Gen Musharraf has never been known for being tight lipped. Recently, he has been speaking openly to international media and admitting that Pakistan has been supporting the Taliban and other jihadi militant groups who Army sees as a useful proxy against Indian influence in Afghanistan while also cooperating with NATO. Musharraf says that Army is not playing a double game, but then admits the obvious: It is. “Pakistan’s interest comes first,” he said. “But is this also the interest of ISAF? I don’t know.” He doesn’t know if it is in the interest of ISAF for a frontline ally to support their enemy?
Musharraf’s confirmation of Army support for Taliban is particularly important in the context of facts revealed by Wikileaks documents a few years ago. One leaked document discusses the involvement of another former General, Hamid Gul, in supporting Taliban. According to one document, “It was not known whether Hamid Gul was acting with the knowledge or consent of ISI, or whether any portions of ISI were aware of his activities.” While the knowledge or consent of secret agencies will always be difficult to prove beyond any doubt, it would be fairly naive to believe that Hamid Gul’s pro-Jihad activities were done without at least tacit approval of the Army leadership. Hamid Gul has described himself as “an ideologue of jihad“. It is increasingly apparent that he is not the only General who subscribes to this ideology.
Then there’s another former DG ISI’s recent explosive statement. I am referring of course to Gen Durrani who told Al Ajazeera that he believes ISI was fully aware that Osama bin Laden was operating out of Abbottabad.
“Do you think that I knew about him? They won’t admit that, and till today I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment. I mean here it’s about giving your assessment. My assessment was it is quite possible that they did not know but it was more probable that they did.”
And what does he think about the idea of ISI hiding Osama?
“If ISI was doing that, than I would say they were doing a good job.”
Musharraf, Gul, and Durrani make three. But there are more. In 2008, a group of Army Generals gathered in Islamabad to support jihad. The occasion was Kashmir Solidarity Day, and the attendees included:
- General Mirza Aslam Baig
- General Faiz Ali Chishti
- General Hameed Gul
- General Jamshaid Gulzar Kiyani
- General Asad Durrani
- General Sardar Anwar Khan
- General Abdul Qayyum
- General Ali Quli Khan
The common response to such reports is that all of these Generals are retired and they are no longer responsible for making the state policy. This is true, but it ignores the fact that all of these Generals were responsible for making state policy, and not that long ago. More to the point, these Generals were responsible for training and promotion of the current crop of Generals who are actually making state policy.
While the Generals may have changed, the pitthoos have largely remained the same. The boys may have declared Zaid Hamid as ‘persona non grata’, but Ahmed Quraishi’s dormant media career was quite suddenly resurrected around the time that GHQ began to flex its muscle again. Once a darling of Gen Musharraf, Ahmed Quraishi found himself wandering in the wilderness for the past few years after a series of professional humiliations including being termed in the media as a ‘purveyor of fiction’, being exposed for misrepresentation by no less than the prestigious magazine Foreign Policy, and having his role in a cyber propaganda ring exposed. Suddenly, however, he is once again in the spotlight having been handed a new TV show on Express News.
All of this put together presents a deeply troubling picture of the thinking behind closed doors, and makes this piece by Cyril Almeida even more important:
13 years later, if Afghanistan unravels, Pakistan and its Taliban buddies will be there to pick up the pieces and the world will disapprove but not really do anything about it because, well, they had 13 years and they screwed up. And even if Afghanistan doesn’t unravel, Pakistan has managed to remain the arbiter of Afghanistan’s security without so much as having to pick up the tab. Thank you, US and India and your fat chequebooks. Suckers.
Which brings us back to the mosque-madressah-social welfare network. It’s a problem, sure. But it’s also a vital resource: without it you’d have no India or Afghan policy.
Because to have an anti-India jihad, you need jihadists. And to produce jihadists you need an extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network.
Over on the other side, the Afghan Taliban have had 13 years of war to mint the next generation of Afghan Taliban, but that has also meant they haven’t had the time or space to create their own extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network.
If you’re Pakistan, you don’t want to leave such things to chance. So you build and equip your own extremist network. For material aid and spiritual sustenance.
The boys may talk about a sequential approach and a changed world. They’re going to wrap up the jihad complex. Put it out of business. Sequentially. But why would you change a winning strategy?
By all accounts, it is pro-jihad policies that have brought us where we presently find ourselves. A place where school children are targeted and the Ulema are confused about whose side we are on. Still, those who dare to question the wisdom of promoting jihad find themselves stamped as ‘traitor’ and living in self-imposed exile (if they are lucky to make it that far). Meanwhile, The Raheel Doctrine is celebrated as a new direction for Pakistan Army, despite the fact that it looks remarkably like The Kayani Doctrine. Which, in turn, looks remarkably like The Musharraf Doctrine.
And so we find ourselves once again back where we started. Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Haqqani Network may come and go. But the Durrani Network continues to be untouchable.