Pakistan army: How to break free with our obsession with nutjob fundies in conducting delicate state operations.

I think the writer has an axe to grind given that his leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed by Al-Qaeda, who in turn were created/run by the ISI, with the help of certain Western intelligence agencies including Israel.

A fundamental flaw of the article is that it fails to explore the wider, deeper issue of Western intelligence involvement in the Pak/Afghan theater at least from 1979, if not earlier under operation 'Green belt' and 'operation Cyclone'. We may never know, but the total funds for such operations could be anything from $10-15 billion running from 1979---2001, when the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were eventually smashed. Involving the Gulf states, Saudi, Pakistan, USA, UK and of course little helpless Israel.

Small sum not worth mentioning Mr. Mir? A small insignificant operation, disconnected to the Taliban issue?

By failing to mention such fundamental factors, the overall remedy is compromised, because if you Mir saab don't address the fundamental issue, that powerful Western nations made it their policy to specifically fund and funnel aid to extremist Islamic groups, and not just the Taliban from 1994, against whom you might have a clear personalized justifiable gripe, then how do you begin to address the fundamentals of the deeper problem?

If these Western elements can persuade a 'liberal' modern Western educated leader like Benazir to support such groups, then how much luck do think these Westerners will have persuading the same failed policies with hardened military men in the Pakistan security establishment, who have a tract record of working with fundies before especially in 1971, with devastating consequences for the civilians? Right wing shadowy militias working with the military isn't a specifically Pakistani phenomenon--------operation Gladio in Europe and Turkey; death squads in Central/South America backed by military juntas. Its universal, but the operations in Pakistan/Afghanistan were a little bigger than before.

Its not about targeting/blaming the ISI is it? The problem is deeper isn't it?

The problem is people from the West coming and telling Pakistanis what to do in relation to sensitive internal/external state policies, and the Pakistani elite accepting these ideas without first screening them for their full future consequences. Or even evaluating why guys from the other side of the world would come over with such weird ideas.

Now the situation has reached a critical point, many Pashtun soldiers have died, or have deserted, and the powers that be Pakistan, civilian mainly are scratching their heads finally, and not too late, and have decided that perhaps another strategy might be adopted, before the country disintegrates, and American and NATO forces pour across the border to 'save' the situation, and nuke bombs.

The solution is simple---Pakistan distances itself from America; closes American bases, and stops importing American arms. Pours money into Baluchistan and NWFP finally, and stops using the military in situations which are essentially created by socio/economic tensions.

By Haroun Mir
in the Pakdefence forum.

In 1994 when Pakistani officials decided to create a dreadful monster called the Taliban, they didn't bother to estimate its impact on their own society.

In fact, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) militaristic policies, which consisted of bleeding the Indian army in Kashmir and turning Afghanistan into their virtual fifth province, have blinded them to the consequences.

Their ill-conceived strategy has failed once again. Consequently, the Indian military has emerged stronger from the long conflict in Kashmir and the coalition forces have assisted Afghans to liberate Kabul from the grasp of the Taliban.

Eventually, Pakistan has become the biggest loser because the same radical movements, which its military leaders have created, threaten its very existence.

In the spring of 1992, the communist regime fell and Ahmad Shah Massoud's forces entered Kabul. Pakistani officials instructed their trusted man and surrogate Gulbudin Hekmatyar (leader of Hezb-e-Islami), who had just been appointed the prime minister of the newly established coalition government in Kabul, to burn down the city.

From 1992 to 1994, the Afghan capital became a living hell. Despite intensive efforts, Hekmatyar's forces were stuck in the southern and eastern parts of Kabul and were unable to make significant progress. Pakistani authorities decided to shift their support from Hekmatyar to a then-unknown radical movement — the Taliban.

Along with the ISI the late Benazir Bhutto and Nasrullah Babar — then respectively the prime minister and interior minister of Pakistan — are also to blame because the movement was created under their direct watch.

Few politicians in Pakistan and in the rest of the world ever questioned Pakistan's dangerous policy of purposely nurturing a radical Islamist group.

In September 1995, Colonel Imam (a senior ISI official), with impunity and consent of western officials who had an interest in the Turkmen pipeline project, personally led Taliban forces to capture Herat, which is the largest city in western Afghanistan.

In 1996 when Bin Laden's airplane landed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, no alarm went off in the capitals of the West.

When the Taliban were beating women, destroying schools, and holding public executions, Pakistani officials were trying to convince the rest of the world by saying that Afghanistan was a backward, fragmented, and ethnically divided country which needed an iron hand to stabilise it.

Today, the same ills that destroyed Afghanistan plague Pakistan. Pakistani society today has become fundamentally divided. The home to Pakistan's intellectuals and moderate middle class is Punjab and Sindh, while radicalism, terrorism and poverty thrive in the Pashtun heartland and in Baluchistan province.

Up to the present moment, Pakistan's military authorities have favoured radical Islamist groups at the expense of moderate and democratic movements.

For example, President Musharraf didn't hesitate to jail lawyers who protested in favour of rule of law and democracy but appeased murderous radical Islamists and Taliban leaders under the phony Pashtun code of conduct enforced in the tribal area.

Until now, Pakistani authorities have been able to avoid a full confrontation with local Taliban groups for fear of alienating Pashtuns who constitute over 15 per cent of Pakistan's popu-lation, but are intentionally over-represented up to 25 per cent in Pakistan's army.

Despite continuous pressure from the US, Pakistan's military authorities have resisted bringing their Punjabi elite units to the tribal battlegrounds against the Pashtun radical movements.

Instead, they heavily relied on militia forces from the tribal zone to secure the area. Pakistani leaders rigorously want to avoid a rift and direct confrontation between Punjabis and Pashtuns.

Indeed, there is a real risk that the "war on terror" in Pakistan might transform into a full war for autonomy or independence of Pashtun tribes from Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities have broken the status quo in the tribal zone by promoting radical Islam and extremist religious leaders at the expense of traditional tribal leaders and institutions.

Pakistan's policy in the tribal zone has been a continuation of former British colonial policy, which consisted of keeping Pashtun tribes economically dependent, politically fragmented, and intellectually backward.

The government in Islamabad has continued to subsidise them and bribe their leaders, instead of creating a sustained economy and providing modern education.

The ageing Al-Qaida leaders and Afghan veterans of the Soviet war are ceding leadership to much younger and emerging local Taliban leaders.

Baitullah Mehsud is the best example of the new leaders, who want to set the agenda rather than follow anyone's orders.

Despite the efforts of ISI and Pakistani religious leaders to force him to fight against "infidel troops" in Afghanistan, Mehsud persisted with his goal to take the battle to Islamabad instead of Kabul.

Many fellow Afghans praise him for taking on Pakistani forces. Indeed, Pakistani authorities created Taliban to protect their interests in Afghanistan and in Kashmir, but are now faced with uncalculated consequences, which seriously threaten Pakistan's own existence.

The newly elected civilian leaders will have a hard time setting right the mistakes committed by the military over more than three decades.

(The writer served as a special assistant to late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defence minister.)