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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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Doha Talks: Why are Karzai and his Indian handlers furious at ISI?

20 Jun

DohaAfghan president, Hamid Karzai’s frustration with, and his diatribe against, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency makes a lot of sense now with the events unfolding in Doha, Qatar where Taliban have an office to deal with the US through negotiations. The independent experts, and the US administration officials, attribute Taliban willingness to talk to Pakistan’s efforts who is believed to have some influence on Taliban through ISI. The Afghan president not only bashed ISI through an interview aired by a Pakistani channel, he suspended his government’s negotiations with the US on an agreement to leave behind a residual foreign force in Afghanistan post-2014. In a fit of rage, he declared that the High Peace Council will only participate in the Doha talks if they are “Afghan-led” — something the Afghan Taliban have showed little interest in.

By all means, this is great breakthrough for the US who wants to get out of Afghanistan mess which it created not only for itself but also for the region. Leave it will, bloody-nosed, but putting all eggs in Karzai’s, and by implication in Indian, basket would have been another blunder with far greater consequences. It seems that the Taliban and the US talking directly with ISI chipping in, Mr. Karzai’s role in the future of Afghanistan has been brought to a naught. This also keeps India out of the future Afghan calculus, something it was hoping to seize in order to keep its grip on Afghanistan. There is likelihood that Karzai and his Indian handlers will try their best to frustrate the negotiation process.

ISI received another attack from a Pakistani minister on Tuesday when a pro-India anchor made him spit his venom against a former chief of the agency. He said in that interview that army needs to be purged of generals like Pasha, referring to the ex-DG ISI who was not popular with the US and India and who has the singular distinction of receiving a bad press in Pakistan, India and the US. The said minister thinks that Gen Pasha during his time in ISI supported Imran Khan who gave tough time to him in the recent elections. The anchor, knowing the minister’s anger, conducted his show very brilliantly and extracted a strong statement from him who appeared totally clueless as to the real intentions of the anchor.

It is no secret that the US wanted India to handle Afghanistan post-2014 putting Pakistan’s security into serious jeopardy. India is trying very hard to get an access to Central Asia through Afghanistan and had invested in Pakistan’s political elite to get the status of MFN (most favorite nation) in order to use Pakistan as a transit route to Central Asian States through Afghanistan. This move has so far been resisted by security establishment further frustrating India’s designs. Indian presence in Afghanistan would mean Pakistan’s encirclement, a top-priority strategic objective of India and extending trade concessions through MFN status would hurt Pakistan, though it would surely benefit the traders’ community.

Pakistan and its ISI have so far played it cards very brilliantly but it has invited the ire of pro-India lobbies in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Original article appeared at: ALLVOICES