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Will History Repeat Itself in Pakistan? By: Arindam Banerji
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 16, 2003


It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: "Kill three million of them," said President (general) Yahya Khan at the February conference, "and the rest will eat out of our hands". On March 25 (1971) the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. "Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military." – Robert Payne, Massacre [1972]

Paraphrasing Christopher Hitchens, every decade or so, the US writes a blank check to some obscure dictator in Pakistan, and the Pakistani army happily uses this free ride to perpetrate genocide in its neighborhood.

In the 70’s, we turned a blind eye while Gen. Yahya killed millions in Bangladesh, with a kill rate that would put Hitler to shame. Even after the US congress cried foul and the US ambassador to Bangladesh declared “genocide in Bangladesh”, Nixon and Kissinger praised Yahya and sent him arms to aid in the killing. In the nineties, after the Russians had left Afghanistan, the Pakistani army happily armed, fed, financed and trained a band of jihadi hoodlums, now known to us as the Taliban; of course, the Taliban directly caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians in the nineties. While the cleansing continued unabated, oil executives busily negotiated oil-pipelines with the Taliban, with nary a consequence for the Pakistanis.

After 911, writing blank checks to the Pakistanis seems to have come back in vogue. The only question that remains unanswered is – where will the genocide be, this time?

Terrorizing the Neighbors

The answer may be slowly becoming clear. Selig Harrison discussing Pakistani terrorist training camps, in the Boston Globe says India has recently provided the United States with detailed maps showing 174 locations where Pakistani base camps of varying sizes are now operating. State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency sources say that US reconnaissance satellite findings broadly corroborate the Indian maps”. Not only has Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to Pakistan, called Pakistan a platform for terror, but Mike Evanoff, the US embassy's (in Islamabad) chief of diplomatic security, the State Department's version of the Secret Service, had the following to say about Pakistan to Christian Science Monitor: "This is the epicenter for terrorism. It really is. This is the only country I know in the world that has so many groups that are against the US or Western ideals.".

Bernard-Henri Levy’s goes even further in his recently published book - “Pakistan is the most delinquent of nations”, he confirms. With the caveat that Pakistan is the real key to all Islamic-led international terrorism, he says “the US had solved only 1% of the problem by deposing Saddam Hussein”. And rightfully so, if you see the impact on Pakistan’s neighbors.

In India, Pakistani terrorists or freedom fighters as Musharraf likes to call them, regularly create headlines like:

·     Suspected Islamic militants axed to death six members of a shepherd's family overnight …The attackers killed four women and two children, the officer said.

·     Militants slit the throats of two women, shot dead another person and set off two explosions damaging a bridge …”

·     “Terrorists lob grenade into Christian school, kill one teacher…”

·      “Terrorists have slit the throats of two of the four policemen abducted after the attack on a police post in Udhampur on Sunday.

·     Unidentified gunmen barged into a house in a remote village of Mandi. The irked gunmen in an attempt to punish the lady Sharifa Bi wife of Muhammad Husain put her on fire and then extinguished the flames to let her die in pain.”

·     Women Killed over dress-code. The attackers slit the throats of two of the women, both aged 21, and shot the third,…”

Rest assured, this is equal opportunity terrorism. President Karzai seems to be unhappy, as the NYTimes reportsKarzai has blamed the recent wave of violence across the south of the country and in Kabul on Pakistan-based terrorists”. Col Tom Brewer, of the US special Forces, talking about illegal arms seized in Afghanistan says The arms they’ve recovered are made in China and most of the people are coming back in from neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan”. This negative view of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan, seems to be shared by the Europeans, too:  

European legislators visiting Afghanistan this week were outspoken at a news conference today in their criticism of Pakistan's support for Taliban elements, which they said were crossing from Pakistan to launch attacks in southern Afghanistan, disappearing later back across the border”. -NYTimes

Cross-border terrorism it seems is continuing on both of Pakistani borders. Surely, Pakistan must be helping us out a lot, for us to tolerate all this?

Pakistan’s Help With Proliferation

Come to think of it, we have very generously given away billions in grants and loan forgiveness with the expectation of Pakistan’s help in the war on terrorism. Pakistan in turn, used the C-130s loaned by us to fight terror, to continue a generous barter trade of nuclear weapons technology with North Korea. A Japanese newspaper quoting US security officials, claimed that this trade continued as late as March of 2003, months after the friendly Pakistani dictator, Musharraf, had given Powell a 400% guarantee that such hanky-panky with North Korea was a thing of the past.

North Korea, however is not the only member of the axis of evil that has benefited from Pakistan’s generosity; talking about the Iran’s Natanz atomic power plant, Jane’s goes even further  the Natanz inspections also showed that the gas centrifuges, believed to be based on a decades-old European design that US officials said was obtained from Pakistan in the early 1990s…”. Nucleonics week reported essentially the same facts in January of this year – the evidence of Pakistani support to Iran’s weapons program seems to be mounting.

Another sign of the expansion of this deadly trade is reported by Geo-strategy Direct; it seems that the Saudi royals want to keep up with the nuclear-minded Iranian mullahs. So, who comes to the rescue – you guessed it, the dependable Pakistanis. Turns out that, not only have the Pakistanis been handing over nuclear technology to the Saudi princes, but they also facilitated the sale of Chinese CSS-2 missiles to the kingdom.  The report further states

Saudi Arabia has been secretly obtaining help from Pakistan for its missile and nuclear program, the analysts report. Riyadh helped finance Pakistan's nuclear program precisely to ensure that the royal family will have a bomb in case of an emergency… Saudi Arabia has neither the time nor the expertise for a nuclear program. The Saudis saw how Israel knocked out the Iraqi reactor at Osirak in 1981 and set back Baghdad's program by a decade. Instead, the Saudis are expected to merely buy complete warheads and obtain Pakistani experts to maintain and operate the systems”. Maybe, this explains why several Pakistani nuclear scientists have disappeared without a trace in recent months, according to the South Asia Tribune.

As if handing out nuclear weapons technology to dangerous threesome of North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia was not enough, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director general of the MI5, recently warned that “it was only a matter of time before Al-Qaeda terrorists carried out nuclear, chemical or biological attack on a western city”.  She further added "renegade scientists" - understood to be from Pakistan - had given Islamic extremists information to create weapons of mass destruction, such as "dirty bombs", and that they would become ever more sophisticated.

US reaction to this wanton proliferation has been surprisingly muted – limited sanctions on a particular lab (KRL), which in any case, gets no help from the US, whatsoever. Sure, the occasional Al-Qaeda big-wig or two get miraculously located somewhere in Pakistan every 6 months, and more are caught every time Musharraf visits our coasts, but is this reason enough for us to ignore proliferation to North Korea, KSA, Iran and AlQaeda? Who thought up this quid-pro-quo?

Curt put-downs from Foggy-bottom to any such protests, usually go something like this “If Musharraf fails, hardliners could take over, or fundamentalists, or chaos. We can't let Musharraf fail”.

Where is Musharraf Taking Pakistan?

Using his vast powers, Musharraf held a Saddam like referendum on his rule last year, in which he was the only candidate and received a whopping 98% approval. This aversion to democracy has forced several noted Pakistani journalists to flee to the US, thanks to threats to their lives by the army. Determined to keep democratic forces at bay, Musharraf jerry-rigged elections where the main secular parties were hamstrung. Needless to say, the jihadi parties under the banner of MMA gained control in 2 out of 4 provinces in Pakistan. The elected prime minister now is reduced to calling the dictator his boss and the dictator has not dared to formally open proceedings at the National Assembly for the last 7 months, in fear of protests against his rule.

Not happy, with throttling the press, paralyzing the National assembly and helping the Taliban-like MMA come to power, Musharraf seems to have turned on ordinary Pakistanis now.

Talking about recent army violence in the town of Okara, prominent educationist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy says,As I stood by the blood-spattered earth next to a wall pock-marked with bullets, grim-faced villagers indicated to me the field from where they said the Rangers had ceaselessly machine-gunned the village for over an hour. For all practical purposes, the nearly one million people of Okara are under military occupation but Pakistan's political parties, which vociferously scream at being denied their share of the pie, are yet to take note of this. Why are they doing this, I asked one villager from the crowd that was now swarming around me. "They (the Pakistani military) want to put us on contract, pay rent to them, take away our rights to the land, and then throw us out", he replied, but this land is ours because our forefathers have tilled it and we have nowhere else to go”.

So, in order to allow our favorite dictator to hold on to his throne, we’re tolerating brutalization and murder of ordinary Pakistanis and even journalists. Problem is we’ve seen this pattern before – remember how we propped up the Shah of Iran.  

Radical Islamization of Pakistan

The rigged elections from last year are beginning to achieve exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid – a radical Islamist nuclear-powered Pakistan. The MMA recently passed Taliban like draconian laws in the province of NWFP. Time magazine detailing newly promulgated laws:

From now on, Arabic, the language of the Koran, will be obligatory in schools; girls 12 years and older will have to wear the head-to-toe veil known as the burqa, and women will not be allowed to leave home unaccompanied by a husband or male relative”.

Further, there’s now a department called Hisab (accounting) in NWFP which does pretty much what the dreaded Department of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice did for the Taliban. Fresh of the press – Balochistan province just announced, it’s next in line to promulgate the sharia based legal system. Two (provinces) down, two more to go.

This radical Islamisation is not limited anymore to Pakistani politics. In Lahore’s respected Punjab Universitylast month, professors of English literature were flabbergasted when they learned that a top administrator had ordered their curriculum reviewed for un-Islamic texts. Among the books deemed offensive to public morals: Gulliver's Travels and Tess of the d'Urbervilles… the university's academic council (even) engaged in heated debate over whether to drop English as a requirement, as fundamentalist groups have urged". Islamist vigilantes in Lahore, Peshawar and Multan have begun painting bill-boards showing women’s faces black, and “food streets”, much like food courts in our malls, are being shut down to prevent “mixing of the sexes and prostitution”.

According to the Washington Post, professors who have been ordered not to discuss the book bans, confide that all this is a microcosm of the political environment in the country. Famous Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid feels that this cultural change, spreading throughout the country, has primarily been fostered by the military government.

The ominous part of all this is that theocratic governments and societies are rarely, if ever removed or changed, without massive violence and use of power.

Pakistani Army vs. Pakistan

Strong arm tactics and outright commandeering have left the army in Pakistan in control of all financial establishments of any value, including travel agencies, utilities, cement production, fertilizer factories, dairy production, employment agencies, rice mills, sea-ports, postal service, telecommunication infrastructure, oil/gas plants, pharmaceuticals, mines, wool mills and cereal production, to name a few. And no, this is not limited to just legal economic activities, but also extends to illegal ones – Kamila Hayat reports that a number of illegal gambling dens are coming up all over the country, run and owned by army personnel. You get the idea – everything and everything, legal and sometimes even illegal ones, in Pakistan, seem to belong to the Pakistani army.

Quips Khayyam Durrani, who runs an elite school only meant for army children "The army considers itself a privileged class. The fact is that the actual rulers in Pakistani society are the army people..”.

These privileges and whims of the ruling army are slowly creating a divide that will never be bridged with American money or Musharraf’s guns. A perfect example of this widening divide was the open threat to ban Musharraf’s entry into NWFP, issued recently by Syed Munawar Hassan,  a top leader of the MMA religious alliance. The vitriol in the Balochistan post article against the army is even more palpable, when it says:

With guns given to them by the nation to counter the enemy, the generals instead, have held the Mother country, its people, its parliament and the judiciary to ransom. …The Army has become above the law, above the constitution and even above the country. It feeds on the country's prosperity and the well being its people who now, are trudging an existence simply to serve the army and its selected elites.”.

The army is not only immune from the law, but also dispenses its own brand of justice. A report in the Gulf Times, reports:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently investigated a case in Multan where army officials had placed a banner outside a textile shop, asking all military men to boycott it. This mysterious message outside a commercial business had been motivated by the fact that the shop owner, Aslam Shahzad, had testified in a case involving an army officer and a policeman in a scuffle”. Other similar incidents, where police officers have lost their jobs for going up against the army, are also related in the report. In fact, as Kamila states, patriotism today is increasingly tied to what is good for the Pakistani army, not what is good for Pakistan:

Indeed, the perception that civilians are today second class citizens in the state is growing. And with the army top brass apparently seeing any attempts to highlight wrongs committed by men in khaki as unpatriotic behavior…”.

Abid Ullah Jan, yet another journalist who had to flee Pakistan due to his opinions on the army, concludes his pensive article on “Pak army vs. Pakistan” with “In the final analysis we would come to know that Pakistan was not at war with India or someone else, but its own armed forces”.

This is not a country moving towards democracy, but towards anarchy – unfortunately, with American help. Problem is, we’ve seen this pattern before - the current situation is exactly the same as in late 1970 and early 1971 – provinces elected a government that the army did not like and the rift between the army and the citizens of East Pakistan exploded. Result – 3 million civilians killed, 300000 women raped in 9 short months.

M.A. Niazi in his editorial in the Nation seems to predict the oncoming obvious “There is therefore one solution which solves for the foreseeable future Musharraf's problems, and serves US interests. And that is for him to let loose a reign of terror on Pakistan, to establish a true dictatorship”. Eerily similar to Gen. Yahya Khan’s decision in 1971 to perpetrate genocide, in order to solve his problems.

Where Next?

It may suit our immediate interests to coddle this dictator, but let us not forget that we were doing the same to another dictator in Iraq till a few years ago. The difference is that this dictator actually does have nuclear weapons, has donated nuclear weapons technology to rogue states and does have nuclear scientists with strong linkages to the Osama. Terrorism against friendly governments like Afghanistan and India continue everyday under the very noses of the army that controls all activity in Pakistan. We did not learn from our mistakes with the Shah and naively repeated them with Saddam; now, we see a repetition of this unfortunate habit with Musharraf. Sadly, Shenoy gets it about right:

“The general has trampled on every principle Americans supposedly cherish — separation of church and state, democracy and free elections, an independent judiciary and the rule of law. Yet, as long as the Pakistani army does not openly embrace bin Laden, the United States shall support the dictator of Pakistan.”

Free Trade agreements and weapons of war like F-16s given unfettered to a brutal dictatorship with a penchant for terrorism may not be the best thing for the safety of US or its friends. In our hurry to bestow gifts on the genocidal dictator, let us not leave our national interests and abiding principles behind. Both our strategic interests and our principles, call for the support of the Pakistani people, and not the Pakistani dictator.

Contrary to popular perceptions, Musharraf is not the only solution to key US interests in Pakistan - remedial steps to bring Pakistan back into the comity of respected nations is the only way forward. In stead of papering over problems specific to Pakistan through our injudicious support for Musharraf, we must deal with them directly, as in:

·    Strengthen legitimate democratic leadership: Benazir Bhutto must be brought back with appropriate forgiveness of charges and a critical role to play in the administration of Pakistan, even if this means a re-election.

·    Strengthen democratic institutions: Drop arbitrary modifications to the Pakistani constitution as well as revoke the supremacy of non-elected bodies such as the National Security council – the elected National assembly and the existing constitution must become supreme again, with some temporary support for maintaining Musharraf’s position through the transition.

·    Send army back to the barracks: Armies that own countries tend to cause immense destruction. The army’s stranglehold over the economy and civilian organizations must be loosened – political corruption is a fact of life with almost all other countries in Asia and should not be used as an excuse to let the army loot the nation.

·    Reform Pakistani education: Without significant changes to curricula in schools, the radicalization of Pakistani society cannot be reversed. Aid dollars must be tied to metrics reflecting a change in the direction of education. This is the only solution to stopping the endless supply of terrorists.

·    Reform in Charitable and financial institutions: Charity money is used to fuel terrorism in Pakistan – without this money and strengthened financial institutions, terrorism will starve. Without terrorism, problems with neighbor India can be resolved peacefully.

Strengthening democracy and reforming education will automatically start improving Pakistan’s economy and its relationship with other democracies like India; thus, reducing the need for WMD proliferation dollars. Pakistan’s problems with nuclear neighbor India and the rest of the world will not disappear until we cure Pakistan’s internal ills. At the cost of repeating myself, almost any cure of Pakistan has to start with limiting the role of the Pakistani army and bringing in democracy, and sadly enough things have become so convoluted in Pakistan, only America can help fix things at this point. In effect, much like the US is undertaking nation-building in Iraq, it has to do the same in PakistanPakistan, probably needs this more than any other country in the world.

If we’re not careful and do not take remedial action in Pakistan soon, there will be another genocide; who knows where it’ll be, but 1971 is here again - maybe in India this time, may be Afghanistan, or quite possibly in Pakistan, itself like ‘71. Or heaven forbid, as Physicist Gordon Prather, predicting a nuclear attack on the US suggests:

Who did it? Probably al-Qaida. But where did they get the nuke?  Well, nukes leave "fingerprints." Our radio-chemists are going to know right away if the nuke came from Pakistan, the most likely source.

Arindam Banerji, Ph.D., is an Indian-American entrepreneur in Silicon valley with an expertise in geopolitics and US-India relations.




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