Deep Focus

Why Washington Must Tell Pakistan to Introspect

By Rajeev Sharma*
Pakistan has launched a new game and this time it is a simple, devious game of blaming India for everything wrong happening in its backyard. Both the civilian and military leadership are on the same page on this plan—it is mutually beneficial.
It is not a secret that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has failed miserably to keep any of the promises it made at the time of taking over charge two years ago. Power outages are as widespread as ever. Inflation is equally high. There is no let up in terrorist violence. Terrorist groups are flourishing as always. Corruption is deep and extensive, leaving people hapless and extremely worried about their future.
Needless to say basic education, health and other necessities of life have become either scarce or dearer. Poverty is rampant. Unemployment is pervasive. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif exudes no confidence and cannot reassure his countrymen about jobs, power and security. In the past two years, he has become a puppet in the hands of the Generals. His failure as a Prime Minister, as a leader of 180 million people, is colossal.
The Generals who now run Pakistan have not had much success either. When terrorists captured soldiers, beheaded them, posted the gory pictures on the net and played football with their  severed heads (this is what General Raheel Sharif said the other day), the army vowed vengeance. The General, Raheel Sharif, said enough was enough and he won’t let one terrorist survive. He first launched a massive military campaign in the tribal areas, demolishing towns and villages in the process, killing several hundred, driving a million or so innocent men, women and children out of their homes into tents and other shelters.
But did the terrorists disappear? Not even General Sharif can claim so. Yes, the Army propaganda machine has been relaying regularly that hundreds of militants have been killed in the military campaign which has continued now for almost a year. Does it take a professional army to clear a few strongholds of militancy a year?
The reality on the ground is telling. The no-go areas controlled by the militants remain intact; in fact new terrorist groups like Islamic State are steadily taking over from the local militant groups. The army, after a year of bombing townships and villages, mountaintops and valleys, cannot declare victory. It cannot, and has not, said that it has been able to clear the area of militants. The militant groups, though on the backfoot, are quite active in the areas they dominate. The army remains outside this no-go area. Even General Sharif has not had the courage to make inroads into this area.
It is not that the military is not capable of doing so. It perhaps is. But the problem is elsewhere—its policy of distinguishing terrorist groups as good and bad terrorists. Now these good and bad terrorists are brothers in arms and organically difficult to separate. So even if one or two of them are targeted and contained, others remain intact to carry on with the terrorist campaign. The terrorists do not make any such distinction—an enemy is an enemy even if it is a friend to some of them. The Generals do not want to give up the patronage they shower on some of them since these groups are useful in troubling India and even the US.
The problem with both the Generals and the civilian leadership that no one believes their stories today. There was a time when they would be heard with some attention in the world capitals. That was long before 9/11 and much before it became an open secret that Pakistan Army was perhaps one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism in the world today.
In fact, Washington is acutely aware of the fact that at least a few hundred American soldiers have been killed in attacks carried out by terrorist groups with direct or indirect links to Pakistan Army. And who could forget the fact that it was Pakistan Army which sheltered al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden all those years when the American people were fooled by Pakistan’s promise to hunt down al Qaeda leaders who had carried out the 9/11 attacks.
It was the same Pakistan which kept, and continues to do so, the Afghan Taliban armed and secure to take on the US troops deployed in Afghanistan. Without the Pakistan Army support, the Afghan Taliban would have been defeated long ago, giving the US a clear victory in one of the major battles of the century. The Pakistan Army’s duplicity denied the US its rightful victory in Afghanistan. In fact, the US lost much more than face in Afghanistan: it lost billions of dollars and several thousand lives of its soldiers, most of it could have been avoided if Pakistan and its army had collaborated like a truly ally. Pakistan in fact played Brutus, forcing the US to taste a major defeat after over 10 years of commitment of blood, sweat and dollars in Afghanistan.
So when the leaders who come calling to Washington open files containing manufactured evidence of Indian involvement in creating violence in Pakistan, it would be useful to send them to some of the well-kept libraries in Washington where there are enough written about Pakistan’s complicity with terrorist groups which considered the US their Enemy Number one. An enemy’s friend cannot be a friend. Washington is acutely aware of this and should therefore tell Pakistani leadership to go back and fix their problem at home.
They should either give up supporting terrorist groups or stop blaming India for their own collusion with terrorist groups.
The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.