Pakistan in the grip of an undeclared war

Ayaz Amir

Do Pakistan’s military commanders at all realise that the country is at war? A war which no one has declared and in which there is no discernible frontline, at least none readable on a map, but more serious than any of the wars Pakistan has fought in the past. Pakistan is not the only country caught in this war. Its first frontline is Iraq, second Saudi Arabia, third Afghanistan and fourth Pakistan. By cosying up to the US after 9/11 Pakistan’s military commanders thought they were buying security. Little did they realise that their shortsightedness would buy more danger and insecurity. As opposed to warnings that jumping into America’s lap so quickly and at such short notice was not a wise course of action, our commanders were adamant that their instincts were right and indeed that but for their quick thinking the cruise missiles and smart bombs raining down on Afghanistan would have fallen on Pakistan.

Three years later it is possible to get some perspective on Pakistan’s dramatic cave-in to America’s imperial demands. The 9/11 hearings in Washington make clear that far from anyone thinking of targeting Pakistan, the foremost worry in Washington was the absence of links with Pakistan, the world’s most sanctioned country prior to 9/11. To everyone concerned it was clear that for war on Afgha-nistan, Pakistan had to be on America’s side, its ready cooperation not just important or crucial, but key. India’s offer of military bases was a tribute to the BJP’s lurking pro-Americanism. These only Pakistan could provide. Our military commanders allowed a combination of self-interest and misplaced fears to dictate a decision for which the country is now paying a heavy price.

The mayhem in Karachi is no accident. It is the Pakistani equivalent of the Spanish train bombings, designed to bring home to Pakistan’s rulers the folly of siding with the US. As for the attack on the Karachi corps commander, it is the most striking metaphor thus far produced by this undeclared war, a signal after the twin attempts on General Musharraf’s life that no target is immune from attack. As for the president, he has been pushed into a bunker deeper than Adolf Hitler’s in Berlin during the Second World War.

What is Pakistan’s reward for destroying national peace and security? The award of non-Nato ally status by George Bush. Bush may be in deep trouble at home but TV channels and newspapers here have played this story as if this has been some kind of major accomplishment for Pakistan. Have military commanders thought of the larger problem they face? Pakistani masses may not have much taste for al Qaeda’s methods but not many people here will quarrel with its aims. It seemed so straightforward three years ago, Pakistan’s military commanders were taking it for granted that they were joining the winning side. It looks a lot more complicated and tough today with “extremism” in Pakistan bolder and fiercer than ever, its tentacles spread from Waziristan to Karachi. If an undeclared war rages outside, citadel Islamabad is in the grip of utter confusion and disarray, different factions vying for power and a host of pretenders pushing forward their suits for this or that position. The regime is propagandist, those paid to spread good news say all is well and Pakistan is on the road to stability and prosperity. To bystanders it very much looks like a scene from the last days of the Roman or Mughal empires. Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad