Despite the change of guards in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan is continuing to experience the consequences of its chronic misdiagnosis of terrorism.
Take Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Its government, led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has blocked the NATO supply route through the province in a bid to force Washington into calling off its drone attacks—on Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists—which it says result in the loss of innocent lives as collateral damage.
Few can protest against PTI because the rationale of its disruption of the supply route is based on an all-parties consensus in Pakistan against drone attacks. This consensus is based on yet another all-parties consensus tasking the Pakistani government with holding “peace” talks with the Taliban. Given the fact that 80 percent of Pakistanis, according to a recent survey, hate the United States, it appears as if Pakistan is set to pursue a Taliban-dictated change in its foreign policy. Another unavoidable perception is that, given Pakistan’s international isolation, the state is in the process of shifting its allegiance to the Taliban as legitimate rulers. The state survives on its robust delusion-dependency.
Defeated by terrorism and broken in spirit, people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are now gradually shifting their loyalty from the dysfunctional state to a new social contract with the Taliban, who they think will stop killing them under a superior Islamic order. This is a delusion encouraged by populist isolation. According to latest reports, the business community of the province pays “protection” money to the terrorists while ignoring the Federal Board of Revenue. The people have become submissive to terror under the leadership of Khan’s PTI: they had, in 2008, rejected the government of clerics close to the Taliban and elected the “secular” Awami National Party, only to see its leaders killed by suicide-bombers and the population decimated by IEDs.
The Taliban are issuing orders they believe will be carried out. They have warned the media against projecting the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government negatively, particularly Syed Munawar Hasan, chief of PTI ally Jamaat-e-Islami, who broke new ground in jurisprudence last month by declaring the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud a “martyr” after he was killed by a drone. Shockingly, people in rural Sindh, fallen inconspicuously to the persuasive power of banned but renamed terrorist-religious organizations, have started rejecting polio vaccination of their children in tacit obeisance to the coming dominion of the Taliban. Many parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have already done so.
Some Pakistanis think it is wrong on the part of their leaders to succumb to populism aroused by terrorism and to embrace isolationism through an anti-America campaign. The Pakistan Army itself changed tack last August when its then-chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, declared from Abbottabad that Pakistan was threatened from within (meaning the Taliban), and not from without (meaning India and the U.S.). And yet the powerful clerical-jihadist Defense of Pakistan Council organization has been allowed by its alleged patrons within the Army to demonstrate its massive nonstate-actor strength in the big cities, supporting jihad against both India and the U.S., thus indirectly rejecting the Kayani doctrine. Why is Pakistan behaving the way it is on the eve of another war that will start in the region by the end of 2014?
If you want to delve into the mystery of Pakistan as a state, the book to read is Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding by Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, whose earlier thoughts in 2005’s Pakistan: between Mosque and Military on state conduct had deeply offended the Pakistan Army. Today’s delusion-based politics is traced by him to Pakistan’s national-security paradigm. Haqqani’s diagnosis is rare, but others share his opinion. A similar thematic shot-across-the-bow was fired earlier by ex-foreign secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan in his 2011 book Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict and Resistance to Modernity.
Birth of a Frozen Paradigm
Before we examine Haqqani’s diagnosis of the Pakistani state in Magnificent Delusions let’s examine the offense his earlier book gave to the Army, who finally got him to resign from his post as ambassador in 2011 leaning on the still-ongoing case against him of treason against the state at the Supreme Court.
In Pakistan: between Mosque and Military, Haqqani’s thesis was that Pakistani nationalism was shaped in an anti-India mold to favor the military during the early years and during interregnums when political parties ruled Pakistan under the tutelage of the military. By the time politicians realized that nationalism was actually helping the military remain on top, they had also become alive to the already-formed public mind that would not accept any alteration in nationalism without a trauma.
Haqqani investigated the doctrine of “strategic depth” that continues to fashion the Pakistani military’s worldview. He traces it, not to the timeline of Pakistan Army’s decision to support the Taliban, but to Aslam Siddiqi’s 1960 book Pakistan Seeks Security. Siddiqi leans on British jurist Alexander Fraser Tytler’s suggestion that the areas which today form Afghanistan and Pakistan be fused into one. Siddiqi’s typically military addendum to the theory was that since it can’t be done by force— “fusion will lead to confusion”—Islamic ideology may be put to use. Today this very formulation is recoiling on Pakistan in the shape of the Taliban, whose allegiance is to Mullah Omar, not to Pakistan.
What came first, the Army-sponsored India policy or Islamic extremism?
The India-centrism of this thinking is backed by an almost universal resistance in Pakistan to any changes in the anti-India curriculum of textbooks which the provinces will not change despite orders from the central government. The resistance is not only from the bent mind of the state machinery but also from the mind within the Army, who will not remove their nexus with nonstate actors they used in the past and might use again after 2014 when civil war breaks out in Afghanistan. There is reference in the book to Fazlur Rehman Khaleel of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen who was the logistics man of Osama bin Laden and had cosigned the 1998 fatwa of death against the Americans with him. He is still one of the central figures of the Defense of Pakistan Council in addition to Hafiz Saeed, the man for whose head the Americans will pay $10 million. He was in the camp, together with five Inter-Services Intelligence officers, when the U.S. unsuccessfully targeted bin Laden in Afghanistan after an Al Qaeda bombing of the American ship USS Cole in 2000.
Today, the Defense of Pakistan Council is widely accused of being a policy tool of the ISI, used to deter Islamabad from getting too friendly with India. Khaleel was once head of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen fighting the state’s covert wars; he shared command with another terrorist wanted in India, Masood Azhar. Both were close to bin Laden, who was upset when they fell out, with the latter creating his own Jaish-e-Muhammad militia. Bin Laden helped financially in this split, compensating both. When Azhar was arrested in India while pursuing Pakistan’s proxy jihad, a secret plan was made to spring him from prison. An Indian airliner was hijacked and made to land in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and its passengers swapped to free Azhar. The still-functional Mansehra camp near Abbottabad, training nonstate actors in terrorism, was set up by Azhar, as disclosed by Adnan Rasheed, an Air Force officer-turned-terrorist sprung by the Taliban from Bannu jail last year. Needles to say, bin Laden was living in Abbottabad for five years to be close to the camp he was allegedly funding.
What came first, the Army-sponsored India policy or Army-sponsored Islamic extremism? Haqqani ends the book proving that it was the India-centrism of Pakistan that finally brought it to Islamic extremism. The myth of India not accepting and spoiling to attack Pakistan was concocted and survives the acquisition of nuclear deterrence by Pakistan. The Army used jihad in the asymmetric war the world calls cross-border terrorism; it used the mosque to muster the warriors it needed to sharpen its revisionist irredentism.
Prophetically, Haqqani thought normalization of relations with India was the only available solvent to what the soldier and cleric had done to Pakistan. He desired the survival of Pakistan through change of policy in light of the theory of gradual adjustment to circumstances. But the Army desired longevity through consensual stasis based on the refusal to adjust.
Haqqani moved to the U.S. in 2002 after serving in the Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto governments in the 1990s. He produced his 2005 book while in exile and shared it with Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, while Sharif licked his wounds in exile in Saudi Arabia. Haqqani’s latest book draws from his work with both Bhutto and Sharif.
Delusions of Grandeur
In his latest book, Haqqani lays down his stance: “I have always been convinced that the United States remains a force for good in the world. Pakistan has benefited from its relations with the United States and would benefit even more if it could overcome erroneous assumptions about its own national security and role in the world. Instead of seeking close security ties based on false promises, Pakistan must face its history and diversity honestly, and it should be neither dependent on nor resentful of the world’s most powerful nation.”
He studied the relations between the United States and its other partners to “figure out why almost all post-World War II U.S. allies have found prosperity and stability through this partnership, whereas Pakistan has not.” But when he tried to reestablish Pakistan-U.S. relations on mutual trust as ambassador, the “major power centers in my own country resisted my vision,” he writes. The ISI was let loose on him; the anti-U.S. media in Pakistan was likewise unleashed with accusations against him of safeguarding U.S. interests and helping the CIA expand its network of spies in Pakistan.
Islam and nationalism were the passwords with which even the erudite Pakistani approached the Pakistan-America equation. There was grave moral doubt not unmixed with self-flagellation about the conduct of Pakistan in getting involved with the global hegemon. The pragmatism of foreign policy was booby-trapped with piety. On the other hand, the U.S. found fault with Pakistan as an ally on the following counts: Pakistan developed nuclear weapons while promising the United States that it would not; the U.S. helped arm and train mujahideen against the Soviets during the 1980s, but Pakistan chose to keep these militants well-armed and sufficiently funded even after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989; and from the American perspective, Pakistan’s crackdown on terrorist groups, particularly after 9/11, was half-hearted at best.
I.Q. Ambushed by Ideology
While serving in Sharif’s government in 1992, Haqqani saw the prime minister receive a letter of protest from the-then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker through Ambassador Nicholas Platt “which he left unread on his table.” He saw that during the meeting of the bigwigs of the state convened to discuss the letter—including the Army chief and ISI head—the letter was still lying unopened in front of him. Sharif asked Haqqani to summarize its contents while the prime minister himself “gave instructions to his staff regarding snacks he wanted served to all of us—Sharif often asked for specific food items during meetings, as if it helped him concentrate his mind.”
Haqqani noted that the letter contained the following plaints: “Your intelligence service, the [ISI], and elements of the Army, are supporting Kashmiri and Sikh militants who carry out acts of terrorism, providing weapons, training, and assistance in infiltration. We’re talking about direct covert government of Pakistan support.” There was no reaction from the various pillars of the national-security establishment except from ISI chief Javed Nasir—notorious for an I.Q. effectively ambushed by “high-church” Islam, complete with a flowing beard—who spoke first and wrongly accused Platt of being a Jew working for the alleged Indo-Zionist lobby.
In the case of Nasir, the prime minister had grievously erred in his selection of ISI chief. Take a sampling of the level of intellect of the Pakistani state as Nasir spoke: “The jihad in Kashmir is at a critical stage and cannot be disrupted. We have been covering our tracks so far and will cover them even better in the future. These are empty threats. The United States could not declare Pakistan a terrorist state because of our strategic importance. The Saudis and Pakistan are America’s only allies in the greater Middle East, so the United States needs Pakistan to deal with the changing situation in Muslim Central Asia after the Soviet collapse. All we need to do is to buy more time and improve our diplomatic effort. The focus should be on Indian atrocities in Kashmir, not on our support for the Kashmiri resistance.”
Will Kayani’s successor take Pakistan out of its delusional worldview based on deceit?
What was the effect of this patently idiotic strategic positioning? Prime Minister Sharif “agreed with Nasir’s assessment, which reflected the consensus of the meeting.” Only Haqqani and the foreign secretary argued that Pakistan needed to reconsider Pakistani support for Kashmiri militants as “it would undermine Pakistani diplomacy, get Pakistan labeled a terrorism sponsor, and was unlikely to result in a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.” The foreign secretary actually said that Pakistan would probably be more successful by focusing on diplomacy and political action in favor of the Kashmiris instead of “setting off bombs.” Nasir’s response, a cliché that echoes on cable TV even today when retired military officers fulminate against India, was that “the Hindus do not understand any language other than force.”
The meeting finally dismissed the concerns raised in Baker’s letter. Sharif said, “As long as Pakistan could be useful to the United States, the United States would remain favorably disposed toward Pakistan.” The ISI chief was sure he knew how to take care of the CIA: “We know what they need and we give it to them in bits and pieces to keep them happy.” On this, Sharif said, “It is important to talk to Americans nicely while doing whatever you have to,” and that “there are always enough disagreements among American policymakers that anyone can find someone who supports them.”
According to Sharif, Pakistan could deal with allegations of sponsoring terrorism by reaching out to the American media and Congress. He would allocate $2 million “as the first step” for that purpose and announced at the meeting that Haqqani “would be in charge of this expanded lobbying effort.” Haqqani adds: “He did not allow me to speak, and I had to wait until the next day to turn down the assignment.”
The Army chief, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, whom the prime minister was to get rid of later, made some sane remarks. He said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to get into a confrontation with the United States, but “we cannot shut down military operations against India either.” He suggested that Pakistan get off the hook with the United States by making some changes in its pattern of support for the Kashmiri militancy without shutting down the entire clandestine operation—and that is precisely the policy Pakistan adopted over the next few years until Gen. Pervez Musharraf switched off the jihad in 2003 after committing the blunder of Kargil and overthrowing the intellectually-unfocused prime minister.
This meeting decided Haqqani’s future in a way. Disagreeing with what was said in the meeting, he wished to resign, but was instead sent as ambassador to Sri Lanka.
Fear of a Liberated Intellect
The book is not introspective enough to take us through the process of Haqqani’s intellectual transformation—from the salad days of dragging the steel ball of state ideology around his ankle as a member of the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami to the realization of long kept-on-hold self-realization as he grew up to face the realities of state power—but it nevertheless points the way to how Pakistan can get out of the choppy waters of military-led ideology of war-making on borrowed money.
The military leaned on jihad to frontload its narrative. It had the scope of delusional innovation too, as Gen. Aslam Beg, made Army chief in 1988, once told Haqqani: “Pakistan needs to show its spine to the United States; a nuclear Pakistan would tie up with Iran and China in order to create a third pole in a multipolar world.” The general had no clue about the Chinese mind and was obviously not reading the carefully worded signals from Beijing, busy at that very moment to “normalizing” its relations with India.
But Beg was stupidly “defiant” while a wilier ISI chief Hamid Gul went on duping the Americans into thinking he was their man while advancing a more lethal and Islamist version of Beg’s view of how “the ISI could wage covert wars throughout the region and change Pakistan’s fortunes.” Today, in the aftermath of bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad, Gul is busy trundling out the story that bin Laden had actually died his natural death in 2005 and that the 2011 U.S. operation which killed him was a “put-up” job. One Supreme Court judge has actually been heard in private repeating the story, an obvious plant from a divided national-security establishment.
The ISI briefed Bhutto about the Taliban’s rise as a local phenomenon. She worried about their reported misogyny and their propensity for violence and asked Haqqani for his views on the ISI position that “they could bring peace to Afghanistan and secure Pakistan’s interests”: “I said that the ISI had previously said the same thing about Pakhtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Bhutto agreed but laughed saying that we civilians could not stop the ISI even if we wanted to.”
Ijlal Zaidi, a senior bureaucrat serving Bhutto, was worried about the “Talban’s core beliefs,” wondering whether madrassah students with a narrow worldview and no modern education were equipped to run a country: “They will ruin whatever is left of Afghanistan. They will kill the Shia and then they will come after Pakistan.” Haqqani observes: “The ISI’s Maj. Gen. Aziz Khan said he could not understand why so many people in the Bhutto government were so averse to the spread of Islam.” This was a clear pointer to the crux of the crisis that now engulfs Pakistan: the ideology of the state of Pakistan is the same as that of the Taliban, whose “purity” stands as a living rebuke to politicians grappling with the pragmatism of living in the present world. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. recognized the Taliban government in 1996, but Pakistan was the only country to allow them an embassy on its soil.
ISI’s Khan probably knew where he was taking Pakistan. He was the architect under Musharraf of the infamous Kargil Operation, which even China condemned at the U.N. Security Council as it came to grief. The jihadists became a part of the ISI’s covert ambition to conquer countries other than Afghanistan. Bhutto had been warned about it but could do nothing. She was told by the Philippines government during a visit that Pakistanis were fighting alongside Muslim extremists battling for autonomy in Mindanao. Russia said they were among the Islamists fighting in Chechnya. Arab governments in Egypt, Algeria, and Jordan also complained that their terrorists were among those living in Pakistan since the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad: “But when the issue was raised in government meetings, ISI and Interior Ministry officials dismissed the reports as Western propaganda.”
Could Pakistan help all this? Sharif told the-then deputy secretary of the U.S. State Department Strobe Talbott that he was helpless in the face of military dominance combined with the coercive power of the fundamentalists: “If he wanted what the Americans wanted—to not test the bomb—Talbott would find himself dealing not with a clean-shaven moderate like himself but instead with an Islamic fundamentalist.” But he had the son of old dictator Gen. Ayub Khan, Gohar Ayub, heading the Foreign Office, which recited the Army’s line to all comers, accompanied by foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad, who symbolized the Foreign Office bureaucracy as a satrapy of the Army where diplomats advanced the thinking of General Headquarters. Talking to Talbott, Ayub would call India a “habitual aggressor and hegemon” and describe the United States as “a fair-weather friend.” When Talbott spoke, “Ayub and Foreign Secretary Ahmad rolled their eyes, mumbled imprecations under their breath, and constantly interrupted.”
In his 2004 book Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb, Talbott writes: “While [Indian foreign minister] Jaswant Singh’s team was highly disciplined, some of Shamshad Ahmad’s colleagues tended to be querulous, surly, and sometimes abusive. On one occasion, early in our dealings, a member of the Pakistani delegation exploded at our observation that his country seemed always to react in kneejerk fashion to Indian moves. He rose out of his chair and lunged at Bruce Riedel or me, depending on whose neck he could get his fingers around first. He had to be physically restrained.” The said Pakistani diplomat was later sent as ambassador to the U.S. by the Sharif government.
Haqqani discloses that the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which Pakistan refuses to own as linked to its covert war strategy against India, were carried out by Pakistanis and quotes ISI chief Shuja Pasha as admitting to CIA director Michael Hayden that “the planners of the Mumbai attacks included some retired Pakistan Army officers” and that “the attackers had ISI links, but this had not been an authorized ISI operation.” This remark is significant because it signals splits of strategic ideology within the Army. When in 1996, the warlord controlling Kabul, Ahmad Shah Massoud paraded on TV ISI officers arrested while fighting on the side of the Taliban, Islamabad’s response was the same: these were retired officers.
Is the Army split on ideology between the normal India-centric officer and the ideological jihadist officer who also wants Pakistan changed on the lines advocated by the Taliban? Is the Army actually reconciled with Kayani’s Abbottabad doctrine that Pakistan is threatened from within? Was he under threat from the same elements who tried to kill Musharraf for his pro-America and anti-jihad policy tweaks in the past? Are the generals acting as guardians of national security with an ear cocked to what the ideological elements within are saying about them? Or, like Pasha, are all of them using extremism to extract more concessions from the U.S., which has actually been defeated in Afghanistan by the Afghan policy pursued by Rawalpindi?
Haqqani’s book offers evidence that the ISI dangerously stoked the fires of honor-based, intense nationalism to scare the U.S. into offering more assistance to a “beleaguered” Pakistani leadership: “Pasha and the ISI continued to propel hypernationalist sentiment. Pasha once told me that this was one of the few tools Pakistan had for leveraging itself in an asymmetric relationship,” writes Haqqani.
Split from Within
Haqqani believes that Pakistan and the U.S. are embarked on mutually opposed policies in Afghanistan; plus Pakistan is also under an ideological siege that views the U.S. as a hegemon in decline hobnobbing with India to the detriment of Pakistan’s own India strategy. He recommends to both sides to come clean on their strategic targets and reestablish the current edifice of mutual distrust and fear on a more pragmatic footing. He is more critical of Pakistan in light of the “scandals” it endlessly spawns because of its internal lack of cohesion.
Read this chastening passage: “Soon after the Abbottabad raid, [U.S. special envoy Marc] Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell traveled to Islamabad to propose actions that Pakistan could take to build confidence in its commitment to fight terrorism. They shared intelligence about a bomb-making factory run by the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. According to the CIA, Al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups used improvised-explosive devices made at this factory. Kayani and Pasha promised that the Pakistan Army would send in troops to shut down the illicit factory. A few days later the CIA sent time-stamped photographs showing the facility being dismantled hours before the Army’s arrival. The dismantling began after a man on a motorcycle went into the factory, thus leading to speculation that he had come to tip off the terrorists about the impending Army operation.”
Kayani who handled the Afghan policy has retired. Will his successor take Pakistan out of its delusional worldview based on deceit? In September 2011, Kayani’s American counterpart and friend Adm. Mike Mullen testified to the U.S. Congress that the Haqqani network was “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI and that anti-India terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba was part of the Pakistani government’s policy and served Islamabad’s interests. After that, the ISI broke with the CIA and the Army broke with the Pentagon. And now Pakistan is afloat on the basis of the unconvincing policy that the Americans should stop their drone attacks without demanding that Pakistan expel Afghan terrorists from North Waziristan.
In 2013, Nawaz Sharif is back, presiding over a Pakistan on the verge of bankruptcy and in need of international help; in 1998, he was in a similar situation after stealing the thunder of the Army by testing the nuclear bomb. Caught in a spiral of inflation and terrorism-induced capital flight, he is endangered by public anger and the rising tide of pro-Taliban defiance of the United States. Will his partial acquiescence in the country’s shift of allegiance to the Taliban save him and the country? Elements in the Army are still believed to be backing warlike organizations such as the Defense of Pakistan Council to restrict his options of survival.
Haqqani gets the last word here. “Pakistan cannot pursue its dreams of being India’s military equal by seeking American aid,” he writes. “If $40 billion in U.S. aid has not won Pakistani hearts and minds, billions more will not do the trick. Unless Pakistanis define their national interest differently from how their leaders have for over six decades, the U.S.-Pakistan alliance is only a mirage. The relationship needs redefinition, based on recognition of divergent interests and an acknowledgement of mutual mistrust. Only then will Pakistan and the United States share the same reality.”
From our Dec. 21, 2013, issue.