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Pakistan’s history of unholy alliances – Pak Observer

Dr Manzoor H Khatana

First, let us briefly review the external contributions to these alliances, and then succinctly highlight the internal influences. Pakistan’s foremost alliance with the United States, and the West, began in the 1950s; the country became a member of South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, soon thereafter of Baghdad Pact in 1955, which later, in 1959, became known as Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), after the withdrawal of Iraq in the post 1958 coup d’état in Baghdad. Was Pakistan the initiator of these alliances, there appears to be no such written record, except that it was the United States which had developed the strategy of curtailing worldwide communism through these alliance. For Pakistanis, the primary beneficial was their military, since strengthening of Pakistan military was in the interest of the US, and consequently the US aid was directed more towards the development of Pakistani armed forces, and economic aid was either not stressed or simply eaten up by corrupt ruling elites. The point to remember here is that while Pakistan had become a willing tool of the United States, it also became a real enemy of the Soviet Union. On May 1, 1960, a United States spy plane, designated as the U2, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over the Soviet Union. The aircraft, piloted by Gary Powers, had taken off from a Pakistani airbase in Peshawar. Suddenly, Pakistan had two confirmed enemies, India and the Soviet Union, and both countries became committed to getting back at Pakistan.

Fathering Bangladesh in 1971, India and the Soviet Union, gleefully took revenge of those earlier pro-western Pakistani policies, but the humiliating defeat of East Pakistan still did not give any pause to future leaders of Pakistan, since they again jumped into bed with Uncle Sam, to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Once again, the ruling military junta in Islamabad became the willing tool of the United States by pursuing the strategic policy of bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan. In fact, thousands of Mujahideen were created, armed, and then trained by the CIA, with the help of the Pakistani ISI. One should not forget that a few brotherly Muslim countries had also helped financially in the creation of these Muslim warriors; the late President Reagan has compared them as “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.” Confronting and then defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan through these Muslim zealots, the United States had successfully achieved its strategic goal, but financially strapped Pakistan had to deal with millions of Afghanistan refugees, many of whom soon introduced their Klashnikov culture in the volatile region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While the Soviets were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, the United States too withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving behind nearly 35,000 battle hardened Mujahideen, who not only planned the 9/11, but later contributed making Pakistan as the most terrorist-ridden country in the world.

While external influences, if not interferences, had indeed contributed to Pakistan becoming the most maligned and terrorist infested country, it cannot be denied however that its own rulers had contributed even more to its becoming the most murderous place on earth. Military rulers rarely promote or enhance democracies, and Pakistan has the misfortune of being ruled mostly by military men; two of them (General Zia and General Musharraf) were actually born in India. On the other hand, the non-military rulers of Pakistan were no beacon of freedom and democracy either, since they did not truly practice democracy. During the 1970 elections, the founder of the PPP, the late Z. A. Bhutto, had won only 81 seats in West Pakistan against 160 by Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan, but Bhutto refused to become the minority leader. Where were the democratic credentials of the PPP founder when he refused to bow down to the majority of Sheikh Mujib? Did he not hasten the demise of Pakistan by ordering, if not collaborating with his military brass, against his fellow East Pakistanis? However, the founder of the PPP’s greatest mistake was his decision to choose General Zia as the head of Pakistani armed forces, who, after eliminating Bhutto, brought into politics various religious parties to counter balance other civilian politicians, thus gaining alliance of the Mullahs. But, did General Zia learn his art of alliance with the Mullahs from Z. A. Bhutto? Didn’t Bhutto sacrifice the Ahmadi community to form an unholy alliance with the Mullahs? How many parliaments and/or rulers in Islam had actively participated in making laws that had turned a segment of a Muslim community into non-Muslims?

However, it would be quite fair to state that religious elements in Pakistan got their real start during the rule of General Zia, and the nation is still paying the price for those misguided and short-sighted policies. General Zia too had sacrificed the prevailing spiritual secularism to form an alliance with the Mullahs. In short, both external and domestic political forces have equally maligned the Land of the Pure. Tracing the history of ill-feelings against the United States, every Pakistani remembers the Pressler Amendment, and now again lifting of nuclear embargo against India. Nonetheless, it is blatantly unfair to blame the United States for all the ills facing Pakistan. Besides, the answer is blowing in the wind, since in an interview with Charlie Rose of the PBS television, General Petraeus, who was head of the Central Command (CENTCOM), had openly acknowledged that the United States had a “checkered past” with Pakistan and it needs to recognize the same. In short, the US Pakistan alliance was surely more unequal, if not unholy!

“We’ve walked away from that country three different times, including after Charlie Wilson’s war, after we established the Mujahideen.” He went further by admitting “that the United States had helped ISI to create the extremists who were now threatening both countries. In fact, it was “Our money, Saudi money, others joined together, helped the ISI, indeed, form these elements which then went in and threw the Soviets out of Afghanistan with our weaponry. And then we left and they were holding the bag.” (Interview of Gen. Petraeus with Charlie Rose, PBS television, Current Affairs, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.)

After the unholy exit of General Musharraf, and the emergence of a democratic system, there were high hopes that the alliance of both the PPP and the Muslim League (N) would usher in a golden era for democracy in Pakistan, but soon, President Zardari began his shenanigans by saying that written agreements “are not holy like the holy Qur’an or the Hadith.” The President doesn’t know much about the history of early Islam, particularly about the Treaty of Hudaibiyah; didn’t the holy Prophet (Pbuh) honor his written agreement by returning Abu Jandal, the Muslim, to his non-Muslim father Suhayl ibn Amr? It goes without saying that a promise, written or verbal, must be honored, and that indeed is the righteous way of Islam. The country has paid a terrible price for those broken promises made by politicians, prior to the exit of General Musharraf. The ruling elite of the PPP had missed a golden opportunity of advancing the cause of Pakistan by breaking the alliance of the PPP and the Muslim League (N). The leaders of both parties may not be brilliant, but they would have answered the clarion call for the national unity — triumph of clean politics over militarism and Mullahism.

On the final analysis, the best alliance the poor Pakistanis can form would be the alliance between themselves and their rulers. Besides, with begging bowl in hand, there are not too many countries running in to form any alliance with Pakistan. In the meantime, let us just re-examine the result of those alliance; more enemies, more terrorism, more mistrust, more corruption, more Mullahism, and a nearly crumbling state. Therefore, not only were those alliances unholy, but they were down right dangerous setting back socio-economic, geo-political, and educational progress of the beloved country by many decades.

—The writer is CEO of an information research & analysis company in the US.

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