Pakistan’s Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani convened a grand All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad on September 29 to develop consensus on a national stance in response to Admiral Mike Mullen’s allegations about links between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and the Haqqani Network.
According to the 13-point joint resolution, the “APC rejected the recent assertions and baseless allegations made against Pakistan. Such assertions are without substance and derogatory to a partnership approach…The Pakistani nation affirms its full solidarity and support for the armed forces of Pakistan in defeating any threat to national security.”
The APC merits attention for the following reasons.
Firstly, the event, which was attended by sixty top political figures, indicates the weak structure of the democratic government in Pakistan. The fragile civilian administration was allowed to debate this important issue once the country’s top military commanders had already met several days back and given their verdict against Admiral Mullen’s “charges”. This is no secret that all important decisions in Pakistan are made by the army but the APC was yet another reminder of this bitter reality.
“The APC is not really aimed at America telling it how the nation is united. Instead, it is a confession on the part of the stakeholders of democracy about their limitations and their internecine relationships that prevent them from uniting against an undemocratic but powerful element in the state,” editorially commented Express Tribune, an English language newspaper published from Karachi with the partnership of the International Herald Tribune.
Secondly, the corps commanders’ meeting and the APC simply give currency to Admiral Mullen’s remarks. If the Pakistani military and the civilian government speak the same language then it means Pakistan officially and publicly supports the Haqqanis. The way Pakistanis reacted to America’s top military officer’s comments shows that further insistence on the part of the Americans to urge Pakistan to ‘do more’ will be treated in the future as a declaration of war.
“From a Pakistani point of view, it’s very clear to them that this doesn’t end with Haqqani, which is part of the reason for their reluctance,” he said in an interview with Jayshree Bajoria, CFR’s Senior Staff Writer, “Pakistanis ask me, “Look if we cede ground on one group, you’ll be coming at us again on another.” Where does this end? And why does the United States, from their perspective, get to define who the threats are? So it makes them skeptical about what we’re actually up to.”
Markey adds, “The problem is within the Pakistani security establishment, that they continue to believe that arming and working–actively and passively–with various militant groups serves their purposes. And they continue not to believe that these groups are necessarily dangerous to Pakistan or counterproductive to regional security.” [Read Daniel Markey's full interview]
For more than four decades now, the Pakistani state has aligned itself with different Islamic terrorist groups to meet various internal and external objectives. In a fresh investigative report, the BBC Urdu Service said more than twenty-five Islamic terrorist groups were formed in Pakistan in the past forty years. Apparently, the ISI founded and funded most of these outfits to guard Pakistan’s “ideological and strategic interests”. Some of the groups featured in the BBC report are as follows.
The list mentioned above shows that besides the Haqqani network, whose interests Islamabad safeguards, Lashkar-e-Taiba is another group which serves Pakistan’s interests in causing trouble for its archenemy India. Also, Pakistanis know that after the Haqqanis, the US will press Pakistan to take action against the Quetta Shura, headed by Muallah Omar, the ultimate Taliban leader.
Pakistan’s options are limited.
“If the Pakistani army is still unable or unwilling to oblige,” warns Najam Sethi, a respected Pakistani journalist who edits the Lahore-based liberal weekly, The Friday Times, “then cruise missiles and high altitude bombing could be options.”
The Afghan government, in an effort to further alienate Pakistan, has hinted at including India and sidelining Pakistan while working with the United States and European countries to decide the future of their country, reported The New York Times on Friday. This echos what Aqil Shah in his Foreign Affairs article calls [Pakistani] “military’s worst-case scenario” if Afghanistan is “controlled or dominated by groups with ties to India, such as the Northern Alliance” which Pakistan “fears would permit New Delhi to continue activities that are hostile to Pakistan even after the United States leaves the region.”