Pakistan is slowly sinking in a vicious syndrome of deniability, which is evident from the rapid developments since the Bin Laden raid. There are extreme and rapid counter attacks from terrorists in all parts of the country, including but not limited to Military and Naval bases, Girls schools, Shopping malls, and mosques of Shia and Ahmedi minorities. The raid which proved that Pakistani forces are at best incompetent and negligent, or at worst rogue, maligned the prestige of the Armed forces, who are considered demigods in Pakistani politics, having controlled the country directly or indirectly for over 50 years. The counter attacks of the Talibans and other assorted terrorist organizations, most notably on the Mehran Naval base, proved that they are incapable of guarding their own territory either. Also it raised the uncomfortable question of the Islamist fundamentalists infiltrating their lower ranks, as otherwise, such a massive operation can’t be done with such venomous commando like precision. Lastly the ongoing Rana-Headley trial is slowly and beyond doubt proving the complicity of the ISI-Army-Jihadi nexus that plagued Pakistani politics since late seventies of the last century.
Now, interestingly, this national humiliation and shame resulted in a condition which we call “defensive siege mentality”. Pakistan denied, and is still denying reality, which is a caustic reminder of how they are trying to escape or bypass the truth, trying to find refuge in the realm of “conspiracy theories”. The media men, out of patriotism or fear of retribution, started to shout hoarse on an alleged USA-India-Israel ploy of humiliating Pakistan and thereby paving the way of neutralizing the Nuclear arsenal. Some journalists, a rare few who dared to raise questions, were tortured and murdered. Various arguments were propagated by retired Intelligence and Army officers, in countless number of news debates, and talk shows, some of them implying Haqqani Network as a friend of Pakistan, and some of them as hilarious as saying Talibans are in collusion with India and USA. Also the age old accusation of US betrayal by supporting and nurturing Talibans in the 80s and then forgetting Pakistan was a standard policy.
The scope of this article is to probe and discuss some of these myths. But before that, I would like to take some time to clear up an old misguided notion, the issue of US nurturing of Talibans against the Soviets. It is probably the most common and widely accepted, misguided notion in these parts of the World, that US used Pakistan in its own fight against the Soviets, and later on left it to survive on its own. The fact that US created the Talibans is an unbelievable lie, which is deliberately and carefully concocted to fool generations. The Islamisation of the Pakistan army started long before the Soviet Afghanistan fiasco, and much before US tried to balance it. The once secular Army and other military institutions started the regular religious preaching during the Zia Ul Haq regime. Also another interesting aspect that is not carefully mentioned again, is the US supported the Mujaheedins and other liberation forces led by Kabul University educated secular Ahmad Shah Massoud. They were not the Talibans. The refugees which flocked the borders and infiltrated Pakistan during those tumultuous times, however seemed to the Pakistani administration a potent tool of controlling the future of the region. Two whole generations born and bred in the borderzone Madrassas, were the future mass who will later on form the backbone of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Since the operational discretion was completely in the hands of the Pakistan army and the ISI with no accountability, with US only providing logistical, material, monetary and weapons support to the rebel movement. Pakistan used this opportunity to form a proxy force which will guard its western flank from any encroachment by the economically growing India, and also to control the vast mineral and natural resources of Afghanistan. The “siege mentality” as said earlier, also provided a necessary urge to have a control of the region, which is an all important trade route, watchtower of Central Asian oil preserves, and military dominance, which will eventually ensure Sunni Pakistan is not surrounded by hostiles, from India, Shia Iran, USA-Israel, or Soviet Russia. Thereby a Frankenstein was created and unleashed.
Coming back to the fact that can be noted from the handling of the situation is that Pakistan encourages Covert sabotage and operations by its proxies from the various and uncounted small and big Jihadi groups, ranging from Talibans, Al Qaeda, Lashkar E Toiba to small time Chechen, Uzbek and Chinese Uighur rebels, operating under one single umbrella and patronage. The Operations are then “denied” with various disposable options, from paid news media “experts” and “conspiracy theory mongers” to more paid PR and Lobby groups. And finally they all share a common umbrella under “World’s First Islamic Nuclear Bomb”. And the most notable argument from the Pakistani side is the World cannot afford Pakistan to fail, as it will be a catastrophe.
Herein comes the bluff. Even Pakistani politicians know that it is a total prevarication, as the World will never allow the nuclear bombs in the hands of Jihadis. Even though I’m a layman, but it is not Rocket Science to understand that Nuclear bombs are not crackers, they have a multilayered command and control structure, from warheads, missiles, detonators, silos, and carriers, all of which has got separate storage space and codes. Even a single rogue pilot with a nuclear bomb will not be able to deliver the warhead as it can be blocked and neutralized without the proper codes. Also the Pakistani establishment is well aware, that any misadventure with the so called single “dirty bomb” will result in catastrophe. The whole world is watching over Pakistani nuclear assets, and the Nuclear countries surrounding Pakistan, with the notable exception of China has a “no first use” policy, not a “no use at all” policy. Any tactical, strategic, or WMD explosion which will be traced back to Pakistan can bring in a deliberate, massive, and disproportionate nuclear counter strike which will result in the total annihilation of the country. The intellectuals, who are claiming that the world cannot afford Pakistan to destabilize, will have to remember that Soviet Union also broke down, and a number of Nuclear weapons feared unaccounted, but nothing happened. As I said earlier, detonation is a not a child’s play.
The only way to stop Pakistan is through coercion to act, (stopping aid, for example). Pakistan will as a result again take up the bogey of “failed state” and/or going into the arms of China, but at heart they will know both are unfeasible. They are not a failed state, and China won’t take such a burden, economic, and military at this time, especially when it is concentrating on its own rise as an economic power, and especially when they are increasingly threatened by their own Jihadi version in the Uighurs. China can’t afford to lose prestige and they won’t do it. Pakistan got snubbed before also, from China, most recently during the Gwadar port fiasco. And only through stopping unabated aid, will Pakistan be forced to act on the disrupting forces.
However, who coerces Pakistan to act is a matter of a different debate and outside the scope of this article. It will need a leadership with a strong spine. Which, as a matter of fact, is yet to be seen.