Opinion

Op-ed

Terror Generation in Pakistan

Pakistan's ISI has been accused of supporting Afghan Taliban fighters, seen here in a foxhole during a skirmish in Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.

On September 23, Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, bluntly accused Pakistan of "exporting violent extremists to Afghanistan through proxies." On September 30, Mullen took everyone by surprise when he said, "I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan."

The conflicting narratives signify the dreadful and complex nature of Pakistan's long-term collusion with the most lethal anti-Western religious militants. Now that everyone is working to prepare for an Afghanistan without the Americans, the Pakistani Inter-State Intelligence (ISI) is stepping up efforts to shape the future power structure in Afghanistan dominated by its proxies.

The war and instability in Afghanistan has provided golden opportunities for Pakistan to manipulate Islam and turn Afghanistan into its playground for its national interest. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Pakistan has followed a destructive policy towards its neighboring country in order to achieve four aims. Firstly, Pakistan has set out to use the war on terror as a camouflage for its own internal wars—a communal war in Karachi, a separatist war in Baluchistan and a war against the Pakistani military in the Pashtun tribal area.

The second aim is to entrap Afghanistan into the Taliban's ideological straitjacket. Pakistan's covert backing of the Islamic militants dragged out the Afghan war and inflicted massive Afghan and Western casualties. Thirdly, it looks to use the Afghan Taliban as a free army for suppressing Pashtun and Baluchi nationalism within Pakistan. Fourth, as part of its contingency plan, it aims to use the Taliban against India.

Worse still, beyond harboring and steering the Taliban, Pakistan continues to nurture a highly contagious religious ideology that generates and appropriates violence and terrorism against the West and Muslim opponents. The Pakistani military and its spy agency sees this ideology as Pakistan's only survival realpolitik. Anyone who dares in Pakistan to reveal links with ISI and terrorists faces an immediate elimination. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is a classic example. "It is believed that Pearl had uncovered a link," said Magnus Ranstorp, author of Understanding Violent Radicalism, "to both Osama bin Laden and Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI."

The recent case of such targeted killing is Pakistani journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad, who was brutally murdered on May 31 in Islamabad. As The New York Times reported on July 4, the Obama administration believed that this journalist's murder was ordered by the ISI.

While in the rest of the Islamic world an eruption of reformist revolution has put the terrorists on the run, the Pakistani military is glorifying the worst form of religious perversity. This ideology, if it remains unconstrained, is arguably more dangerous than the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, for it has the potential for perpetually generating jihadi terrorists of all kinds.

On October 10, The Financial Times in an opinion piece naively put the blame of all these wrongdoings on a section of ISI dubbed "S wing" and hinted that its elimination would prevent Pakistan from this policy. The paper added that in a "flurry of phone calls and emails" Pakistani President Asaf Ali Zardari recently offered elimination of the S wing to the Obama administration.

The experience of the past decade shows that the velvet-glove treatment by the United Staten has spoiled rotten the Pakistani military and spies. They are expert at grabbing American coins and then running amok. Pakistan's humiliation of Osama bin Laden's killing happening within the sight of the ISI has demonstrated how this policy has gone adrift.

The brazenness of the recent attacks in Kabul, including an attack on the U.S. embassy by the ISI-backed Haqqani network, suggests that they might have been orchestrated by the ISI as part of its strategy of a post-U.S. Afghanistan in order to corrode Western and NATO resolve and win a psychological victory for the Taliban. A dysfunctional government in Kabul and the beginning of the Western military drawdown in Afghanistan has given the ISI and the Taliban a powerful incentive to believe that they are on the threshold of victory.

Some analysts prescribe a regional solution. That prescription is a mirage, for each neighbor seeks to promote its own geostrategic agendas.

Amid all this gloom, there is still time now for the West to devise a tough and decisive policy in order to break the nexus between the Pakistani army and the militants. No country has the right to tie up its national interests with violence and terrorism. Such a policy—coupled with the reforming of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's regime in Kabul and a meaningful negotiation with the Taliban, which is fighting inside Afghanistan—could put an end to the long war in Afghanistan. At present, Karzai represents the warlord vision of Afghanistan.

Dr. Ehsan Azari teaches 20th-century philosophy at Mosman College in Sydney, Australia.

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