It has been a fortnight since a team of American Navy SEALS landed in Abbottabad, smashed into the home of Osama Bin Laden — right next to the Pakistani military academy, shot him, buried his body at sea and made their way back to wherever they came from. A decade earlier, Osama’s organisation had planned and executed what was the most public attack on America’s sense of Security and Self Worth. Ramming passenger planes filled with civilians into commercial and military buildings, the terrorists brought to the United States terrorism that attacks large numbers of civilians and causes panic and death. At that time, Indians reacted with numb horror combined with horrified fascination as the Twin Towers imploded, but you could hear murmurs of ‘now you know what it feels like’. India, after all, had been facing terrorism in its leading cities and towns for the last three decades. The West told us that terror happened because people wanted self determination, and that we should negotiate instead of cracking down. When they were attacked, the response changed. It was War — albeit a war against “terror”.
9/11 did more than propel America into war ‘against terrorism’, it made Pakistan a valuable frontline ally in this fight. Millions and millions of dollars began pouring in to help Pakistan help America catch the bad guys. Most in India sniggered. Pakistan fighting terror was a bit like a bunch of ladies of tradable virtue endorsing the need for chastity. Many in India hadn’t forgotten that Khalistani or Kashmiri militants were not just trained and funded in Pakistan but also given safe haven there. Most, especially Mumbaikars, hadn’t forgotten the blasts in 1993 — its perpetrators had found sanctuary in Pakistan. They remembered the hijacking of flight 814 to Kandhar by Pakistani hijackers, who then disappeared into the welcoming embrace of the Pakistani state. As in earlier cases, we were told by the international community in general, and the United States in particular, talk with Pakistan. Resolve your issues bilaterally. Force will not make a difference. And we did. We did after every terrorist incident including 26/11. After every dead soldier who was sent home mutilated. After every promise was broken and every issue became a victim of double talk. We talked.
And, we are still talking.
Maybe, American policy makers had read too many comic books or seen too many Hollywood masala films -—where the “good guys” make an uneasy alliance with the ‘bad guys’ to take down the even worse guys. Or maybe, the Americans were, as always, naive in their approach to the world — believing anyone who claimed to be America’s best friend. Or maybe it just suited the Americans. In any case, the die was cast. The country that trained and exported terror ended up being the key ally in the fight against “terror” in general and against the “al Qaeda” in particular.
And then, the Americans realised what India has been saying for ever. Terror originates in Pakistan. It is a state policy. And, while the rest of the world exports cars and information technology, Pakistan finds it profitable in exporting terror. After all, this terror earns them money to fight the ‘war on terror’. To kill terror would be to
kill their most profitable industry — an industry that has ruined the lives of the citizens of Pakistan, but made its key stakeholders rich and powerful.
The Americans found Osama smack in the middle of the Pakistani military complex. One question to be asked is how is the USA coping with the betrayal of their ‘special relationship’? A relationship sealed and cemented with millions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money. It is strange to see the most powerful nation in the world play the role of the outraged and humiliated wife — the one who is the last to know that her spouse is having an affair. What will be the outcome of this outrage?
And finally, if the US still thinks that the Pakistani State is still a key ally in the war against terror, I would suggest that they read the story of the Scorpion and the frog from the Panchatantra. A scorpion asks a frog to help him cross a river. The frog gets the scorpion to promise that it won’t sting him. The scorpion agrees.
Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As both begin sinking, the frog asks, “Why? You will die too.” The scorpion says, “It is in my nature.”
The Pakistani state’s support of non state actors is their nature. They have been doing it since their inception. It would be naive to believe they will stop now. Maybe withdrawal of support to the Pakistani state will allow the Pakistani people to take control of their country again.
The author is a media entrepreneur, writer, blogger, teacher & the main slave to an imperious hound. She blogs at calamur.org/gargi and @calamur on Twitter