By Qayumm Shaikh
Part of the “Greater Middle East” — a term coined by President Bush during his second administration — eastwards is a country called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Carved out of India by the local Muslims on religious grounds in 1947, the country today plays a big role in several regional matters, one of which is terrorism.
Supposedly a democracy for the most part, Pakistan has since its independence been ruled by its military oligarchy. The Pakistan Army controls almost every internal and external aspect of the country, weather or not an elected prime minister is in the place or a military commander heads the government. Over a decade prior to 9/11, the country’s involvement with the Islamist militants has been widely debated. During the soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan officially aligned with the Afghan rebel insurgent group called the Mujahideen, who viewed the invasion as a crusade waged against them and vowed to respond using the sentiment of jihad. The then President and army chief of Pakistan Gen. Zia ul Haq, taking side of the rebels, funded and supported the Mujahideen by every possible means. The war lasted for almost a decade, resulting in the fall of the USSR and a huge refugee crisis affecting directly Pakistan.
Instead of winding up and heading towards progress, unlike the Russians and Americans, Pakistan continued to maintain its relations with the insurgents. The Taliban after the Soviet withdrawal had taken over the country and had shortly flourished as Islamic State of Afghanistan, later forming an autonomous government establishing an Islamic Emirate in 1996. The Mujahideen insurgents later became known as the Taliban. Following the victory over the forces they viewed as crusaders, their objective in bringing down the previous Democratic Republic was mainly to Islamize the country and introduce the Islamic Sharia Law. Throughout their struggle, Pakistan continued its support for the insurgents. At one point the Taliban government was only recognized by three countries; Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
By that time and a couple of years before September 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban in Afghanistan had aligned with Al-Qaeda, providing them with a safe haven. The Taliban committed everything that to the progressive world is known as crime. Violation of human rights prevailed, girls were banned from going to school, people were decapitated in public squares, democracy was replaced by the Islamic Sharia Law. Every country including Pakistan was aware of the Taliban’s human rights violations, yet Pakistan continued its support for the Taliban.
Since the Islamist ideology of Pakistan, based on which the country was separated from India, and the ideology of Taliban shared a lot in common, the Pakistan Army, whose official slogan is “Jihad fi Sabililah” (Jihad for Allah), had excellent reasons to back the Taliban in enforcing the Sharia law upon the people of Afghanistan. The Islamist trend by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda’s operations from Afghanistan and the support to them by Pakistan continued until it was September 11th, 2001. One of the worst tragedies in 21st century took place in the United States of America. As suspected, taking into consideration the overwhelming evidence, the similar previous attacks and the assertion of the responsibility by Al-Qaeda’s own members, the US along with other NATO forces had to launch a war, which became known as the War On Terror.
Surprising to some and regrettable to others, Pakistan was trusted and requested by the United Nations to join the NATO Belligerents in the very War On Terror. The then President and Army Chief of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharaf agreed upon the terms and on documents, allied with the NATO forces. The reasoning behind entering this alliance with the west was obvious because the Pakistanis would not want to have their alliance with the insurgents in Afghanistan exposed before the world. Supposedly an ally and apparently siding against the Taliban, Pakistan played its role very tactically.
The country, since the joining, has received billions of dollars in aid. Because of the location, only Pakistan was able to perform many of the major jobs that others could not, it was a responsibility. The long lasting alliance between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Army was not going end overnight, because the Americans would like to see it that way, in fact it gave the Islamist Pakistan Army a chance to delude and fight the infidel Americans alongside the Taliban. With all the billions that Pakistan received in aid, the country armed and funded the terrorists in Afghanistan who the NATO forces had been fighting. The Pakistan Army has been accused of running training camps for the Taliban and ISI; the Pakistani intelligence agency has also been accused of providing the militants with confidential information, which yet again would help the Taliban in fighting the NATO forces.
Over time, the same fanatic sentiment from the Afghan Taliban was also rising within Pakistan. Attacks took place, although for the most part this threat went unnoticed. It was until December 2007 when Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, an offshoot of the mainstream Taliban flourished as a strong militant group in the northern areas of Pakistan, mainly in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA, both bordering Afghanistan. This insurgency within the country started posing a threat to the state of Pakistan. This was the classical case of biting the hand that feeds you given the Pakistani military help they had received. For around a decade, Pakistan witnessed a series of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, the terrorists that had begun their operation in the north took roots all across the country. Over a long period, Pakistan persisted in offering negotiations but these offers generally resulted in failure. This also resulted in some small-scale battles fought between the Pakistan Army and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. It was until June 2014, when after failing several attempts to negotiation the Pakistan Army officially launched an operation called “Zarb-e-Azb”.
According to experts, C. Christine Fair being one, there were groups like Haqqani Network that had agreed upon the terms both sides had to negotiate on. Because of interests in the region, the main term proposed by the Pakistan during negotiations was to insist upon the militants to halt their operation inside Pakistan and ally with the Afghan Taliban, who the NATO forces were fighting. Outwardly an operation against the militants, the operation Zarb-e-Azb is conducted precisely against a handful groups that had refused to agree with the terms proposed by Pakistan. Being banned on documents by Pakistan, Haqqani Network operates from the country with all the support by Pakistan Army. Pakistan denies the charges against it for supporting Haqqani Network but the overwhelming evidence suggests that the facts are other way around. And not to ignore, the Pakistani officials were also speechless when Osama bin Laden was caught being housed safely in a mansion hardly 0.8 miles from Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. The CIA also accused the then ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha to have already known about Bin Laden’s presence.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization who is active in running anti-state rampages in Jammu and Kashmir and has also been convicted of terrorist attacks in India is a direct recipients of funds from Pakistan. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder and the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba is safely resided and provided with security in Pakistan. Saeed has also been found guilty for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai Attacks that resulted in 164 deaths and over 600 non-fatal injuries. Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba, although banned on documents operates openly in Pakistan and collects huge amount of donation from public of Pakistan. The patriotic affection towards army and hatred towards India is very high if not the highest among the Pakistani people, polls suggest.
Another Islamist separatist group in Jammu and Kashmir called Jaish-e-Muhammad is also active in the region. Considering notable incidents, the group has been accused of being the deadliest. Just like many others being banned on documents, the group with a title of “Khuddam-ul-Islam” operates and collects donation openly in Pakistan. The ISI has also been accused of having secret relations with the group. Jaish-e-Muhammad is also suspected for perpetrating the murder of an American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and then killed in Karachi, Pakistan.
As of December, 2010 the United Nations had removed Jammu and Kashmir from its list of disputed territories and considered it an autonomous Indian province, yet Pakistan continues to protest and often times the Pakistani soldiers deployed on the Line of Control, a military control line between the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, fire across the border which results in casualties of the Indian army and at times, the civilians as well.
In an interview, C. Christine Fair said that the Americans had lost the war against terrorism on the very day they aligned with Pakistan. Pakistan continues to receive billions of dollars in aid. The Pakistan military officers, who are indirectly if not directly responsible for the dead American soldiers, continue to be issued visas to the western countries. The children of this wealthy Pakistani oligarchy continue to pursue their higher education in America and European countries. Experts including Dr. Fair also accuse the Americans for their facetious policy towards Pakistan and the indulgence towards its army officers.