After partaking one hundred onions and one hundred lashes (sau gandey tey sau Chittar) they will do what they have to do. But if they don’t wake up soon, then I think we may live to see the day when the Pakistani elite will be forced to ask India to please send some elite regiments to help defend Islamabad before our strategic assets start expropriating the expropriators. Roti key liey aadmi kya nahin karta..
Is American occupation of Afghanistan the root cause of all terrorism in Pakistan?
Short answer: No.
No. The American invasion of Afghanistan and their continued presence in Afghanistan is indeed the proximate cause of increased terrorism in Pakistan. But Pakistan was not just merrily going along its peaceful way and suddenly America landed on its border and terrorists started blowing stuff up and beheading people. Our own national security state’s determined and self-motivated efforts had something to do with it. We worked very hard to bring a vast jihadi infrastructure to Pakistan; we expanded it after the Americans completed their mission of humiliating Russia in Afghanistan; we (in this article, “we” means our blessed strategic geniuses in Rawalpindi and their Islamist allies) dreamed of using this jihadi infrastructure to defeat India in Kashmir and to expand our influence into central Asia and beyond. And some of “us” were clear headed enough to know that the half a million jihadis we were training will not only work for us in India and Afghanistan, they will transform the nature of our own society. As armed gangsters of Islam, they will one day be the vanguard of an Islamic revolution within Pakistan. Unfortunately, before the job could be completed, this dream ran afoul of NATO. And we had to pick sides. We picked both. And here we are.
Let us quickly review some history: Pakistan’s ruling elite, consisting mostly of superficially Westernized North Indian feudals and a narrow emerging bourgeoisie exemplified by Mr Jinnah himself, wanted desperately to become a “Western ally” in the region in exchange for money and favors. In 1954 their dreams were fulfilled when Pakistan was invited to join SEATO and CENTO. Of course, while Pakistan was happy to be part of the international anti-communist alliance, its elite saw India as the primary enemy. But when they launched an adventure in 1965 that ended in war with India in September, SEATO and CENTO were nowhere to be found. This started a narrative of American betrayal (a narrative that no American took too seriously) that was accentuated in 1971 when the Indian liberation of Bangladesh succeeded in spite of symbolic American intervention on the Pakistani side. But the estranged lovers (estrangement being entirely one-sided; Uncle Sam never seems to have paid too much high level attention to the hurt feelings of his “most allied ally”) made up in 1980 in order to bleed the Soviets in Afghanistan.
But by then there was now a new element in the relationship; Pakistan was now led by more ambitious and intelligent people who had Islamist dreams of their own, well beyond anything the superficially Islamic Jinnah sahib or even his modestly Islamist party could have dreamt of. The simple-minded and childish notions of the 1950s and 1960s were left behind and the Pakistani high command was able to use American aid while building nuclear bombs and planning for the future projection of Jihadist forces into Kashmir and Afghanistan and beyond. Whether the American side understood what was going on and ignored it for devious reasons of their own (?leverage over India? Delusions of using Pakistan as their aircraft carrier in central Asia? as a friend once said, we must never overestimate the intelligence of the ruling classes; if they were always so smart why would they occasionally have their heads cut off?) , or whether their racist arrogance prevented them from seeing that their agents had minds and plans of their own, the fact remains that the United States was no longer the sole creator of policies and projects in this era. After the US left the region with “mission accomplished” in Afghanistan (and a million Afghans dead in the process), their ally did not allow this to interrupt the glorious work of arming and training Islamist armed groups. Rather “we” accelerated the process, eventually arming and training half a million young men to fight in the cause of Islam.
By the mid-1990s, Pakistan had established a somewhat unruly client regime in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Afghanistan became “Jihad central”; the “go-to place” for any young Muslim dreaming of a new caliphate. And this growing network was supported by the intelligence agencies of the state and a wider network of international funders and political supporters built around some favored Madrasahs and the existing Islamist political parties like the Jamat e Islami. The civilian structures of the state (mostly holdovers of the British Raj) were steadily undermined by military intelligence agencies who provided cover for their favored jihadist militias and allowed them to operate beyond the reach of the law (or whatever passed for law in Pakistan). Mainstream politicians had little or no control over foreign policy or defense policy and certainly none over the proliferation and growth of jihadist militias.
But when some of these warriors took the fight to the West on 9-11 and triggered a much larger war (justified or not is a separate argument) Pakistan’s military establishment did not stand by its jihadist proxies. At the same time, they did not fully join NATO either. Instead, they hedged their bets and put one large foot in both boats. They decided to dump their more unruly friends (the “bad jihadis”) but did not go after the good jihadis (the ones who target India and Afghanistan). Unwilling or unable to find a narrative that justified their sudden change from pro-jihad to anti-jihad, GHQ opted for a short-cut. Bad Jihadis were described as agents of evil powers (mainly CIA, RAW and Mossad). Many of the Taliban killed in Pakistan were said to be uncircumcised Hindus. India was said to have 14 consulates in Afghanistan from where they and their American friends were running this vile operation. Military-affiliated websites like paknationalists.com and rupeenews.com provided a narrative that may seem fantastically improbable to outsiders but that fit in well with previous military psyops efforts and was smoothly accepted by many middle class Pakistanis. When losses in this new civil war accelerated, another element was added to the narrative. Now we were innocent victims of America’s “so-called war on terror”. This narrative also draws upon liberals and leftists in the West who have their own suspicions (or guilt) about the Western ruling class and serve as a rich source of talking points for the military’s favorite propagandists.
This narrative of “we are fighting America’s war” excluded any mention of our own role in bringing this menace to our shores. That America (and not just America) may have picked on Pakistan because Pakistan’s own armed forces had worked hard to make it the world headquarters of jihadist terrorism was not part of the story that was put out. Instead, it was all America’s fault. They brought the jihadis here, they “dumped them on us” and left. They were now using the jihadis as an excuse to attack us unfairly and with mala fide intent. The mala fide intent was usually presented as an American desire to “steal our nuclear arsenal”, but other theories like “imposing Indian hegemony” or protecting Israeli interests (the last being an activity that the US has long performed at great cost to itself, so it was not a claim without any foundation) were also cited.
This story, while useful in the short term since it got the armed forces off the hook and preserved the possibility that the mullah-military alliance could be revived once the Americans left, is now turning out to be too clever by half. The crucial assumption in this scheme was that America would leave and let us return to the status quo ante prior to our being overwhelmed by the confused civil war we are fighting in the interim. This fine balance also required that the Americans remain indifferent to the narrative and don’t take counter-measures in the media-management field or on the ground (in Balochistan, for example). Finally, it assumed that the US could be alternately pressured and pleasured forever without seriously rupturing the relationship. None of these assumptions has turned out to be completely correct.
As US pressure has become more unfriendly, our geniuses initially reacted by trying to find some backup from China and Saudi Arabia and even Russia. But early indications are that neither China nor Saudi Arabia is willing or able to bail us out if we continue with our past policies. The word is that the Chinese have told the Pakistani leadership that they are our bestest, fastest, deepest friends and the entire politburo prays for our health every day, but as far as budget support is concerned, it may be a good idea to apply to the IMF and Uncle Sam. The half-hearted effort to wave a Russian offer in America’s face is even more of a joke as both the Russians and the Pakistanis are just blowing hot air in an attempt to get Uncle Sam’s attention and neither is likely to get very far. Meanwhile, the jihadis are not rolling over and playing dead either, which complicates matters further.
In short, in the real world, the black flags from Khorasan are not going to drive the infidels into the sea. Pakistan’s ruling elite does not have (even now) a clear picture of who them themselves are and what their interests are. They are not really the second coming of the great imaginary Ummah of Allama Iqbal Lahori (Neel ke sahil sey ley kar ta ba khak e Kashgar). They are an emerging bourgeois elite in an underdeveloped country that is fast becoming integrated with the international capitalist world. Within that world there are many rivalries and wars and plots and many large and small gangsters, but none of them are too happy with the idea of jihadist militias taking over their countries. To join the jihadists is not an option for the Pakistani elite (its also not a good option for the working classes, though it may be briefly emotionally satisfying for poor people to see some of the elite being beheaded). One way or the other, the elite will have to wrap up its misguided jihadist experiment. If they don’t do it under American pressure today, they will do it under Chinese pressure tomorrow. Either way, they will have to clear out any transnational terrorists based in their territory. Even the India-specific terrorists will have to be told the game is over.
For the deep state, this is not an easy news bulletin to deliver to its own people because they have been telling a very different story for a very long time. Most people in Pakistan do not even know that Pakistan was world headquarters for international Jihad for so long and that our own intelligence agencies set up most of the militant organizations and trained most of the terrorists we are now fighting. Most Pakistanis probably believe that 9-11 was an “inside job” and Mumbai was staged by some rightwing Hindu colonel. This amazing level of denial and disinformation has been carefully cultivated by the deep state, but is now becoming untenable. With the US plucking Osama a stone’s throw from PMA Kakul and with the jihadis beheading SP’s on the outskirts of Peshawar, the narrative is coming home to roost with a vengeance.
What will happen next? As an eternal optimist, I think things will slowly get better after several years of civil war in which the state will be pitted against the very people it created and lionized not too long ago. While the initial phases of this civil war were fought while telling our own people that our enemies are Hindus and Jews and their uncircumcised agents in the tribal areas, this clever scheme will eventually have to be abandoned because it is impossible to fight one set of jihadis while working with another set as friends and allies. They all see each other as friends and they can see (even if some people in GHQ cannot) that this war can only mean that the state is abandoning its jihadi dreams in exchange for membership of the capitalist globalized world led by Chimerica. To them, this means war, and it means war to the finish. That would be a very hard war to fight even if we know what is going on; it is an impossible war to fight when our own people don’t know who is fighting whom. Which is why the narrative will have to be altered. There are signs that a start has already been made but it will not be an easy job and there will be much resistance from within GHQ’s own propagandists, some of whom have such serious psychological issues with India that this realignment threatens to fry their fragile eggshell mind. But there is no choice. Slowly but surely, the times they are a-changing.
Of course, it is possible that the elite will not be able to wake up and successfully safeguard its interests. I personally think this is unlikely..I think the elite is incompetent but not suicidal. After partaking one hundred onions and one hundred lashes (sau gandey tey sau Chittar) they will do what they have to do. But if they don’t wake up soon, then I think we may live to see the day when the Pakistani elite will be forced to ask India to please send some elite regiments to help defend Islamabad before our strategic assets start expropriating the expropriators. Roti key liey aadmi kya nahin karta..
|Omar Ali is a Pakistani-American with an interest in history and science. He blogs at brownpundits.com and can also be found on twitter @omarali50|