The soul-less army

I have an acknowledgement to make. I was wrong in my March 16, 1999 column when I confidently declared: “Mr. Inderfurth cannot take away the soul of our army. It can never be mobilised against Muslims like the Turkish or Algerian army. Our army would continue to recognise that the US interests can never be entirely satisfied at the cost of our own existence. Our army has enough to learn from the experiences in other Muslim states and hopefully it will not react to the hype of US anti-Islam propaganda by launching a crusade that would ultimately destroy our unity and our trust.” Let me admit: I was absolutely wrong.

Today, the US has stolen the soul of Pakistan army. One cannot imagine how meaningless all the displayed Qur’anic verses might look like in Pakistan’s military bases, when our forces leave for killing their brothers in faith. One cannot imagine how shallow their Takbeer would sound before pulling triggers on their brothers and dynamiting homes of fellow Pakistanis.

But the targeted people are terrorists, someone might argue. In this regard, we have to keep two things in mind. First: There is no us, the hounds, and them, the hounded. They are not targets. We together are the target.

Second: Who are they –” Taliban, Arabs, Chechens, or the tribal “rebels”? We did not consider the Taliban as terrorists until October 7, 2001. The ISI was feeding and training them all along and standing shoulder to shoulder with them until then.

Arabs were not terrorists as long as they were fighting to liberate Muslim lands from the occupation of the US arch enemy, the Soviet Union. As soon as they thought of liberating Muslim lands from the US and Israeli direct and indirect occupations, they became the target.

Chechens had nowhere to go to save themselves from the holocaust in their land and became the enemies by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The tribal “rebels” are as true to their traditions today as they were at the times of British adventures in the region. They know not of any hypocrisy and switching sides over night.

Let us come back to the real target, Pakistan and its military might. When Musharraf declared in late September 2001 that the “Taliban days are numbered,” the wise could read the writing on the wall. It was: Pakistan’s years are numbered. Since then the count down is underway.

The planning for that is as old as that the search for a suitable bloody drama like 9/11. In March 1999, the then US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Karl Inderfurth, boldly declared that the US doesn’t want Pakistan army to become a “Taliban-like force.” He proposed “Western style training” for the army to pave the way for its secularisation. So far, the mission he started is right on the target.

The US started its campaign against Pakistan military as a result of the reports by spying US military commanders, who could not swallow 99 attributes of Allah written on every twist and turn towards the Special Service Group (SSG) Centre at Chirat. They couldn’t digest the motto of Pakistan armed forces: Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fisabeelillah (Faith, fear of Allah and Jihad in the way of Allah). Today the latter two have been effectively replaced by the fear of Uncle Sam and Jihad in the way of US.

As the news pour in about the death of Pakistani soldiers and civilians in their operation of raining down death and destruction on the voiceless people in the tribal belt, we cannot imagine how relieved the concerned quarters would feel in the US, Israel and India who felt Pakistan army as a thorn in their eyes. Its operations since 9/11 have transformed it into a soothing balm for them.

Acting for the first time against one’s conscience is difficult. Then it becomes a norm. Pak army has joined the first battle of a long war without any consideration of the reality. It cannot see that it has fallen on the wrong side of the battle field. Al-Qaeda was no more than a couple of hundred Arabs which has gone up in smoke. It is now transformed into a movement, which includes both Muslims and non-Muslims resisting the neo-cons tyrannical world order.

As the lies and real motives behind the “war on terrorism” are exposed, the resistance grows. Pak-army with a blood of its fellow Muslims on its hands will never hesitate to repeat the feat outside the tribal belt as anyone against the tyrannical global order is now an Al-Qaeda terrorist and any political dissent is “Islamic extremism.”

Pakistan army, which the US, India and Israel feared as the only nuclear arms laced “Islamic fundamentalist-minded” army, is now ready to swim in the blood of fellow Muslims. Joint efforts of these three states to dismantle Pakistan’s military might remained fruitless as long as General Musharraf didn’t come into picture. He alone has done which all the three powers together could never achieve, i.e., gradually eroding justification for its existence and eliminating the sources of its inspiration.

The story is not limited to General Musharraf. He only materialised what others could only dream. At home, the enemies within kept on trying to pave the way for the US to make Pakistan army yet another horrible example after rubbing Iraqi nose in the Middle East sand in 1991.

By declaring it “new fascists” and “a threat to the world peace and security,” Benazir Bhutto went too far in her campaign to malign Pak-army (The Statesman on May 17, 2001). She blamed the military for giving “a disproportionate voice to religious fanatics” and alleged that it is “dedicated to the export of religious extremism through Afghanistan to shores of Europe.” In her interview to Guardian, Ms Bhutto said the Pakistan army is “infected by the extremism.” You do not see that “infection” anymore. Musharraf has done that job better than any candidate, offering his services to the US, could do.

Earlier the US Congressional sources told Dawn that the picture presented by the former ISI chief, Ziauddin, before the intelligence committee was so grim and scary that many members supported the public statement issued by the US warning against a military coup in Pakistan.

It shows the coup was on the cards since long because a civilian government could not further the US and the IMF agenda as the military government could. It was only a matter of timing and suitability of coup leadership. Some US sources were reported as saying the US was not worried about an army coup but it was scared of a takeover by "fundamentalist Islamic radicals in the Pakistan army” (Dawn, Sept. 26, 1999).

Thus emerged a new consensus in Washington to weaken Pakistan’s military through promoting secular elements to power in Islamabad. The Observer proposed such a strategy of controlling the “spectre of Islamic fundamentalism” in its report titled “Fundamentalism Across Asia” (Feb. 18, 1997). It proposed to utilise the might of local armies against the “the blessings of the resident governments” to fundamentalists.

Preparing local armed forces as secular bulwarks became part of a coherent policy framework toward Islam, which according to the Director of James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University, Edward P. Djerejian, has “become a compelling need as foreign policy challenges erupt involving an “arc of crisis” extending from the Balkans, the Caucasus, North Africa, Middle East, Central and South Asia,…. Afghanistan, and Kashmir. [every where] the rallying cry of Muslim fighters –” ‘Allhu Akbar’ –” is heard in a complex web of violent conflict.”

Pakistan army played in the hands of forces determined to ruin it. They might seem successful at the moment. However, to sustain the ephemeral success in Algerian style will remain a dream unfulfilled. The reason is: if Wanna kind of operations are replicated or extended through the soul-less army, there will be civil war and chaos but Pakistan military, as we known it, will be there no more.