Today, most leaders say they would have stood up defiantly (dutt jata) in the face of the American request to join its war on terror. Former president Pervez Musharraf is being abominated for kowtowing to the Americans; and General Parvez Kayani is trying to make amends by going dutt and teaching the Americans a lesson 10 years later. The truth is, Musharraf, too, had gone dutt in the beginning, only to see the entire world bristling with resolve to take out Pakistan together with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Today going dutt can be disastrous for Pakistan, given its isolation and insolvency in 2001, it had wisely chosen to avoid it.
Now Musharraf is in rhythm with the GHQ on Osama’s end in Abbottabad, recalling his pre-2001 stance. Bruce Riedel in his book The Search for al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (2009) talks of Musharraf’s response to President Clinton’s forcefully made ‘suggestion’ that he clamp down on the Taliban: “President Clinton travelled to Islamabad in March 2000 to meet with the new Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who had assumed power. Clinton raised the Afghan problem directly in his meeting with Musharraf, pressing him to use Pakistan’s leverage over the Taliban regime in Kabul to persuade them to stop supporting terrorism and to arrest bin Laden and bring him to justice”.
“Musharraf was equally direct and clear: he would do no such thing. Musharraf explained that Afghanistan was of vital interest to Pakistan. It gave Pakistan strategic depth in its struggle with India. With an unfriendly Afghanistan, Pakistan would have been wedged between two hostile neighbours and its army left to struggle on two fronts, which would have put it at a disadvantage against a stronger India. Therefore, Pakistan had to maintain close ties with the Taliban and could not try to put pressure on them on America’s behalf. Strategically, Musharraf stressed, Pakistan needed a quiet border with Afghanistan so that it could focus its resources, especially its army, on the Indian frontier” (p.73).
For Imran Khan, who thinks the Pakistan military kowtowed to US diktat too easily, the following account would be educative. The UN Security Council in 1998 had highlighted terrorism, especially the Taliban’s role in sheltering and training terrorists in their territory and demanded an end to the Taliban’s practice of providing sanctuary for terrorists. Instead of abiding by the resolution of the Security Council, the “Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban intensified”.
In October 1999, the Security Council passed another resolution specifically mentioning Osama bin Laden by name. In addition, the Council imposed sanctions, including a ban on all flights into and out of Afghanistan and a freeze on Taliban funds abroad. The Taliban defied the resolutions and “Pakistan stood by for another year without using its leverage”.
In December 2000, the Security Council adopted resolution 1333 targeting Pakistan more directly: It called on all states to cease providing arms and ammunition to the Taliban, prohibit the training of Taliban fighters by their nationals, and withdraw any advisers or volunteers fighting with the Taliban. This was an indirect reference to Pakistan (p.74).
Pakistan still stuck to its guns. The Security Council then passed resolution 1363 in July 2001, creating a monitoring team to oversee the implementation of 1333, thus becoming the last of five UN resolutions after the African bombings that called on the Taliban and Pakistan to take action against al Qaeda (p.75). Pakistan’s resolve was broken only after 9/11 when it complied with Security Council resolution 1373 and began acting against al Qaeda leaders embedded in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2011.
More in PakistanThe death of governance in Karachi