My relationship with Afghanistan and its people is not simply that of neighbours or based on any religious or ideological expediency. I have seen my father General Ziaul Haq waging war with great determination and power of faith and its impressions are engraved in my mind. I have seen all the Afghan leaders from close quarters. When I visited Kabul after the success of Afghan war in 1991, I was overwhelmed with the love and devotion of the Afghans. I was swarmed by thousands of young men and elderly people after saying prayers in Pul Charkhi mosque. I can not express their devotion in words. During this visit I was successful in ironing out the fourteen years old differences between Engineer Gulbadin Hikmat Yar and Ahmad Shah Masood in the outskirts of Kabul and bringing them round to sign an agreement. Even after this Afghanistan and its people were never far from my heart and there always existed some sort of liaison with them.
On the evening of September 11 the lofty towers of World Trade Centre in New York and part of the defence headquarters Pentagon were reduced to ashes. These were unimaginable happenings. In spite of being the greatest country of the world and having the most effective security system, America could not find anything about this operation. It was a sorrowful happening and every human being felt grieved. Pakistani nation also shared this grief. There in America, the American media within an hour of the incident started talking about Islam, fundamentalism, terrorism and Osama Bin Laden. In no to time the propaganda gained momentum and it appeared that America was hell bent upon making an example of Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan.
Watching the episode on the television my mind went into the past when the army of the super power of those days, Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 25, 1979 and it so appeared that the red storm would enter Pakistan at any time. At that time also there was an undemocratic military government in Pakistan. The decision was very difficult to take. The foreign office, cabinet, military experts, intellectuals, politicians, whosoever was contacted had the same words on their lips that Pakistan should take care of itself. Putting our hand in the Russian bear’s mouth amounted to committing suicide. Even America advised Pakistan not to entangle itself in Afghanistan affair. Rather Pakistan should make itself strong so that Russia would not dare to move in its direction. At that time Pakistan had not attained nuclear power and only eight years had passed since it was dismembered into two parts. In such difficult circumstances Gen Ziaul Haq decided to forestall the advance of Russian bear on the other side of the Durand Line. The president had three objectives before him. Firstly the integrity of Pakistan, secondly strengthening Pakistan’s defence and thirdly Islamic pride.
After taking this decision, Pakistan decided to take its friends into confidence. Immediately a meeting of the foreign ministers of OIC was requisitioned. Special emissaries were sent to all important countries to explain Pakistan’s point of view. The jehad was begun by repairing the rusted 303 rifles lying in the ammunition depots and the world found out that in addition to the Afghans’ devotion Pakistan was also quite serious in its efforts. So gradually the support increased. So much to that 124 members of the United Nations passed a resolution in support of Pakistan’s stand. India was at that time siding with Russia and throughout the war kept supporting Russia and tried to create problems for Pakistan. When in 1986 India felt that American enthusiasm concerning Afghanistan had waned, it brought its army on the borders and it appeared it would attack Pakistan at any moment. It was at that time that through cricket diplomacy India was made to understand that things could move beyond conventional war. This story can be better told by those who were present there.
Afghan people fought a heroic war for freedom of their country and broke the superpower into fifteen fragments. The long story of Afghan war ended with the Geneva Agreement of 1986. Gen Ziaul Haq apprised America that if Russians were allowed to leave Afghanistan without establishing a government of Mujahideen then the country would plunge into a never ending civil war. But they did not listen to him. The result is that even today Afghanistan is in a state of war. When Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo met President Reagan in America the later told him, “You are elected prime minister while Ziaul Haq is a dictator. You should start asserting yourself.” Reagan actually patted Junejo and encouraged him to sign the Geneva Accords. Following this the Ojhri Camp incident took place, then the plane carrying Gen Ziaul Haq and his colleagues crashed and Pakistan came under sanctions in 1990 which are still continuing in one form or another.
One can imagine that America must be under enormous pressure on September 11. They were justifiably enraged that in spite of their capitalist system and economic superiority the symbol of their military supremacy was hit. Perhaps these were the two targets as far as America is concerned but the real and foremost target were Muslims. The later developments proved that India taking the advantage of American media tried to divert the attention of the world towards Pakistan in the name of terrorism. Israel on the other hand unleashed a fresh spate of atrocities in Palestinians.
America was struck with such a tragedy that President Bush was not prepared to listen to any argument or logic. He wanted a quick reaction from Pakistan and was not prepared to give any time for consultations. There was only one course left for the government to stop the anger of America for the time being and save Pakistan from isolation. The army was in a difficult situation because there was no democratic institution in the country which could authenticate its decision. Assemblies and the elected president had been sent packing and General Musharraf had to take a quick decision in the interest of the country. So he took a decision after consulting his army and civilian colleagues which was indubitably in the best interest of the country. He followed up by taking politicians, religious leaders, editors, ulema and people from other walks of life into confidence.
Now when the decision has been taken it is in the interest of Pakistan that the government and public should surmount the present difficulties together as a single entity. A national consensus is the need of the hour. This is the only way to pull out Pakistan from its present difficulty and save Afghanistan from an imminent destruction. American anger should recede with passage of time and they should keep in mind this principle of the civilised world that, “every one is innocent unless it is proved otherwise.”
The fact is that so far no tangible proof has been produced against Afghanistan or the Taliban government. The way the attacks have been made it appears that it is not the doing of a single organisation but of a state. Many of those who have been declared as terrorists are alive. It was also stated that before undertaking the mission they were enjoying drinks in a bar. The character of the people imbued with the spirit of martyrdom cannot be so low. Before this in Oklahoma the immediate blame was laid on Islamic organisations but if one of the culprits had not been caught on the charge of over-speeding, God knows which Islamic countries would have faced the consequences. No tangible proof has so far emerged regarding the attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Pakistan can play an important role in pacifying the charged emotions of America and diverting them to the right direction. In my opinion the government should base its policy on the following points:
– A guarantee should be taken that there will be no bargaining on Kashmir.
– A meeting of OIC should be immediately convened.
– UN Security Council session should be convened to look into the evidence.
– The Northern Alliance should not be foisted on Afghanistan because they are being supported by India.
– If it is not possible to establish a national government at this juncture at least a ‘national crisis management council’ should be set up which would represent the people.
– A delegation of those personalities and ulema should be sent to talk to Taliban who have good relations and influence over Taliban.
– An international conference on terrorism should be held to discuss eradication of this menace and find long term solutions.
– America should be made to realise that their friendship with Pakistan should not be based on self-aggrandizement but on solid footing.
– The borders with Afghanistan should remain open and America along with other countries should bear the expenses of looking after the Afghan refugees.
– The limits of co-operation with America should be determined and they should not be allowed any room to operate beyond that.
– The means be adopted to forestall the collective destruction of Afghan people.
The writer is a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.