By ASIF HAROON RAJA
PAKISTAN’S adversaries huddled in Kabul had chalked out a comprehensive covert game plan in 2001 to destabilize, denuclearize, de-Islamize and fragment Pakistan spread over several years. They had pinned high hopes in Gen Musharraf and his King’s Party to help them in the realization of their hidden objectives. Massive expansion of media channels was part of the program to promote secularism and to damage Islamic identity. When they found that Musharraf was not allowing them to gain access to nuclear program, he and his political set up was changed in 2008 and they brought in new leadership totally submissive to Washington’s commands. With their cooperation, the schemers started weakening the economy and public sector enterprises and energy sector.
Six topmost intelligence agencies led by CIA were pitched against the ISI to discredit and defang it. Considering the Army to be the chief bottleneck, they had held high hopes in TTP in FATA, TNSM in Swat and BLA-BRA in Balochistan to enfeeble it. These militant groups had been provided huge funds, training facilities, arms, explosives, sophisticated communication sets, technical know-how of making suicide jackets, techniques of brainwashing suicide bombers and making improvised explosive devices together with intelligence support to enable them to confront major part of the Army, fix and possibly defeat it. Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan were prepared as killing grounds to trap and annihilate security forces.
When the Army and ISI poured coldwater on the designs of the adversaries in 2009, the latter then laid out another trap in North Waziristan (NW) where they hoped all the militant groups in FATA as well as Afghan Taliban would jointly confront Corps size force and contain it. Use of additional troops to beef up existing force in NW in addition to 145000 troops already operating in trouble spots would have been at the cost of losing balance along the eastern front. This imbalance would have then been exploited by India by launching its Cold Start doctrine.
When the Army leadership parried the pressure and made its position clear that the new front will be opened only if it was in Pakistan’s interest, the US decided to discredit the Army chief and DG ISI. 2 May helicopters assault to get Bin Laden was aimed at giving a crippling blow to the reputation of the Army and ISI. Indo-US-western media in close collaboration with foreign paid journalists and media anchors launched a vicious campaign against Gens Kayani and Pasha. After Mehran naval base attack on 22 May, Naval chief was also brought in the firing line. Kerry Lugar Bill had an exclusive share of $50 million for Pakistan’s media. Loyalties of as many as 100 journalists and anchors had been bought who enthusiastically played foreign tutored themes.
Geo anchor Hamid Mir, Najam Sethi, Ahmad Rashid and several others like Asma Jahangir were in the vanguard of propaganda brigade undermining the élan and image of the leadership of Army, ISI and Navy. Pseudo intellectuals Hamid, Najam and Rashid spread half-truths and created misgivings in their bid to get into good books of their paymasters. They are continuing to cast aspersions on Army and ISI even today in the aftermath of memo scandal which erupted in October and Salala incident on 26 November. Najam has shifted to the home of his patrons and is spewing venom against the military and ISI from his new abode in USA. Fame hungry Hamid’s allegation that he is being threatened by intelligence agencies on phone (implying ISI) and that he has telephone numbers seems absurd since Army telephone numbers do not appear on the recipient’s phone. Rashid didn’t deem it proper to express sympathy or offer his condolence over the tragic martyrdom of 24 soldiers at Salala at the hands of NATO. Instead of condemning the attackers, he picked on Pak Army and projected it as an impediment to peace in Afghanistan. There is no dearth of suchlike snakes in the grass in Pakistan who have sold their souls for material benefits.
In order to further intensify pressure, Pakistan’s adversaries sitting in Kabul heated up its western border from May 2011 onwards and runaway militants from Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan were launched from Kunar to make Mohmand, Bajaur, Dir and Chitral turbulent. Pak Army not only put an end to cross border forays but also refused to jump into the cauldron of NW. It ignored the US shrill alarms that Haqqani network (HN) had become a grave threat. Besides, the Army and ISI started taking emergent measures to checkmate the unwanted influence of US spy network.
While the US and UK military trainers were repatriated, movement of diplomats outside their place of duty was kept under observation. Finding their freedom of action in Pakistan getting curtailed, the US in sheer exasperation directly pointed fingers at ISI that it was linked with HN and had jointly planned and executed attacks in Kabul on 13 September and murder of Burhanuddin on 20 September. In addition, the US froze $ 800 million Close Support Fund (CSF) which was to be paid for services rendered by Pak Army in war on terror and threatened to stop aid altogether. Threats of unilateral action were also hurled. Karzai regime stood alongside the US in accusing Pakistan.
When Pak Army didn’t budge and maintained its defiant stance, ISAF and ANA jointly planned the attack on Pakistan’s two military posts in Mohmand Agency that were obstructing the movement of infiltrators from Kunar. The helicopters assault was carried out on 26 November to give another mortifying blow to the credibility of Army. Instead of weakening the resolve of Army’s leadership, the massacre of 24 officers and men further steeled the tenacity of Gen Kayani.
The government and the Army jointly took series of actions to express their anger which included closure of supply routes and Shamsi airbase, boycotting Bonn conference, calling back military liaison officers from Afghanistan and refusing to take part in ISAF’s inquiry because of predisposed opinion given by the US/NATO senior officers that it was accidental and not deliberate. The investigation report opines that mistakes were committed by NATO but both sides are to be equally blamed for the tragedy. Pakistan has rejected the biased report and wants the inquiry to be done by an impartial body. The sad incident has created a wide gulf between the two armies that have remained on friendly terms since early 1950s.
While Pak-US relations have hit rock bottom and so far chances of recovery is slim mainly because of the US egotism and refusal to offer apology, memo affair has also taken a serious turn. The case is in the Supreme Court and the President, Army Chief, DG ISI, Husain Haqqani have been made respondents. Possible linkage of memo affair with 2 May episode has made the situation dicey. Submissions of replies to the Supreme Court by COAS and DG ISI independently led to serious misunderstanding between the government and the Army and for sometime it seemed as if a showdown was round the corner after the PM’s diatribe against Army chief, DG ISI and Secretary Defence on 22 December.
Memogate has become the bone of contention since the government has taken the plea that it was a non-issue and must be ignored, while Kayani and Pasha maintain that memo was a reality and the issue was of grave nature and must be probed to get to the bottom of it. The matter has for the time being been defused by the PM by lauding the services of the heads of the two institutions and explaining that his tirade was not against the Army or ISI. He disappointed Army bashers by dispelling the rumor that he may sack COAS and DG ISI. Notwithstanding his assurances and apparent normality in government-Army relations, things are not as smooth as they were prior to memo scandal and their relations will remain tense. The government is already under extreme stress owing to disturbed political situation, collapsing economy, the sword of NRO hanging on its head and Tehrik-e-Insaf, PML-N and religious parties demanding early mid-term elections.
The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance analyst and columnist. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org