Pakistan – Running on Empty?
Yesterday’s announcement that Bin Laden was killed in Abbotabad by the US in a covert operation which was not disclosed even to the Pakistani government is another damning indictment for a country that the world continues to ignore at its peril. As Afghanistan continues to be tormented by internal and external forces, Pakistan has long been a far greater threat to regional and world stability.
Political bankruptcy: Regression not progression
Pakistan has been running on empty for decades. This political bankruptcy has been fuelled by its ostensible ally, the US in the furtherance of its Cold war policies and latterly in the creation of a so-called AfPak policy, as well as an obsessive hatred of India that has left it lurching dangerously towards the regression of its western neighbours of Afghanistan and Iran, rather than chasing the progression being sought on its Eastern borders in India and China. For a country where the masses are slumming in poverty, illiteracy and political indifference, Pakistan has been on the verge of dangerous bankruptcy for years. As the world starts to pose the questions as to what, who and when Pakistan knew that they were sheltering America’s most wanted target – and there can be absolutely no doubt that significant numbers of people in Pakistan did know Bin Laden was living in a preposterous mansion in the hill-station like atmosphere of Abbotabad – it is time to pierce the veneer of an allied relationship and for Pakistanis, and their allies, to force the country’s politicians to come clean. If that will not happen, as the incompetent President and Prime Ministerial team continue to hold their country to ransom, it is time for the world to seriously reconsider relationships with a country whose dysfunctionality has torn apart its own life, and is wrecking lives outside its borders too.
The tangible folly of nuclear
A decade ago, India and Pakistan came close to their fourth war since Independence. Both countries are armed with nuclear weapons. Both countries were backed in their quest for madness by further support and sales from the US, UK and Israel. Notwithstanding the many legitimate questions to be asked about the nuclear capabilities in both countries, the threat posed by Pakistan’s nuclear folly is tangible and terrifying. Governments are routinely toppled in Pakistan, and then controlled by shadowy forces lurking in the army, intelligence and fundamentalist groups that play to popular prejudices spawned by a lack of basic education which is instead provided by madrassas backed by Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. Meanwhile, the governments of the last decade have pandered to US demands to use the country as a base from which to attack Afghanistan, whilst simultaneously allowing it to drone-attack the Pakistani civilian population. Hatred of America and India leaves this suffering population in between rocks of hate, with no tools to get past the self-destruct button which seems to be being slowly pressed over Pakistan across the last decade. That twilight zone has fostered a culture in which the intelligence agencies can and do control the tiniest fraction. In those circumstances, there can be little doubt today that Pakistan’s ISI not only knows about the ‘terrorists’ it is harbouring, but actively supports them. BL will not have been the only one.
A few questions for the ISI
Here are just a few questions one might be thinking of asking the ISI today:
1) Who owned the house in which BL was living?
2) Who built it, on what date and under whose instructions?
3) Did anyone in that mansion pay taxes? If not, why not?
4) How many people lived in the house?
5) Who provided the general security for the house?
6) Under whose name was electricity, water and other civil provision supplied?
7) Who were the nearest neighbours?
8) Couriers no doubt delivered mail and parcels. Who were the courier companies? Who watched them?
9) Where did the household buy its food from? Did nobody ever notice them, or their staff as they went about the daily business of living?
10) If BL was, in fact, in need of dialysis, were there doctors visiting the house? Who were they?
11) Did the local military academy, perhaps akin to Sandhurst, perform routine checks to establish who was living down the road from them? In a country that has become victim to bombings and targetings, if no such checks were performed, why not?
12) Is it even possible that neighbours in a wealthy suburb chose not to enquire about the new millionaires down the road who perhaps kept themselves to themselves?
A burial at sea
There are many valid questions about the operation this morning, not least why America would choose to bury Bin Laden at sea so rapidly without at least allowing independent press verification of the body. The conspiracy theories are already at work and America has just made its own job much harder for absolutely no reason at all. Another 12 hours even could have ensured such verification, and suppressed decades of rumours about what is already being discussed as a martyrdom amongst some commentators on some of the Arabic news channels.
But the tough questions are for Pakistan..
But the real questions this morning are about how the world intends to react to Pakistan’s incompetence, negligence or wilful support for terrorist activity that is not only corroding its own country from within, but which has spat out that venom to its neighbours, and the world at large. In truth, BL had become an irrelevance over the last years, amidst two massive wars and then the uprisings that have become known as the Arab Spring. But the political, military and intelligence culture in Pakistan that has allowed its own population to become both victims, both physically and intellectually, is now dangerously out of control and with no sign that that an equivalent Arab spring is on the horizon in Pakistan after years of corrupt, vengeful and twisted leadership, the pretence of an allied relationship with Pakistan must be over. It is neither in Indian, American or British interest to sever ties or diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan completely for it is only the head of an almost irrelevant snake that has been cut off by this killing, and Pakistan will need an intelligent form of support to be pulled through these dark days. The Pakistani Taliban, after years of nurture and influence both from Saudi Arabia and the ISI, appears to be running out of control within Pakistan’s borders and the outside world needs to know what is happening inside. Either the world waits on tiptoes to see what happens next, or it forces Pakistan to answer the tough questions which it owes to its own people, and to the world. Pakistan has been running on empty for decades, and if it will not or cannot control the lunacy which leaks down from the highest levels of its own government, reliant on a blanket policy of impunity both at home and abroad ,it is time for the external fuel lines to be cut sharply. In a decade where the word “terrorist” has become used as an excuse for a calamity of other atrocities on people, including attacks on civil liberties across the world, it should still be legitimate to require a state which actively deploys hatred as a policy tool to come clean or to be sidelined from the global community. Pakistan’s bankrupt political system should no longer be tolerated or mollycoddled in the interests of somebody else’s ‘big picture’.
May 3rd 2011.