The Nato assault on a Pakistani checkpoint close to the Afghan border which killed 24 soldiers on Saturday must have been deliberate. Nato commanders have long been supplied with maps marking these checkpoints by the Pakistani military. They knew that the target was a military outpost. The explanation that they were fired on first rings false and has been ferociously denied by Islamabad. Previous such attacks were pronounced ‘accidental’ and apologies were given and accepted. This time it seems more serious. It has come too soon after other ‘breaches of sovereignty’, in the words of the local press, but Pakistani sovereignty is a fiction. The military high command and the country’s political leaders willingly surrendered their sovereignty many decades ago. That it is now being violated openly and brutally is the real cause for concern.
In retaliation, Pakistan has halted Nato convoys to Afghanistan (49 per cent of which go through the country) and asked the US to vacate the Shamsi base that they built to launch drones against targets in both Afghanistan and Pakistan with the permission of the country’s rulers. Islamabad was allowed a legal fig-leaf: in official documents the base was officially leased by the UAE – whose ‘sovereignty’ is even more flexible than Pakistan’s.
Motives for the attack remain a mystery but its impact is not. It will create further divisions within the military, further weaken the venal Zardari regime, strengthen religious militants and make the US even more hated than it already is in Pakistan. So why do it? Was it intended as a provocation? Is Obama seriously thinking of unleashing a civil war in an already battered country? Some commentators in Islamabad are arguing this but it’s unlikely that Nato troops will occupy Pakistan. Such an irrational turn would be difficult to justify in terms of any imperial interests. Perhaps it was simply a tit-for-tat to punish the Pakistani military for dispatching the Haqqani network to bomb the US embassy and Nato HQ in Kabul’s ‘Green Zone’ a few months back. read more
“If the aim was to show us that state terror was more powerful than individual terrorists, we already knew that,” says Tariq Ali of the US special forces action that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As Americans celebrated outside of the White House and gathered at Ground Zero to remember those lost, Tariq reminds us that bin Laden’s death will not make the US safer. read more
In a post for the London Review of Books blog today, Tariq Ali wonders whether the war “that has already led to civilian casualties that are, at the very least, four times higher than the casualties of Twin Towers,” will be brought to an end following Osama bin Laden’s death … “Like hell [it] will.”
A US Special Forces operation in Pakistan has taken out Osama bin Laden and a few others. He was in a safe house close to Kakul Military Academy (Pakistan’s Sandhurst). The only interesting question is who betrayed his whereabouts and why. The leak could only have come from the ISI and, if this is the case, which I’m convinced it is, then General Kayani, the military boss of the country, must have green-lighted the decision. What pressure was put on him will come out sooner or later.The event took me back to a conversation I had a few years ago.
In 2006 on my way back from Lahore I encountered an acquaintance from my youth. Shamefacedly he confessed that he was a senior intelligence officer on his way to a European conference to discuss better ways of combating terrorism. The following conversation (a lengthier version can be found in The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power) ensued:
“Is OBL still alive?”
He didn’t reply.
“When you don’t reply,” I said, “I’ll assume the answer is yes.”
I repeated the question. He didn’t reply.
“Do you know where he is?”
He burst out laughing.
“I don’t, and even if I did, do you think I’d tell you?”
“No, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Does anyone else know where he is?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
I insisted: “Nothing in our wonderful country is ever a secret. Someone must know.”
“Three people know. Possibly four. You can guess who they are.”
I could. “And Washington?”
“They don’t want him alive.”
“And your boys can’t kill him?”
“Listen friend, why should we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?”
Now the Americans have killed the goose themselves. What was the bounty promised and to whom? Would that they also now brought to an end the war and occupation that was supposedly fought to take out Osama and that has already led to civilian casualties that are, at the very least, four times higher than the casualties of Twin Towers. Will they? Like hell they will. read more
Visit Democracy Now! to listen to the full segment.
‘Elephantine Corruption’ by Tariq Ali for the London Review of Books Blog, December 3, 2010
The Wikileaks confirm what we already know about Af-Pak. Pakistan is a US satrapy: its military and political leaders constitute a venal elite happy to kill and maim its people at the behest of a foreign power. The US proconsul in Islamabad, Anne Patterson, emerges as a shrewd diplomat, repeatedly warning her country of the consequences in Pakistan if they carry on as before. Amusing but hardly a surprise is Zardari reassuring the US that if he were assassinated his sister, Faryal Talpur, would replace him and all would continue as before. Always nice to know that the country is regarded by its ruler as a personal fiefdom.
Then we have the country’s military boss, General Kayani, sweetly suggesting that the Pushtun leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, a beneficiary of US funds, might be a possible president: confirmation, if any were needed, that the uniformed ones are the real power in the land, sharing it at the moment with the US Embassy.
And the old bearded joker Fazlur Rehman, a.k.a. Maulana Diesel (after the late Benazir Bhutto gave him a diesel concession in the North in return for a bit of help), pleading with the US ambassador to be made prime minister. Now that did me make me laugh. Like many others he, too, wants the job to make some money and knows perfectly well who can make it possible. His riposte that the lack of a majority was not a problem since he could buy enough MPs is unanswerable. read more