The charge of a Pakistani caretaker minister that the United States and some other countries have been harbouring terrorism in Pakistan has raised several questions in the minds of tribesmen. Now they are asking the question, why are we being killed?
Now it is time for the United States to clear her position. In the US there is feeling that their government had been doing a good job of eliminating terrorism. But here in Pakistan an impression is being given that the US is supporting terrorism.
In its editorial Daily Times discussed the issue. The caretaker interior minister, Lieutenant General (Retd) Hamid Nawaz Khan, has done the predictable thing that he learned in PMA by saying on Saturday that India, Afghanistan and the United States had a hand in the terrorism in Pakistan. He admitted he had no proof of this involvement but that "people" had this perception. His "rational" explanation did not go further than the "circumstantial evidence" that the Taliban-Al Qaeda offensive in Afghanistan had gone down in the same measure as incidents of terrorism had gone up in Pakistan. He said suicide-bombings and other acts of organised violence needed big funding and this could come only from states unfriendly towards Pakistan.
The manner in which the charge was made was meant to be disingenuous; but it reflects lack of intellectual depth. The argument on offer is that that it was the "people's" perception that these foreign powers are behind the trouble. But the framing of the sentence suggests that the establishment is once again ready to spread the evil rumour and make the political environment of Pakistan more toxic. Earlier, a similar charge was made in relation to the uprising which the Musharraf establishment faced in Balochistan. But in that instance, there was some proof in hand and there were some people - definitely excluding the Baloch - who were willing to buy the line.
Some of the national brainwash may accept the India angle contained in this newly refurbished "revelation", but, more dangerously for Islamabad, the entire national psyche is also dying to believe that the United States too is deceiving Pakistan in its overtures of friendship while in fact it is pursuing the agenda of annihilating Muslims wherever they may be found. Since the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai is seen as a useless appendix of the American military dominance in Afghanistan, there is easy access to the domestic mind through an accusation of this kind.
What is the spokesman of the establishment trying to do? Is he expressing the anger of his establishment over the newborn tendency in the Washington establishment to speak with many voices, some of them not as loyal to President Musharraf as they used to be? Is he reacting to the change of tack in the State Department as expressed by its deputy secretary Mr John D Negroponte recently? By tilting at India again, is he reaffirming that Pakistan is miffed at India for not budging on Kashmir? If that is so, then he should know that the military point of view in the policy on Kashmir is passé, and it will bring no kudos to him from anyone who wants Pakistan to survive and grow.
Now let us look at the sub-text of what was said on Saturday. Since three countries are hounding Pakistan through terrorism, it was implied, it becomes incumbent on Pakistan to take countervailing action. But no one knows how our establishment will strike against the United States and deter it from making mischief in Pakistan. At the most we can withdraw the hundred thousand Pakistani soldiers away from the Durand Line and the Tribal Areas, which will of course compel the Americans to switch off the funds to Pakistan that sustain these operations (and possibly others not mentioned, as reported in the foreign media recently) and go after the terrorists directly. Or our establishment can set on feet conspiracies to create chaos in Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s in the name of "strategic depth". In parallel to that, of course, it can teach India a lesson by reviving the old jihad there!
If the news has not reached the relevant quarters then let us inform them for the nth time that in the case of both India and Afghanistan, our "strategic" policies in the past have brought Pakistan nothing but a sense of defeat. These policies of jihad and strategic depth are discredited and Pakistan can adopt them again only at the risk of certain isolation and censure at the global level. It is a blunder of comprehension on the part of such disseminators to think that their message will resonate with the people of Pakistan or the politicians. The people of Pakistan may err now and then in welcoming military rule, but they certainly don't love defeat.
The retort to this line of propaganda has come from the co-chairman of the PPP Mr Asif Zardari who has "de-linked" Kashmir from the process of normalisation of relations with India. In his latest statement delivered on the day the interior minister was delivering himself of his "anti-everybody" wisdom, Mr Zardari gave priority to the pursuit of bilateral trade, giving everybody "time to grow up" in India and Pakistan. The only elements who will buy the line fed by the establishment are the people who are carrying out terrorism in Pakistan, simply because it exonerates them.