NationalVolume 12 Issue # 17

Oaths of allegiance to the US

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have accused each other of serving the interests of foreign forces after a claim of Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, that his “connections” with the Obama administration helped the United States to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. If judged by actions, their allegations against each other are absolutely true. Both parties have been working on an agenda to appease foreign forces and malign the armed forces of Pakistan. Hussain Haqqani has just reminded the US of efforts of his PPP government to help hunt down its biggest target in Pakistan. The ruling party has moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan to try Haqqani under treason charges. It has also called for making the Abbottabad Commission report public, which was set up after the killing of the Al-Qaeda leader.

In reaction, the PPP has demanded making the Dawn leaks report public. It was a “leaked” story in the newspaper about Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif “confronting” the army for allegedly supporting Jihadi groups in Pakistan. Despite several explanations, it emerged that the fake report was fed by the government to gain sympathies of the world powers to advance their agenda of improving relations with India and malign the army, which is against improved relations with India without first solving core issues between the two countries, including the Kashmir problem.

In fact, both parties are demanding making public the two reports under a well thought-out plan to defame the army and remind the US of their services to it. The killing of Osama bin Laden was an achievement of the US and its allies but it brought humiliation and embarrassment to Pakistan and its security agencies. A “leaked” Abbottabad Commission report not only pointed out flaws in the national security system but also the ambivalent nature of relations between the US and Pakistan. The report had been dumped, presumably at the insistence of the security agencies. However, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may seek to benefit from its publication as the report criticises the army and the former PPP government.

The commission report leaked to Al Jazeera concluded that the operation was a “great humiliation” for Pakistan, the worst since the 1971 war with India. The US had carried out a “hostile military mission deep inside Pakistan” without informing Islamabad, and the Pakistani security establishment had no idea Osama bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, or in fact, anywhere in Pakistan. Based on months of investigation by a four-man tribunal led by a former Supreme Court judge, the report has not blamed any individual. After interviewing over 200 individuals, including Osama bin Laden family members and senior ISI intelligence officers, the commission concluded the events of May 2011 were not a “stand-alone failure” of the ISI, the army or even the government. “Rather, they are indicative of a society and especially an elite that is both incompetent and penetrated by extremist Jihadis. The failure to find bin Laden is placed directly on ISI, which at best was guilty of an extent of incompetence, which to put it mildly, was astonishing, if not unbelievable or, at worse, a grave complicity at levels of command. The failure to detect the US intelligence operations in Abbottabad that preceded the SEAL raid, or to react to the raid itself until it was over, are blamed on a security bureaucracy that needs massive and systematic restructuring,” it said.

The “leaked” story in Dawn aimed to malign the army and to corroborate Indian allegations that Pakistan was backing and raising Jihadists to fight a proxy war against India. According to the planted story, “In a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan and sought consensus on several key actions by the state.” It also mentioned “an extraordinary verbal confrontation between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and ISI DG Rizwan Akhtar.”

The purpose of the government was served, as the report was highlighted by the Indian and world media. Citing the news item, the Telegraph said Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accused his military chiefs of leading the country into diplomatic isolation by failing to act against terror groups. “He blamed military intelligence for hampering efforts to tackle Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohmmad, which have masterminded terror attacks in India, and the Haqqani network, which operates in Afghanistan. All three are proscribed as terrorist organisations by Britain and the US. Nawaz Sharif also indicated he may reopen a long-stalled investigation into the Mumbai 2008 terror attack, which was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba,” it reported. It was not the first attack on the ISI by the PML-N government. Earlier, the then Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan accused the ISI of making an attempt to topple the government through sit-ins of the PTI and PAT at Islamabad. A bogus tape was also mentioned to malign the ISI.

Hussain Haqqani, in an article published in The Washington Post, defended US President Donald Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections and said he also had established similar contacts with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections. “It led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador and eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants,” he wrote.

Though the PPP has disowned his remarks, yet it was an attempt by the party to remind the US of its services in the past ahead of the next elections in Pakistan. The PML-N has also proved its loyalty to the US through its dedicated efforts. Who will come to power in Pakistan depends on their sincerity to serve the interests of foreign powers. It could be the PPP or the PML-N. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan perhaps does not fit in the equation.