ISLAMABAD, Pakistanâ€”On the evening of Tuesday, 26 September, 2006,
Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy
Central\’s \’Daily Show\’ with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president
anywhere to dare do this political satire show.
his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking,
\”Is it good?\” before springing a surprise: \”Where\’s Osama bin Laden?\”
don\’t know,\” Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight
of a strong leader apparently cornered. \”You know where he is?\”
Musharraf snapped back, \”You lead on, we\’ll follow you.\”
(link to the clips: http://youtube.com/watch?v
Gen. Musharraf didn\’t know then is that he really was being cornered.
Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no
hint of the betrayal that awaited him.
As he completed the
remaining part of his U.S. visit, his allies in Washington and
elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall.
They had decided to take a page from the book of successful \’color
revolutions\’ where western governments covertly used money, private
media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups,
basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington\’s
This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Pakistan, the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball
with the United States on Afghanistan, China, and Dr. A.Q. Khan.
To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway:
A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing
the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role
in Washington\’s war on terror and predicting his downfall.
* Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.
* Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.
A campaign waged on Internet where tens of mailing lists and \’news
agencies\’ have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the
* European- and American-funded Pakistani
NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real jobs to work as a
makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.
government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television
networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in
on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding
inflation and corruption.
* Some of Musharraf\’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.
All this groundwork completed and chips in place when the judicial
crisis breaks out in March 2007. Even Pakistani politicians surprised
at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers campaign, complete with
flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media
* Currently, students are being recruited and organized
into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani
students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web
sites and \’online hangouts\’. The people behind this effort are mostly
unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small
student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners,
placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No
major student association has announced yet that it is behind these
student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most
journalists covering this story. Only a few students from affluent
schools have responded so far and it\’s not because the Pakistani
government\’s countermeasures are effective. They\’re not. The reason is
that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely
reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local NGOs are mostly
founded and run by rich, westernized Pakistanis.
All of this
may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all
really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and
recycling old political arguments, Mr. Akbar Bugti launched an armed
rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by
using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn\’t normally be
available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad sits on a
pile of evidence that links Mr. Bugti\’s campaign to money and
ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by
the Indians and the Karzai administration, with the Americans turning a
For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad
has kept quiet on Washington\’s involvement with anti-Pakistan elements
in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to the
\”We have indications of Indian involvement
with anti-state elements in Pakistan,\” declared the spokesman of the
Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement
was terse and direct and the spokesman, Ms. Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved
on to other issues.
This is how a Pakistani official explained
Ms. Aslam\’s statement: \”What she was really saying is this: We know
what the Indians are doing. They\’ve sold the Americans on the idea that
[the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in
Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan,
giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don\’t
know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know
Afghanistan very well. You can\’t beat us at our own game.\”
Bugti\’s armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its
final stages. No coincidence here. Mr. Bugti\’s real job was to scare
the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao\’s planned
visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.
is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It\’s a modern
port city that is supposed to link Central Asia, western China, and
Pakistan with markets in Mideast and Africa. It\’s supposed to have
roads stretching all the way to China. It\’s no coincidence either that
China has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram
Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.
in the American media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of
building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly
overlooking international oil shipping lanes. The Indians and some
other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project
because they see it as commercial competition.
What Mr. Bugti\’s
regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving
firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Mr. Bugti
himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way
it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military
operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army
U.S. intelligence and their Indian advisors could not
cultivate an immediate replacement for Mr. Bugti. So they moved to Plan
B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for
five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed over back to the Afghan
government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two
Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually
killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.
could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following
among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality
towing a vague agenda. He was rightly eliminated earlier this year by
Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan
after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.
SMELLING A RAT
is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started
smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem.
There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined
Washington\’s regional plans, Pakistan was gradually turning into a
\’besieged-nation\’, heavily targeted by the American media while being
subjected to strategic sabotage and espionage from Afghanistan.
under America\’s watch, has turned into a vast staging ground for
sophisticated psychological and military operations to destabilize
During the past three years, the heat has
gradually been turned up against Pakistan and its military along
Pakistan\’s western regions:
* A shadowy group called the BLA, a Cold War relic, rose from the dead to restart a separatist war in southwestern Pakistan.
Bugti\’s death was a blow to neo-BLA, but the shadowy group\’s backers
didn\’t repent. His grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti, is currently enjoying a
safe shelter in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he continues to
operate and remote-control his assets in Pakistan.
trained in Afghanistan have been inserted into Pakistan to aggravate
extremist passions here, especially after the Red Mosque operation.
Chinese citizens continue to be targeted by individuals pretending to
be Islamists, when no known Islamic group has claimed responsibility.
A succession of \’religious rebels\’ with suspicious foreign links have
suddenly emerged in Pakistan over the past months claiming to be
\’Pakistani Taliban\’. Some of the names include Abdul Rashid Ghazi,
Baitullah Mehsud, and now the Maulana of Swat. Some of them have used
and are using encrypted communication equipment far superior to what
Pakistani military owns.
* Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and al Qaeda remnants in the tribal areas.
the situation, assets within the Pakistani media started promoting the
idea that the Pakistani military was killing its own people. The rest
of the unsuspecting media quickly picked up this message. Some botched
American and Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda that caused
civilian deaths accidentally fed this media campaign.
the perfect timing for the launch of Military, Inc.: Inside Pakistan\’s
Military Economy, a book authored by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a
columnist for a Pakistani English-language paper and a correspondent
for \’Jane\’s Defence Weekly\’, a private intelligence service founded by
experts close to the British intelligence.
TARGET: PAK MILITARY
book was launched in Pakistan in early 2007 by Oxford Press. And,
contrary to most reports, it is openly available in Islamabad\’s biggest
bookshops. The book portrays the Pakistani military as an institution
that is eating up whatever little resources Pakistan has.
military\’s successful financial management, creating alternate
financial sources to spend on a vast military machine and build a
conventional and nuclear near-match with a neighboring adversary five
times larger – an impressive record for any nation by any standard –
was distorted in the book and reduced to a mere attempt by the military
to control the nation\’s economy in the same way it was controlling its
The timing was interesting. After all, it was hard to
defend a military in the eyes of its own proud people when the chief of
the military is ruling the country, the army is fighting insurgents and
extremists who claim to be defending Islam, grumpy politicians are out
of business, and the military\’s side businesses, meant to feed the
nation\’s military machine, are doing well compared to the shabby state
of the nation\’s civilian departments.
A closer look at Ms.
Siddiqa, the author, revealed disturbing information to Pakistani
officials. In the months before launching her book, she was a frequent
visitor to India where, as a defense expert, she cultivated important
contacts. On her return, she developed friendship with an Indian lady
diplomat posted in Islamabad. Both of these activities – travel to
India and ties to Indian diplomats – are not a crime in Pakistan and
don\’t raise interest anymore. Pakistanis are hospitable and friendly
people and these qualities have been amply displayed to the Indians
during the four-year-old peace process.
What is interesting is
that Ms. Siddiqa left her car in the house of the said Indian diplomat
during one of her recent trips to London. And, according to a report,
she stayed in London at a place owned by an individual linked to the
Indian lady diplomat friend in Islamabad.
The point here is
this: Who assigned her to investigate the Pakistani Armed Forces and
present a distorted image of a proud an efficient Pakistani institution?
1988 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqa worked in the Pakistan civil service, the
Pakistani civil bureaucracy. Her responsibilities included dealing with
Military Accounts, which come under the Pakistan Ministry of Defense.
She had thirteen years of rich experience in dealing with the budgetary
matters of the Pakistani military and people working in this area.
Siddiqa received a year-long fellowship to research and write a book in
the United States. There are strong indications that some of her Indian
contacts played a role in arranging financing for her book project
through a paid fellowship. The final manuscript of her book was vetted
at a publishing office in New Delhi.
All of these details are
insignificant if detached from the real issue at hand. And the issue is
the demonization of the Pakistani military as an integral part of the
media siege around Pakistan, with the American media leading the way in
Some of the juicy details of this campaign include:
The attempt by Dr. Siddiqa to pitch junior officers against senior
officers in Pakistan Armed Forces by alleging discrimination in the
distribution of benefits. Apart from being malicious and unfounded, her
argument was carefully designed to generate frustration and demoralize
* The American media insisting on handing
over Dr. A. Q. Khan to the United States so that a final conviction
against the Pakistani military can be secured.
* Mrs. Benazir
Bhutto demanding after returning to Pakistan that the ISI be
restructured; and in a press conference during her house arrest in
Lahore in November she went as far as asking Pakistan army officers to
revolt against the army chief, a damning attempt at destroying a
professional army from within.
Some of this appears to be eerily
similar to the campaign waged against the Pakistani military in 1999,
when, in July that year, an unsigned full page advertisement appeared
in major American newspapers with the following headline: \”A Modern
Rogue Army With Its Finger On The Nuclear Button.\”
day, it is not clear who exactly paid for such an expensive newspaper
full-page advertisement. But one thing is clear: the agenda behind that
advertisement is back in action.
Strangely, just a few days
before Mrs. Bhutto\’s statements about restructuring the ISI and her
open call to army officers to stage a mutiny against their leadership,
the American conservative magazine The Weekly Standard interviewed an
American security expert who offered similar ideas:
number of ISI agents who are responsible for helping the Taliban and al
Qaeda should be thrown in jail or killed. What I think we should do in
Pakistan is a parallel version of what Iran has run against us in Iraq:
giving money [and] empowering actors. Some of this will involve working
with some shady characters, but the alternativeâ€”sending U.S. forces
into Pakistan for a sustained bombing campaignâ€”is worse.\” Steve
Schippert, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2007.
In addition to these
media attacks, which security experts call \’psychological operations\’,
the American media and politicians have intensified over the past year
their campaign to prepare the international public opinion to accept a
western intervention in Pakistan along the lines of Iraq and
* Newsweek came up with an entire cover story with a single storyline: Pakistan is a more dangerous place than Iraq.
Senior American politicians, Republican and Democrat, have argued that
Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran and merits similar treatment. On
20 October, senator Joe Biden told ABC News that Washington needs to
put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan and invite the international
community to join in. \”We should be in there,\” he said. \”We should be
supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete
with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic
institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in
there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the
reemergence of a democratic process.\”
* The International Crisis
Group (ICG) has recommended gradual sanctions on Pakistan similar to
those imposed on Iran, e.g. slapping travel bans on Pakistani military
officers and seizing Pakistani military assets abroad.
process of painting Pakistan\’s nuclear assets as pure evil lying around
waiting for some do-gooder to come in and \’secure\’ them has reached
unprecedented levels, with the U.S. media again depicting Pakistan as a
nation incapable of protecting its nuclear installations. On 22
October, Jane Harman from the U.S. House Intelligence panel gave the
following statement: \”I think the U.S. would be wise – and I trust we
are doing this – to have contingency plans [to seize Pakistan\’s nuclear
assets], especially because should [Musharraf] fall, there are nuclear
* The American media has now begun discussing
the possibility of Pakistan breaking up and the possibility of new
states of \’Balochistan\’ and \’Pashtunistan\’ being carved out of it.
Interestingly, one of the first acts of the shady Maulana of Swat after
capturing a few towns was to take down the Pakistani flag from the top
of state buildings and replacing them with his own party flag.
The \’chatter\’ about President Musharraf\’s eminent fall has also
increased dramatically in the mainly American media, which has been
very generous in marketing theories about how Musharraf might
\”disappear\” or be \”removed\” from the scene. According to some Pakistani
analysts, this could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a
possible assassination of the Pakistani president.
worrying thing is how American officials are publicly signaling to the
Pakistanis that Mrs. Benazir Bhutto has their backing as the next
leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss
of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know
that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Mrs.
Bhutto. If she is killed in this way, there won\’t be enough time to
find the real culprit, but what\’s certain is that unprecedented
international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will
use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country.
A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October
when no less than the U.N. Security Council itself intervened to ask
the international community to \”assist\” in the investigations into the
assassination attempt on Mrs. Bhutto on 18 October. This generous move
was sponsored by the U.S. and, interestingly, had no input from
Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first
Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that
American \’chatter\’ about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a
serious matter that can\’t be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed
can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently
putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough
room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.
Musharraf killed isn\’t a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can
always be blamed and the military will not be able to put another
soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that
either Mrs. Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.
Americans are very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out
of their hands. They have been kicked out of Uzbekistan last year,
where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan
and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are
not making it any easier. Pakistan must be \’secured\’ at all costs.
is why most Pakistanis have never seen American diplomats in Pakistan
active like this before. And it\’s not just the current U.S. ambassador,
who has added one more address to her other most-frequently-visited
address in Karachi, Mrs. Bhutto\’s house. The new address is the office
of GEO, one of two news channels shut down by Islamabad for not signing
the mandatory code-of-conduct. Thirty-eight other channels are
operating and no one has censored the newspapers. But never mind this.
The Americans have developed a \’thing\’ for GEO. No solace of course for
ARY, the other banned channel.
Now there\’s also one Bryan Hunt,
the U.S. consul general in Lahore, who wears the national Pakistani
dress, the long shirt and baggy trousers, and is moving around these
days issuing tough warnings to Islamabad and to the Pakistani
government and to President Musharraf to end emergency rule, resign as
army chief and give Mrs. Bhutto access to power.
what should Pakistan do in the face of such a structured campaign to
bring Pakistan down on its knees and forcibly install a pro-Washington
administration in Islamabad?
There is increasing talk in Islamabad these days about Pakistan\’s new tough stand in the face of this malicious campaign.
As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of Mr. John
Negroponte, the no. 2 man in the U.S. State Department, who came to
Pakistan last week \”to deliver a tough message\” to the Pakistani
president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won\’t end emergency
rule until all objectives are achieved.
These objectives include:
* Cleaning up our northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.
* Ensuring that Washington\’s plan for regime-change doesn\’t succeed.
Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or
unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.
has also told Washington publicly that \”Pakistan is more important than
democracy or the constitution.\” This is a bold position. This kind of
boldness would have served Musharraf a lot had it come a little
earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the
most out of it.
Washington will not stand by watching as its
plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the
Americans insist on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad,
according to my sources, is looking at some tough measures:
Cutting off oil supplies to U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pakistani
officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a
staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see
Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously
considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since
October 2001, will deny the United States use of Pakistani soil and air
space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.
* Reviewing Pakistan\’s
role in the war on terror. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its
border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to
Washington\’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where
Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are
conisdering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while
maintining Pakistan\’s own war against the terrorists along
* Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no
quarrel with Afghanistan\’s Taliban. They are Kabul\’s internal problem.
But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban\’s Mullah Omar can have a positive
impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be
taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also
called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.
Americans have been telling everyone in the world that they have paid
Pakistan $10 billion dollars over the past five years. They might think
this gives them the right to decide Pakistan\’s destiny. What they don\’t
tell the world is how Pakistan\’s help secured for them their biggest
footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia.
If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.
(Originally posted on: http://www.ahmedquraishi.c