REBUTTING BLATANT FALSEHOODS

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REBUTTING BLATANT FALSEHOODS

by

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

My last article "Evaluating the Lessons of the Afghan War" evoked anger among some born Pakistani-haters, they could be of Indian origin or they could be disgruntled Pakistanis with a grouse either against the Army or for me personally. An American friend, someone who I have always admired and cherished for nearly 5 decades sent me the person's frustrated rant and asked, "What say you?"

 

If the person making such nasty and snide comments thinks that I was deliberately dishonest when writing my article he probably should not have read it. I have been subjected to a good amount of critique (which is welcome when it has substance) for over forty years but calling me a liar is going beyond the pale. This person says I avoided mentioning Pakistan’s past disastrous Afghan policy. Pakistan certainly has played a sorry part in the Afghan situation and has also suffered because of it. The current govt and the Pakistan military having learnt their lessons are trying their past not to repeat former mistakes.  I have often mentioned these mistakes in previous articles. Among them was the idea of “Strategic depth”, I have repeatedly written over the years that Afghanistan gives us a "strategic headache". This has been set aside as a bankrupt policy for nearly two decades was very much in keeping with the moron who said "the defence of the east lies in the west".  People make mistakes and the important thing is to recognize them and to learn lessons. While for historical and security reasons the army keeps and will keep playing an important role for the foreseeable future in Pakistan, we will not likely ever see a military govt again. As for my supporting "Bonapartism", among the many of my articles please do read "Why do Martial Laws Fail?" (June 29, 1995), “The End of Martial Laws?” (Aug 6, 2009), “Why Martial Laws Go Horribly Wrong?” (September 2, 2010). . The world is changing and so are we. Only people with a static instead of a dynamic view of things refuse to realize that.

 

Putting all the blame for the Afghan situation solely on Pakistan is certainly wrong. While we have made our share of mistakes, we lost over 6000 soldiers killed and 25000 wounded.  This not counting 100000 civilians killed and 300000 injured. US and NATO have to shoulder their much bigger share in the miserable failure of their nation-building efforts and their losing the war in Afghanistan. Despite trillions of US dollars spent Biden’s decision to cut American losses and withdraw troops from a warzone that cost the American people and economy dearly  was correct once Trump had given a definite date for exit.  It is the consequence of  war that was already tacitly lost in 2018 when the US entered into a Doha Dialogue and subsequently a Doha Accord. Leaked in 2010, Afghan War documents disclosed 11 years ago document the grim reality of the war in Afghanistan for the population and US and NATO failure. The Guardian called the material " a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents…” Last month a new batch of documents was declassified by the National Security Archive showing the same.

 

This person states that Pakistan has been all too willing to yield to American pressure with regard to its Afghan policy.  That has been right in the past (despite the fact that US has let us down umpteen times over the decades). China has been what in newspaper language has been called an “all-weather friend” and CPEC surely reinvigorates this bond. But it is not a one-way street. With the foundation of SCO a chance has been created to put international relations on a different footing, one of egalite and friendship as has been referred to in the recent Dushanbe declaration of SCO that refers to the "Shanghai spirit" which embodies mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultation, respect for the diversity of cultures, the pursuit of common development. If you carefully watch Pakistani foreign policy during the last years Pakistan has while underlining the readiness to have good relations based on mutual benefit with all countries including the US, the shift from geo-politics to geo-economics again points towards lessons learnt.

 

Another of this person's allegations is my supposed India-phobia. India has been causing harm to Pakistan many a time, starting in 1947, then in 1971 (and I as an undeclared POW can testify to that personally.  What were the Indians doing having a POW Camp in  April 1971 housing many Pakistani POWs when the actual war started in Dec 1971?) They have been using Afghanistan as a platform to fight a proxy war against Pakistan while stirring anti-state movements in Balochistan. Since the early 80s using Soviet money, power and lives and than in the 21st century using American money, power and lives. All this time Afghanistan was being destroyed. One could also mention the blatantly anti-Muslim policies of the current Indian govt what about the torture and access in Kashmir.  Considering India an enemy of Pakistan or at least no friend of ours has certainly its merits. Nevertheless, I have many Indian friends and have worked with them in multiple international organizations of which I happen to be a member.

 

This person accuses Pakistan of “boxing well above its weight” internationally. Well, notice that while Pakistan has been kind of a pariah in the eyes of many (including obviously in this person's) the change in Pakistani policies not only with regard to Afghanistan but beyond has led to a change in our international standing. Of course, many like this person cling to old notions. I don’t want to say that all is hunky-dory now in Pakistan but in my estimate the “weight” of Pakistan in international affairs has now grown which is not only due to changed policies but also due to our geographical location that puts us right in the middle of where things happen these days. This person can’t see this, I am sorry for this person's frustrations, it is on stork display. The pivot of history is shifting towards Asia, towards Eurasia to be concise and Pakistan is playing an important part in this shift. With TTP sweeping back into our tribal areas and a more than unfriendly India on our eastern border we need  our Armed Forces to be ready and fit.

 

As to this person's remark about the "Wahabization" of moderate Barelvi Pakistan. It is a kind of orientalist belief that Barelvi interpretation of Islam that forms the majority of Muslims in Pakistan are ‘moderate’. It is true that scriptural Deobandi Islam prevalent in urban surrounding and promoted over decades by Ziaul Haq and madrassahs like the Haqqania and others have led to a strict and oppressive understanding of Islam so that the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are mainly Deobandis today. But you should not forget that there is an important difference between Deobandi Islam and Wahabism, namely that Deobandis have a strong element of Sufism in them and Wahabis don’t. That makes the difference between Taliban and IS,  Taleban are not takfiris! For reasons that cannot be explained here there has been a radicalization of societies worldwide, including religious communities (Christian, Islamic even Buddhist). For political reasons that radicalization has been promoted and financed by Western interests which led to the creation of OBL and takfiris. In the course of this development radicalization and militancy have reached even former peaceful Barelvi groups. Governor Salman Taseer was killed by Mumtaz Qadri, a follower of the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam. Another example is Tehrik-e Labbaik Pakistan, another Barelvi movement with radical and militant leanings.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that radicalization of Islam is a dangerous phenomenon that Pakistan and other Muslim countries have to deal with. Radicalization of Hinduism though in India is no less dangerous. Let us not use polemics when dealing with these dangerous developments that do not spare a single place in the world including the US, India and even Europe (A defence and security analyst, the writer is Chairman Karachi Council of Foreign Affairs (KCFR) and the Vice Chairman Board of Management Institute of Nation Building (Quaid-e-Azam House Museum).

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