The nature of our neighbour

Oct 13, 2011, 09:30 IST | Vikram Sood

One was reasonably sure many years ago that Osama was hiding in Pakistan, most probably in the Abbottabad area.

One was reasonably sure many years ago that Osama was hiding in Pakistan, most probably in the Abbottabad area. Pakistan authorities, however, consistently denied Osama's presence in their country.

But, as it embarrassingly turned out, Osama was living with his family, along with an entire terrorist and communication paraphernalia. This was despite the country's ubiquitous intelligence machinery with its close contacts with the terrorist underworld. 

If Islamabad did not know, then its is clear that the terrorists there are running out of control. If Islamabad did know, then it obviously chose not to disclose the information and assist the US in its effort against terrorism.  This was either a strategic decision of the rulers for use of assets later, or a tactical decision to keep the ultra radicals at bay. Both underscore a natural desire to play the terror card.

House of terror: Pakistan authorities had repeatedly denied Osama's
presence in their country, even as he lived a short distance away from
the country's capital.

Pakistan is to try Dr Afridi, who is suspected to have given information  to the US, which led to the famous SEAL assault on May 2 and the subsequent death of Osama. Is it treason to help the US find the world's most wanted terrorist?  It was rather a service that he did to the US and the world. Yet, the attitude is that not helping the US find Osama was an act of supreme loyalty by the ISI and the Pakistan Army.

These are unfortunate directions Pakistan is taking, egged on by an increasingly intolerant section that is strident, violent, and at times vicious. Just looking at photographs of thousands of Islamists protesting against the sentencing of Salman Taseer's killer, juxtaposed with the news that 13 innocent Shias were taken off a bus, lined and killed in cold blood by Sunni radicals, has a chilling effect. It is not that radicalism spreads in one massive tsunami. It creeps in slowly and all it takes is a few good men to keep quiet for the virus to spread. It happens when a small child is accused of blasphemy for misspelling, when Ahmedi children are banned from attending school, or when religious laws that discriminate against women are espoused. 

Why is it that Pakistan chooses to behave in a manner that has made it an international pariah with a broken economy and a rundown social structure that can't give its young the gift of modern education, but subjects them to the medieval obscurantism of many madrassas? Soon after its birth, Pakistan was naturally anxious to make its formation a success. Its mistake was to  perennially seek equality with India. Since then it has boxed above its weight. It decided to play its locational card with the West. It offered its territory for US Cold War objectives, then for the Afghan jihad and then again, ostensibly against terrorism. Pakistan's leaders also learnt that delinquency could be rewarding, so they either played the victim or spread terror, assured protection by the country's status as a nuclear power. 

The West, especially the US has continued its policy of coddling Pakistan. What were considered startling accusations by the outgoing American Chief of Joint Staff Admiral Mullen 10 days ago, are already being watered down. True, there are many Pakistani men and women who shudder at the direction their country is taking. It is also true that there are far more in Pakistan who believe in the ideology of the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba that promises ultimate and global Islamic dominance.

The only thing they dislike is violence against Pakistanis. The main worry in India is not that Pakistan will use the nuclear bomb; the main worry is that it will continue to use militias like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as a veritable arm of the Pakistan Army whose own motto is 'jihad f'isb illah' (jihad in the name of Allah). Our fear should be that hordes of militant believers could be let loose by their mentors. If a country's rulers can be duplicitous with their benefactor there is very little reason to believe they will not do likewise or worse with their 'sworn enemy'.

The writer is former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)

Go to top