By Jamal Hussain |
A briefing paper on Pakistan was issued to much media hype in February 2017 by the Hudson Institute, a research setup under the Heritage foundation titled “A New Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions without Cutting Ties.” It advised the Trump administration on how to deal with Pakistan. It made for interesting reading for all especially those interested in Pakistan. But, before we evaluate its contents, a brief examination is necessary of the backgrounds of the academics who authored the report and some of those that were listed as signatories.
The report authors list among them foremost Hussain Haqqani and Lisa Curtis.
Hussain Haqqani (HH), the Director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute and Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow, at the Asian Studies Centre at the Heritage Foundation have co-authored the study.
Hussain Haqqani: Friend or foe?
Hussain Haqqani is a Pakistani who has settled in the USA. His colorful resume, with continuously changing positions to please latest paymaster, is one of its kind. President of Jamat e Islami (JI) student wing in his youth, HH became a strong supporter of Zia ul Haq when the General was in power during the 1980s. After Zia’s demise in a plane crash, he latched on to the bandwagon of Zia’s protégé, Nawaz Sharif (NS), whose party opposed the resurgent Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) under the young and popular Benazir Bhutto.
Considered the architect of the smear campaign against Benazir during the 1988 General Elections in Pakistan, he was rewarded for his loyalty to NS with the post of Special Assistance to the Prime Minister when the latter came to power in 1990. By the end of the first tenure of NS, HH was appointed as the youngest ever High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka.
After the dismissal of NS government and the return of Benazir, he was recruited by her as her spokesperson with the status of a minister of state. After Benazir’s dismissal in 1996, he became an academic and a decade and a half later when the PPP under Zardari gained power in the Centre, he was appointed the Pakistani ambassador to the USA.
Dismissed for suspected anti-state activities, which he vehemently denies, accusing the Pakistan Army of orchestrating a plot to implicate him in a false case. HH settled in the USA and currently is the Director for South Asia and Central Asia at Hudson Institute. He has authored three books on Pakistan where his animosity towards the Pakistan Army is apparent. He is known to carry a grudge against the Pakistan Army that a clear majority of Pakistanis consider the only state institution which secures the country from foreign domination. With such a credential of HH, should one expect objectivity if he heads a policy paper advising the US administration on how to deal with Pakistan?
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The co-authors of Hudson Report
Lisa Curtis, the co-author is a retired CIA employee who has also served as a diplomat in Pakistan and India. With her CIA background where the confrontation of the CIA with the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI is an open secret, can one expect an impartial approach when dealing with Pakistan where the ISI is known to provide key inputs on the conduct of the nation’s foreign policy?
Among the signatories, Christine Fair, Polly Nayak and Aparna Pande ring alarm bells. Christine Fair, who once was considered the darling of the Pakistan Army, is now known for her anti-Pakistan sentiments. Her earlier work on drones and her pro-drone stance and viewpoints has been denounced as “surprisingly weak” by Brooking Institution and journalist Glenn Greenwald dismissed it as “rank propaganda.”
In 2011 and 2012 she received funding from the US embassy in Islamabad to conduct a survey on public opinion concerning militancy. Her journalistic sources have been questioned for their credibility and she has been accused of having a conflict of interest due to her past work with the US government think tanks, as well as the CIA. In the Pakistani media, she has been accused of double standards, partisanship towards India and has been criticized for her contacts with dissident leaders from Baluchistan, a link which raises serious questions “if her interest in Pakistan is merely academic.”
Polly Nayak, a South Asian expert and currently an independent consultant retired from CIA in late 2002 as a senior executive. Her views on Pakistan, like those of Lisa Curtis, would not be free from the bias that colors CIA’s opinion about Pakistan and Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency the ISI, which is viewed as an ally only when its help is desperately sought— otherwise a nemesis. Aparna Pande is a born Indian working for the Hudson Institute and her writings mirror the rabidly anti-Pakistan stance of the Indian government under Narendra Modi.
Is Hudson Report credible to define future US-Pakistan relations?
Can an objective assessment of how the USA should frame its Pakistan policy be based on a paper produced by the remote group of known Pakistani haters? The very composition of the team assembled to produce the Briefing Paper appears mala fide. How much credibility would one attach to a policy paper headed by Netanyahu of Israel about the Israeli/Palestine two-state solution or Steve Bannon evaluating the Obama/Affordable Care Act—not much! The Hudson Institute Briefing Paper is in the same league.
Part II – The Substance of the Briefing Paper
Avoid viewing and portraying Pakistan as an ally, is the first policy recommendation of the briefing paper. The USA has never considered Pakistan as a true ally and has used this term only when it suited them. It considers Pakistan as a rentier state and hires it for a price to pursue policies to promote their regional and global agenda.
Yes, Pakistan has often willingly accepted the US offer, at a considerable price to its security and well-being. Even though the military aid package of 1954 and the collaboration in the 1980s to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan was on a reciprocal basis where both sides viewed it as a win-win situation, the USA benefited far more from them while Pakistan, in the long run, paid a very heavy price for the liaisons.
The Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement of 1954 turned Pakistan as the bulwark against any spread of communism that was primarily aimed at containment of the USSR. The defense pact ruled the USSR, the rival superpower, and a neighbor of Pakistan to an extent where they established a strategic partnership with India, the country’s principal security threat and enemy, which had unlawfully and illegally occupied two-thirds of Kashmir.
By supplying Pakistan with leftover and redundant military hardware from the Korean War, the USA succeeded in containing the Soviet expansion in South Asia while Pakistan paid a very heavy price in the shape of Soviet military, political and diplomatic support to India when it employed its veto power to steamroll any peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Supporting the US in Afghan Jihad: Was it a wise decision for Pakistan?
The 1980s collaboration was a bonanza for the USA. Pakistan’s critical role resulted in the defeat of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan that resulted in its subsequent breakup.
The USA became the sole superpower, a status it enjoyed for over two decades. The mass migration of the Afghan refugees into Pakistan with their culture of gun, violence, and drugs destabilized the country. Much of the terror related incidents today can be traced to the fateful decision by Pakistan to join the US as an ally in the 1980s. Yes, limiting the movement of the Afghan refugees in the manner it was handled in Iran would have saved the country from much of the negative fallouts and to that extent Pakistan must share some of the blame.
With ample Saudi funding, Mujahideen blood and Pakistani cooperation, USA brought down the rival superpower; Pakistan in the process destabilized. If truth be told, instead of portraying Pakistan as an unreliable ally and a villain, USA owes an eternal debt of gratitude to Pakistan and the brave Afghans.
Post 9/11 US-Pakistan alliance
After September 11 incident, Pakistan was coerced to partner USA in its invasion of Afghanistan. After the ouster of the Taliban setup from Afghanistan, despite Pakistan’s repeated appeals to establish a representative government in Kabul, the Pashtuns were virtually excluded from power. While the Taliban were overthrown, their soldiers and top leadership melted away and took sanctuary in the unruly tribal Belt of Pakistan. The shifting of the US focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2001 led to the Taliban aggression against both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban inroads inside Afghanistan soured the US-Pakistan alliance considerably.
That Pakistan is racked by terrorism is a fact and it is also true there are homegrown and foreign terror groups existing in the country. Cross-border terrorism between India and Pakistan is a reality where both accuse each other while denying own complicity. Both internal and external factors are responsible for this state of affairs. Pakistan is currently addressing the internal dimensions to the best of its ability.
It would have made much sense if the paper had recommended USA to play its role to address the ample external support the terror groups active inside Pakistan receive from the Afghan National Government in Kabul and from the Indian operatives there. The existence of sanctuaries of the TTP and other anti-Pakistan syndicates in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan has been accepted by ISAF and Afghanistan.
The USA is right to demand Pakistan prohibit the use of its territory for any aggression across the Durand Line—it should similarly ensure Afghanistan does not provide safe havens to subversive elements targeting Pakistan.
Military operations against terrorists by Pakistan Army
Pakistan in 2004 launched a military campaign codenamed Operation Al-Mizan in South Waziristan to destroy the Taliban sanctuaries there. Attempting to engage a sub-conventional adversary using conventional warfighting strategy was a weakness the Taliban exploited and despite the military might of the state, a stalemate was reached and Pakistan signed a peace accord much to the chagrin and protest of the USA.
The South Waziristan incursion by the Pakistan military led to the creation of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that openly declared war against the state and took over control of the Swat Valley. For the Armed forces of Pakistan, Al-Mizan was a steep learning curve and it helped them come up with fresh doctrine, strategy, and training on how to fight a sub-conventional war.
Pakistan Army began a series of systematic military operation against the Taliban in its soil, first ousting them from Swat where they had taken control by launching Operation Rah e Rast. Operation Rah e Nijat threw them out of South Waziristan and finally, Zarb e Azb has cleared the final Taliban sanctuary in the Tribal Belt.
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When Zarb e Azb was being launched, Pakistan literally beseeched ISAF and the Afghan government to seal their eastern province bordering North Waziristan and act as an anvil to crush the retreating Taliban. This was not done. Perhaps HH can explain why. The Taliban along with the TTP thug Mullah Fazlullah now operate with impunity from Afghanistan and carry out terror raids in Pakistan—ISAF in the meanwhile pleads inability to oust them.
Over 15 years of ISAF presence along with the most sophisticated military hardware and air power, the Taliban has not only survived, they believe they are winning. The USA has spent over a trillion dollars in the process and is looking for an exit strategy.
The latest peace overture with the Taliban warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar considered the butcher of Kabul is a sign of desperation. Pakistan, on the other hand despite limited resources and facing severe opposition from India and Afghanistan has achieved major successes in the military fields against the local and foreign terrorists operating from its soil.
Operations Rah e Rast, Rah e Nijat, and Zarb e Azb have finally destroyed the Taliban sanctuaries in the country. While the majority of their foot soldiers and leadership have escaped across the border, others have melted away in the country’s urban centres. The spate of suicide attacks the country is experiencing is a fallout of the military campaigns that many had cautioned and warned.
Hudson Report: Endorsement of Indian stance?
Pakistan is now engaged in the final phase of terror elimination and it is fighting a war on behalf of the civilized world. The USA and the western powers must provide wholehearted support to the country—a biased and one-sided brief prepared by HH and Lisa Curtis would eventually harm US interests and the world peace.
One of the major fault lines of the briefing paper is its blind acceptance of the Indian version of cross-border terrorism between India and Pakistan. The Mumbai attackers were a part of the terror syndicate within Pakistan but despite all their effort, the Indians failed to associate the Pakistani state with the raid. The Indian version of the Pathankot and Uri incidents raised more questions than it answered.
Attempting to implicate Pakistan did not succeed and the official stance about the raiders having infiltrated from Pakistan has been questioned and dismissed even by many in India. The possibility of the raiders belonging to the Kashmiri resistance groups inside the Indian Held Kashmir has been summarily dismissed by the Indian government. The farcical Indian claims of a strategic strike within Pakistan have few takers even in India, thus exposing the litany of untruths the country generates to defame Pakistan and hide their own failures and shortcomings.
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While the Indian script on cross-border terror is gulped hook line and sinker by the HH brief, the Pakistani charges about the involvement of Indian RAW are ignored. The capture of Kulbhushan Yadav, an Indian spymaster in Baluchistan, his admissions about promoting terrorism in Baluchistan and Karachi as a RAW operative; the Indians admitting his being a retired Indian Navy Commander; the revelation of the British Scotland Yard document about the nexus between RAW and a party supremo ensconced in London; the Doval doctrine that openly threatens to export terror into Pakistan’s Baluchistan province as a tit for tat response and the overt threat Indian serving and retired Generals air on the Indian TV networks about ensuring bloodletting in Lahore to force Pakistan to abandon its Kashmir policy, are all given a short shrift in the brief.
There are parts of the report where the academic credential and patriotism of Hussain Haqqani, a Pakistani, filters through but in the end, his pathological hatred towards the Pakistan Army takes over. He is a classic case of “cutting off the nose to spite the face”.
Flogging the support of Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Muhammad by Pakistan particularly the Pakistan Army cannot hide the truth that India is as much responsible for Pakistan’s failure to prosecute Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, blamed by India for masterminding the Mumbai and Pathankot raids respectively. Hafiz Saeed’s defense lawyers were not allowed to interview the Indian witnesses who had testified against him and Hafiz Saeed was acquitted.
Similarly, the Pakistani investigation team that had visited Pathankot on the invitation of India to assess the involvement of Masood Azhar were not allowed access to the crime site and prosecution witnesses. The team exonerated Pakistan. Sharad Kumar, the Indian Director of National Investigation Agency had also announced a similar verdict, absolving Pakistan of any involvement for lack of evidence.
He was subsequently hounded by the Indian authority and his department forced to issue a denial. That India refuses to prosecute the killers responsible for the murder of Pakistanis in the Samjotha Express massacre even after they have been identified by the Indians themselves complicates the situation further.
Pakistan: After a decade of chaos
The 2017 Pakistan is very different from what existed a decade ago. The nuclear factor has minimized the country’s existential threat from military invasion from another state. The current danger is from lack of internal cohesion and insurgency within that is supported by its neighbors in the east (India) and the west (Afghanistan).
American arms aid, which was considered vital for national survival up until the turn of the twentieth century and for which the nation willingly compromised its sovereignty and interest in the past is no more valid. A degree of self-reliance has been achieved in the conventional weapons through indigenisation and cooperation with China.
The case of the eight block-52 F-16s that Pakistan had desired and the US government applied conditions for their release that were unacceptable is a case in point—Pakistan declined the US offer and is none the worse for it.
Economic development is the key to the future and elimination of homegrown or terror outfits operating from across the border from its soil is the number one priority. Operations Zarb e Azb and its follow-up Raddul Fasaad (Elimination of Discord) along with other strands of strategy to crush the internal terrorism threat has been launched.
Browbeating and insulting Pakistan as HH recommends will not do. For HH and for Lisa Curtis, blindly accepting the Indian version when skeptics in India doubt the official version of their government is sad. One would have imagined the USA has learned the lesson after relying on the types of Ahmed Chalabi whose glib lies led to the disastrous Iraqi invasion. HH is the Iraqi Chalabi equivalent. The USA should be careful it does not fall into the trap laid down by the Pakistani Chalabi.
The total commitment to the CPEC project by Pakistan and China that promises to boost the national economy is a harbinger of a better future. America can no longer dictate terms to Pakistan anymore. While maintaining a friendly relationship with the USA is desirable, Pakistan cannot be coerced into becoming an unwilling ally of the 9/11 variety. It would welcome any financial, material, defense assistance from the USA in its fight to crush terrorism if it does not come with a “do more” mantra or a caveat that harms its national interest.
The period when the USA was considered the Alpha Male and the Top Dog of the world is over. The scenario is fast changing from a unipolar world into a multipolar one where Pakistan in partnership with China feels confident it can stand up to pressures from any state that is against its national interest. It is a time the USA accept the reality and avoid actions that would hurt its power and image further.
Jamal Hussain, is an Author & Columnist and appears regularly on media as Defense Analyst. His latest book ‘Air Power in South Asia has been read widely in defense circles. He writes extensively on defense related issues in the Defence Journal (Pakistan), Probe Magazine (Bangladesh), major newspapers in Pakistan and is associated with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, USA. He retired from the Pakistan Airforce as an Air Commodore in 1997.
This analysis was published by Global Village Space