Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Ahead of Lisbon, soul-searching in Pakistan

November 18, 2010


For all of former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf’s faults, the one thing you would have to give him credit for is the emergence of a free press. It’s every bit as fearless, and questioning as its counterpart across the border in India, sometimes even stepping over the line, as some complain.

Indeed east of the Suez, and perhaps all the way to Japan, it would be hard to find a media that is as unrestrained as in India and Pakistan, which is even more remarkable in the case of Pakistan given the threat posed by a deadly militancy.

And so in the run-up to the Lisbon summit where NATO leaders will decide, among other things, the way forward in Afghanistan, a few Pakistanis have spoken forcefully. They touch upon Pakistan’s role as a conflicted ally in the war there and the extreme danger that the state itself  faces now because of its refusal, or inability to break ranks with militant organisations. More striking, they challenge some long-held beliefs relating to India and Pakistan, in ways you would think was unthinkable.

One of them is an influential Pakistani newspaper editor, who according to Arnaud de Borchgrave in a piece carried by the Atlantic Council, has just made the rounds of Washington, delivering a stunning indictment of some of the players involved in the Afghan conflict.  He can’t be named and his comments were off-the-record, but meant for public use, Borchgrave says.

He has listed some of them, and I can do no better than sum them up here, given they speak so directly to the issues at the heart of a troubled region.

-  All four wars between India and Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) were provoked by Pakistan.

– There is no Indian threat to Pakistan, except for what is manufactured by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency.

– Washington says Pakistan must do more to flesh out insurgent safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As long as the Taliban were the illegitimate children of ISI that was possible. But Taliban are now the enemies of Pakistan, irrespective of whether they are Pakistani Taliban or Afghan Taliban. Assets have become liabilities. We’ve lost 3,000 Pakistani military KIA (killed in action) All the jihadist terrorist organizations were created by Pakistan — and they have now turned against us.

– Pakistan has a big stake in Afghanistan. And America’s own exit strategy is entirely dependent on Pakistan. Our army has a chokehold on your supply lines through Pakistan. And Pakistan wants to be the U.S. proxy in Afghanistan. ISI wants to make sure Pakistan doesn’t become a liability in Afghanistan.

Borchgrave quotes the Pakistani journalist as saying that the attacks on trucks carrying supplies for NATO  were the work of the ISI, although they were made to look like Taliban guerrillas had carried them out. The idea was obviously to show to the Americans they couldn’t operate in Afghanistan without Pakistani support.  Yes, anti-Americanism is rife in Pakistan and it has been that way since Washington turned away from region once the covert war it fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan was over.  But at the same time, the one thing a large number of Pakistanis want is a U.S. visa, the newspaper editor says.

And for a large number of Pakistanis, the war against extremism is not just a Western war, but their war too.   Pakistanis, especially in the cities, are not interested in Al Qaeda’s narrative of jihad for a global caliphate, and they are just as outraged by public whippings of girls as anyone else in the Western world.  America must understand that Pakistan, 63 years after it was carved out of British India as a state for Muslims, is still a work in progress, the journalist said.   It would help if India and Pakistan buried their feud over Kashmir which began almost immediately after its birth as this is something that keeps the Pakistani army going. “The reason it continues in an off-and-on mode is because that’s what the Pakistani army wants. The army’s corporate interests are at stake. If the crisis is resolved, the army loses its narrative for dominating the economy.”

Raza Rumi picks up the thread in a piece castigating the Pakistani elite for harbouring visions of strategic grandeur while the ground slipped away from them.  Pakistan is  a strategic country , every third man is a strategic expert and thanks to the “militarisation of the Pakistani mind” , every twist and turn is seen as part of a some larger, unexplained strategy. So at the moment, Pakistan’s military-bureaucratic elite are celebrating the failure of America”s war in Afghanistan, seeing it as a vindication of their stand that you can’t win without Pakistan and the Taliban on  board.

But Rumi in the piece in The Express Tribune asks if a Taliban regime, even if it is confined to southern Afghanistan, is  really in Pakistan’s interest. First off, has the Taliban been delinked from al Qaeda, whose ideology most Pakistanis abhor ? Second what about the Pakistan Taliban which has declared war on the Pakistani state ? How do the Pakistani Taliban, spawned or atleast inspired by the Afghan Taliban, fit into a post-war settlement ?  And what happens to the larger issue of extremism and sectarianism in Pakistani society, arguably a more serious threat to the country than even loss of control in Afghanistan ? A Taliban regime nextdoor with its extreme interpretation of Islam, can only embolden further those elements determined to reshape a modern nation of 180 million people after their own, narrow image.. Again and again, the argument goes back to the original : you can’t run with hares and hunt with the hounds. Rumi writes :

The Jekyll-Hyde nature of state engagement with the issue of militancy is not sustainable. Above all, Pakistan’s tottering democracy is going to be further strained if the tide of Talibanisation gets out of control. …….How can the good Taliban in the neighborhood be good for the country? We are in an intractable situation, victims of our history and geography.

Pakistan economy is in doldrums, the youth in despair as jobs are scarce. The rich won’t pay taxes and public resources are being squandered.  But Pakistan’s strategic community want the country to pause and celebrate  the current set of circumstances in which India has been reduced to a secondary player in Afghanistan as America looks to a negotiated end to the nine-year war, a path than must run through Islamabad.  Is that something to celebrate or are Pakistan’s strategic experts suffering from delusions of grandeur, Rumi asks.


let me told you what pakistan nation great concern is,
they don’t need atom bomb or missile, or army, they have no ambition to rule the world but definately to protect them selves, they need law&order,justice,economy according to great law’s of ISLAM, dont matter either Taliban,American or even india going to implement those thing in Pakistan even they will be heartedly welcome

Posted by mrkhan | Report as abusive

Clearly the Pak journalist who can’t be named is none other than the great Najam Sethi.

Posted by jet225 | Report as abusive

This unnamed Pakistani Journalist is none other than Najam Sethi, Editor of the Friday Times. He is the one who was on a Washington and U.S. trip towards the end of October. He is one of the few Pak Journalists who calls a spade a spade and talks so admiringly about India. Make no mistake about it. It is 100% Najam Sethi.

Posted by nadahsan | Report as abusive

Pakistan only wants Peace and stability. I hate to sound like a Patriotic Person who goes blind in support. But in all honesty India was the one who started the arms race in the Indian sub-continent by testing their Smiling Buddha Nuclear Tests so please know the HISTORY!!!

In February 1948, the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah announced:
“ The weak and the defenseless in this world invite aggression from others. The best way we can serve peace is by removing the temptation from the path of those who think we are weak and, for that reason, they can bully or attack us. That temptation can only be removed if we make ourselves so strong that nobody dare entertain any aggressive designs against us. Pakistan has come to stay and no power on earth can destroy it.[7][8] ”

In 1974, in response to India’s Smiling Buddha nuclear tests, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto announced:
“ If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb?[9][10]

Posted by tipu420 | Report as abusive

I am surprised to learn that Pakistani journalist had the guts to admit and acknoledge that all 4 wars were started by Pakistan and there is no threat to Pakistan. Land of Muslim Pakistan was carved out of India as demanded and insisted by Mohammad Jinnah. Jinnah agreed to the borders of Pakistan of which NO part of Kashmir was included. Muslim Pakistan was borne out of hatred for Hindus and secular India. Instead of concentrating on improving conditions of impoverished Pakistan and those who became its citizens, Pakistan Army chose to attack Kashmir and grab as much as it could under the pretext of popular uprising in Kashmir. So the very first act of Pakistan was to hate India and grab land under any false pretext and that is still the national and foreign policy agenda of ALL Pakistani politicians and Army 63 years since 1947. Pakistan claims and grabs land from India (of whhich it was part of) and immediately hands over parts of it to a third party (China) without blinking an eye lid. Pakistan is totally consumed by its hatred of India and remained impoverished and poor. Pakistan sole foreign policy of BLEEDING India and all nefarious activities to support it has bled Pakistan profusely but rejuvenated India and made it strong. Today India is hailed as land of Peace and Pakistan as epicenter of Terrorism, India as one of the stronger economies of the world and Pakistan as failed state, India is asked to be part of all kinds of prestigeous organizations of the world where is as Pakistan in being shunned by all countries (except China whose lap dog has Pakistan become) including even Muslim countires. Before it disintegrates further,Pakistan still has a to survive and eventually prosper if it reverses its hate India policy. Pakistan must first withdraw all claims of Kashmir (Kashmir was never a part of Pakistan) and wthdraw all soldiers from there. Totally wipe out all jihadi networks which operate against India, stop offial terrorist activities conducted against India by Pakistan Government and Pakistan Army, reduce size of Pakistan Army by more than 50% and ELIMINATE ISI,reduce tanks/planes/missiles/bombs drastically,make Pakistani society secular like India’s and SEEK India’s Help. Just try to calculate the benefits Pakistan might reap if those points are implemented. Not only Pakistan will shed its vegetative state of health and be on path of prosperity but it will propel India, Afghanistan and the whole region and world to be more peaceful place. Just look at former part of Pakistan now Bangladesh. Without any kind of natural resources, Bangldesh is more peaceful and relatively prosperous than Pakistan. Bangldesh is not losing blood trying to Bleed India. Wake up Pakistan.

Posted by nilaa | Report as abusive

Read what Tipu420 commented. This is the Pakistani psych that needs to change for Pakistan to prosper. He is still entranched in HATE India mindset. Well, be that way and remain epicenter of terrorism and wither away to oblivion. East Pakistan escaped and became Bangladesh and now watch what might be Balochistan. WAKE UP PAKISTAN.

Posted by nilaa | Report as abusive

I think before any one threat Pakistan they should pay attention on American president advise to India, In his
recent visit to India. He very clearly told Indians that
their progress in future is in the hands of Pakistan.
If they would like to progress they should have batter
relation with Pakistan other wise Rusia is history know
because of Afghanistan Invasion,Economically we are broke becuase of Afghanistan, even thoug we are the world biggest and strong economy, If it can happen to us then India is peanut, Pakistan and USA already Kicked Indai out of Afghanistan so, there is a lesson to be learned for Indians otherwise they will be part of history and Pakistan will always be there to help any
other country for this kind of adventure in Afghanistan.

Posted by KENKAHN | Report as abusive

India, Pakistan, Russia, US, UK and some more. There’s a lesson for us all in the Afghan History. Don’t mess there, you will only come out with bloody hands. These are badlands with history of nothing but bloodshed. If any country thinks they can create influence there or stability, democracy or call what you want, all you will get is bloody hands and shameful exit. Western forces have got the first and are readying themselves in Lisbon for the second. Pakistan and India would be better off with their hands off these badlands. They might as well channel the same resources to create influence among each other.

Posted by Ghulab | Report as abusive

“Pakistan is a strategic country , every third man is a strategic expert and thanks to the “militarisation of the Pakistani mind” , every twist and turn is seen as part of a some larger, unexplained strategy.”

Raza Rumi might as well be describing the Pakistani responses to this article.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

“The weak and the defenseless in this world invite aggression from others. The best way we can serve peace is by removing the temptation from the path of those who think we are weak and, for that reason, they can bully or attack us. That temptation can only be removed if we make ourselves so strong that nobody dare entertain any aggressive designs against us” rightly said by late Pakistan Prime Minister and followed by Indians. The one thing India has done right after Independence is free herself from idea of “Pakistan” and developed a mind frame which is more global and devoted to developing internal strength and prosperity and we should continue to do that in future and learn from mistakes our neighbors have made.

Posted by pb11 | Report as abusive

I have gone through the article and the comments of the commenter friends and I find the same fight of words to belittle one another by any means. It is interesting but not of much use. I suppose many country’s populations do not know the history of their own country but they have come to know the history of India-Pakistan by heart.

Indians have to think in the context of the changes of the economical, commercial, financial and National security of Twenty First Century and onward. So should Pakistan.

From third person’s view, I am compelled to mention that both the countries Old politician should now change their hands with new capable young moderate accommodating open-minded politicians Otherwise I cannot agree more than what the President very bluntly said to India about Pakistan. I am sure the Indian Government has understood the essence of The President version; if not then it would be very sad for the coming days for India.

These days no one country can carry on the long journey of the unknown all by own self. Therefore, is the example of US – Russia once arc enemies have shook hands to walk together keeping each other’s security in tact?

Not like India and Pakistan friendship like Live equal and if have to die, die together. It is very good principle of friendship but very dangerous for hardened enemies… Then why fight to live, better fight and die and solve the problem of the world.

Nothing in the world is solved by blaming each other. In addition, when valuable and constructive suggestion and advice given is made to land on deaf ears by both the countries with the instinct of heinous doubts then none else other than GOD himself is required to mediate. It is the same as that going on with the Israeli assassins, genocide criminals and the brutally oppressed people of the Palestine..

It is India’s responsibility being a major country to turn around the table from animosity to friendship. Wherein it is also the duty and responsibility of Pakistan to positively cooperate for the sake of other smaller country’s safety and security within the Sub continent and around it from any aggression by them on each other least to speak about Kashmir..

India must keep at the back of its mind that CHINA will not let it sleep peacefully let alone Pakistan off the subject.

Posted by KINGFISHER | Report as abusive

It’s probably more to do with multi-national oil and gas routes than anything else. India and Pakistan are perfect pawns in the region. Reign supreme in chaos (works in Africa).

Posted by Tiu | Report as abusive

I admire jounalists who take risks and report the ground reality. Reuters is doing just that. I also admire the journalists who speak the language and understand the culture of the people and the land they write about. Raza Rumi in my view is a fake, writing above the heads of the people and trying to find recognition among the organisations outside the country. The national identity of the Pakistani people is blurred, the country has taken millions of refugees from India simply because they were muslims and were forced to leave India. We have similar examples in Europe and are now facing the identity crisis even among the second and third generation of people born in Europe whose parents were immigrant asylum seekers.
I get the impression that Raza Rumi belongs to this category and most probably did not undergo the National service in the military. Let him go to India and he will have more space there to write about the berieved people of the subcontinent.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

And like the joke goes, he should take many others like Musharaf take with him.
Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

what about indian extremism. no one is ready to talk on it: 43

Posted by Sfarhanzafar | Report as abusive

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