A US Counteroffensive In Pakistan
A Loose Coalition Of Pro-American Politicians, Writers, Academics To Promote US Goals, Isolate Pak Military
Forget US diplomacy with the Pakistani government. The Americans are now setting the policy agenda in Pakistan in direct talks with Pakistani political parties. To ensure privacy, these talks are being held in Washington, away from prying eyes and ears in Pakistan. Pakistani politicians, writers and some academicians are being recruited to promote US policies and isolate the Pakistani military and intelligence. This is how a superpower occupies a nuclear-armed nation.
Face Of An American Bully In Islamabad:
Is it our country or yours, Madam Ambassador?
By Ahmed Quraishi
Sunday, 27 September 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—US political and military officials go on the offensive inside Pakistan, boldly confronting critics and seeking to build a coalition of pro-American supporters across Pakistani politics, media and the academia. The goal is to create a domestic counter to the entrenched Pakistani policymaking establishment [read 'the military'] that is resisting American efforts to force Pakistan to become a voluntary full-fledged second theater of war after Afghanistan.
Signs of the new American aggressiveness abound from increased willingness of US diplomats in Pakistan to confront their local critics, to sweet-talking Pakistani politicians, media and academicians into openly promoting the US agenda through sponsored visits to Washington and Florida.
This is similar to a Plan B: using local actors to force change from within. Plan A, which was focused on coercive diplomacy and threats of sending boots on the ground into Pakistan, failed to yield results over the past months.
In essence, the United States is covertly raising an army of special agents and soldiers on Pakistani soil, with the help of local Pakistani accomplices, but without the full knowledge of the Pakistani military to avoid a confrontation.
This counteroffensive began with Ambassador Anne W. Patterson's attempt to intimidate a Pakistani columnist and a known critic of US policies. Ms. Patterson did not seek a public debate to counter criticism. Instead, she resorted to backchannel contacts to have the writer blocked. In so doing, Ms. Patterson unwittingly broke a new barrier for US influence, creating precedence for how the US embassy deals with the Pakistani media. This is something that the Ambassador's counterparts could never imagine pulling off in places like Moscow, Ankara, or Cairo.
Buoyed by this, the Ambassador went on the offensive. This month, she held a press conference, released a long policy statement, and met Prime Minister Gilani to reassure him after reports suggested her government did not trust Islamabad with the expected aid money. She also appeared on primetime television, carefully choosing a nonaggressive TV talk show as a platform to address Pakistanis glued to their sets in peak evening hours.
The US ambassador [left] kicking off her counteroffensive on Sept. 19, telling her Pakistani host she intervened to stop a columnist from writing against her government and affirmed she will do this again because criticism endangers the lives of US citizens in Pakistan.
The television appearance coincided with an interview she gave to a US news service accusing Pakistan of refusing to join the US in eliminating one of the Afghan local parties – the Afghan Taliban – whom her own government and military failed to wipe out in Afghanistan in eight years of war. The statement played on the usual American accusations, backed by no evidence, that seek to explain the growing disenchantment of the Afghan people with the failed American occupation of their country by linking it to alleged Pakistani sanctuaries and covert support.
But hours before her television appearance, on Sept. 19, Pakistani police raided the Islamabad offices of Inter-Risk, a Pakistani security firm representing American defense contractor DynCorp, where a huge quantity of illegal sophisticated weapons was confiscated. According to one news report, the Pakistani owner of the firm, retired Captain Ali Jaffar Zaidi, escaped from his house hours before the police arrived. A Pakistani journalist, Umar Cheema, who works for The News, confirmed in a published statement that Mr. Zaidi told him a day before the raid that "the US embassy in Islamabad had ordered the import of around 140 AK-47 Rifles and other prohibited weapons in the name of Inter-Risk" and that "the payment for the weapons would be made by the embassy."
[The News reports today that the government has "disbanded" Inter-Risk, voiding its contract with both the US embassy and with DynCorp. The company director Capt. Zaidi remains at large.]
In other words, Pakistani security authorities have found American and Pakistani citizens working for the US embassy involved in suspicious activities.
What Really Happened?
US ambassador Anne Patterson used her goodwill to seek the personal intervention of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik to obtain licenses for prohibited weapons.
Sixty-one pieces of sophisticated weapons were seized by the police at the Inter-Risk/DynCorp facility.
The question is: Why did the Pakistani police confiscate the weapons if they were duly licensed by the government?
The only logical answer is that the licensing procedure, which includes clearance from the country's intelligence and security departments, was not followed.
Apparently, Washington's staunch allies inside Pakistan's elected government helped their friends with advanced weapons into the country without the knowledge of important national security departments of the government.
This raises serious questions because of several reports recently that implicate Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, in issuing a large number of visas to US citizens without proper clearance from Islamabad. Since US tourists are not exactly flocking to Pakistan, Amb. Haqqani is suspected of having facilitated private US security agents to enter Pakistan. A spate of recent reports have exposed the presence of private American security firms on Pakistani soil.
When the country's security departments finally paid attention to Ambassador Haqqani's indiscretions, the ambassador, who is a former journalist, is suspected of leaking a protest letter he wrote to his country's intelligence chief, apparently attempting to clear his name before his American friends. Of all places, the letter, which is a classified government communication, surfaced in New Delhi, on the screen of an Indian television news channel.
Ambassador Haqqani's letter secret that blasts the ISI surfaces in New Delhi. Pakistanis joke that Mr. Haqqani is 'the US ambassador to the United States, stationed at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC.'
PATTERSON'S LIE EXPOSED
On Sept. 30, Mr. Ansar Abbasi of The News published the full content of a letter written by Ambassador Patterson to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, dated March 30, seeking his "intervention" to grant Inter-Risk and DynCorp "the requisite prohibited bore arms licenses to operate in the territorial limits of Pakistan and as soon as possible."
The letter creates a new dent in the US embassy's counteroffensive that seeks to downplay the presence of private US security firms in the country. A Web news portal, PakNationalists/AhmedQuraishi.com released fresh evidence this month showing the infamous US security firm formerly known as Blackwater recruiting military-trained agents fluent in Urdu and Punjabi.
A screen shot from the secure server of BlackwaterUSA.com that shows the American defense contracter hiring Urdu- and Punjabi-speaking agents to serve in Pakistan, where the pro-US government and the US ambassador are vehemently denying the presence of American mercenaries on Pakistani soil.
To quell the controversy, Ambassador Patterson went on record confirming that five million US dollars will be spent by her government to build new living quarters for US Marines within the embassy compound in Islamabad. But the number of marines utilizing this facility will not exceed 20, she assured Pakistanis recently.
The Sept. 19 raid, however, proves there will be a far larger number of armed Americans on Pakistani soil eventually than the figure given by Ambassador Patterson.
US MERCENERARIES IN PAKISTAN?
The strong denials of US officials on the presence of private US security firms in Pakistan do no tally with the circumstantial evidence. At least three verified incidents have been reported in Islamabad alone over the past few weeks that involve armed US individuals in civilian dresses. In two incidents, Pakistani police officers arrested and then released armed civilian Americans after intervention from the US embassy. In one incident, a Pakistani citizen reported being assaulted by armed Americans in civilian clothes. Police officers refused to register a complaint against the Americans for fear of being reprimanded in case of intervention by the US embassy.
US DOLLARS RECRUITING PAKISTANIS
TO WORK AGAINST PAKISTANI MILITARY
Private US security agents sneaking into Pakistan is one level of the current US engagement with Pakistan. Another level is political and seeks to isolate the Pakistani policymaking establishment, and especially the Pakistani military and the country's powerful intelligence agencies, from within, after months of incessant one-sided US media campaign demonizing the country's military and intelligence services.
On the political front, Washington's Pakistan handlers have launched a new bout of US meddling in domestic Pakistani politics. The US government has put into high gear its contacts with Pakistani political parties. Washington is now conducting direct diplomacy with these parties.
A high level delegation of MQM, which controls the port city of Karachi, the starting point of US and NATO supplies headed for Afghanistan, is in Washington meeting US political and military officials.
A similar exercise is planned with the ANP, the small ex-Soviet communist ally currently governing the NWFP, the Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan.
Both parties came to power thanks to former President Musharraf's secret 'deal' brokered by Vice President Dick Cheney and his State Department officials in 2007. The deal sought to create a pro-American ruling coalition in the country that would ensure that the Pakistani military is aligned with the US strategic goals in the region.
The Americans are trying to accentuate what they see as pro-Indian, pro-American strains within the two parties.
Washington began this program quietly in 2007 after getting a green signal from President Musharraf to increase US involvement in Pakistani politics. There are reports that nazims of several districts in Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP were invited to Washington to meet US government and military officials over the past thirty months. But these were very low key visits. In fact, they were so secretive that ANP chief Asfandyar Wali refused in early 2008 to confirm or deny a visit he made to Washington after the Feb. 2008 elections in Pakistan. In contrast, no effort was made this time to downplay the current visits by MQM and ANP delegations to Washington and their meetings with US and NATO officials. And as in all of these covert visits, the federal Pakistani government, the Foreign Office and the country's security departments are not privy to what is being discussed between US officials and the leaders of the two Pakistani political parties on US soil. In fact, US officials arranged the meetings on US soil precisely in order to circumvent the Pakistani government.
While there is no immediate evidence that Pakistan should be alarmed by Washington's direct diplomacy with Pakistani political parties outside Pakistan's territory, Islamabad needs to be wary of strong strains within Washington's policy establishment that have been focusing on exploiting Pakistan's ethnic and linguistic fissures in order to support its so-called 'Af-Pak' agenda.
A lot of work has been done over the past three years in several Washington think tanks on Pakistan's linguistic and ethnic fissures and how these can be exploited by Washington to weaken Islamabad and force it to follow the US agenda in Afghanistan and the region.
During Pakistan's worst domestic instability in 2007, mainstream US media outlets were leaking policy and intelligence reports focusing on alleged separatism in several Pakistani regions. This week, some of the most ardent American supporters of separatism inside Pakistan – the usual suspects from the US think-tank circuit – came together in Washington to launch a political action committee that seeks independent status for a Pakistani province, Sindh. The ceremony for the launch of the 'Sindhi American Political Action Committee' was addressed by Selig Harrison and Marvin Weinbaum, two think-tank types with extensive links to the US intelligence community and both advocates of engagement with Pakistani separatists as a leverage against Islamabad.
The new American confidence in openly meddling in Pakistani politics should raise alarm bells in the Pakistani capital. This is the strongest sign yet of how weak the federal Pakistani government, and in turn Pakistan itself, appears to outsiders.
The weakness of Pakistan's ruling elite is inviting American hounding at a time when the American bully is on the retreat elsewhere.
A condensed version of this report was published by The Nation of Lahore on Saturday.
© 2007-2009. All rights reserved. PakNationalists.com
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium
without royalty provided this notice is preserved.