By Naeem Sarfraz
Pakistan is fighting three separate wars. And not winning any of them.
The best-known is the WAR ON TERROR. It is not our war. Muslims of the Middle East are ruled by mostly corrupt and decadent dictators–kings, Sheikhs, Ameers, Sultans, Colonels, Generals, hereditary Presidents, Military dictators. Of 57 members of the OIC, only half a dozen or so have democracy. All the rest are dictators.
Many have immense reserves of oil and gas, which are vital for American prosperity. The US finds it most convenient to support predictable dictators, who are easier to manipulate than the uncertain and often maverick leaders of democracies. Then there are the stateless Palestenians, under Israeli occupation. Israeli leaders and Muslim dictators have two things in common. They all keep Muslims in bondage; and they all rely solely on the US for their survival.
US policy of dominating the Middle East is resented by Muslims. Many Arabs have been fighting it for decades. Osama bin Ladin chose the path of violence. He hit American interests world-wide, culminating in 9/11, in which all 19 suicide bombers were Arabs, 15 of them Saudis.
Michael Scheuer, Senior Analyst at the CIA responsible for tracking Osama since 1994, is an authority on Al Qaeda. He states: “Bin Laden has been precise in telling Americans the reasons he is waging war on us. None of these reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world”. So what does it have to do with Pakistan? Not much. The answer lies in the famous words “You are with us or against us”. We buckled and got drawn in.
The second is the WAR OF AFGHAN LIBERATION. It has nothing to do with Osama’s war against US foreign policy. Afghanistan is occupied by foreign troops. This fiercely independent nation has never succumbed to foreign occupation. With courage, patience, tenacity and an indomnitable will Afghans have thrown out mighty British and Russian occupation armies. They will not rest till they remove the Americans and their allies as well.
Where should Pakistan stand in this war for Afghan freedom? We must stand by the Afghans as we stand by other Muslims in Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya. Our geopolitical compulsions do not permit us to oppose the occupation armies, but at least we can be neutral. What we cannot do is support the indefinite occupation of Afghanistan by foreigners.
The third is the AIMLESS WAR in our border areas. Whereas the first two are not ours, this one is exclusively ours. It has led to suicide bombings in our cities; to innocent men, women and children being slaughtered by their own army, an Army raised to protect them; to American Predators (what an appropriate name!) freely roaming our airspace and indiscriminately killing whom they please; to sending hundreds of suspects to Guantanimo without due process of law; to the “disappeared” in illegal custody of the notorious “agencies”. It is a war in which the unsettled military situation on the border has given extremists space to terrorize citizens in the cause of spreading a particular hardline version of Islam through brute force.
The Americans want us to seal our borders so that there are no safe havens for those fighting the two wars in Afghanistan. This is close to impossible. It is not a military matter but one of border control. Thousands of drug smugglers, gangsters, mafiosa and others illegally cross into the US from Mexico every year. The Americans do not deploy their Army to stop them. They do not bomb or pulverize them with remotely controlled missiles. Nor do they goad the Mexicans into killing them.
We are caught in a vicious trap. The Americans have completely confused our leaders who have still not understood that we are fighting three separate wars. They have lumped all three together, choosing to deploy tens of thousands of our own troops in support of the ISAF in Afghanistan for sealing the borders. The “collateral damage” of their operations have left hundreds dead, thousands homeless. Innocent victims of this policy are now hitting back, supported by extremists who exploit their plight, fan their bitterness and find volunteers for terrorist attacks across the country.
One reason for this AIMLESS WAR is that for far too long we have had a part time military commander. Besides being Army Chief he was also President, Chief Executive and de facto head of a political party. His attention inevitably jumped from one issue to another, leaving little time to analyze the threats he faced and how to counter them. He relied purely on US guidelines. Their interests are very different from those of Pakistan and its people.
American policy is being driven by John Negroponte. His dramatic visit to Islamabad last month was exclusively to ensure the survival of President Musharraf. His track record is alarming. In his famous book “Failed States” Naom Chomsky states: As US Ambassador to Honduras “he had to implement White House orders to bribe and pressure senior Honduran generals”. “Chief of the Honduran armed forces, General Alvarez was the most vicious of the Honduran killers and torturers protected by Negroponte”. Finally “Negroponte praised Alvarez’s dedication to democracy”. Sounds familiar. As Ambassador 20 years back he was still relatively junior. Today he is far more powerful. His intervention in Pakistan should not be taken lightly, particularly if it is part of deal brokered by the US last year.
In this AIMLESS WAR that is bleeding our troubled homeland must we continue to perform border patrols and kill our own people? Should we not ask our friends in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to step back, for without their financial support extremist forces cannot be sustained in Pakistan. Should we not keep our American allies out of our airspace? Should we not win back the hearts of our justifiably bitter citizens? These are vexing questions which the new administration must urgently address. They have been voted in for change. That means a radical change in our security policies and an end to fighting other’s wars on our territory. That will bring this AIMLESS WAR to an end and give our people hope for the future.
Sarfraz Naveed is retired NAVY CAPTAIN, has been an ADVISER to UAE Navy, he is an owner of an airlines in South America.