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پیر، 13 اگست، 2012

Impending North Waziristan operation

 Americans have been applying lot of pressure for a full/fledged operation in North Waziristan but do we have to obey them and help them in implementing their anti-Pakistan agenda? Also do we have to throw more and more of our soldiers in the US war on terror while the US and its gang are withdrawing theirs?

The people of Pakistan are genuinely proud of their armed forces for safeguarding them against a much bigger enemy, India, whose dream of Akhand Bharat (United India) forced it not to accept the existence of Pakistan as a viable state. Moreover, the Kashmir issue, which the treacherous British left while departing the sub-continent, by deliberately handing over to India the Muslim-majority areas that provided access to Kashmir, has further served to aggravate relations between the two countries. 

Apart from mistreatment of Muslims in Indian-held Kashmir, India's hold over the territory also enables it to divert our share of water. The gifting of some of our rivers to India by the self-promoted Field Marshal Ayub Khan also weakened our position and frequent wars between two countries further spoiled the relationship, over and above the other harm he did to Pakistan.

We all know that even though separation of East Pakistan came about more as a result of mistreatment of Bengalese by West Pakistanis, with the final act being the non-acceptance of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman's mandate by our leaders, it is a fact that India trained Mukti-Bahini, and going further, did intervene in East Pakistan militarily, which it had no business doing. The triumphant claim of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, of having avenged 1,000 years of Muslim domination, does testify to the feeling of Hindu leaders towards Muslims, which does not seem to have gone away, even after more than six decades. While at people-to-people level, one may find goodwill in both countries but at the government level, there remains a cold-blooded Indian aggressiveness, which shows no sign of going away. This is more than evident when we consider the fact that despite all the 'burst of goodwill' from the Indian side demonstrated by broad smiles and warm hand-shakes, there has been no progress on any of the issues, including Siachin, where both the governments pay dearly in men and money, with India refusing even to accept Pakistan's sensible suggestion of demilitarization of the glaciers. Even after many rounds of discussions by delegations of both countries, claimed to be held in a 'friendly' atmosphere, the end communique only expresses a 'resolve' by both sides to continue the discussions and to solve the problem through peaceful means.. What we often see is that our over-confident, and under-experienced negotiators start issuing very optimistic statements about the end-result but are proven wrong subsequently.  

Obviously, if Indians see another chance of damaging Pakistan, and this time the more dominant and powerful part, they can hardly be expected to lose it. Like training Mukti-Bahini, they are now sponsoring, aiding and abetting the anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan, and through them, in Baluchistan and elsewhere in Pakistan. So while outwardly showing a change of heart, the Indians are doing all within their power to destabilize and dismember Pakistan. According to the latest news, under Indian influence, which would of course have been backed by its sponsor the United States as well, the World Bank has offered funding to induce Pakistan to take up the Dasu power project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and delay for ten years the multi-purpose and strategically more important Diamer-Bhasha project. 

Except for the short spell when Taliban were in government, our relations with our other neighbour, Afghanistan, have also not been smooth because they did not, and still do not, accept the Durand line and see us as occupying part of their country, the region formerly called North-Western Frontier Province. This is what prompted the Afghan representative at the United Nations to oppose Pakistani membership of United Nations back in September, 1947. By the way, Afghanistan was the only country that opposed the resolution. Afghans anger at us can also be gauged by the fact that their parliament voted to remove defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi for failing to counter (alleged) cross-border attacks from Pakistan, with defence minister having already resigned his job. Surprisingly, these elements are least bothered over the killing, even beheading, of our soldiers in cross-border attacks launched by terrorists from their safe havens in Afghanistan.
So, on one side, we have a neighbour Afghanistan, that sees us occupying its territory, and on the other, India, that perhaps wants to undo what is left of Pakistan, to complete its revenge for 1,000 plus 65 years. Also, while in 1971, India's only partners were Bengalese, this time round they have on their side the Afghans, as well the world's sole super power the United States and its gang who, encouraged by their devastation of Iraq, and overthrow of Col. Muammar Qaddafi, are now active against Syria, Iran and of course, Pakistan, the strongest militarily and the only nuclear power in the Muslim world. After seeing all this, it would only be a fool who would believe that the United States and its gang's plan for the region is to stabilize Afghanistan and leave.

With this background information, it comes as a shock to learn that our forces are planning to launch operations in the North Waziristan soon, perhaps as early as after Eid.

There was a time not all that far back when the western press was giving sort of hourtly updates about Taliban’s march towards Islamabad, leading to the ultimate takeover of the government by the militants, and US President Barack Obama had started fearing fall of our nuclear weapons in Taliban’s hands. However, our armed forces pushed them back and regained control of the troubled areas in a short space of time. Still, we have got to remember that the armed forces did not succeed in eliminating terrorists altogether many of whom relocated to other regions, even moving to the cities in Pakistan, and some shifting to Afghanistan. We know that at the time of operation in South Waziristan, ISAF forces had vacated their checkposts on Afghan side of the border, in order to give the militants a chance to escape and are even reported to have air-lifted important militants allied with them, moving them to safe havens in Afghnistan. We also have to remember that 35,000 civilians and over 5,000 soldiers died in these operations as well as in retaliatory suicide and other attacks by the militants. Hundreds of thousands of tribesmen were forced to leave their houses as a result of these operations and had to suffer all sorts of hardship. Seeing all this, I shudder to think about the consequences of North Waziristan operation which could turn into sworn enemies even those who do Pakistan no harm. I know that for a long time, the Americans have been applying lot of pressure for a full-fledged operation in North Waziristan but do we have to obey them, and help them in implementing their anti-Pakistan agenda? Also, do we have to throw more and more of our soldiers in the US war on terror, while the US and its gang are withdrawing theirs?

Another disappointing factor is that our approach remains the same, relying on traditional methods like the use of foot soldier, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters and the F-16s, which cause lot of casualties on both sides. The drones which are the most effective tools in inaccessible areas, are not part of our arsenal. Our efforts at acquiring these appear to be concentrated on developing our own after blunt refusal by the United States to supply these to us. We surely could have better and speedy results if we collaborated with Iran, China and Russia. India has also embarked on an ambitious drone programme and so should we, because our need is far greater, and immediate. We also have to greatly improve our intelligence systems and prepare for cyber wars. It is a matter of shame that even for North Waziristan operation, intelligence from ISAF is considered to be vital, perhaps because they know the region inside out by having established their intelligence network there. This was also confirmed by the US defence Secretary Leon Pannetta when he said that having established their own intelligence systems, they do not need help from Pakistan to conduct drone strikes.

Also, in view of what the Americans and their gang did, and are still doing, to Muslim countries, it is essential that our people act independently, in the best interest of Pakistan and Pakistanis, instead of dancing to the tunes played by others. We showed some defiance after the Salala attack by closing the NATO land routes but some obviously foreign-assisted cross-border attacks, greatly increased traffic between Washington and Islamabad, a few visits by the killer-general John Allen, payment of just over one billion dollars out of a few billion owed on account of coalition support funds, and the political landscape seems to have changed altogether. It is some measure of our standing in the Muslim world that as a group of Egyptian protesters pelted Hillary Clinton's motor-cade with eggs and tomatoes, one of them held a placard which read "Egypt will never be Pakistan."

 By S.R.H. Hashmi

 The Statesman

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