ISI’s Armchair Strategists Attribute Mounting Violence to “Sino-American Turf Battle,” call U.S. an “Enemy of Pakistan”

Writers Linked to Intelligence Services Again Claim Pakistan’s problems Due to external Factors in Attempt to Justify Military-Intelligence Domination

By Dr Waqar Kazmi
December 7, 2007

An army that seeks to rule a country forever continually needs an external enemy to justify its existence. The events of the last few years have forced the Pakistan army to review its insistence on keeping the nation in a state of frenzy about India. Now, armchair strategists with close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence services are trying to market the idea that the United States along with India poses the major threat to Pakistan’s national security. Such theorizing is meant to justify the massive expenditure of the Pakistani state on a military-intelligence complex that has waged war primarily against Pakistan’s own citizens.

One of the major articulators of the pro-establishment view is Mr. Ahmed Quraishi, who started writing in Pakistani newspapers a few years ago, attempted to launch a web portal called islamabadpost.com, which did not last and has now started his own website under his own name. Mr. Quraishi presents a show on Pakistan’s state television for which he is heavily compensated and also runs a public relations company.

In his TV show as well as his several articles, Mr. Quraishi has echoed arguments about General Musharraf’s indispensability to Pakistan as well as the importance and value of the Pakistani national security establishment. He recently wrote an article criticizing the Pakistani Supreme Court for making a ruling against Pakistan’s intelligence services in the case of disappeared persons. Mr. Quraishi’s article, titled, “Mr. Chief Justice, Pakistan is not the Netherlands” uses the time worn arguments against civil liberties on the basis of an existential threat to Pakistan.

In a recent article titled ‘A Sino-American Turf Battle in Pakistan?’ Ahmed Quraishi accused the Americans of attempting to destabilize Pakistan. According to Mr. Quraishi, that is the explanation why an anti-American Islamic fanatic arrested in Afghanistan, flown to Guantánamo Bay and then released back to Afghan authorities kidnapped and killed a Chinese engineer in 2004.

Terrorist Abdullah Mehsud was only superficially anti-American, according to Quraishi. “We haven’t seen him target any high or low profile American assets since the famous 2004 kidnappings. But he has single handedly done what others failed to do: he effectively scuttled Chinese help in a major Pakistani development project,” he wrote.

Here is the core of Quraishi’s article, “This twisted logic has resurfaced again in the past few weeks with suicide attacks in Pakistan targeting both Pakistani soldiers and Chinese citizens in a single wave, starting with the kidnapping of seven Chinese citizens in the Pakistani capital by thugs working for Rashid Ghazi, the terrorist leader of the Red Mosque brigade. Mr. Ghazi maintained strong ties to some fringe extremist elements in the border area with Afghanistan. His contacts included foreign fighters with shadowy backgrounds. Targeting Pakistani soldiers and Chinese interests is a strange combination. Islamic radicals, who used to kill the Americans, are now ironically targeting the Pakistani military and Chinese citizens. What’s going on?

“Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui told me recently that ten private Chinese citizens working in Pakistan died in terror attacks in three years. ‘And the venue has also changed,’ he says, ‘from rural areas to big cities like Islamabad and Peshawar. The motivation has also changed and become more diversified. So I think maybe the security risk my people face here is up.’

“After the Red Mosque operation, some analysts in the Pakistani strategic community detected a clear attempt at provoking a confrontation inside Pakistan between religious elements on one side, including the moderate ones, and China on the other. This attempt took the shape of successive attacks against Chinese interests here coupled with suspicious press leaks meant to inflame Muslim passions against China.

“A case in point: London’s Sunday Times revealed quoting unnamed sources that China is summarily executing Chinese Muslim militants arrested and handed over by Pakistan. This report is meant to inflame rightwing segments of the Pakistani public opinion, already angry at Islamabad for handing over terror suspects to Washington.

“In the sixty-year history of confrontation between Islam and the West over Palestine/Israel, this appears to be the first real attempt at dragging China into the battle. But the real loser here – if this plan works out – is none but Pakistan, China’s strongest Muslim ally.

“China is helping Pakistan launch one of the region’s hottest pieces of real estate: the Gwadar seaport on the mouth of the strategic Arabian Gulf. This piece of land is so hot that business interests from Dubai and Singapore virtually fought a battle in order to get the management rights for the port. Gwadar gives China’s massive western provinces an energy and trade outlet. Pakistan gets to give Central Asia the shortest trade route to the sea.

“India and Iran have been working overtime to thwart this Sino-Pakistani project. The Americans, too, don’t want to see China establishing a foothold in Pakistan, at the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia. The Americans have not said anything yet. But actions speak louder than words. Example: the shadowy terrorist organization named Balochistan liberation army.”

Quraishi repeats the ISI’s allegation that India and some elements in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan have created the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). He claims that BLA has “real training bases in Afghanistan where there is no government beyond Kabul and where the Americans, too, are not in control. This is the same place where India has more ‘consulates’ than any other country in the world with diplomatic ties to Afghanistan. Most of these consulates are, ironically, close to Pakistan’s western provinces.” He does not mention the history of Baloch resistance to Pakistani central rule, the Musharraf regime’s atrocities against the Baloch or the fact that India’s consulates in Afghanistan date back to the 1940s and are not a new phenomenon.

Quraishi also asserts that “the Indians are doing something else near Pakistan’s western border: building an airbase in Tajikistan and transferring military aircraft there. Indian diplomats in Pakistan are often embarrassed when their Pakistani friends ask them about the purpose of this overzealous attempt at projecting power. They simply don’t have a convincing answer.” He does not attempt to explain why India should not project power if it has it. It is a typical Pakistani armchair strategist’s approach that wants parity with India without the reality of power being the same.

Quraishi sums up his argument by saying, “The point is, since the fall of Taliban regime in Kabul and the sudden rise of foreign influence inside Afghanistan, including that of the Americans and the Indians, Pakistan’s western regions close to Afghanistan are witnessing the worst kind of destabilization. The last time our western regions were this unstable is when Afghanistan was a Soviet proxy and being used as a forward base for stirring a communist takeover in Pakistan.”

The anti-Americanism is obvious. Quraishi writes, “These days Washington is lecturing us, the ungrateful Pakistanis, about how we don’t trust America despite the ten billion dollars in aid since 9/11…The Americans expect us to bend backwards for them when they don’t demonstrate even the slightest consideration for their ally’s legitimate security and strategic concerns in the region.”

As in the past, the recipe would be for the United States to support the Pakistani military-intelligence complex without asking them any questions and letting them court disaster at home. The same logic was applied during the 1960s, leading to the east Pakistan tragedy in 1971, which many uninformed Pakistanis still blame on the United States notwithstanding Richard Nixon’s infamous tilt towards the Yahya Khan regime.

In another article, this time by Brigadier (retired) Shafi Khan in The Nation, the argument was made that Pakistan faces many enemies and the United States is among them. Once again, Musharraf’s isolation and the army’s arrogance are not to blame –only external powers.

Reflecting a now familiar line of thinking, Brig. Shafi Khan wrote, “The situation prevailing now in Pakistan is the product of conspiracies launched by the enemies of Pakistan to undermine its personality and ideology. There are dozens of study centers, brain-trusts and think-tanks in the West, which are concentrating on the destruction of Pakistan, hence predictions of Pakistan disappearing from the world map by 2020s. We have no such organization to protect our interests. The unending chain of crises in Pakistan can be attributed to the hostile forces and also the weaknesses in our own circles, in the form of lack of national unity and spirit and poor quality of leadership. Because of the constant threat to our security we sought the security from America, the octopus. We are still dependent physically and psychologically on the US.

Ignoring the history of U.S. military and political backing for a relatively weak Pakistan that enabled it to stand up to India, Shafi Khan claims, “The Kashmir resistance movement (1989-2007) was diffused by the US when it declared the UN Resolutions as ‘obsolete and redundant.’ General Musharraf also toed the line. Since then, Kashmiris fighting for their right of self-determination under UN were branded and treated as ‘terrorists.’ Pakistan was also forced to treat Kashmiris in the like manner. We do not see the respect for human values and rights in the affairs of the world. America openly treated Pakistan as a hostage and favored India both in wars and peace. We did not have the skill, vision and guts to get out of the trap to protect our vital interests. During and after the 1965 and 1971 wars, spine was taken out of Pakistan – it became impossible to resist the command from Washington. Pakistan served as a bait or a lure in American hands.”

It seems that with the help of people like Ahmed Quraishi and Shafi Khan, the Pakistani military-intelligence complex hopes to put “spine” back into Pakistan’s policy. Will it mean revival of open support for the Taliban and Kashmiri Jihadi groups? Stay tuned.

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