Pakistan engulfed in crises


COMMENT: Pakistan engulfed in crises —Jamal Hussain

The devastating floods that have ravaged the country are heartbreaking, but the government’s response, or the lack of it, has made the situation worse

The events of the past few weeks are frightening, sad and damaging. The WikiLeaks were followed by a series of disasters that included the crash of a private airline in Islamabad, ravaging floods, the ‘earth shaking’ revelation of the new kid on the block, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the mayhem in Karachi following the murder of one of the MQM legislators.

Much commotion was created by our media about the WikiLeaks. When they asked for my take on it, I responded by pointing out that: i) the WikiLeaks were basically field reports and not intelligence assessments; ii) the reports, especially about Pakistan’s ISI, were from the local Afghan agents whose love for the agency is well known; iii) the leaks were a far greater indictment of the US forces in Afghanistan than that of the ISI (besides, what is revealed in them about the ISI is nothing new); and finally iv) the portion dealing with ISI essentially covers a period between 2004 to 2009, when the mistrust between ISI and CIA was at its peak.

Commenting further, I opined that the ISI has never denied its links with some of the Taliban factions and has defended it by maintaining that all spook agencies keep their lines of communications open even with their worst enemies. As far as the charges of funding the Taliban operations against the ISAF in Afghanistan during the period 2004-2009 are concerned, some of the accusations are serious. The ISI hurls similar charges at the CIA and the Indian RAW, accusing them of supporting insurgent leaders in Balochistan. The details of the captured Jundullah leader while he was travelling through the Iranian airspace indicate the meddling of foreign agencies in the affairs of other nations. A faction of Jundullah operates in Pakistan.

Spy networks the world over are guilty of dirty tricks, some without the approval of the state they represent and in some instances with their knowledge under the umbrella of ‘plausible denial’ by the state. There may be a degree of truth in the reports by the field operators but since 2009, the situation has changed. Now the primary bone of contention between Pakistan and the US is the presence of Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The US wants Pakistan to initiate a military campaign against it without delay, but Pakistan is reluctant to do so at this point in time. Without first consolidating Swat and South Waziristan, it fears that starting a new offensive in Afghanistan will seriously overstretch the armed forces. Besides, operations against the Haqqani group will not have the public support and it will lead to a greater exodus of the militants from the region into our cities further destabilising an already precarious situation. That the US and the Karzai-led government of Afghanistan are now seriously considering a negotiated political solution to the Afghan situation by involving factions of the Afghan Taliban complicates matter further for the decision makers of Pakistan.

The American administration and the military appear to better understand the difficulties, dilemmas and limitations of the Pakistani government than many of the US scholars and think tanks.

The crash of the Air Blue flight in the Margalla Hills close to Islamabad, tragic it was, sent our numerous private TV channels and their anchors into a state of frenzy. Within hours of the tragic event, I was inundated by telephone calls from a variety of channels that wanted me to identify the culprit(s). I had to caution them not to jump to any conclusions, as at that point in time little detail of the crash was clear. When finally, with the help of radar picture and radio communications between the ill-fated flight and the control tower, we could figure out what happened, but why it happened can only be determined by the investigation team. The recovery of the black box will help to establish both what and why of the crash and we need to be patient until then. Not satisfied with my comments, a number of pseudo experts came on air and blamed everyone and everything under the sun.

The devastating floods that have ravaged the country are heartbreaking, but the government’s response, or the lack of it, has made the situation worse. Now the army is being seen as the saviour and seeds of another military intervention are being sown. We hope and pray the armed forces stay clear of any such misadventure.

David Cameron’s ‘stunning’ revelation was given wide media coverage. What he said was neither new nor particularly damaging but the timing and place of the statement left us wondering if the famous British skills in diplomacy and wisdom have taken a further turn for the worse.

Karachi is on the boil again. A key Muttahida member of the provincial assembly (MPA) was gunned down in broad daylight and this has precipitated a spate of violence in the city. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in collusion with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been identified as the primary suspects by the state authorities. Since many TTP members are believed to have taken refuge among the Pashtun localities in the city, the ANP/MQM divide has resurfaced with a vengeance. The workers of both the parties appear to have gone into a rampage of indiscriminate killings while their top leaderships are appealing for the calm. The criminal elements in the form of drug dealers and land grabbers have joined the fray, while the TTP and all the religious based terror groups are happily watching the success of their diabolical scheme as Karachi unravels.

The writer is a retired air commodore. He can be reached at jamal4701@yahoo.co.uk

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