Pakistan: A fateful and necessary retreat -- By Imtiaz Alam Back   Home  
The choice was too difficult to make, yet it has been painfully and reluctantly made in the supreme interest of national survival by the guardians of our frontiers. The terrorists and their Taliban-backers, who had in fact wanted Pakistan to share their self-suicidal mission, had left no option for Pakistan except to join the ever-largest world coalition of mightiest forces against terrorism. Where do the people of Pakistan stand: with the Taliban/Osama, who have finally vowed to go on war against us and brought us close to the fate of Iraq? Or with Pakistan that has averted a stark possibility of being wiped out by the biggest bully, the US, this time for a good cause against the crimes against humanity that it has been frequently committing?

The corps commanders, the National Security Council and the cabinet have decided with consensus to fully support the international community in its fight against terrorism that Islam doesn't permit and was wrongly accused of by the racist-bashers of the Muslims. Realizing the gravest threat to Pakistan's security, President General Musharraf, an unquestionable fighting patriot that he is, took the timely decision to avert an irreparable catastrophe and outflanked foxy Indian leadership that have shown the readiness to provide Americans all military facilities to grind its own axe against Pakistan and the hapless Kashmiris. A two-front situation has been averted and this is what sensible Pakistani must understand, despite their understandable indignation against the injustices being done by the mightiest against the Muslims from Palestine to Chechnya and Kashmir.

In a reversal of a very flawed pro-Taliban policy, Pakistan has fatefully retreated from falling into the ditch with an untrustworthy and foolish ally, who was in fact trying to, and will try, to destabilize and Talibanize a moderate Muslim nation. Had the decision not been taken to go along with the international community- from the US to Europe, Russia to Central Asia and China to the Arab League, including OIC- ,Pakistan would not have been left with time to repent, when even nuclear options were also being considered in the US. On balance, it is a most sensible decision not to take the wrath of international community over facing a thoughtless domestic backlash of an extremist clergy, that doesn't believe in our nation-hood but a demagogic pan-Islamist solidarity counterpoised to the umma represented by the OIC, however week it may be.

By continuously refusing to listen to the good advice of their benefactor, Pakistan, the Taliban turned out to be a very amateurish bunch of arrogant adventurists who have been left alone to the mercy of their own madness. Why should have Pakistan fatally suffered, and also lost its nuclear deterrence, for the follies of Osama-bin-Laden, a former CIA contact and accused by Colonel Gaddafi as an "American agent", and other adventurists and their defenders, Taliban? Taliban never listened to us: did not let gas/oil pipelines plans go off the board; not restrained from destroying Bamyan Budhas and address some of the genuine international concerns, such as on Osama; they did not even respect or recognize the Durand Line and hand over the terrorists wanted by us.

They tried their best to blackmail us through their militant outfits here and used the senior Deobandi clerics, who for their political expediency chose expansion of their constituency over giving scholarly advice to their pupils not to defame Islam. The kind of barbaric Islam they were enforcing in fact provided an opportunity to the Zionists and anti-Muslim racists in the name of "clash of civilizations" to accuse the faith of "Rab-ul-alameen" and "Rehmat-ulil-alameen". Not only that international community got closer to the Indian view on "terrorism" and Kashmir, due to Taliban/Osama and their associates in Pakistan, but also the Muslim countries, Central Asians, Iranians and others.

Now, after the US has fixed the responsibility on alleged perpetrator Osama and his harbors, Taliban, for the black Tuesday's mayhem, its a matter of few days, if not hours, that the war on the perpetrators of terrorism and their harbors will be declared, not only by the US, but also by the whole international community. Pakistan had to follow the binding resolutions of UN Security Council resolutions. Or should Pakistan have defied? Only bad-wishers, short-sighted adventurers and enemies of Pakistan would have liked to.

What seems to be quite obvious now is that the Taliban, after having been left in the cold, will be routed and all sanctuaries of terrorists will be smashed. Kabul and Kandhar may even fall under the psychological pressure, if not by the carpet bombing, and the Northern Alliance will be let walk into the capital to in fact facilitate the return of King Zahir Shah to implement the UN plan for a broad coalition-government through the Loye Jirga or grand assembly. Unfortunately, it will be yet another nightmarish period for the poor Afghans who deserve to be treated with respect and salvaged from death and hunger.

This is not for the first time that Pakistan has got engaged in the Afghan imbroglio. It did get involved with the America's Afghan War against the Soviets and their puppets. All these Mujahideen leaders and clerics, who have now turned their guns against America, were on its pay-role, whereas Pakistan got nothing but religious extremism, sectarianism, terrorism, klashnikov culture, heroin addiction and a bad guy image in return from the US's "attack and run" policy. This time also the US, despite substituting Soviets, may go back to its safe havens after completing its revengeful mission and leave us alone to face the dangerous debris of extremism and yet another wave of Afghan refugees, this time including Taliban who will find many a sanctuaries among their school-mates to further destabilize Pakistan from within.

Indeed we were left with no option but to cooperate with the US. But, have we negotiated with the US a reasonable quid pro quo for our support and all necessary means and support to meet the coming fallout? Have we asked for the full compensation of costs that we would be forced to pay for such an exercise that can threaten both economy and society? Similarly, how will the US and its western allies treat us vis-a-vis India? Will we be secured on our eastern front and will the Kashmiris right to self-determination be respected, in exchange for sacrificing the security of our western front? Will the sanctions be lifted and we will be provided with crucial fiscal space to overcome our economic vulnerability? And, lastly, will our limited nuclear deterrence be treated at par with India?

If we have got the affirmative answer from the US, even on some of the major issues if not all, then it can be accepted as a best deal out of a worse situation when we were being asked on what side of the divide we were. A sudden reversal of our misguided Afghan policy will certainly cause resentment among the broadest sections of our people since they see US as the enemy of the Muslims, and not for all wrong reasons. If our clergy has any love for Pakistan, it should take it as "Sulah-i-Hodaibya". Had we been equal to the US or its allies, matter would have been different and we would not have allowed the Taliban to go berserk in the first place. Similarly, our mainstream democratic opposition must rally behind the regime in this crucial hour, and to thwart the designs of religious extremists. And General Musharraf should not be dithering in accommodating their genuine constitutional demands.

In providing our "unstinting cooperation" in the fight against terrorism, we must be very careful how far we will be going and what should we be getting and not losing in the end. General Musharraf has rightly decided not to go beyond Pakistan's frontier in the crusade against terrorism. But he must secure his flanks, take the politicians into confidence while setting a right course for Pakistan, in line with the Quaid's dream and away from the deviation of adventurists whom Islam doesn't permit to declare jihad in their private capacities. The new course of a moderate Pakistan will require the support of the people who should not be misled by those who want to expand their narrow constituencies at the cost of Pakistan. God save Pakistan and bless the umma with necessary strength and wisdom to surmount its difficulties.
Published in Pakistan Newspaper Jung.