Who is to blame?

19 Apr 2017

When comes the harvest, who will history point to?

Two metrics may be used to encompass the influence a country has across the world: economic standing, and military prowess. For example, when a dignitary from the US is invited to Pakistan, the degree of protocol provided may very easily provide a stark contrast with the protocol provided to embassies/dignitaries from countries with a weaker economy than Pakistan’s. Diplomats are mere reflections of their countries of origin, and are bound by the cultural norms of their respective countries.

Instead of engaging in the debate of ‘did Hussain Haqqani issue visas to US intelligence services personnel on the demands of Mr. Gillani, and was it justified per the Code of Conduct Ambassadors are subject to?’, let’s focus instead on the implications the arrival of these personnel had on the socio-political and security scenario of Pakistan. For better understanding, we need to make the analysis in the correct historical context.

In 2009, the Taliban were expanding their influence through Waziristan and Swat. Former President and Army Chief General Musharraf had recently completed 9 years of his authoritarian rule, which was especially conducive to the expansion of America’s influence in the region. The helpless government of the time also signed several pacts and treaties with the Taliban, who cemented their position in the region and captured Swat under Mullah Fazlullah. In 2009, Operations Raah-e-Nijaat and Raah-e-Rast were initiated to tackle the threat from these extremist forces which succeeded in restricting their malicious activities under circumstances where some political analysts were predicting a Taliban capture of the capital, Islamabad.

Why did the US send intelligence services personnel to Pakistan?

It may be conjectured that perhaps the US wanted to achieve the goal of reaching and getting rid of Osama Bin Laden. However, was it justified for the US to send intelligence services personnel for the purpose? For any country to send intelligence personnel into another country and carry out operations is indeed objectionable, but what we are trying to analyse, at the moment, are the implications of their operations in Pakistan.

To reach an all-inclusive conclusion, the situation for the past couple decades leading up to this time must also be critically evaluated. Osama Bin Laden, by carrying out the 9/11 attacks in the US, made Afghanistan a warzone for the US, and became a threatening figure for the entire world. He also played a critical role in the expansion and establishment of the Taliban and their ideology in Afghanistan and the bordering areas of Pakistan, and the fruit of what he sowed is still being reaped by Afghanistan.

Post-US operations in Afghanistan, isn’t Bin Laden’s settlement in, of all countries in the world, Pakistan, evidence that his ties with anti-state actors in Pakistan were as strong as his ties with the Afghan Taliban? Isn’t Pakistan still dealing with the Taliban and their affiliates in the shape of other religious extremists? How is it possible that Osama survived in Pakistan without the assistance of certain non-state actors and their “mighty” backers?  This leads us to the inference that Bin Laden indeed had a role to play in the chaos and anarchy created by religious extremists in Pakistan. This has sullied the country’s reputation in the global community and wreaked havoc upon the country’s economy.

Questioning the validity of it all

In the War against Terror, Pakistan has lost nearly 60,000 soldiers and innocent civilians. Therefore, stability and survival of the state, to an extent, was contingent on Bin Laden’s elimination. However, was it justified, for the operation that led to the eradication of the threat of Bin Laden, to be carried out by US instead of Pakistani forces? Was the operation within the bounds of what the law permits?

We can doubtlessly say that the US had no grounds to have on ground troops in Pakistan to carry out an operation, without consent of the Pakistan government.  However, the question that still stands is: was there a mechanism or technology in place and accessible to the command of visa issuing authorities to foretell the activities of the US personnel entering Pakistan?  Is it not the responsibility of our security forces to carry out surveillance operations into the activities of foreign officials? Pakistan’s intelligence services are one of the most skilled in counter-intelligence operations. If US personnel were involved in suspicious activities in the country, were actions taken to deal with them?

Moreover, it’s factually accurate that intelligence services personnel are attached with the embassies of almost every other country in Pakistan. Is it possible or even legal to stop foreign diplomats or allied staff from entering Pakistan based on a hunch? Clear and emphatic laws are present that guide conduct in such situations. Across the world, intelligence services personnel are assigned to foreign dignitaries to monitor their activities. Isn’t critical supervision and scrutiny of foreign officials the responsibility of the host country’s security apparatus?

Is our underlying problem a lack of information?

Two individuals played a pivotal role in the US’ search for Bin Laden, and the Abbottabad Operation that led to his killing: one was the woman associated with the Central Intelligence Agency services, attached with the US Embassy, who couldn’t have been restricted entry into Pakistan legally without a substantive reason. It was indeed possible though that she could have been deported had she been found to be involved with anti-state operations in the country, which was the responsibility of none other than the Pakistani intelligence services to uncover. Was the second individual, who played a pivotal role in locating Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Shakeel Afridi, also a US citizen in Pakistan on a visa?

In Lahore, the Raymond Davis facade led to much hue and cry before he was exonerated by our legal system. Was the trial flawed? Was justice not served? How many petitions were raised against this decision? Why do pseudo-nationalist zealots tend to shy away from addressing these questions?

Considering the entire situation presented, we realise that our public is not provided with accurate information; instead those who consider themselves as the custodians of Pakistan’s ideological boundaries meddle with the nation’s sentiments related to religion and patriotism to establish their domination and to further their agenda. Learned and intellectual Pakistanis must dive deep into the depths of these issues. It is high time that we start questioning the policies and actions of the government and our state institutions, and demand the underlying truth. In the same vein, if the Abbottabad Commission Report were to be published, doubts regarding the issue will be clarified to a significant degree.


Published in Pakistan Today on 19th April 2017

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