Khan Zia

Is it really possible for an organisation like al-Quaida to exist, let aside operate, in the present environment where every letter, telephone call, e-mail, passport, visa, airline ticket, credit card transaction, bank transfer; aircraft, ship and boat movement, etc. in every corner of the world is being constantly monitored? Prior to the neo-cons miraculously discovering it as an excuse for attacking Afghanistan no one had even heard of al-Quaida. Pakistan’s Minister of Interior at the time, General Haider, admitted as much. The erstwhile British Foreign Secretary is on record having stated that al-Quaida was the title of a CIA file with particulars of Arab volunteers in the war against the Soviets.

Is it realistically possible for a man afflicted with terminal kidney disease and in constant need of dialysis to create, organise and continue to operate from the caves of Afghanistan an omnipotent hydra, capable of striking anywhere in the world at any time, at the drop of a hat? What kind of fools does Hilary Clinton think we are when she implies that Pakistan may still be protecting bin Laden and when her own officials have testified to his probable demise in December 2001?

In testifying before the Congress recently, the US Defence Secretary, head of CIA as well as General Petraeus admitted that there were only fifty or so al-Quaida members left. Are the western intelligence and security agencies really so dismally inept that they have not been able to root these out in ten years? Does NATO need to deploy 140,000 troops in Afghanistan indefinitely to control this many fugitives?

Coming to Taliban in Afghanistan, theirs was the friendliest government Pakistan ever had in that country and this can’t be a cause for complaint. What they did internally was their business; we were not obliged to follow suit. There is also no evidence of any kind that the Afghan Taliban had anything to do with 9 / 11 or intended any harm to the US. It is quite wrong to say that the attack was planned in Afghanistan; it was planned in Hamburg, Germany.

It is illogical that the Afghan Taliban should be Pakistan’s enemies. They need the latter to survive now and in the future. But there are parties that would dearly like to sell the idea that the war against Taliban is also Pakistan’s war. That being the case, would they not try to create situations to support this proposition?

It is naïve to blame Taliban for all the acts of terrorism in Pakistan regardless of the claims that are made. We can never be sure of who makes these. There are all kinds of elements involved. Anyone can purchase a suicide bomber or two for a price these days. True, some of them may well be in it for revenge for their near and dear ones killed by the Pakistan Army in an operation in Waziristan that was wholly uncalled for.

Even after the occupation of Afghanistan there was no trouble of any kind in FATA and no cause for any military action in the area (please see the then Corps Commander Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai’s statement in this video: http://www.pkmirror.com/2010/01/28/islamabad-tonight-28-jan-10/

If there was no trouble, why was the Pakistan army deployed in the region and, more significantly, why did it undertake such heavy-handed operations in civilian areas that resulted in the deaths of our own innocent citizens? Apart from the dead, there are reportedly over two million displaced persons today. To call it ‘acceptable collateral damage’ is heartless or worse. It is a crime against humanity as per the Geneva Conventions Part IV of Protocol I, chapters 1 – 5, articles 48 – 59.

It is naive to think that people will not react in some way if they are attacked, their homes destroyed and their kith and kin killed for no reason. Did we not know that the Pathans will avenge the deaths of those killed by the army? Whichever way you look at it, there is no one to blame but us for inflicting this heartless and shameful tragedy on our own people.

We knowingly chose to fight and kill them, for reasons that had nothing to do with the victims, and now protest because those closer to us are being hurt as a consequence. The time to protest was when the army was deployed and totally innocent civilians began to die in Waziristan. If the intention was simply to apprehend some accused persons, was this the professional and right way of going about it?

If that was in the past what is the answer now? Stop the endless war and the killing that is both meaningless and mindless. Apart from anything else we cannot afford it. The defence budget has increased four-fold and the country is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy because of it. Sit down at the negotiating table and make amends for all the wrongs we have done. There is no shame in it for these are our own people. There is no reason whatsoever to tie it to the situation in Afghanistan. If anything, it will help expedite resolution of the latter.

It might also save Pakistan for the future generations. The alternative is disintegration of the nation, destruction of the economy, demoralisation and subversion of discipline in the armed forces. Just think, instead of facing imminent food shortages and economic collapse, how many hydro-electric dams, schools, hospitals, universities, roads, railways, etc. could have been built with the seventy billion dollars or more that were blown away fighting a war that we provoked and that had nothing to do with us?


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