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Musharraf’s strategic blindness

It was sad to read a recent article in this newspaper published on December 14, by former President Musharraf, regarding the war on terror and what needed to be done in Afghanistan. One does not expect Pakistani leaders to be learned in policy; however, one does expect that they should at least be honest in their diagnosis.

Musharraf begins his analysis by incorrectly stating that the jihad against the Soviets was launched by the Afghans. The jihad was launched by the US and Pakistan jointly and the operational policy was under President Ziaul Haq, who used the ISI for its implementation through the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The jihad was engineered to be spearheaded by the religious leadership and not the traditional Afghan elders because we chose for it to be that way. By using the Jamaat-e-Islami to create the infrastructure for jihad in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Arab world, Zia obtained legitimacy for his unconstitutional rule; resources for modernising the military by the US; and treasure for those conducting the jihad. In return, he jeopardised Pakistan’s future.

Of the 21 spontaneous Afghan uprisings against the Soviet invasion in 1978-79, 18 were led by traditional Afghan elders and only three by religious leaders. After the CIA contracted the ISI to manage the jihad, it was decided by General Zia to obtain the services of the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami for creating infrastructure. The Jamaat, in turn, linked with the Egyptian Ikhwanul-Muslimeen to obtain recruits, funds and fatwas from the Arab world for jihad. Thus began a cycle of radicalisation for the Afghan jihad in the Arab world that pulled in plenty of Arabian acolytes and future jihad philosophers like Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Yousaf Azzam.

This group of Islamic warriors were choreographed by the ISI under its then DG, General Akhtar Abdur Rehman. These jihadis not only became an extension of Pakistani military and the CIA, but their off the record services were also used as far away as Bosnia and against the USSR in the Caucasus; in one instance, the USSR delivered a warning to President Reagan of an attack on Pakistan for Pakistan’s involvement in a raid by jihadis against chemical plants in Uzbekistan.

During the jihad, various protagonists pumped $66 billion worth of weaponry into the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan — it comes to a mind-boggling more than $20 million per Pakhtun! At the same time, the CIA and the Pakistani intelligence services got involved in the nebulous world of creating off the record incomes from drug trafficking to finance illegal operations.

Pakistan was thus crippled by weapons and drugs — something that General Musharraf accepts in his autobiography. He should also have been brave to apportion the major share of this institutional failure to his service. The import of weapons and drugs had official patronage, and it tore the fabric of society in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the closing stages of the Geneva peace talks on Afghanistan in 1986-87, President Gorbachev begged the US and Pakistan for a peaceful transition that would maintain the state in Afghanistan. We were unrelenting; even when the weak Prime Minister Junejo signed the Geneva Agreement, by-passing General Zia, he was sacked unceremoniously.

An important indicator of the baggage that we inherited from General Zia was that, whereas in 1971 there were only 900 madrassas in Pakistan, when he died there were 8,000 registered and 25,000 unregistered madrassas. As Afghanistan slips into another civil war, let us keep Pakistan out of it and not get involved, as Musharraf prescribes. This time our involvement will destroy us.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2011.


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