Parliament is about to begin debating new terms for cooperation with America in the war on terrorism, but this is issue is anything but new. Actually, it seems like everyone has an opinion on whether and how we should engage with the Americans – from the Difa-e-Pakistan chants of “Go America Go” to the reasoned calls for parliamentarians to “put interests ahead of emotions” and everything in between. But while everyone is focused on what new ‘red lines’ will define new talks with America, we may be ignoring a covert war against Pakistan happening right under our noses.
Claims that hidden hands are waging a cover war against Pakistan are nothing new. Opinion-makers writing in major newspapers and appearing on TV talk shows have been telling about this conspiracy for years. Recently, a retired military officer (naturally) wrote a typical piece in The Nation that describes the common narrative.
Ever since the US/Isaf forces ousted the pro-Pakistan Taliban government from Afghanistan, and the pro-Indian Northern Alliance dominated the government, India’s notorious intelligence agency, the RAW, has become fully entrenched in the war-torn country. Backed by the Afghan Intelligence Agency and allegedly supported by the Mossad, CIA and others, it is aiding and abetting insurgency in Balochistan, FATA and our urban centres. Their common goal seems to be to internally destabilise Pakistan to its ultimate disintegration.
Claims of a Mossad-RAW-CIA-KHAD nexus bent on disintegrating Pakistan have reliably served certain sections of society for decades. Actually, this story is so old that one can’t help but wonder if we really have anything to worry about since these powerful agencies can’t manage to get the job done.
But the fact is that we do have something to worry about because there really is a covert war against Pakistan. Only it’s not being carried out by a secret Mossad-RAW-CIA-KHAD conspiracy.
Taking place right now is a field general court martial of Brigadier Ali Khan who is accused of conspiring to topple the government, trying to instigate a mutiny within the army and planning an attack on the GHQ. These are serious charges of treason against the state. And Brig Ali was not some lone wolf who hatched a crazy scheme on his own – the allegations against him involve ties to the group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an international group dedicated to the overthrow of sovereign governments to form a new Khalifat.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, though banned in Pakistan, is openly recruiting and plotting against the state. Recently, 21 activists were taken into custody from a meeting in Islamabad. According to Brigadier Amir Riaz, head of 111 Brigade, Hizb-ut-Tahrir “has prepared a new constitution and a shadow government for Pakistan and that the group was ready to take over anytime”.
Most people shrug off this sort of news saying that such groups are such a small minority that they pose no real threat. But what about when the Jamaat-e-Islami chief himself terms Osama bin Laden as ‘the greatest martyr’ and officials democratically elected by the people of Pakistan as ‘beasts’? Besides, small groups can have an outsized effect, as Jamaat-e-Islami has proven time and again when they take to the streets since they can’t win at the ballot box. And while Hizb-ut-Tahrir might insist that they are a “peaceful” group (though this raises the question why they are so intent on recruiting in the military), others make no attempt to hide their aims.
Last week, security forces in Bajaur Agency seized heavy weapons worth millions of rupees from secret hideouts of terrorists. People will again shrug off this news by claiming that these weapons are for killing Americans in Afghanistan, not Pakistanis. This, of course, ignores the obvious problem of where these heavily armed militants will turn once the Americans leave – a change that is getting closer every day.
It also ignores the open threats made by militant groups against Pakistan. The Jamaat-e-Islami chief is not the only extremist who sees the terrorist Osama bin Laden as a hero, and Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan openly threatened attacks against the state if bin Laden’s widows are not released from Pakistani custody.
“If the family of Osama bin Laden is not released as soon as possible, we will attack the judges, the lawyers and the security officials involved in their trial,” Ehsanullah Ehsan of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told Reuters.
“We will carry out suicide bombings against security forces and the government across the country.”
The Difa-e-Pakistan has threatened force against the state also, threatening to “hold a siege of Parliament House” if the democratically-elected government re-opens NATO supply routes. And once again, familiar faces are making the threats.
The sit-in was addressed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Syed Munawwar Hassan, JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, former ISI DG Lt Gen (R) Hamid Gul, former minister Ijazul Haq, JI secretary general Liaquat Baloch and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki of Jamaatud Daawa (JuD).
All of this is news that should shock the public, but instead it passes almost unnoticed. You don’t have to believe in hidden hands and secret global conspiracies to make sense of this news. It’s all quite plainly laid out before us. There are militant groups who want to overthrow the government of Pakistan because the majority of people do not accept their worldview. These are the millions of Pakistanis who do not believe Osama bin Laden is “the greatest martyr” and do not support suicide bombings. They are the millions of Pakistanis who believe that the civilised people don’t threaten a siege of parliament if they don’t get their way, they contest elections and try to convince their fellow citizens with reason, not threats.
This is the tragic irony of our times. Newspapers, TV talk shows and street gossip is filled with chatter about a covert war being carried out with the aim of destabilising and ultimately disintegrating Pakistan. But we have become so fixated on fantastic tales of external enemies and their invisible foreign hands that we have failed to notice the real threat, and so we are paralysed to do anything about it.
Parliament will debate new terms of engagement with America, the judiciary will continue chasing memos and BBMs, and retired officers will continue weaving thrilling tales of international intrigue and selling them to media more concerned with ratings than facts. Meanwhile, forces are amassing against Pakistan not in US think tanks, but in dhabas and on verandas in our own cities and villages. Will we wake up in time to avert this tragedy and recognise the real enemy among us?