Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Proxy War by Pakistan

October 26,2009

By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan has been fighting America’s proxy war in Afghanistan and lately in Pakistan for almost 30 years. This war started with the deployment of Soviet army in Afghanistan in December 1979. Although the Soviet Union withdrew its army from Afghanistan 8 years later, America has been involved in Afghanistan even after that. Subsequent military engagements of American forces with Taliban and al-Qaida including the route of Taliban by the NATO and North Alliance militants continue to this day. Pakistan has been with America all along in these conflicts. The only difference between now and the past is that Pakistan is presently fighting this proxy war in its own territory against Taliban and Al-Qaida.
The humiliating exit of the Soviet army from Afghanistan, also led America to wind up its military operations and terminate its presence there , leaving that blood-soaked country to the mutual fighting of the tribal chiefs, each vying for the throne of Kabul. But the unkindest cut was inflicted upon Pakistan- its sacrifices and historic support was repaid by imposing Pressler Amendment. In consequence of Pressler Amendment President George H. W. Bush after determining in October 1989 that Pakistan had developed a nuclear weapon, cut off aid and many commercial relations with Pakistan.
Who knows, if Pakistan army is able to clear its territory of Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents; another “Pressler Amendment” may be hurled on Pakistan once again. The Kerry-Lugar Bill and the undertones of American military aid is pregnant with some semblance of mild Pressler condionalities. Only time will bear out if the United States’ claims for long term strategic relationship with Pakistan stand the test of time.
As to why Pakistan is the only country fond of or submitting to waging proxy wars for other countries is a mind boggling question. Why this ignoble practice was never thought to be called off? Why Pakistan gets entangled in internecine, interminable, bloodletting wars of others and its leadership willingly accepts the role of a pawn or mercenary without any threat to its own integrity? In the case of actual threat from across the border, United States in the past, balked with stubborn indifference. One of the cardinal reasons for Pakistan’ backwardness and regression is this country’s readiness to be a part of conflicts that hardly concern it. Pakistan has been promoting foreign agendas at the cost of its own self-esteem and sovereignty. It has been in the habit of turning into an ally of United States not on honorable terms but with a defeatist and submissive mindset.
Unlike Bush, the Obama administration is relatively, benign towards Pakistan. But in equal measure or disproportionately, Zardari government is overly pliant towards America in comparison to his predecessor Pervez Musharraf. He is ready to deliver on American terms any task assigned to his government. Hence the full fledged onslaught in South Waziristan that president Musharraf has been stalling during his tenure. Zardari’s no holds barred mercenary role for America is a compulsion that he has to fulfill anyway. There is a noose around his neck of copious crimes, covered under NRO. If he dithers or shows his disinclination in playing the role he is told to play, the noose will be tightened around his neck. Moreover, empowered with unprecedented elephantine powers, a yester years’ gaol bird is not willing to relinquish his fiat being supported by the foreign stake-holders. Unless s situation akin to falling of heaven happens, president Zardari would go to any extent to keep Americans in good humor. The victory in Swat and the ongoing military offensive in South Waziristan, if successful, would lend exceptional confidence and clout to president Zardari for retaining the egregious presidential powers as long as he can.
Pakistan is definitely in a civil war situation. What Al-Qaida and the religious fanatics did for USA in 90s, is being reenacted by the Pakistan army now. The Frankenstein of Taliban and al-Qaida is not going to be vanquished or at least defeated so soon. The region comprising Afghanistan and Pakistan and the tribal belt in between would keep burning in the war flames that cannot be doused for a long time to come. So the Pakistan army is in for a long drawn counter-insurgency operations that might exhaust it in due course a la the American forces that fought a similar war in Iraq. But supposedly even if it succeeds in annihilating the insurgents, the disastrous socio-economic fallout cannot be contained so soon.
Although Americans are sounding to stay in Afghanistan for a long time the possibility of indefinite presence of NATO in Afghanistan is remote. Even if Pakistan army overpowers the insurgents in Tribal regions, the war cannot come to end in a similar fashion in Afghanistan. Predictably when the tide starts turning against the Taliban and other militants in Pakistani territory, these elements would move to Afghanistan, a much vast land to carry on their anti NATO insurgency as long as they want. Pakistani forces cannot cross over to Afghanistan to help NATO to browbeat the insurgents there.
There is yet another possibility that once the anti Americans insurgents and militants are subdued by Pakistan, NATO and US would lift their anchors and leave the area as they did after the defeat and retreat of the Soviet Union army from Afghanistan. Or America may entirely concentrate on Afghanistan and may even lose interest in continuing her military and economic aid to Pakistan. Americans are known for abandoning their commitments half way after the needful is done or the mercenary countries finish their hireling’s job.
On the domestic turf, President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have met presumably to bring about a thaw in their chilly and fractious relationship. It’s difficult to conjecture whether they would be able to forge a fresh durable alliance. But understandably, Nawaz Sharif like a bitten man would not like to be bitten for the second time. Perceiving that NRO was going to be debated in the parliament, the Kerry Lugar bill turning out to be an irksome irritant, the South Waziristan war going to be a long haul and the growing disenchantment of the people with the incumbent government, Nawaz Sharif will keep on aggressively pressing for the implementation of the several accords that he reached with Zardari.
President Zardari might agree to the PMLN’S demands for the trial of former president Musharraf and might even dispense with some of the controversial injunctions in the constitution. But he would further erode his credibility if he again reneges on his commitments. The glaring fact is that it would be pretty difficult for the PPP coalition government to keep their solo flight in power without PMLN which is the second largest party in Pakistan. The NRO issue is certainly very tricky and even if it is approved by the Assembly and the Senate, it would still leave the government in a clumsy situation. Any government surviving under the questionable cover up of amnesty granted by an individual for keeping himself in the power saddle, cannot claim to be firm on moral grounds. Moreover, the Supreme Court still retains the prerogative to overturn or reject or reinterpret the parliamentarians’ approval or disapproval of the NRO. This murky climate might force midterm general elections.

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