PTI's Peace March
08 October, 2012
By Dr Sohail Mahmood
The PTI's Peace March is good politics, if there ever was one. Everyone is opposed to the drone strikes in FATA. Who supports them? No one support drone strikes. Imran Khan says that the PML(N), PPP and JUI are Munafiq meaning hypocrites who say they oppose these strikes but secretly support them. He is clearly behind the times on this one. The fact of the matter is that no one supports these drone strikes anymore. There was a time some years back when both the Government of Pakistan and the United States were playing a double game. It was a case of Good Taliban and bad Taliban. The ones who were fighting the jihad against US/Nato/ISAF military forces in Afghanistan were the good ones, especially the so-called Haqqani network.
Remember that jihad against the USSR during 1979-89 had the full support of the US and Pakistan. Both trained and equipped the Mujahedeen against Soviet occupation. But that as then. Now the Pakistani military establishment doesn't want to severe its deep links with the Mujahedeen of yesterday and the Afghan Taliban of today. To expect that the Pakistani military establish will forego these ties is naive at best and downright stupid at worst. After all, the military establishment has built these "assets" with great pain over the decades. Plus, the jihad in Afghanistan has support in Pakistan. The most hated country in Pakistan happens to be the US. Even more hated then arch rival India. This is politics of the period. There is a groundswell of hatred against the United States all over the Muslim world because of military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, the support given to Israeli occupation of Palestine is the original sin of the United States which cannot be forgiven. The United States and India have both supported the Thehreek-i Taliban elements that are waging a crusade against the Pakistani military establishment and the secret agencies. The evidence comes from the nature of the attacks on Pakistan's military establishments during the last few years. They were well-planned, well-trained and executed professionally which is a sign of help from outside.
It is an open secret now that the United States and India lend assistance to the Pakistani Taliban waging their own crusade against the Pakistani defense and military establishment. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan has acknowledges the fact that the United States is playing a double game in Afghanistan. He was referring to the fact that the United States and Pakistan were both facilitating peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. The United States wants to negotiate a peace deal with the enemy in order to pull out as per plans. The United States will pull out its combat forces by the end of 2014. A peace deal with the Taliban is the only way to end the so-called Global war on Terrorism in this region. Pakistan can and is facilitating these negotiations. Obviously, Hamid Karzai is a worried man as he will be ousted in the new arrangements. Thus, his concern which he openly expresses now.
But, a peace deal isn't in the cards just yet. It will take time. The Afghan Taliban do realize that the United States cannot be defeated. All elements have been exhausted by the war. It has been 11 years since the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and Nato forces. Pakistan's military is also exhausted by the war and has been stretched thin on the borders of the country. Everyone wants the war to end. Ironically, the drone strikes have been successful in eliminating some terrorist bases in FATA. Obviously, these drone strikes are immoral, illegal and wrong. But this is power politics at its best and legality isn't the concern. Hence, they will continue as the United Sates sees some utility to these strikes. Of course, the United States wants to take out the Haqqani network in North Waziristan as the Pakistani military is reluctant to move against it.
In sum, the Peace march won't make any difference at all. The United States will do whatever is necessary to defeat its enemies. This includes drone strikes which are considered as efficient and risk-free tools of warfare. They are pretty good as tools of waging war. After all, no American lives are at risk.
Therefore, they will be used in the future also. The Pakistanis can lump their national pride on this one. Pakistani sovereignty or no sovereignty. Dirty politics of war. We have seen this before. The world is ugly and war is very serious business. Wars are meant to be fought and won. Most importantly, wars must end. Drone strikes are just hastening the closure of this war. Maybe Imran Khan thinks that violence begets violence and is thus counter productive. But here the Afghan war is coming to its end now. No matter what Imran Khan thinks about it. The main reason is that the United States domestic support for the war has petered out. This was expected. After all, the Afghan war is the longest and costliest war in American history. The United States is facing a severe economic challenge because of the 2008 recession. Therefore, the war will end soon. Other partners in Nato and ISAF also want to end the war sooner than later. Anyways, one way or the other the war will end soon.
Meanwhile, the PTI's Peace March makes sense as good politics. Imran Khan is echoing the national sentiments on the issue. The people of Pakistan hate the United States because of these drone strikes. He is playing to public sentiments. His bravado and macho statements are just that. The PTI isn't coming into power any time soon and therefore can play oppositional politics and employ empty rhetoric of teaching the United States a lesson and so on. Just politics as usual. Anyways, the Peace March is a success of sorts as it mobilized the people for a popular cause. Remember, the popular rating of Imran Khan was going down because he had made the mistake of taking into the party fold politicians known to be corrupt and opportunistic. His party will gain some grounds now. Good politics, a good show also.