The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting.
“I’ve been cheated,” Benazir Bhutto told General (r) Naseerullah Babar a couple of weeks before her assassination. Babar had told her not to return. But she did on the coattails of the US and UK. What was the real deal worked out by the international players and the future role of Gen (r) Musharraf will never be known. She’s taken the secret to her grave.
Nineteen years ago, there she stood triumphantly and declared before the joint houses of the United States Congress: “The day of the dictator is dead.” She got a standing ovation which lasted for well over five minutes. Dictator Ziaul Haq was dust and she was the victor. What happened this time? Who cheated her? Was it the US?
Rumour has it that Nawaz Sharif has gone silent on his ‘tough’ stance against the US after he received a ‘shut-up’ call from Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state. “We’ll make a horrible example of you,” Henry Kissinger had once told Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Similar threats were conveyed to Mian Sahib.
During background briefings with diplomats of ‘friendly Muslim countries,’ almost all voiced a very serious concern about Pakistan’s survival. “Pakistan is the only Muslim state which has the nuclear bomb. We look up to your country but fear that the West is determined to take control of your nuclear assets by creating instability and chaos among your provinces. Don’t walk into their trap.”
One diplomat asked me point blankly: “Why is the Pakistani media after the army and the ISI?” Continuing with this line of argument, he said, “It is your ISI which has always protected you from the American CIA which has been working to take charge of your bombs. Instead of supporting your army, you people are gunning for it. What’s wrong with you?”
Unless you shake off the American aid shackles, you’ll never get free, warned another diplomat. “Ziaul Haq gave the Americans open access.” Author Ahmed Rashid affirms this fact. The then CIA director William Casey sanctioned huge funds for the ISI from the Reagan administration to gather folks like Osama bin Laden, along with a small group of Islamic militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan and Palestinian refugee camps all over the Middle East, to become ‘reliable’ partners of the CIA in its war against Moscow. In addition to the Gulf states, these included Turkey, the Philippines, and China.
The Guardian and Washington Post carried reports in 1993 about the role of the CIA and the British MI 6. The newspapers said that more than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and the British intelligence agency MI6, with the SAS (British Special Forces unit) training future Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other martial arts. “Their leaders were trained at a CIA camp in Virginia.” “While around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries fought along with the Afghan mujaheddin, tens of thousands more enrolled in the hundreds of new madressahs (Islamic schools) funded by the ISI and the CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.”
Benazir Bhutto warned President George H W Bush when she went to the US in 1989: “You are creating a Frankenstein.” However, the warning went unheeded. In 1993, Benazir Bhutto sought Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s help. She told him that Peshawar was under de facto control of the mujaheddin. But no military help came. Quoting one western diplomat, Mary Anne Weaver wrote in ‘Atlantic Monthly’ in May 1996 “These thousands of (militants) would never have been trained or united without US help. The consequences for all of us are astronomical.”
Instead of acknowledging their malicious role in creating a Frankenstein as Benazir pointed out 19 years ago, the Americans instead dumped all their dirt on Prime Minister Gilani who like Benazir was grilled by the CIA agents and shown proof of ISI’s involvement with the militants. How ironical that Pakistan should be told to slay the monster created by America itself?
The New York Times leaked the story about the alleged ISI involvement with the militants in the tribal areas when Gilani landed in the US recently. A diplomat in Islamabad had earlier told me how America gets under the skin of leaders of third world countries. “Unless you break free of the dependency syndrome, you’ll never progress,” he warned. According to him the route used by the CIA for ‘client states’ like Pakistan has four paths converging into one: First, it’s the US administration that carries out arm twisting while doling out dollars; second are the local NGOs and local influentials who work for American interests in their own countries and follow the agenda outlined by Washington; third are the ‘consultants’ sent by the US who actually are CIA agents; fourth are the media outlets like New York Times, Washington Post and the Voice of America, who act as handmaidens to the US government of the day. (The timing of NY Times ISI story certainly helped Bush to embarrass Gilani)
On her arrival at the White House on June 6, 1989, Benazir Bhutto concluded her speech with the words: “I have assured the President (George H W Bush) of our continuing efforts toward maintaining peace in the South Asian region and of our determination to strengthen the process of nuclear non-proliferation by seeking accords, both bilateral and international, within the regional context.” She had no choice but to make this statement if the F-16s were to follow as promised by Bush senior. Don’t forget that the Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment had already been slapped on us since 1985. It stipulated that “no assistance shall be furnished to Pakistan and no military equipment or technology shall be sold or transferred to Pakistan, pursuant to the authorities contained in this Act or any other Act unless annual Presidential certification was issued that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device.”
The presidential certification was denied in October 1990. Instead of F-16s, Pakistan got clamped with the hated Pressler Amendment triggering wide ranging sanctions against Pakistan. Well, the aging fleet of F-16s did arrive finally many years later. And guess what? The highpoint of Gilanis’s visit to Washington this time was a promise by Americans to revamp our F-16s so that we could bomb our own people in the tribal areas! Gilani greedily agreed to kowtow to dictates from Washington.
While, a lot has happened since the last century, but the nuclear question still haunts the Bush administration. George W Bush wants Musharraf to continue at all costs because he’s a better guarantor of the nuclear assets than the husband of Benazir Bhutto and his ruling party. Rehman Malik’s bid to jump in and create confusion on the night of July 26 and the morning of July 27 was a classic case of ‘whodunnit?” He wanted to give the Americans the message that ISI would now be under his command and control. Period. Translated it meant that the ‘rogue’ elements in the ISI allegedly helping the Taliban would be weeded out and secondly the hot button issues of the nukes would be handed to Malik.
As the war against ‘terror’ wages, the rest of the country is going to the dogs. Nobody is talking about when the loadshedding will end; nobody is talking about getting down to work and producing food, fixing the decay that is fast eating into our systems, creating jobs, providing help to the poor, giving justice…
All that we see happening in our daily lives is Asif Zardari powwowing with diplomats who call on him, making inane statements which don’t seem to come from his heart and Nawaz Sharif threatening to quit.
What’s wrong with our two leaders? Why don’t they get on with the business of state? Must I remind them of Robert Frost’s verse: But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep?
But they (AZ & MNS) are no Robert Frost! They are mere politicians hungry for power.
Source: The News, 5/8/2008