Sponsored Anarchy in Pakistan?
By Adil Zareef, Dawn, July 8, 2008
A LEADING anti-globalisation scholar, Michel Chossudovsay, in his book, America’s War on Terrorism considers the prevailing and perpetual chaos in international politics as ‘sponsored anarchy’ by the neocons.
This is in line with the imperial doctrine of creating crises in pursuit of America’s geopolitical-strategic interests. To achieve these, the US needs ‘bogey personalities, bogey issues and bogey events’. It is in this light that one must see the unfolding events in the NWFP (Pukhtunkhwa).
Two weeks ago when the Mangal Bagh and Haji Naamdaar brigade abducted and then ‘effortlessly’ released peaceful members of the Christian community of Peshawar, eyewitness accounts reported the convergence of approximately a thousand armed vigilantes with glistening Kalashnikovs and state-of-the-art vehicles on the Surai Chowk, in the city centre. As they addressed frenzied, mostly terrified, citizens who were stranded in this mayhem, the roads remained blocked for an hour. This was in response to a missile attack against an alleged terrorist hideout in Mohmand Agency.
Subsequently the Tehrik-i-Taliban summarily slaughtered two suspected Afghan informers before a stunned crowd. As accusations were exchanged between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Nato threatened action against cross-border militants, the political administration and both federal and provincial governments remained oblivious to the Taliban advances.
There was a shift in stance when the US administration promised an additional $400m aid for the ongoing war against terrorism, and the much reviled Richard Boucher came calling with a phalange of senators, supporting the military strongman president’s ongoing ‘war against terrorism’. Let’s also not forget the timing of the lawyers’ movement and Aitzaz Ahsan’s sojourn to the Washington DC, urging the US policy- makers for a paradigm shift in their current anti-democratic policies.
In keeping with the past precedent, when President Musharraf was threatened by the legal fraternity, the ruthless Taliban were unleashed on the idyllic Swat landscape destroying its peace. Subsequently the military operation mostly targeted civilians while sparing almost all high value Taliban leadership, including Mullah Fazlullah.
Later, the questionable ‘peace accord’ was rejected by the civil society members at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute-Action Aid-Human Rights Commission of Pakistan consultation at Peshawar, since the real representatives were not taken on board. The militants were forgiven for their excesses including the slaughtering of civilians and security personnel. The provincial minister for peace, Afrasiab Khattak did not turn up to defend the government on the peace accord.
The respectable Khans represented by former federal minister Afzal Khan, the former ruling Miangul family, Bar association and civil society members, the sizable trading and hotel industry representatives were totally ignored as the provincial ANP members from Peshawar signed the accord with the Taliban. The manner, in which the Tehrik-i-Taliban threatens to scrap the Swat peace accord, destroying scores of girl’s schools, a beautiful ski resort in Malam Jabba, colleges and police stations, speaks of a lack of guarantees and questions the credibility of the accord. “Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear,” wrote Albert Camus. The provincial government’s evasive and wavering position confirms this fact.
The sagacious Wali Khan had openly questioned Benazir Bhutto’s first stint as prime minister in 1988, under former president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mirza Aslam Beg, former chief of army staff. The PPP government had virtually no control on the Kashmir and Afghan policy and the ISI control. Ms Bhutto’s eventual dismissal was quite predictable. Earlier, when ex-prime minister Junejo, after getting a consensus from a round table conference of all political parties in Pakistan signed a durable Afghan peace accord in Geneva, he was summarily dismissed by Gen Zia. And later, when the CIA/ISI-sponsored Mujahideen takeover of Jalalabad turned into a fiasco, Afghanistan never emerged from that cauldron of hell.
The PPP-ANP-MQM acceptance of Musharraf as a de facto ruler on the instructions of the US, with virtually no control on the state apparatus since Pakistan’s unenviable embrace of the US strategic interests, would not allow an elected government to make independent decisions on economy, security and foreign policy — what Tony Benn considers, the “the purse, the sword and sovereignty”. Pakistan never possessed control of these vital matters.
Amazing but true, Mangal Bagh is vying for peace again and the political administration will predictably accept his demands, compensating him heavily for ‘damages’ during the army action primarily geared to deflect the agonised public over spiralling prices, the restoration of judges — besides, of course, to placate either a restless Nato or a choreographed rehearsal for Nato’s intruding forces — is open to speculation as there are many conspiracy theories.
The ongoing hyped operation will bear no positive results as Mangal Bagh and Haji Naamdaar took cover along with their paraphernalia, ahead of the military action; rockets raining on vacated housing. As in Swat, after a ‘truce’ and an ‘official pardon’ they will reorganise to stage more mayhem with greater ferocity.
Anything short of nabbing all belligerents including Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Fazlullah and others would be mere hogwash to cynical observers. The security agencies, political administration, etc., responsible for the grooming of these non-entities into monsters need to take credible action rather than play a discredited media diversion.
As their lives and livelihoods get ravaged, the irony of helpless war victims is that they are being arrested under FCR in the absence of human rights bodies. Even more gruesome is the deregulation and structural adjustment regime, the hamstrung government has agreed to on Washington’s terms. Our choice to either live or even die is decided in the echelons of power far away, with billions of aid money pouring in for this so-called ‘war against terror’ amid perpetuation of poverty and hunger with the surge in fuel, food and even domestic resources like gas. There is no respite from the elected government as it is only ruled by proxy.
‘Comrades’ of the past, the ANP and PPP have sadly done a U-turn on their electoral idealism. The resolve to tame the presidency and empower the parliament has become irrelevant. What’s worse is that the electoral pledge to integrate Fata into the NWFP or grant it an autonomous status seems forgotten.
At least, the proposed constitutional amendments, such as the political parties and local bodies acts, need to be introduced to give the people a semblance of freedom, and not condemn an entire population to the marauding wahabi-sponsored brigades, on the one side, and firing squads of the military on the other. Will the UN take notice of the massacre of innocent people of Pukhtunkhwa?