The Pakistani Sinkhole

You cannot buy an Afghan, but you can rent one at very high price. - British Colonial Aphorism

We can't buy the Pakistanis either and renting them has in the past proved useless for Pakistan insists on pursuing a drunken recklessness and a careless ambivalence to its own extistential threats. Yet we continue to pour money down a Pakistani sinkhole. Currently we are considering in the near term providing Pakistan with $400 million in military aid and $500 million in economic aid and in the longer term sending $7.5 billion, over five years, to Pakistan. That it is likely to be approved I do not doubt, but it should not be approved.

Pakistan is not just a failed state but a rogue state with visions of geo-political grandeur in both south and central Asia. The country has long been a sponsor of international terrorism. It was Pakistan that first destabilized Afghanistan in the 1960s. It was Pakistan that provided the support critical in the Sardar Daud Khan coup of 1973 in Afghanistan. Pakistan created, financed and nurtured both Afghani groups like the Hezbi-i-Islam and the Taliban as well as Kashmiri groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba to further its strategic interests in India and Afghanistan.

Geo-politically, Pakistan's strategic plan, formulated by the Pakistani military and its notorious ISI, has been to endow Pakistan with a 'strategic depth' in relation to India, through the installation of a pro-Pakistan and anti-India government in Kabul or failing this to play the internal divisions of Afghanistan off against themselves in an effort to prevent the emergence of an Afghan government that might demand the return of Pashtun lands split off by the British in 1893.

Furthermore, Pakistan has long sought to create an Emirate of the Stans stretching into Central Asia in an effort to create a Muslim bulwark against India. While governments have come and gone in Islamabad, these geo-political grand ambitions have remained a constant. It should be noted that it was Benazir Bhutto, ostensibly a pro-Western moderate who played a double game. It was Bhutto who sealed a political alliance with Neseerullah Babar, a former Interior Minister and a Pashtun from the North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP). And it was Babar who provided the critical assistance to the Taliban that first allowed them to take Kandahar then Herat and then Kabul. Without that assistance, it is unlikely that the Taliban could have become the predominant power in Afghanistan.

Another Bhutto trademark deal that tell Washington one thing and but do another was her sponsorship of Jamiat ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI), a Deoband-influence party based in Baluchistan, the FATA and the NWFP. Its leader was Fazl ul-Rahman whom Bhutto appointed as Chairman of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs of the National Assembly. In October 1996, he told a public meeting in Peshawar that the JUI would create an "Afghanistan-like situation in Pakistan if anti-Islamic and nationalist elements in the government did not revise their opinion of the Taliban." He need not have worried for Pakistan has long protected the Taliban and they continue to do so. The problem in Pakistan remains that within its vast military and intelligence services there are a not insignificant number who view India as the only problem and the Taliban as minions in the struggle against India. I might add that Fazl ul-Rahman's hopeful plans have come to a nightmarish fruition.

Do officials in Washington really reminding of Pakistan's long and nefarious role in stirring up pots across the whole of the region? I might remind official Washington that in 1991 the State Department considered placing Pakistan on its list of "terrorist states" - a list that then included Libya, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Then as now, Pakistan used jihadi terrorists for waging a proxy war against India, allowing them to operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan and even in Bangladesh as well as from rear bases in other countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Have we forgotten the role of the ISI in the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar in 1999? Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group who hijack Flight 814, is another of those groups who receive funding and training from Pakistan. It should be recalled that it was ISI agents who greeted the plane on its arrival in Kandahar and who largely conducted the negotiations.

I might also remind official Washington that in the 1980s the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a Karachi-based bank, was a a massive criminal enterprise with anti-Western bent and ties to a who's who of Pakistan. Among the stated goals of its Pakistani founder were to "fight the evil influence of the West," and finance Muslim terrorist organizations. It is bizarre to me that man who led the charge on the BCCI case was Senator John Kerry who is now one of the men leading this rescue for Pakistan that is nothing more than money down a sinkhole. Pakistan has not changed if even Senator Kerry needs to pretend otherwise.

Tags: Geo-Politics, pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari, Taliban, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

23 Comments

Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Geopolitics makes for strange bedfellows.  Pakistan is a Byzantine, duplicitous, labyrinthine tar-pit when it comes to international diplomacy, to be sure, but it is hard to catalog their seemingly endless record of corruption and violent subterfuge without noting the role played by generations of Western governments in aiding and abetting their machinations for the sake of short-term geopolitical advantage, or weakness resisting international blackmail, in the region.

Our chickens have come home to roost.  It's nice to see the scales fall from our eyes on our 'ally' on the war in terror but the this autocratic Mafioso still has us over a barrel.  I'm guessing we will still be negotiating the ransom right up to the time we nail them for the foreign affairs equivalent of income tax evasion.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 12:02AM | 0 recs
Disagree a bit ...

The most culpable entity in this exercise have been the Pakistani themselves...and not the interfering western governments.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-07 05:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

All 170 million of them?  That seems a bit harsh.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

That may be, but it is a better reflection of what actually went down than saying our chickens are coming home to roost.

"You get the government you deserve", and all that...

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-07 05:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

Perhaps but 'You get the military coup d'état you deserve' doesn't quite have the same bite, does it?  Khan, Zia and Musharraf ruled Pakistan for thirty years of the past sixty or so, how do you blame the electorate for that?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 05:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

You do get the military coup you deserve..if you cheer the dictator when he first arrives.

And they have all been cheered when the first arrived.

I recall reading...with a sinking feeling... that Musharraf's poll ratings was sky high when he first deposed Nawaz Sharif!!

Who do you blame for that ?

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-07 06:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

Sorry, I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this point.  Polls do not elections make and if the Pakistani population hasn't exercised their democratic will for half of the last sixty years I don't see how you can blame them.  Some of their electoral choices have been constrained by insider politics too.  It's kinda' like blaming a large percentage of them for being uneducated or poor.  I don't see where they've really had a fighting chance.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

Actually, I can happily concede some of your point, as long as you agree that they should shoulder some of the blame.

It is true that they are not often asked for their opinion, and it is also true that they are uneducated and poor.

But, it is also true that blaming outsiders (as in your "chickens coming home to roost") does not solve or change anything.  Even if the outsiders had been perfectly well behaved, Pakistan would still be a screwed up place today.

But regardless, I thank you for an interesting discussion.  

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-08 07:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

Agreeably done and thanks likewise.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-09 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

I think he is referring to a failure of elites.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-07 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

Well, no argument there.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Disagree a bit ...

I think we can all happily agree that the elites shoulder most of the blame.

But, in my opinion, the rest of the people also shoulder some of the blame...because (a) they put up with it & (b) unless they take responsibility, nothing will change.

It is mostly a rhetorical argument, actually.  I would happily concede that the masses are not at fault, if we did not then turn around and blamed outsiders.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-08 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Reports are that Pakistan is ramping up nuclear weapon production in a big way at the same time the risk of capture of these weapons by the Taliban is increasing.  With the US and Russia actually cutting weapons, the Pakistanis have to be told to cease and desist.

by Bob H 2009-05-07 02:40AM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

The Nuke stuff keeps me awake at night. I definitely feel less threat of Iran having nukes than the Taliban.

by MNPundit 2009-05-07 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Ironically they would probably both have pride of place on each other's target selection lists.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Don't remember the guy who got Daniel Pearl killed. When India released this known terrorist, Pakistan openly helped this guy enter the country and let him have open meetings gloating about his activities. Pakistan refused to acknowledge India's request to return him.

A lot of US politicians of both parties have been simply clueless about Pakistan. They ignored Zia's activities which led to this crisis. People make a big deal about Obama talking to Chavez. Zia was a worse guy and Reagan called him his buddy or something.

by Pravin 2009-05-07 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

You're probably referring to Omar Saeed Sheikh who is still appealing his conviction and death sentence for the murder, though 'who killed Daniel Pearl?', and more intriguingly, 'why?' is still an open question.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Omar Saeed Sheikh is an ISI operative. He didn't turn himself into the police, he took refuge with the ISI. The police spent a week looking for him before it was revealed that he was in an ISI safe house.

The why is obvious though I realize your question is a rhetorical one.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-07 05:02PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

I wasn't going to go the 'full monty' on Sheikh but you don't seem to be pulling any punches so here goes:


Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, one of the three terrorists who were taken to Kandahar for release by the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, was one of the key planners and perpetrators of the most daring terrorist attempt on the US soil, said a former military intelligence analyst John Newman during his testimony before the 9/11 inquiry commission.

Newman went on to say that "Saeed Sheikh was probably a triple agent" who operated for Pakistani, American and British intelligence while being an Al-Qaida's top functionary. After his release in 1999, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani origin, was appointed member of the Majlis Al-Shura by Osama Bin Laden, said the testimony, which did not find mention in the final report on 9/11.

Satish Misra - Kandahar hijacking, 9/11 `linked' The Tribune (India) 26 Mar 06

And this was reported, briefly in the US media at the time, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, for example:


WASHINGTON (CNN) A man suspected of playing a key role in bankrolling the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States was released from prison in India less than two years ago after hijackers of an Indian Airlines flight demanded his freedom, a senior-level U.S. government source told CNN.

This source said U.S. investigators now believe Sheik Syed, using the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, sent more than $100,000 from Pakistan to Mohammed Atta, the suspected hijacking ringleader who piloted one of the jetliners into the World Trade Center.

Investigators said Atta then distributed the funds to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil that destroyed the World Trade Center, heavily damaged the Pentagon and left thousands dead.

Kelli Arena and Mike Boettcher - Suspected hijack bankroller freed by India in '99 CNN 6 Oct 01

Rumour has it the source for these reports was the FBI, curiously enough, although these links were allegedly not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report.  'Triple agent,' eh?  'Chickens coming home to roost' may not be such an inappropriate assertion as it has sometimes appeared.  I'm not much of a 9/11 conspiracy buff but this kind of thing makes your skin crawl.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 05:49PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

I had never heard that he worked for US intelligence before. Thanks. I'll look at those sources.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-07 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Good luck with that, it's a jungle out there and the 9/11 consiracy theorist rat-holes are everywhere.

Newman is a special case, it seems, former NSA analyst he's written a couple of brilliant, methodical books on sensitive stuff in years past.  But this is a truly cold case, though this page is useful for retaining copious links to contemporary news reports and sources in a reasonably well organised presentation, though I don't necessarily endorse the editorial content.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Yes, that's him. I was too lazy to look up his name. I remember the US(clinton government) not doing enough to help India get this bastard returned. India should take the primary blame for letting this guy loose without injecting some slow poison into his body.

by Pravin 2009-05-07 09:30PM | 0 recs
Re: The Pakistani Sinkhole

Zia ul-Huq does mark the beginning of the turn towards the Islamization of Pakistan but it is important to note that Pakistan was involved in rogue state activities probably from its inception but there is ample evidence of a destabilization plan in Afghanistan dating to the 1960s.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-07 05:07PM | 0 recs

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