By Dr Shireen M Mazari
The chaos that is spreading within the country is frightening and a result of bad or lack of governance on the one hand and US intrusions and questionable activities in Pakistan on the other. In the first instance, there is no civilian governance infrastructure to take over and govern the “cleared” areas in Malakand – but then there is no governance even in more central parts of the country. That is why we have had the despicable attack on the poor and marginalised Christians in Gojra – once again under the shameful and protective guise of the Blasphemy Law. Never has a Law been so abused to wreak violence on our minorities’ whom the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam, declared as equal citizens in the state of Pakistan. Clearly, there is so much hatred, intolerance and violence endemic within us that we do not need any Taliban to kill and harm our less fortunate fellow citizens. And where were the government and the law and order institutions when all this barbarism was being carried out?
As Pakistanis we must hang our heads once again in shame; but the main concern for us should not be simply our image internationally but what we are becoming within our own society. That is what should be of primary concern for the leadership. That is why in many previous columns I have been pointing to the dangers of bringing our marginalised population within the mainstream and delivering justice to the people so that they all have a stake in the system and the state – be they the marginalised Madrassah students or the marginalised minorities’. Otherwise extremism and violence will fester – Taliban or no Taliban – and as a desperate measure sending in the military will only aggravate not resolve the problem. And one has yet to talk of Balochistan where targeted killings continue while politicians continue to talk rather than act despite a seeming political consensus on what needs to be done. Why a beginning towards reconciliation cannot be made by declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles only our bizarre ruling elites’ mindsets can understand but we are on a precipice here.
However, the other cause for chaos can be resolved more readily – that of the growing intrusiveness and questionable role of the US within Pakistan. For some time now one has been raising questions about the strange US presence in areas around Tarbela and in Peshawar. Then there was the news of the assassination squads controlled by the US Department of Defence rather than the CIA, of which the new US commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal was a central actor. This information helped to link up differing pieces of a growing puzzle about the increasing US personnel in Pakistan. A cause for concern, given these developments, is the US plan to spend $1 billion to expand its presence in Islamabad – especially, since central to this plan is the importation of almost 400 Marines with hundreds of APCs. There is absolutely no logic to this, but who will tell our rulers who seem hell-bent on kowtowing before Washington? Incidentally already the US contingent in Pakistan is way over the sanctioned strength of 350 but does anyone in the corridors of power in Pakistan care?
Nor is the US Marines presence restricted to Islamabad. As some of us had been writing much earlier, they had been spotted in and around Tarbela also – where our military’s Special Operation Task Force is located. It now transpires that there are already 300 plus US military personnel in this area – the so-called “trainers”. Of course, given the poor counter insurgency record of the US, heaven knows what training they will impart to our much better trained army! Also, if they were only “trainers” why would the US buy a large plot of land around Tarbela and send twenty large containers there according to an investigative Asia Times Online report (3August 2009).
As if all these US military and undercover officials crawling all over the sensitive parts of the country were not enough, it appears that the US is also using private covert setups to further a dubious and threatening agenda within Pakistan. The centre of these suspicious covert operations is Peshawar, and the central organisation is Creative Associates International Inc. (CAII – as opposed to CIA), which refers to itself as an NGO on its website but on further investigation it transpires that the organisation is registered as a private incorporated company in Washington D.C – not an NGO! A 27 July 2009 report by Sarwar and Yousafzai for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reveals that CAII has been terrifying the residents of University Town Peshawar because of its US security guards – ostensibly from that notorious US security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe Worldwide) whose employees already face charges of murder, arms smuggling and child prostitution in Iraq.
What is very suspicious is that CAII’s website shows no identification of its owners although its staff is identified. Also, although it is supposed to be a private corporation, all its work around the world is totally funded by USAid and the US government and the projects are all in sensitive areas only – Sri Lanka, Gaza, Angola, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. CAII is working supposedly on a strange-sounding project in FATA – FATA Development Programme Government to Community. In reality, its staff goes around escorted by the killer Blackwater guards, meeting militants and other suspect people being sought by the Pakistani authorities in FATA and the Peshawar environs. Of the 30 job openings listed on its website presently, at least half are for Pakistan.
During the latter half of July, a US citizen, Craig Davis, was arrested from the CAII house in Peshawar, his visa cancelled and deported. Interestingly, when a journalist sought to verify this information from the US embassy, its spokesperson first declared that Davis had nothing to do with the US embassy but then stated that the embassy knew nothing about this man. So if they knew nothing of the man’s existence, how was it known that he did not work for the US embassy?
The point is, clearly there is a threatening US agenda including seeking out our nuclear sites and assassinating people thereby adding to our chaos and violence. But the question is: who has allowed us to be confronted with such a dubious and large US covert and overt presence in Pakistan? Some believe that during the previous regime, certain segments of certain institutions had orders from the top to allow this dangerous US infiltration into Pakistan but no one else was informed. However, now who is responsible for the continuing presence of these people in sensitive areas where they are also terrorising the local populations?
When we as a society are facing our own problems of violence and terrorism, we can hardly afford to have such a volatile US presence here which will only aggravate our problems of violence and law and order. It is also sad to learn that Blackwater has been able to recruit dozens of retired commandos from the Pakistan army and elite police force through its local subcontractors according to the DPA report. Are Pakistanis so willing to knowingly act against their nation for dollars?
With increasing information about the dangerous US presence in Pakistan, it is not difficult to connect the dots also – with our nuclear assets, the institution of the military and the remaining strands of stability being the targets. Unless someone can stop the rot, it is only a matter of time before the US forces cross over physically on the ground from across Afghanistan. They may not get the triggers they plan on seizing but they can trigger a push towards total anarchy. Our rulers are certainly in self-destruct mode aided and abetted by the US.