Despite numerous hiccups and tactical errors such as the sending of our old centrifuges to the IAEA, successive governments of Pakistan stood their ground on the nuclear issue – especially in terms of protecting our nuclear capability’s interests. For the first time we have now chosen to surrender on this count – for that is what happened on August 1, 2008, in the IAEA board of governors meeting where Pakistan showed its pusillanimity and abandoned its policy of at least seeking a vote in this body on the IAEA-India safeguards.
This is clearly a first in our soon to be many compromises on the nuclear issue. A similar surrender in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) will be next. So far we have been holding out against the US draft, supported by India, which contravenes the international consensus on the FMCT (as discussed in earlier columns) reflected in the Shannon Report of March 1995 and in UN General Assembly Resolution 48/75L. But now we should brace ourselves for the inevitable compromise if the prevailing decision makers and their advisers continue on their path of making Pakistan a loyal satellite state of the US.
The game plan that some of us had been pointing to for some time now has become abundantly overt. This plan rests on a three-pronged strategy at the macro level, with many off shoots at the micro level: one, weakening key state institutions and keeping the subjugated ones in that position with perhaps a facade of compromise if required; two, of aggravating the law and order situation beyond the tribal belt; and, three, of gradually and piecemeal compromising on our nuclear capability so that eventually the stability and credibility of the deterrence is destroyed which would then make it easier to rollback the whole programme.
Some of these strategies were being operationalised before February 2008, but clearly the Americans felt a double game was going on by the Pakistanis to preserve their national interests and hence the search for more reliable political partners. Certainly, Ms Bhutto on her return, albeit via the NRO, sensed the national mood and was embracing it as reflected in her visit to the Judges Colony and her commitment to the restoration of the deposed Supreme Court judges. Her tragic assassination not only traumatised the whole nation regardless of their politics, but it inflicted on this hapless nation a design for its destruction – not so much physically, although that may happen also if the US plan for balkanisation comes through in this region, but in terms of it being handed over to the US as a loyal satellite.
So let us see how the three-pronged strategy of the present rulers is being worked out. On the judicial issue, we now have the official statement of the law minister asking the deposed judges to take a fresh oath if they wish to resume their duties alongside the PCO judges. So much for the nation’s struggle for an independent judiciary. But that would be awkward for the rulers, both past and present, as well as the US, especially on the issue of the countless Pakistanis who have disappeared with many having been handed over to the US. Also, an independent judiciary offers protection against the ills of rulers and the NRO could also have become a point of judicial controversy. So, at best the judiciary can be allowed a veneer of independence – nothing robust or proactive.
As for weakening the existing strong state institutions, the case of the ISI is the most blatant one, although the army has been targeted also – despite the delinkage between the presidency and the military. Of course, the ISI has its share of negatives but if the rulers – one cannot use the word government here because one of the main rulers is outside of the government – really wanted to rectify the aberrations within this institution, they would have simply delinked the Internal Wing, which has been used by so many for internal political machinations. Instead, by seeking to put it under the Interior unelected adviser, more political fangs were being sought and, undoubtedly, as is happening elsewhere, the organisation would have been packed with “loyalists”. Worse still, by now creating ambiguity of where the civilian control of the ISI rests – since the old order has not been formally rescinded – uncertainty is being created which will impact the external functioning of the ISI while its controversial internal functions will increase rather than abate. Interestingly, it should be recalled that Rehman Malik and his UK-based security setup had close links with British intelligence.
Why target the ISI at this time and in this particular fashion? Clearly, this is a well-planned campaign being conducted in collusion with the US and India, with Karzai offering ground support. The US has strong reasons for targeting the military in general and the ISI in particular since it has been evident for some time that they were not falling in line with US demands and policy imperatives. That the CIA and ISI worked together since the first Afghan venture is now history. It would appear that the CIA wanted to continue in that fashion but some of its policies were threatening Pakistan directly such as seeking to stir up trouble in the settled areas of Pukhtunkhwa province. A look at the Serena Hotel, Swat’s guest book for the last two years will reveal interesting information especially regarding the Americans who visited there dressed as locals, speaking Pushto (a point that had been made in an earlier column), and were in touch with Fazlullah. According to official sources, militants in Swat even today are getting foreign funding and, even though foreign militants were eliminated during the first phase of the military operation in Swat, there is again a presence of foreign militants in the area.
It would seem the ISI was finally uncomfortable with some of the CIA goings on in Pakistan and was also up in arms against the new US ally in the region, India, so it had to be pilloried and undermined. Also, the increasing evidence that the US is using the Shamsi base against Iran, a friendly neighbour with whom we have no quarrel or conflict, could not be ignored. The ISI was also seeking to make more public the Indian ingresses into Balochistan and FATA and the continuing acceptance by the US and Karzai of terrorist groups operating in Balochistan from Kabul. So, all in all, the time was considered right to target the ISI – especially given the assumption that internally also some would welcome this given the disinformation and political history of this organisation. Of course, the fact that the ISI has a critical external role was not a concern for the rulers – in fact, that is the role that they along with the US were seeking to undermine in any case.
Perhaps it is time for the real US agenda within Pakistan to be revealed, especially their efforts to aid and abet extremism and militancy; and here the first and second prongs of their strategy coincide. We seem to have forgotten that the US first turned against the Taliban only when they rejected the UNOCAL oil deal in 1998, so if the ISI is guilty of having links with Taliban remnants, so is the CIA. Only the ISI won’t play ball with the CIA anymore and that is not acceptable to the US!
Finally, in terms of a phased surrender on the nuclear issue, along with the external dynamics there is a policy to undermine the development of our technical capabilities. According to a recent news report (The News, August 3, 2008), the government has decided to cut down funds for defence-related organisations under the Strategic Plans Division. Specifically, the cuts will be imposed on scientific research and development organisations and their personnel, so that will directly hit our future R&D in sensitive hi tech areas. If the state is short of funds, surely more useful cuts could be made in the general bureaucracy – both civil and military – as well as in the spendings of the prime minister, ministers and the presidency. Why hire ambassadors at large, resuscitate old bureaucrats and hire private planes for ministers when austerity is so essential?
Undermining our strategic R&D, and making it less attractive for the best to enter this field in the future, is part of a sinister design. We are finally on the path of being delivered to the US as a defanged and loyal satellite.
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 6/8/2008