Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday BookReview: Pakistan - A Doubtful Friend in Asia

by Dr. David Pence

Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military
by Husain Haqqani (2005)

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding
by Husain Haqqani (2013)

The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition
by Narendra Singh Sarila (2005)

The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014
by Carlotta Gall (2014)

Indonesia (205 million), Pakistan (200 million), India (180 million), and Bangladesh (150 million) have the largest Muslim populations in the world. None of them are in the Mideast and none of them are linguistically or ethnically Arabic. Just as Americans must examine our long-term ally Saudi Arabia in the Mideast to find the roots of the 9/11 attack, so we must understand our long-term ally Pakistan in South Asia to see the nature of our enemy there. The U.S. alliance with Pakistan had largely been formed in terms of Pakistan’s anti-Soviet role during the Cold War, and then as an ally in fighting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan after 9/11. We were not the first to think of Pakistan as an obvious cultural enemy of the godless Soviets, and thus a possible geostrategic ally. The Untold Story of India's Partition argues that "once the British realized that the Indian nationalists who would rule India after its independence would deny them military cooperation… they settled for those willing to do so by using religion for their purpose." While the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was quite secular, the rationale for the state was "to protect Muslims." What belies this rationale is a simple geographic fact. The states where Muslims were in the majority and didn’t need special protection became Pakistan; while areas with substantial minority Muslim populations which would be more vulnerable were left under Hindu majority rule in the new India. In the 1947 partition, one million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed; and fifteen million were displaced to the new states. Author Narendra Singh Sarila was aide-de-camp for Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India, before independence and governor general until 1948. He was in the Indian Foreign Service from 1948-1985. He argues that the United States was more an advocate of Indian unity and independence than Indian public opinion has acknowledged. The U.S. under Roosevelt -- much more than Britain under Churchill -- believed the text of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941) "respecting the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live" actually applied to the nations of Asia as well as Europe. Roosevelt was vehemently opposed by Churchill who thought Americans did not understand the rule of coloreds. Churchill and others who opposed Indian independence favored partition as a fallback position and used "the protection of Muslims" as a rationale that would appeal to the gullible Americans. Mr. Sarila concedes that the US has continued the British policy of "using religion to achieve strategic objectives" in Pakistan, but along with many Indian geostrategic thinkers, he encourages a new hope in "the improvement of US-India relations" because  "Western policies of exploiting political Islam to pressurize India have run their course."

Husain Haqqani was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011. His book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military is a devastating critique of the "state within a state" formed by Pakistan military and intelligence services. He argues convincingly (and dangerously for himself) that from the beginning the Islamist identity and foreign policy initiatives of Pakistan have been rooted in "institutions and the state." This is not an aberration of particular military heads of state. Since the beginning the "obsession with India" has driven all Pakistani military policy with its western neighbor in Afghanistan and its northeastern dispute with Kashmir.  His history is a clear narrative and yet full of nuances that only an insider can relate. Much of the purification ideology of Pakistan is a Salafist type of Sunni Islam associated with the Deobandi school. They have become a significant force in the nation’s educational system. Religious ideology could not hold together East and West Pakistan (separated by a thousand miles of India). The ethnic Bengalis of the East resented the governmental dominance by ethnic Punjabs and laws making “Urdu and only Urdu” the official language of the new Pakistani State. In a December 1970 election the Bengali East, and two non-Punjab areas of Balochistan and the mostly Pashtun Northwest Provinces, won enough seats to control the National Assembly. Yahya Khan, the military dictator who had allowed the elections, announced in March 1971 the indefinite postponement of the National Assembly. A bloody attack on East Pakistan led to Bengali resistance and Indian intervention. East Pakistan declared itself as the new nation of Bangladesh in December 1971.

The muted response of the United States to the Pakistani military rampage in the East was attributed to the role of the Pakistan military in arranging the secret Kissinger visit to China (summer 1971). That preceded the Nixon breakthrough in February 1972. All of this history, as well as the development of the "Islamic bomb" by A.Q. Kahn, is explained with even greater detail and clarity in Haqqani’s second book Magnificent Delusions. He wrote this book after serving as ambassador for the assassinated Benazir Bhutto. Haqqani had to leave Pakistan several months after the American raid in Abbottabad [about 70 miles north of Pakistani capital] which killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. His second book is much more detailed about the nuclear physicist Kahn. (An excellent documentary on the development of the real Islamic nuclear weapons of mass destruction is here.)

Mrs. Bhutto was killed by a bomb in late 2007
There were three primary strategic goals of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies. These were not always shared by the various civilian governments. They were: a) developing a nuclear arsenal; b) achieving "strategic depth" in Afghanistan which means having a salafist-type Sunni government in Afghanistan that would never consider an alliance with Hindu India or cultivate cross-border ethnic nationalisms of Pashtunistan and Balochistan; and c) cultivating an Islamic identity in Kashmir to break from Indian rule and realign with Pakistan. (Though Kashmir has an overwhelming Muslim population, the province stayed with India at the time of partition.) Long before the US supported muhajadeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion of 1979, the Pakistan military was developing Taliban-like forces in Afghanistan to insure national development by their neighbor which would preclude an alliance with India. This is what they called "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. When the US attacked the Taliban after the 2001 World Trade Center bombings, only three countries had recognized the jihadist regime as a legitimate state: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Ambassador Haqqani tells the story how occasional strikes against Al Qaeda operatives by the Pakistan government kept the US off balance in properly assessing the situation. Haqqani writes: "There was a huge gap in the Bush Administration’s knowledge about Pakistan. Condoleezza Rice was surprised when Russian President Vladimir Putin brought up the subject of Pakistan during his meeting with Bush at the G-8 Summit meeting in Genoa in July 2001. "He excoriated the Perez Musharraf regime for its support of extremists and for the connections of the Pakistani intelligence services and military to the Taliban and al Qaeda," she wrote in her memoir. Putin said that the extremists "were all being funded by Saudi Arabia" and that it would only be a matter of time until it resulted in a major catastrophe. "We of course knew the connection between Pakistan and the Taliban. But I was taken aback by Putin’s alarm and vehemence, and chalked it up to Russian bitterness toward Pakistan for supporting Afghan Mujahideen who had defeated the Soviets in the 1980’s. Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban would become one of our gravest problems. Putin never let us forget it, bringing up the conversation time and time again."

Another voice describing Pakistan during these turbulent years is Carlotta Gall, the New York Times correspondent to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001-2013. Her father, British journalist Sandy Gall, covered Afghanistan during the Russian Afghan war and bequeathed his love and knowledge of the country to his daughter. Mrs. Gall now writes from North Africa and, like Mr. Haqqani, would not be safe in Pakistan. The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014 is not a subtle title. Gall, however, is a very subdued and non-inflammatory writer. Yet her travels and countless interviews in Afghanistan (as well as many in Pakistan) leave her with a powerful and devastating conclusion. The epicenter of Islamic jihadism that expresses itself in the Taliban of Afghanistan is amidst the madrasses, intelligence services, and military of Pakistan. She concludes the book, "Until the Pakistan military ceases to use the Taliban as an instrument of its strategic aims, Afghanistan’s long war will continue." Just before that, she made one of her few policy recommendations: "The US should also force Gulf countries to curtail their funding of extremist groups and madrassas in Pakistan." The reference to Gulf countries means the UAE and (as Vladimir Putin pointed out 15 years ago) Saudi Arabia. Many of the reviews of her book have focused on her accusation that knowledge of Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan reached to the highest levels in the intelligence and military. Her critics ask for proof and more proof. (She demurs, telling her safely ensconced critics that her sources would be killed if she gives more details). It is mindful of a previous era of a crippling skepticism. When the US intelligence began late in the Bush presidency (2006-08) to focus on ties of the Taliban and Pakistan government, a diplomat said their findings were continually nitpicked by government officials "acting like stamp collectors."

Especially in the Pakistan city of Quetta, the ISI ties to Taliban were clear. One distinction was that the Taliban had Pakistani-Afghan roots, while Al Qaeda was more Yemeni-Saudi based. Half of the first 400 Al Qaeda members which the Pakistan government claimed to capture were Saudi or Yemeni. The Taliban movement was largely Pashtun, the large ethnic tribe that had been split in two by the Durand line drawn in 1893 by Mortimer Durand, the British Indian Foreign Secretary. The British strategy had been to establish an Afghanistan/Indian border which would break apart natural tribal loyalties that could become the basis of military resistance. There was no Pakistan at that time; but when Pakistan was established in 1947, they used the 1400-mile Durand Line as their western border. Pashtuns of Afghanistan proposed instead a Pashtunistan to reunite their ethnic and religious brothers. The Pakistan military has offered a strict super-ethnic purifying Islamic identity as a way to cement these cross-border loyalties in service of their larger military project aimed against India.

The progressive cultural radicalization of Pakistan society had eerie similarities with Saudi Arabia. Gall's reporting on the “Red Mosque” incident brings to mind the Saudi story. Just as the 1979 Siege in Mecca against the Saudi government was militarily suppressed, but then led to many concessions to Wahhabi Sunnis, the “Red Mosque” rebellion in Islamabad in 2007 ended with a similar government repression followed by ever deeper concessions to cultural salafists. (Salafist means 'ancestor' and refers to various Sunni purification movements like Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia and the Deobandi school in Pakistan. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria are all Salafist movements).

Again, in her low-keyed way, the author stresses that while there are many American projects for increased government services to win loyalties and increase democracy, she quotes tribal leaders who insist that providing stable long-term security is always the first and most fundamental requirement in securing political loyalty. Similar reasoning led to Afghan President Harmai Karzai proposals to call a "loya jirga" (a traditional tribal assembly) to develop a broadly representative societal agreement to protect. The Communists had always opposed this as unscientific tribalism, the mullahs were against it for substituting ethnic loyalties for religious purity, and the Americans were dismissive of any schemes of rule not based on 'one person, one vote.'

Hasain Haqqani, in explaining the Islamic transformation of the Pakistani educational system, said instead of studying geography, history, and civics, students studied a kind of "political science based on Islam." There is an eerily similar project in the erasure of American history, geography, and civics which have made us blind and deaf to the religious movements and national states who have declared us their enemy. The authors of the books reviewed here are teaching a clarifying mixture of history, biography, and geography. Remarkably, their stories comport well with the analysis of Bruce Riedel who chaired President Obama’s reappraisal of American strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unlike the reluctance of major policy makers to name and face our foes in Saudi Arabia, it seems the secret about Pakistan is out of the bag. Maybe it was the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad. President Obama sometimes speaks of 'AfPak' -- showing the two countries must be treated together in determining strategy. President Obama’s “tilt toward Asia” has improved our relations with India enough that we can now deepen our alliance with them against the Pakistani support of terror mostly directed against them. When we see Pakistan in terms of India, China, and South Asia we will clarify the real nature of our enemy in this theatre and begin to cultivate our necessary allies. Aesop said "a doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy." There is a good reason that Haqqani’s book on the US-Pakistani "alliance" began with that reminder from the ancient sage.

This mosque in Lahore opened in 1673, and for centuries was the world's largest.

For more information on Pakistan, see our Map on Monday: PAKISTAN

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