Archive | November, 2013

Syrian Conflict: Should Pakistan walk into Saudi Trap once again?

7 Nov

SyriaMilitary cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia go back to many decades. Pakistan has largely been dependent on Saudi oil and Saudis have always looked towards Pakistan for military cooperation; training, deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia. Branding of Pakistan’s nuclear program by the West as “Islamic Bomb” gave Saudis a license to claim its co-ownership of Pakistan’s strategic assets being the leader of the Muslim world. Pakistan is also dependent on Saudi Arabia for foreign remittances its diaspora working in Saudi Arabia regularly sends home enabling Pakistan to meet its foreign currency needs. Pakistani leaders, both civilians and military, have been under the influence of Saudis for their domestic power tussles for economic reasons and for the reason that Saudis are American proxy on this side of the Suez.

Saudis have always played a role in domestic politics of Pakistan. Of late, they are being perceived to be the single reason of Pakistan’s present woes as all trails of terrorism in Pakistan lead to the Holy Land. Saudis have taken upon themselves to export their brand of Islam, violent Salafist, to other Muslim countries in the same manner USSR tried to make investment in exporting communism. Saudi-funded madrassas, preaching violence and their own brand of Islam, have mushroomed and Pakistanis are paying the price for being under Saudi debt with their blood.

Emboldened by the success of its Pakistan enterprise, Saudi embarked upon the project to convert Syrians to Salafism. Saudis are supporting and funding the violent movement in Syria to depose Assad regime. They had persuaded the US to attack Syria in support of their jihadis and even offered to pay all costs to the Americans. When, with shrewd diplomatic maneuvers of Russian president Putin, Americans had to back off, Saudis got disgruntled and in protest, refused to accept UN Security Council membership. They have lost all hopes of active American intervention in Syria and have started looking towards a more pliant and accommodating friend, Pakistan to their deeds in Syria.

If a recent report carried by Foreign Policy is to be believed, Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it. Both the countries, along with CIA had already undertaken such initiatives successfully in Afghanistan in 1980s. But will Pakistan fall prey to this latest imperial design of the monarchs of Saudi Arabia oblige given the fact that it has already earned notoriety in the world for failing to eliminate terrorism from its soil which threaten the peace of the world?

According to the report, Saudis have clear plans to achieve twin objectives from their Syrian enterprise; toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. This is another matter that al Qaeda is the major element in anti-Assad forces fighting for Saudi Arabia.

Saudis are planning to raise regular Syrian Rebel Army and they want Pakistan, known for its excellent military training institutions to the deeds for them. A regular Pakistan-trained army of rebels would be sufficient to force Assad to give in to the rebels.

Pakistan has two reasons not to walk into Saudi trap; Saudis are looking towards Pakistan after failing to elicit American support and doing the Saudi deed would involve it into controversies incurring the wrath of international community. Second reason for watching out is that Pakistan is already paying the price for getting into a similar enterprise in 1980s. Though Syria is a far away country not in Pakistan’s neighborhood, the rebels would claim their pound of flesh after the war is over. The current level of military cooperation is a lot more than what Pakistan should do for Saudi collaboration.

 

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Drone Strike on Hakeemullah Mehsud and weird reaction of Pakistani leaders

4 Nov

109437Hakimullah_MehsudPakistani government is in a real fix; civilian leaders are confused over the recent drone strike which killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP commander and Pakistan’s Enemy Number One. They are unable to decide whether the drone which killed the terror prince was a blessing in disguise or an attack on their political asset. In life, the terror chief carried a bounty of Rs 50 million on his head.

In death, he has been instantly turned into a martyr by the leaders who are perceived to be coward and are trading State’s sovereignty with the terrorists in return for a peaceful tenure. The slain terrorist leader had blood of thousands of Pakistani men, women and children and security personnel on his hands. The reaction of political class has baffled everyone, including the foreigners who fail to understand that while the politicos were mysteriously silent on killing of innocent civilians and high-ranking military officials, why are they mourning the death of the chief killer?

Their reaction can be explained in simple words; the current lot of rulers of Pakistan owes their political power to Hakeemullah Mehsud. And this is the time to return the courtesy.

The elections which brought them into power were manipulated, if not rigged as widely believed, by Mehsud. He very generously allowed right-wing parties like PML (N), PTI, JI and JUI (F) to continue with their election campaign peacefully and threatened to bomb election rallies of ANP, MQM and PPP, the liberal parties. They attacked election rallies of these parties and forced them to stay inside giving open field to the parties of their choice. Had it not been the threats and attacks and there was a level-playing field for launching election campaign, the electoral results could have been different.

The right-wingers, immediately after coming into power, decided to pay back. They held an All Parties Conference (APC) in September and elevating the anti-state terrorists to the position of stakeholders in peace, decided to offer them an olive branch. The peace negotiations were to be held when the drone took out Mehsud on November 1, 2013. The Americans were after him as he was wanted by them with a head money of $ five million. He was their Enemy Number One too because of his attacks on American interests and close affiliation with al Qaeda.

After killing of Mehsud in the drone attack, ruling PML (N) has termed it as an attack on peace initiative and has promised to review US-Pak relations, Imran Khan has threatened to block NATO supply routes, JI has branded the slain terrorist leader as a martyr, the clerics of extremists Deobandi Islam have demanded retribution and the public is confused. The people are confused because the very same people mourning the death of one terrorist were never furious over death of tens of thousands innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

The questions is; if Mehsud was not killed in drone attack, would he cooperate the government in bringing peace to the country and give up arms to allow the State establish its writ in the area where TTP is holding the territory. The answer is, very unlikely. There are two reasons for being skeptic; one, the preconditions for peace talks like withdrawal of army from FATA and freeing of all criminals belonging to TTP without trial would be unacceptable to any honorable government, and two, it has now been established that TTP was an outfit working as proxy of Pakistan’s adversaries like India and Afghanistan. There is no reason that talks would be held to benefit Pakistan. At least five major terrorist attacks in the run up to so-called peace negotiations bear testimony to the fact that terrorists wanted such talks which could cede territories to them with the assurance that they would not be questioned on making further ingress into Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under immense pressure to block NATO supplies passing through Pakistan’s GLOC and shoot down the drones. He has convened an extraordinary Cabinet meeting today to deliberate on the issue. The outcome of the meeting is expected to be not more than cheap political rhetoric.