War it is! Prime Minister Gillani announced to the Pakistani public on national television that the Government has decided to launch an operation against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 1 (Operation Rah-e-Raast or straightpath).
Who wants peace?
The Pakistani public opinion was divided on the peace deal. But the parties that played a key roles in the breakdown of the fragile peace agreement were the TTP (described below); the U.S. government; Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani; and General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan's Army Chief.
The earlier peace deal collapsed after TTP failed to surrender their weapons and let police return into Swat. The U.S was never in favor of the Swat peace deal and the Clinton/Holbrooke team did their part in orchestrating a breakdown. The Pakistani Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, announced that nation must give unconditional support to Pakistani Army to remove the TTP from their strongholds and restore the writ of the government. General Ashfaq Kayani complied and ordered the attacks. We all agree that this operation against the TTP was a necessity, given the circumstances, especially since the TTP had again started resorting to acts of violence after the peace agreement. The biggest violent act was the kidnapping and then beheading of four Special Services Group (SSG) Officers of Pakistan Army. Later on, the nation saw the video of the officers being held hostage on Pakistani private news channel. All the political parties, media groups and civil society are behind the army operation.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
As I had mentioned earlier that the TTP had nothing to do with peace deal or Shariah law, it's a brutal militant outfit following Takfiri ideology (a Muslim who believes that all other Muslims even orthodox are not true Muslims and they are just collaborators of infidels and deserve to be attacked and killed. All Muslim scholars are unanimous in declaring Takfiris 'heretics' of Islam) and they will fight until the last man standing. Sufi Mohammad 2 turned out to be a culprit since he played at the hands of the TTP. Sufi called Pakistan a Kafir (infidel) nation; he called Pakistan's constitution Kafir. What is worse; is that Sufi has declared that the freedom movement, in Indian occupied Kashmir, is not a Jihad but a war for resources (something that must have made India proud). These statements and antics together were more than the Pakistani Government could tolerate under mounting U.S pressure to let go off the peace deal. U.S and TTP wanted the peace deal to break down. Why is that? Eric Margolis's new book, "The American Raj" provides the answer. U.S, like Russians, Israel and India has a habit of playing double game in almost all conflicts. The U.S is supporting TTP through Afghani and Indian intelligence agencies at the same time pressurizing the Pakistani government to go after the TTP using Pakistani Army.
|Map showing TTP presence in NWFP, most of the areas of TTP presence are FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas) which are still not governed under Pakistan law. (Map: BBC).|
After Swat the TTP moved into Dir and Buner areas. This was basically part of the U.S. plan to take control of areas surrounding Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, using the excuse of fighting the TTP and Al-Qaeda, and pushing Pakistani government authority as far back as Indus River. Thus, the Pakistan Army didn't have much choice but to launch a big operation against the TTP. If unchecked, the TTP would continue to grab control of more area around northern Punjab and South Eastern NWFP. There are some key military and government installations in that area, hence control of that region by TTP cannot be allowed.
As a consequence, the Pakistani Army decided that an operation had to be launched against the TTP. The U.S didn't instruct the Pakistan Army to start the operation but simply created conditions under which no other alternatives were available to the Pakistan Army. The U.S would like Pakistan Army to start a simultaneous operation in North and South Waziristan, where supposedly Baitullah Mehsud is located. The U.S will not kill Mehsud with a drone-strike but will keep pressurizing the Pakistani government to start another military operation. U.S puppet President Zardari has already said that soon an operation in South Waziristan will start. The Pakistan Army must not launch an operation in South Waziristan, while it is engaged in Swat and adjoining areas. As mentioned earlier U.S would like to stretch Pakistan Army as much as possible. It is important that TTP are eliminated as much as possible, so that one area of conflict is closed down. If TTP are not eliminated, there is a possibility that Pakistan Army will have to fight them and BLA in Baluchistan at the same time. This must be avoided at all costs. Supplies for TTP are coming from Afghanistan; therefore it is vital that Pakistan Army secures the border region so that supplies for TTP are limited.
Zardari's damage to Pakistan
As much as the U.S, India, Afghanistan are interfering into Pakistan's internal affairs, an equal amount of damage is being done by Zardari and his government to Pakistan's national interests. The government should have made appropriate arrangements for the residents of Swat, Buner and Dir, who are evacuating from the areas where the military offensive is taking place. These evacuees are in serious need of humanitarian assistance. The Government should have known that making accommodation for evacuees, who are Internally Displaced People (IDP), would be extremely difficult. Currently more than a million people have been displaced from their homes. Zardari is going around the world begging for money for the IDP's while he himself has given nothing for the IDPs from his personal looted wealth. He is a billionaire in US dollars. Same goes for other corrupt Pakistani politicians. As in most "third world countries", corrupt government officials will plunder most of the foreign aid which often comes with strings attached.
"Af-Pak" - U.S. Imperialist Policy for Afghanistan & Pakistan
As I have mentioned in previous articles, the U.S would like nothing more than to cut off the land link between Pakistan and China. The "AfPak" plan calls for attacks on TTP militants who control FATA, Swat areas, the Pushtoon dominated border region of Afghanistan-Pakistan border, up to Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan. Quetta has been called the headquarters of Afghani Taliban by US authorities. Admiral Mullen himself has admitted that U.S troop surge in Afghanistan will push more militants into Pakistan.
FATA, Swat areas, the Pushtoon dominated border region of Afghanistan-Pakistan border, up to Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan.
AfPak would like more trouble in Baluchistan. As mentioned my article last article, 'Finding Clarity in the Baluchistan Conundrum', the current Baluchistan government is another proxy of U.S, hence they have announced that government will spend millions of rupees to make Gwadar, the winter capital of Baluchistan. Quetta is the current capital for the province, and it's predominantly Pushtoon. A parallel government is to be setup in Gwadar, from where Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Jandullah can operate from. BLA will operate inside Baluchistan, and Jandullah will try to create trouble in Iran. Iran has, since last year, begun to fence its border with Baluchistan. Once violence is escalated in Baluchistan, BLA will claim that we have setup an independent Baluchistan government in Gwadar. The U.S can use either terrorism or an alternate supply route as a pretext to take control of most strategically located Gwadar. Pepe Escobar calls Baluchistan the biggest prize for U.S in this region.
Baluchistan comprises 48% of the land area of Pakistan. It is poorly protected as Pakistan does not have enough troops to man different areas of Baluchistan, especially when Army is fighting in Swat. The Pakistan Navy is a small force, and is no match to the U.S. Navy carrier group which is just off the coast of Gwadar. On the other side of the Pakistan border. in Afghanistan (Helmand province), a brand new U.S airbase is being built and that area also called, 'desert of death' will house some eight thousand U.S troops. Cross border special operations into Pakistan and Iran from there will be very easy once the base is operational.
Baluchistan comprises 48% of the land area of Pakistan
If the TTP gets control of the border areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan and enough chaos is created in Baluchistan using BLA, Jandullah, the U.S will tell the world community that Pakistan has become a failed state. U.S can go to the UN Security Council and demand the world to help the U.S and its allies restore order in Pakistan. This is an option that U.S will have if the TTP end up controlling the troubled areas of Pakistan. Of course, the U.S will ask the U.N to pressurize Pakistan government to cap its nuclear program and allow IAEA inspection and eventual dismantling of the nuclear weapons. This will take place under the pretext that TTP or Al-Qaida might take over nuclear weapons. Zardari already knows this, in his recent visit to France; he was told by French authorities that France can provide equipment to Pakistan so that certain codes can be placed on the nuclear weapons to prevent the Pakistan Army from using nuclear weapons in any conflict with India without these special release codes. Zardari will get his cut in return for obliging the French. But it's not that simple, he can't do this unless the Pakistan Army allows this to happen. His handyman Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, has made some suspicious remarks on the nation's nuclear program, only to deny them afterwards. Zardari government has already cut 35% funding for Pakistan's nuclear program, as has been verified by top investigative journalist Ansar Abassi of The News and Dr. Shireen Mazari, Director of Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad (The News Aug 3rd 2008). This like all other matters was done without bringing the issue to the parliament for discussion.
The endgame for U.S in Afghanistan?
The U.S has already expanded the war on terror inside Pakistani territory. The reason is that U.S has realized that soon it will run out of options in Afghanistan, and they will have to leave in humiliation. Usually, wars end with "peace talks" and the "negotiating table", but there is no negotiating table" for U.S and NATO in Afghanistan. The situation on ground has become so dire that Kabul is surrounded by the Taliban, who control over 70% of the country. It's a matter of time only before they start attacking vital installations in Kabul. The U.S has sent more troops into Afghanistan on the hope that situation will be controlled. This is a flawed strategy. The Red Army had several hundred thousand troops there and still couldn't control the resistance movement. The following maps highlight, the control of Taliban at the end of 2007, and November 2008.
|Map 1: Taliban complete control in dark pink, considerable control in pink, and no control in grey, at the end of 2007|
|Map 2: Taliban complete control in dark pink, considerable control in pink, and no control in grey in November 2008.|
Patrick Cockburn, journalist, also highlights the failure of Afghan Government in Afghans to Obama get out take Karzai with you.
"A measure of the failure of Mr. Karzai, his government and his Western supporters is that I was able to drive from Kabul to Kandahar eight years ago. But if I tried to make the same journey today, I would be killed or kidnapped soon after leaving Kabul". He continues, "It is not so much that the Taliban is strong and popular, but that the government is weak, corrupt and dysfunctional".
"Security has not deteriorated because of what the Taliban has done," says Daoud Sultanzoy, a US-trained commercial pilot who is a highly respected MP from Ghazni province, south-west of Kabul, "but because people feel the government is unjust. It is seen as the enemy of the people, and because there is no constitutional alternative to it, the Taliban gain."
The U.S wants Pakistan to get rid of its allies inside Afghanistan, namely, Mullah Omar 3, Gulbadeen Hikmatyar, Anwar ul Haq Mujahid, and Jalaluddin Haqqani (all historic Mujahedeen from the time they were fighting Soviet Army). The Pakistan Army and ISI are well aware of the history of this region and the Soviet defeat; the U.S simply ditched Pakistan and moved away. Pakistan was left to deal with the mess. The Pakistan Army and ISI 5 are not interested in going against their assets in Afghanistan, for if the U.S were to abandon Afghanistan again, the Pakistan would like to have some friendly people in Afghanistan. The fact that all these Afghan leaders/war lords, have never caused any harm to Pakistan or Pakistani people so there is no need for Pakistan Army to make enemies out of them. Other than the U.S, Pakistan's arch enemy, India, now has a strong base inside Afghanistan. If the U.S were to leave Afghanistan, these warlords will be used to remove Indian influence in Afghanistan. Finally, the US Army has always been reluctant to kill Baitullah Mehsud 4, the leader of the TTP. This has impaired the trust level between the Pakistan Army and Pentagon, which has been publicly acknowledged by Admiral Mullen as well.
U.S plans for Pakistan and a puppet Pakistani government
The United States has placed the following demands for the Pakistani government.
- Completely freeze Pakistan's nuclear and missile program
- Handover the existing enriched uranium to U.S special task force so that it can be moved to a "safe location" outside Pakistan
- Keep following the IMF/World Bank guidelines for managing the economy of Pakistan
- Change the Pakistan military doctrine; make India an ally in "war against terror", instead of an enemy nation.
- Move Pakistani troops from eastern border with India
- Accept Indian hegemony in South Asia, and allow India to send its supplies (transit trade) through Pakistan into Afghanistan.
- The U.S needs another supply line from Pakistani port of Gwadar; hence the Pakistan government would cooperate in that regard.
This is the U.S agenda for Zardari and his government; otherwise he will be removed - "regime change". The U.S has asked Nawaz the leader of the opposition to join the government in Pakistan, so that PPP 6, ANP 7, MQM 8 and PML (n) 9 can forward the U.S agenda together in Pakistan. Nawaz has always been seen as part of center right in Pakistan's political spectrum. His policies during Musharraf's rule have always been anti-U.S, at least in his statements. But the problem for Nawaz is that he has no choice but to oblige. He is as corrupt as Zardari, plus he owes his escape from jail (under Musharraf) to Bill Clinton, hence he has to oblige Uncle Sam. See my 3/26/09 article, The "Long March" in Pakistan Ends. U.S. plays both sides to maintain control).
Before this, another agreement was done between President Musharraf, Benazir, and the US, known as the NRO 10. The result of that agreement was that Benazir gave unconditional guarantees to the U.S before she actually arrived in Pakistan. Once in Pakistan, she realized that Pakistani public opinion is totally off tangent to that of U.S demands. She was caught in middle not sure of which path to take. She tried to represent the pulse of the people but the result was not good. She was no more, and Musharraf too had to leave in humiliation in the aftermath of Benazir's assassination. Nawaz should know very well what it would mean if he is dragged into a similar deal with the US. The ground reality is that a pro-American leader in Pakistan will not be accepted by the people. Nawaz should know better, but then again there is no room for dissent when you have corruption cases against you lying in Pakistani courts and plundered loot hidden in Swiss bank accounts.
The biggest question to ask now is, under what terms and conditions did IMF and World Bank give the harsh loans to Pakistan? Why doesn't the government disclose the terms and conditions to the Pakistani public? What are they afraid of? Why should we listen to IMF, honor these onerous agreements that continue to destroy our economy. Taking loans on heavy interest from IMF and the World Bank has always resulted in disaster for the nation. Naomi Klein in her best seller book, "The Shock Doctrine, rise of the disaster capitalism", has described the disastrous effects of IMF and WB policies. John Perkin, a former economic hit man has described the details of such policies and economics shocks, in his best seller books, "Confessions of an economic hit man", and "Secret history of the American Empire".
Why must our finance minister be a former Citibank employee? The current finance advisor and the governor of the State Bank are both former Citibank officials. Neither are not accountable to the Pakistani public.
Like I mentioned earlier, India has blocked Pakistan's water supply from Chenab River and there is the Kashmir dispute that remains to be resolved. Plus there are other outstanding issues, the biggest being RAW's (Research and Analysis Wing, India's top intelligence agency) committing terror attacks inside Pakistan. Despite all this, how is it possible that Pakistan can remove its troops from Indian border? On the other hand India is busy in war games near Pakistani border, involving six of its strike corps. The best part is that since terrorist attacks in Mumbai India has not moved its forces from the border.
If India is allowed to move its supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan, Pakistan will be responsible for security of these supplies. If there is an attack on their convoy, then India will send its troops into Pakistan to secure their supplies? This is surely something that Pakistan Army will not entertain, nor the people of Pakistan.
The U.S would like an alternate route through Pakistan, and Gwadar fits the map most ideally. Its most strategically located. There is already a port there, built by China. Therefore, occupying Gwadar would not only provide the U.S. with an alternate supply route through Baluchistan into Afghanistan, but also cut off China, damaging the Chinese 'String of Pearls' theory.
The Pakistani government is not doing anything in Pakistan's national interest. There is the problem of incompetence, corruption, and treachery. People like Pakistani Ambassador to U.S, Hussain Haqqani are only pleading U.S case against Pakistan rather than pleading Pakistan's case in Washington D.C. Rehman Malik the Interior Minister suffers from lost credibility just like the President Zardari. Pakistan's most trusted allies China and Saudi Arabia don't trust Zardari since they know of his corrupt past. The Saudi's are also skeptical of Zardari's (Shia Muslim) close working relationship with Iran. The Pakistan Army is also very skeptical of Zardari, Malik, Haqqani, and the entire setup of this government, but Gen. Kayani is a professional soldier and he does not want to drag the army into politics once again. This is especially true since the army is fully occupied in battling insurgencies inside Pakistan. However there are also few realistic choices left for the Army. They must have drawn a 'Red Line', which shall not be crossed by Zardari government. I also think that there is a line that is drawn for the U.S as well. I don't think that Pakistan Army will allow a blank check to the U.S., especially at the expense of accepting Indian hegemony. What Pakistan needs now is a caretaker nationalist government to be setup under the Supreme Court of Pakistan and it must make fundamental policy decisions and curb U.S influence in Pakistani politics.
It's really is a very tough scenario for decision-makers in Pakistan. There is no easy way out of this quagmire, is there? The economy is heavily dependent on IMF and WB. Political parties are unable to deliver anything good for the public. They are just one step away from going at each other's throats. People are fed up with the lies and incompetence of the politicians.
At the moment the eyes of the nation are fixed at the military operation going on in Northern Areas. We all hope that this operation is successful in restoring the writ of the government in Swat, Buner, Dir and other areas that were under TTP control, so that there is peace in those areas and IDPs can go back to their homes. But lasting peace in Pakistan will only come about when there is a nationalist government rather than a government of corrupt scoundrels. We need to make major policy changes, and stop following the dictates of the U.S. Like I said it's not NWFP or Baluchistan where the root cause of Pakistan's trouble lie. It's Afghanistan, where the nerve center of turmoil inside Pakistan is located. Until Pakistan has a nationalist government who is courageous enough to renegotiate terms and conditions with the US, the turmoil in Pakistan will continue and Pakistan will remain a battle ground for US strategic energy driven goals. The TTP, Zardari government, BLA, and Jandullah are just tools being used by U.S to expand its Great Game in Pakistan. It is also important the Pushtoons are included in government in Afghanistan. This is because of the Pushtoon populations sympathize with Pushtoons of Afghanistan. A pro-Pakistan government in Kabul is a must for peace in Pakistan. General Zia (Pakistan Army Chief and President from 1977-88) was right when he said that pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan is a must for Pakistan's stability otherwise Pakistan will burn.
Glossary of Terms and people mentioned
1. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is the main anti-government party in Pakistan at the moment. Because the TTP bears the name "Taliban" the western media often confuses them with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is a grave mistake. The Afghan Taliban rejects the TTP. The TTP views the ANP to be pro-US and part of the pro-US Pakistan government. The TTP is a group based on Takfiri ideology (a Muslim who believes that all other Muslims, even orthodox Muslims are not true Muslims. They view all others as collaborators with the West. All Muslim scholars are unanimous in declaring Takfiris 'heretics of Islam.
2. Sufi Mohammad has moved into Swat with 9000 followers. He is the original leader of the Swat Islamic Courts Movement and the current leader of the Movement to Implement Islamic Laws in Swat under the name, Tehrik-e-Nizam- e-Shariat e Mustafa (TNSM). Sufi Mohammad had virtual control over Swat during the 90's but now no military power on ground.
3. Mullah Mohammad Omar, founder, leader and ruler of Afghanistan until US invasion in 2001. Mullah Omar has never been against Pakistan. He wants complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
4. Baitullah Mehsud is the leader of TTP, and his cousin Abdullah Mehsud was the founder of TTP, he founded TTP after he was released from Guantanamo Bay, by US authorities.
5. ISI- Inter Services Intelligence is Pakistan's top spy agency. Very close ally of CIA. Also knows some intimate secrets of Afghan Jihad against Soviet, which was partnered by CIA and Regan administration. Recently ISI has been told not to interfere in domestic politics by Gen. Kayani.
6. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is the ruling political party under President Zardari.
7. ANP is predominantly Pushtoon political party that is currently ruling the NWFP province. ANP is a Marxist party, and the founder of the party didn't want to join Pakistan at the time of partition of India, but the muslim majority of NWFP wanted to join Pakistan.
8. MQM is a political party in Sind, started off an ethnic party to represent the urdu speaking or Mohajir (those people who left india at time of partition and moved to newly created Pakistan) community of Pakistan. MQM chief Altaf Hussain is in a self chosen exile in London.
9. PML (N) is the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group, currently PML is split into three groups. The three groups can come together soon. PML (Q) was also called King's Party' since it was formed by President Musharraf, now with Musharraf out of the scene Q and N are likely to join hands again.
10. National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is the brainchild of Condi Rice, Richard Boucher, and John Negroponte. The NRO brought the current Pakistan government under President Zardari into power. One of the key functions of the NRO was to "baptized" all the corrupt politicians of the past, erasing their crimes and misdeeds.
11. Pervez Musharraf is former dictator-turned- president of Pakistan. He was forced out of office due to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and his loss of support by his former sponsor, the U.S. government
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