column. She also hints at the possible understanding whereby the CIA will withdraw its focus on Punjab-based jihadi organisations considered friendly by the Pakistani military, e.g. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
If true, this is very bad news for the Pakhtun on both sides of the Durand Line. The people of FATA complain that the Punjabi Taliban linked with these two organisations, and other Punjabi outfits, run the jihad show in FATA. They — who form an overwhelming majority of the militants — physically control the Pakhtun Taliban as well as foreign al Qaeda terrorists. The Americans should know that they have struck an anti-Pakhtun deal, if this is what they have agreed to in lieu of Davis’s release. For decades, the people of Pakistan have suffered due to the CIA and ISI’s murky ties. These ties have led to the strengthening of Islamist forces, the natural allies of the GHQ in Pakistan. The Davis release deal may be a contribution to these murky ties and may prove to be especially detrimental to the people of FATA, who have suffered only death and destruction since 9/11. Violence in Afghanistan, directed from terrorist centres in FATA, will not ebb as a result of the deal.
It is sickening to see Pakistani TV channels screaming at politicians over Davis’s release and failing to grill the sitting Pakistani generals who are the real force behind the release. The media has never had the courage to question the sitting generals over crimes against the Pakhtun and Baloch citizens of Pakistan. The only thing it is good at is humiliating anti-Taliban political parties and the democratic set up in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Islamist political forces — long time allies of the military establishment — are boiling over with anger at Davis’s release. Their anger is directed at the spineless PPP-led political government. Ayesha Siddiqa rightly points out that the mighty “GHQ will ensure that this (anger) does not really boil over”. This will once again confirm that the GHQ controls the Islamist forces in mainland Pakistan, just as it commands the militants based in FATA. The GHQ may well just direct their anger to chase out the anti-Taliban PPP and ANP from power and accommodate the Islamists in any future political set up of Pakistan.
The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban