By ASIF HAROON RAJA
AFTER 9/11, a treacherous plan was collectively conceived by USA, Israel, India, UK and Germany to trap Pakistan. The conniving partners decided to not only occupy Afghanistan and make it permanent military base of USA for the pursuit of multiple strategic and economic objectives in the region, but also to denuclearize, de-Islamize and Balkanize Pakistan through a sustained covert war using Afghan soil. It was decided that the objectives set for Pakistan would be achieved by cunningly posing as friends and then stabbing it at the opportune time when it had been sufficiently enfeebled from within. Economically weak Pakistan was to be lured with an attractive offer of $ 10 billion and pumped up by making it the frontline state to fight global war on terror to defeat terrorism. Latter was a ruse to embroil bulk of Pak Army in fighting its own people on its soil. Pakistan was given additional incentives by way of rescheduling all its foreign debts and offering greater investments and breaking its isolation.
The plan of action envisaged taking Gen Musharraf into confidence by pretending that Pakistan was the most important strategic partner among the coalition and all had common objective of defeating common enemy that had become a danger to world security. Once he was taken on board and Pakistan provided all out assistance to bring down friendly Taliban regime, India made the first move in December 2002 by stage-managing a terrorist attack on Lok Sabha building in New Delhi and making it an excuse to deploy its whole military strength along its western border. Ten months military standoff was meant to pressure Pakistan to allow India to fence the Line of Control in Kashmir (LoC), ban six Jihadi outfits engaged in supporting Kashmir armed freedom movement and thus deflate the resistance movement in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). This coercive distraction or deception was also undertaken to allow CIA and FBI to consolidate their outposts in FATA and Balochistan in that timeframe.
Once this objective was achieved, India then established Pakistan specific consulates in southern and eastern Afghanistan and also opened up dozens of training camps to trigger the planned covert war. Bulk of RAW assets were shifted to Afghanistan, which was mandated to foment unrest in two extreme flanks of Pakistan – FATA and Balochistan, and through Washington forcing Pak Army to jump into the inferno of turbulent regions. Flames of terrorism were then gradually spread from FATA to PATA and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and later toward Punjab and Karachi. While Pakistan was constantly pressed to do more against extremists, the terrorist groups in FATA and Balochistan were secretly funded, trained, equipped and guided to create anarchic conditions and to bog down sizeable portion of Pak Army in fighting the faceless enemy. Purpose was to bleed both sides but not allowing any side to win and terminate the war.
In order to conceal clandestine operations as well as to silence Pakistan protesting against India’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, India entered into a peace treaty in early 2004. To gain Pakistan’s confidence India agreed to cease hostilities along the eastern border and the LoC and promised to resolve core issues including Kashmir. Another purpose was to buy time to complete illegal construction of dozens of dams over three rivers flowing into Pakistan.
By 2008, centre of gravity of terrorism had shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Lahore suffered violent group attacks and suicide attacks. Over 100,000 troops got irreversibly entangled in FATA and Swat region. This figure jumped to 1,47000 in 2009 when three major operations had to be launched in Bajaur, Swat and South Waziristan (SW) in quick succession to push back the surging tide of militancy which had reached Buner. Dismantlement of the three heavily fortified strongholds of the militants at heavy cost and forcing them to flee to other parts of FATA and Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan didn’t please the US and its strategic partners since it went against their plans.
The band of six including Afghanistan reappraised the obtaining situation and concluded that Pak Army and Frontier Corps were too strong to be defeated by the militants and the ISI was too professional and vigilant to be hoodwinked by six agencies. They agreed that until and unless these too organizations were discredited and put on the back foot, laid down objectives couldn’t be achieved. An effort had been made in August 2008 when the newly elected democratic government at the behest of Washington had tried to cut the ISI to size by placing it under US-UK chosen man. It backfired since Gen Kayani put his foot down and PM Gilani had to take back his executive order. The second attempt against the ISI was made in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks by blaming it. Plan was to get it declared as a rogue outfit.
Propaganda war against the Army and ISI was stepped up from 2009 onward and tone of the US officials became more officious and haughty. Af-Pak policy was framed to convert eastern-southern Afghanistan, FATA and northern belt of Balochistan into a single battle zone so as to allow CIA to carryout drone strikes and ISAF air strikes and hot pursuits across the Durand Line unobtrusively. Kerry-Lugar aid bill was yet another snare to enable foreign paid NGOs to work on assigned projects more vigorously, expand American Embassy in Islamabad, establish extensive CIA network, consolidate Blackwater, facilitate thousands of CIA contractors and Marines to sneak in and prepare for the final round. Ironically, the interior minister and our ambassador in Washington facilitated the preparatory work of the decisive round.
Another layer of web was woven around Pakistan by heating up Karachi through the militant wings of regional political parties so as to destabilize the main economic hub centre. Spate of target killings by unknown gunmen were unleashed in 2009 which is still continuing and claimed well over 3000 lives of innocent people. Balochistan was also heated up through target killers and the wrath of foreign paid Baloch rebels fell upon non-locals, particularly Punjabis and Persian speaking Hazara community. Lahore saw series of group attacks by terrorists in 2009. GHQ and ISI setups were attacked. Making so many regions turbulent at a time was designed to maximize pressure and render law enforcement agencies ineffective. Simultaneous thrusts enabled the adversaries to tighten the noose around Pakistan’s neck, and reaching a stage wherein they could tug the rope of the multi-layered web at an opportune moment.
When the schemers failed to trap the Army in the snares of Swat and SW, they laid out another trap in North Waziristan (NW). After drumming up that al-Qaeda top leadership was based in NW and then overplaying Haqqani network that it was the chief headache, the US started applying heavy pressure on Pakistan to mount a major operation to liquidate safe havens and ignored GHQ’s limitations. When Gen Kayani didn’t make any move in NW, the US decided to hit Pak Army/ ISI below the belt by reincarnating the ghost of Osama bin Laden and striking the phantom in Abbotabad. The wicked act further steeled Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha and the two speeded up actions to curb American influence inside Pakistan.
Counter measures further angered the Americans and in retaliation instigated runaway militants from Swat and SW housed in safe havens of Kunar to conduct acts of terror in Dir, Mohmand Agency and Chitral and also multiplied frequency of drone strikes in NW. Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber Agencies were also heated up. When the new fronts were also successfully deactivated, the US in frustration rebounded by initiating memo scandal to create civil-military rift and then launched brazen attack on military posts in Salala and brutally killed 24 Pak officers and men standing guard to check infiltration. This hostile act dipped Pak-US relations to lowest ebb. Four months have elapsed since that unfortunate incident occurred but relations between the two so-called allies are still strained. NATO supply routes are still blocked which is hurting ISAF the most and ISI-CIA intelligence cooperation has ceased.
Over ten years have gone past during which the people have suffered a great deal, but thank goodness despite weaving multi-layered web around Pakistan, so far the US and its allied partners have been unsuccessful in denuclearizing, de-Islamizing and Balkanizing Pakistan. Rather all the evil-doers are in trouble and have got entangled in the web of Afghanistan. While the web was being secretly woven at a feverish pace, the ISI had also girded up its loins after the accidental arrest of Raymond Davis and initiated several counter measures to break the CIA network.
I must compliment Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pahsa for playing his inning as DG ISI estimably. He faced the maximum brunt from the very beginning of his stint and couldn’t enjoy even a single day to relax. A man of steel nerves, no amount of American and Indian pressure could flag his tenacity. It is no mean job to face the combined strength of CIA-MI-6-RAW-Mossad-BND-RAAM single-handed. The ISI under him confronted multiple challenges squarely and succeeded in providing effective first line defence. He became an eyesore for USA and India since he thwarted their thrusts towards our vital ground. He boldly faced the wrath of our foreign-paid media which left no stone unturned to damage his reputation. Undoubtedly he was the best DG ISI after Gen Akhtar Abdur Rahman.
I wish him happy retired life and also wish his successor Lt Gen Zaheer ul Islam Ocean of luck in all his future doings. There are no two opinions about his professional excellence and sterling qualities of head and heart. He is a proud Rajput from Mera Mator, which has produced top class generals, and like them soldiering is in his blood. Although he has taken over under very trying conditions, I am sure he will live up to the high expectations and trust reposed in him and will sail through these challenging times with honor.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org