Pakistan at the Crossroads

First time after 9/11, the discovery of Osama Bin Laden’s safe heaven in the garrison town of Abbotabad and Headley’s testimony at the Chicago court, Pakistan stands fully exposed not only before the world but also in the eyes of its own citizens. The common man, the media and the intelligentsia of Pakistan who had been so far giving benefit of doubt to the Pakistani establishment have started doubting its role and actions. India has been accusing the Pakistani establishment of sponsoring terrorism for many years but no one paid any heed to it until 9/11 happened. Pakistan’s role in 9/11 was very visible yet the US and its allies deliberately chose to ignore it and focused mainly on Al Qaeda. Instead of taking the terror threat emanating from Pakistan seriously, the US continued to see Pakistan as its strategic ally in its “War on Terror” for the last 10 years until Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in a safe heaven a stone’s throw from the Kakul Military Academy in Abbotabbad.

In fact, immediately after 9/11, Pakistan was initially reluctant to support US military operation against Al Qaeda and the Taliban Regime. When gentlemanly persuasions failed, Richard Armitage, then the Deputy Secretary of State, had to warn Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, the then Head of ISI, of dire consequences – “Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age” to make Pakistan reluctantly fall in line. The US was quick to sugar-coat its threat by offering billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan which was probably more effective than the threat. It is believed that a large part of the US aid found its way into the Swiss accounts of Pakistani Generals. Even then, Pakistan’s support to the “War on Terror” was not sincere and for the last 10 years, Pakistan has very tactfully played the dangerous game of “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” – until Abbotabad happened. For the last 10 years, the US had been ignoring Pakistan’s covert support to the Talibans and Al Qaeda – until Abbottabad happened. Ever since assuming office, President Obama had been very keen to pull out of Afghanistan and Pakistan had been eying the opportunity of reinstating the Taliban regime after US’s withdrawal – until Abbottabad happened.

Abbottabad proved to be the tipping point for Pakistan. Today everyone, both within and outside Pakistan, is asking the same questions – “How long will the Pakistani establishment continue to lie?” Today Pakistani establishment and its lies have become a laughing stock but more than that the world has finally woken up and taken notice of the danger of allowing the Pakistani establishment to continue to brew terrorism. What is even more dangerous is that the Frankenstein monster of terror has now gone out of control of the Pakistani establishment and is now destroying its own creator. Numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent years have resulted in the death of over 30,000 innocent civilians. Yet, Pakistan continues to shelter and protect various terrorist organizations in its efforts to establish its dominance over its neighbours India and Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan has in fact tried to use these attacks to deny its involvement in shielding and supporting terrorism.

Although the Pakistani establishment has vehemently denied any involvement, Pakistani Taliban has vowed to avenge the death of Bin Laden by attacking Pakistan’s army and leadership as their first target and US as their second target. The recent attack on Pakistan’s Naval Base in Karachi has proved that these were not merely hollow threats. However, the ease with which this attack was carried out has aroused suspicion that the terrorists had inside support. These are extremely confusing signals and it is very difficult to decide who is the perpetrator of terror and who is the victim.

Even before the frenzy of the attack on the Naval Base had died down, the trial of Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, an accused in the Mumbai terror attack case, started in the Federal Court in Chicago. In his testimony, the Pakistani-American double agent and LeT operative turned state approver, David Coleman Headley, has fully exposed the links between the ISI and various terror organizations such as the LeT and JeM. Headley’s statement exposing the direct involvement of the ISI behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in a US Court will certainly add to the embarrassment of the Pakistani establishment.

While Pakistan is indeed passing through its nadir, it must seize the opportunity to introspect and rise from the ashes. For the last 64 years, it has single mindedly pursued an  anti India policy and in the process fought and lost three wars and when that didn’t work it has been engaged in trying unsuccessfully to bleed India to death. Without going into the India vs Pakistan arguments, the question every Pakistani needs to ask himself is that does it hate India more than he loves his own country? If the answer is no, there is still hope.

Pakistan is indeed at the crossroads today. It has to make the most important choice in its history. A choice that will decide its destiny. It has to decide whether it wants to get rid of the anti-India baggage and pursue nation building or continue to play with fire and get engulfed by the same.

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