By Samuel Baid

            During his visit to Afghanistan (May 12-13) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Kabul that the killing of Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden had created a new situation in which “all the countries of the region” would recognize this as a “unique moment” in the history of this region and work united to end the scourge of terrorism.

           Dr. Singh, who was addressing a joint Press Conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said: “One needs to go in for a thorough investigation into the presence of Osama Bin Laden for such a long time in Abbottabad”.

           Dr. Singh made two significant points here: one the problem of terrorism should have a regional solution, and, two, the terrorism supporting network can be reached by conducting a thorough investigation into how it was possible for Osama to live in Abbottabad for so long (at least five years) while a search, expensive in terms of human lives and money, had been going on for him since his escape from Tora Bora in the wake of United States-led Allied troops’ bombing of Afghanistan in October 2001.

           May be, Dr. Singh had in his mind the scheduled exit of American and foreign troops from Afghanistan when he talked of a regional solution of the problem of terrorism. Also, may be, he had in mind Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s alleged suggestion to Mr. Karzai that Pakistan and Afghanistan should drop the United States in favour of China as their ally. Newspapers that reported Dr. Singh’s Kabul Press Conference, interpreted his reference to “the countries of the region” to mean Afghanistan, India and Pakistan-the three countries, which are in the grip of terrorism in varying degrees. They did not mention China.

           “The unique moment” in the history of this region had already been appreciated by a section of intelligentsia in Pakistan, for Dr. Manmohan Singh, this “unique moment” provided an opportunity for Afghanistan, India and Pakistan to themselves resolve the problem of terrorism in the region. A section of the Pakistan intelligentsia saw in the aftermath of Osama’s killing an opportunity for their country to give up India-centric policies for Pakistan-centric policies. They felt the Army brought shame and grief and didn’t allow the democracy to function all in the name of security. In a group discussion, conducted by BBC (Urdu), journalist Arif Nizami said Pakistan had become a security state, “our policies instead of being Pakistan-centric, are India-centric. There is danger if we do not get rid of these policies”. He said Pakistan depended on the United States not for economic reasons but because of its India-centric policies.

           Another journalist Kamran Khan said, “our India-centric policies must change”. He said the Army considered Kashmir-centric groups its assets. “We must give up the policy of adventurism”, he said. Elsewhere, Nawaz Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif said the civilian government must itself run foreign policy and India should not be treated as an enemy country. This discussion was conducted at a time when the common man was suffering with anger and shame brought upon the county by their Army and the ISI. BBC asked the participants why the civilian government was not willing to reprimand the Army and the ISI on their failure to know the presence of Osama in Abbottabad and also their failure to know what was happening in Abbottabad in the midnight of May 1-2. The first one to reply to this question was Sindhi intellectual Rasool Bux Palejo. According to him political power was never transferred from military to the civilian government. He said the civilian government was a slave. Arif Nizami said the civilian government feared their power would be snatched away from them if they criticized the Army and the ISI. Whenever the elected civilian government wanted to probe into the misdeeds of the Army and ISI, they were thrown out: Mohammad Khan Junejo’s Government was unceremoniously removed because be ordered a probe into Army’s Ohijri Scam in 1988. Mr. Nawaz Sharif was toppled and exiled because he wanted to probe the 1994 Kargil misadventure of the Army.

           Dr. Singh’s suggestion that Afghanistan, India and Pakistan should together find a regional solution to the problem of terrorism and Pakistani journalists’ suggestion to their country to give up its India-centric policies is the same in the final analysis. The three countries’ collaboration to solve the problem of terrorism in the region will be possible only if Pakistan gives up its India-centric policies and that can happen only if the equation between the civilian government and the Army is changed to what it should be like in a democracy. In a democracy the Army cannot have an autonomous, dominant status as it has today in Pakistan.

           There was some chance of evolving a new civil-military equation to keep up with the demands of democracy if the civilian government ordered, what Dr. Singh suggested, a thorough investigation into how it was possible for Osama to live in Abbottabad for so long. This chance was shot down by the Army’s clever new coup: telling the Prime Minister to convene a joint session of Parliament to hear what Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani and ISI Chief had to say about the Abbottabad US operation on the midnight of May 1-2. The joint session was held in camera on May 13. In the run up to this session, rallies were organized in different parts of Pakistan in support of the Army and the ISI. Members of Parliament, like unprotesting sheep being led to the slaughter house, obediently expressed their confidence in the Army and the ISI. The ISI chief partially blamed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa government and its police for failing to defect the presence of Osama in Abbottabad for so long. He said enemies of Pakistan were trying to create a rift between the civilian government and the Armed Forces.

           Outside the Assembly, workers of Imran Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf held a rally demanding the Army and the ISI hold a briefing to the public in the open to explain what happened in Abbottabad and not in camera to “thieves” who benefited from General Pervez Musharraf’s National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)- which forgave them their corrupt deeds.  The joint session did not talk of holding an investigation into Osama’s presence in Pakistan. It criticized the United States to its hearts content for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by intruding into Abbottabad and by drone attacks.

           The government has decided to constitute a commission to hold an “independent” inquiry. If the proposed commission works, the Army may turn the tables on the civilian government. It has three big complaints. (1) The civilian government made things difficult for the Army and the ISI by indiscriminately issuing visas to Americans, many of whom could be CIA agents. (2) The present government never discussed security matters with the military. (3) The Awami National Party (ANP) which rules Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa and is a coalition partner in the Federal Government was also partly responsible for not knowing the presence of Osama in Abbottabad. But the Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa government says the Army had made Abbottabad out of bounds for it.

                   The Army and the ISI have emerged unscathed, nay, stronger from this joint session while the Parliamentarians proved themselves spineless. Thus, the slave master relationship between politicians and the Army will continue. There will be no change in the India-centric policies and, therefore, no change of a regional solution of the problem of terrorism.

           This writer has never taken reports of US-Pak stand off seriously, Pakistan will never cease to need America unless it changes its India-centric policies. America takes Pakistan for granted because it knows its Army for self-survival will never change these policies. Despite all the loud anti-US frenzy in Pakistan in the wake of the arrest of American CIA agent Raymond Davis for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore in January this year and then the Abbottabad operation early this month, Army Chief Kayani and ISI chief Pasha have been careful in their statements about America. It was a mystery how a Lahore court released Davis on payment of blood money (according to Islamic rule) to the next of kin of the two killed men. Who paid the blood money? Americans say they didn’t. The receivers of the blood money say they do not know who paid them the money. President Zardari said he didn’t tell the court to release Davis. But Davis was released and at once flown out to America. It was suspected to be the work of the Army with whom US officials were keeping in touch.

          Very soon the people of Pakistan will forget Davis and Osama. The Army will dominate every Pak policy as usual. Dr. Singh’s suggestion for a regional solution of terrorism will be remembered as most ideal but wishful. It is the effort of Pakistan’s Army to deny any role to India in Afghanistan. Thus, the Army will not support any regional solution.

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