(New Trend Magazine)

(Others' Views) (We do not necessarily Agree on All Points)
According to Al-Hayat, Arabic language paper, Pakistani police arrested 200 Muslims, mostly from Lashkare Taiba and al-Badr, in Karachi, in its attempts to stop collection of funds for the jihad in Kashmir. (August 23) Most were released later but the funds were not released.
U.S. Troops Have been Moved to Tajikistan Wall Street Journal Signals Moves against Pakistan

by Shireen M Mazari
"Warning signs out for Pakistan"
The writer is Director General of the
Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad
For those Pakistanis who yearn for a close, positive relationship with the US and insist that the new global strategic realities, including the US-Israel-India relationship does not in any way impact the prospects of a positive US-Pakistan alliance, the time has come to contend with a contrary reality. The reality on the ground is that the US has a two-point agenda in relation to Pakistan: One, to discredit Pakistan internationally so as to make it easier for the US to get its new ally India accepted as a major global power. Linked to this is the objective of taming and circumscribing Pakistan's nuclear capability. Two, to punish Pakistan for its own frustrations vis a vis the Taliban who have withstood all manner of US-instigated pressures and military force on the Osama issue. Linking the two point agenda is the effort unleashed by the US to try and show Pakistan as part of the same brand of states so despised in the West - Iraq, Afghanistan and so on.
Taking the first objective, one can see the difference in the approach the US has taken to the nuclear sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan. Effectively these sanctions do not exist for India since the latest Indo-Israeli arms deal centres on the transfer of weapon systems developed jointly by Israel and the US. That is why the US was able to stop Israel from selling one of those systems - the Phalcon - to China. While the US has allowed the Indo-Israeli deal to go through with not so much as a whimper of protest, there has been hysterical finger pointing at China for allegedly selling weapons systems, especially missiles, to Pakistan.
To further undermine Pakistan's nuclear status, insinuations of the "Islamic bomb" notion are being touted once again. The latest in this propaganda effort has been the story in the Wall Street Journal in which it is alleged that Pakistan supplied nuclear bomb plans to Iraq! The basis for this allegation is apparently the contention of UN inspectors (and we know how rational they were!) that they came across a Chinese design, which was presumed to have been supplied by Pakistan - although no proof is given for this assumption. But then it is not a matter of truth but one of planting a negative idea, or building on an already prevailing negative perception (the "Islamic fundamentalism" factor) in the minds of the readers! Never mind that the US and France helped - and probably still do - Israel and India build their nuclear capability! In any case, such accusations are aimed at building on Pakistan's negative image to make it easier for China to disown its military relationship with Pakistan and to make it easier for India to get acceptability for its extensive nuclear capability and arsenal.

As for the second objective relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US is gradually building up towards some military action against the Taliban government. Its first such effort, which was primarily a "Get Osama" one, failed miserably - and the trauma of that cannot be ignored. After all, the only super power of the day could not get Osama from a "ragtag" bunch of Afghans calling themselves the Taliban! Now the US has decided to couch their "Get Osama" policy within a wider garb of a "Get the Taliban" policy. It all began with the imposition of sanctions against the Taliban while the Northern Alliance was heavily armed by France, Russia and India. Alongside the sanctions, the US chose to provide aid to Afghans directly so as to undermine the Taliban government from within. Unfortunately for the US, all this has not led to the removal of the Taliban from Kabul!
So now there are going to be UN Monitors placed primarily in Pakistan, supposedly to monitor enforcement of the sanctions - but a wider agenda for these monitors cannot be ruled out. Two ominous developments have taken place recently which all point to the possibility of some form of US/international military action against the Taliban in the near future. The first has been the bellicose statements coming out of the US in response to the arrest of the Shelter Now International personnel for trying to convert the local Afghans to Christianity.

While one may hold no brief for the Taliban's obscurantism, yet their laws must be respected in their country. Proselytizing is a known crime in Afghanistan and it is inexplicable why NGO personnel from the West feel they can break local laws and get away with it. In any case, they must be subject to the law of the land. In fact it is not just NGO personnel but also ordinary Western citizens who feel they are above the law in developing countries. Remember the hysteria in the Western press when Westerners were caught with drugs in Malaysia where there is a death penalty for drug-related crimes? One may not approve of the laws of other states but one cannot break them while in that state.
Anyhow, what is worse is the brazenness with which the US insists that its diplomats be allowed to visit the US citizens under arrest in Kabul, given that they have no diplomatic relations with Afghanistan. The US has called this denial a "violation of international norms" which they insist require that "consular officials be granted access to nationals who are detained." Obviously, the US is relying on everyone else being ignorant on this front. To begin with, where a country has no diplomatic relations, it has no right to consular access to its nationals who happen to be in that country. That is why, in such instances, a third country is asked to look after the interests of a country that has no diplomatic relations itself. But, in the case of Afghanistan, even this was not done by the US. So even the granting of a visa to its diplomat to visit Kabul was a concession and favour on the part of the Taliban.
It is ironic how quickly the US forgets its own actions on these issues. Just recently, it denied consular access to two Germans who were subsequently executed in the US in the state of Texas. During the legal proceedings, which happened while the present US president Bush was Governor of Texas, the two men were denied consular access. This was despite the fact that Germany is a US ally! The Germans went to the ICJ, which gave an opinion against the US, but the US chose to ignore this. So much for observing international norms! Even earlier, to take just one instance, the US bombing of the Libyan presidential palace, with no declaration of war, was hardly in keeping with international norms.

Accompanying the present US bellicosity on the Taliban has been the placing of US troops in Tajikistan. The only rationale for such a move is a future attack against the Taliban in Afghanistan. To ensure that Pakistan falls in line, the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, has issued a statement that the US will not want Pakistan to go the Afghan way: "The US is not interested in Pakistan becoming more under the influence of Afghanistan. We're going to try to play an effective role (in stopping Pakistan from going the Taliban way)." The last sentence is a clear indication that unless Pakistan plays ball with US aggression against Afghanistan, it may also fall prey to this aggression. If ever there was a barely-veiled threat, this was it. Why was there a need for this? Probably because, after ZA Bhutto, General Musharraf's government has shown no inclination to make secret deals with the Americans or Indians. Finally, national interest, defined from an indigenous perspective, is being asserted in Pakistan's external policy formulations- as was reflected at Agra.
Given US objectives in this region, there is simply no possibility of Pakistan having a close, positive relationship with the US, no matter how much some people within the elite desire it. This is not to suggest that Pakistan should have an open conflict with the US. It should continue to dialogue, but give some space between itself and the US. There is a difference between caution and laying oneself prostrate before what is considered a strong power.
Especially on the issue of Afghanistan, we need to realize that we have never broken diplomatic relations with Kabul - not even at the time of the Soviet invasion, nor when our consulate was burned in Jalalabad in the fifties. If the rest of the world is concerned about Afghanistan, we, as a neighbour, have our own vital concerns.

That the Russians are using Afghanistan to maintain a foothold in Central Asia, similar to the use of Iraq by the US in the Middle East, is abundantly clear. Also, one can safely assume that in the future grand deal between Russia and the US, Russia will want to secure Afghanistan as its own area of interest once more.
What Pakistan needs to do is to become more proactive in the region with powers like China and Iran who may not be so sanguine about the Russo-US role in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Appeasement has never achieved anything positive, and Pakistan needs to remember that. But, most important, there has to be a strengthening of the domestic polity and the development of a rigorous indigenous discourse on international relations. After all, the ability to project our external policy objectives is directly dependant on internal cohesion and strength of the domestic polity and the indigenous thought processes.

2001-08-25 Sat 15:27ct