Beware of Americans — bearing gifts

Published: May 12, 2011

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

I am sure everyone knows this but merely to ensure we are on the same grid, a policy has one or more aims to be achieved in a specified period and spells out how the said aims will be achieved. While I have no intention of fleshing out a policy in this article, I will merely seek to emphasise the need for one and suggest what it should be aiming at. Pakistan has been without any policy since Ayub Khan’s decline in 1964!

Let us start by looking at what every ordinary citizen of any country, including Pakistan, wants. First and foremost is security: Not just security of life and limb or security from neighbouring enemies, but also food security, water security, job security, economic security, energy security etc. The list is long, and he/she wants to live in peace, so as to have the right to ‘pursue happiness’.

If this is all what we need, do we have any of these? Quite right, we have none! Why not? Because, apart from the rampant corruption at all levels of those in authority, we are engaged in a war that is sapping all our resources! Make no mistake, this is our war; the ‘enemy within’ poses an existential threat, greater than any external power does.

But why did this war begin? Why did the once loyal Mehsud, Afridi, and Mohmand turn against us?

If we hark back in time, in 2001, the Pakistani Pashtun and all Afghans were celebrating US intervention in Afghanistan. It would liberate them from Taliban oppression. Within a year, American arrogance, their suspicion of all Afghans, their utter disregard for local customs and culture, could result in only one thing: Another Afghan freedom struggle from an oppressive foreign force. The US called it a resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda! In time it did become that, because the US converted a legitimate struggle for freedom from an army of occupation into ‘Taliban linked to al Qaeda.’

To return to my question — as they did when Afghans sought their freedom from the Soviet occupation, the Pakistani Pashtuns bordering Afghanistan, girded their loins to assist their Afghan brethren. This time, Pakistan did not want them to. And in 2004, we decided to kill the most outspoken of those Pashtuns, a wazir called Nek Muhammad.

His murder was the watershed. We had a rebellion on our hands because we were preventing our tribal Pashtun from assisting their Afghan brethren in their freedom struggle against an army of occupation: The Americans, of course. So all Pakistan suddenly became American, kafirs, legitimate targets for religious fanatics to kill, and we are more vulnerable and accessible for them to target. So we are faced with an existentialist threat and we die. This was the first gift we got from the US.

Without tracing all the history, where do we stand today as far as the US is concerned? Anybody, who is anybody in the US, is baying for our blood. We are traitors to them and branded American-kafirs by our enemy within. Obama now tells us that when the Navy SEALs came to get Osama, they were “in sufficient numbers and prepared to retaliate to any response by the police or Pakistan’s security forces”.

They also gifted us Raymond Davis, hundreds of him. When we agreed to give him back, it was on the condition that all other Raymonds also leave. The CIA has not forgiven us and recent drone attacks are again killing more civilians than militants. If the Raymonds can no longer stoke unrest in Pakistan, the drones can!

As far as the promised financial aid is concerned, we receive a mere trickle, each time with another threat of severance if we fail to obey our Lords and Masters in DC. Even the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), intended to compensate a small portion of the expense incurred by the military in this war that has been forced on us by the US and Musharaf’s capitulation, is long overdue by well over a billion dollars.

The US has its own litany of complaints but we have ours. Isn’t it time to file for divorce?

But I also listed what our people want; how can we get there? To start with, if we divorce the US, we can no longer be clubbed with it and the raison d’etre for our internal strife ceases to exist and, if the US pulls out of Afghanistan, claiming victory after Osama’s execution, the entire cause disappears!

If the US does not pull out of Afghanistan, which is more than likely, we can make the US increasingly irrelevant in Afghanistan. Those who read my explanation of why US Vice President Joe Biden rushed to Pakistan might recall the series of events listed by me which led to the (Burhannuddin) Rabbani Initiative, which also received a nod from our army chief, to find an Afghan solution to Afghanistan’s future.

All this will take time, but our war will be approaching a conclusion. It will no longer be open-ended. If Afghanistan can find its own solution and make peace within, our western borders are safe. If we mend fences with Iran and reopen negotiations with Tehran for the stalled oil pipeline, we will have cheap energy, which China is also offering. If we bring peace to Balochistan, China will immediately commence work on expanding the Karakoram Highway and the stalled rail link from Urumqi to Havelian. If that happens, commerce alone will suffice to infuse fresh life into our tottering economy.

It all starts if we divorce the US, now!

Our problem is that our political leaders have convinced themselves that before they are elected in Pakistan, they have to be selected in DC. May I suggest, if you must be selected somewhere, get yourself selected in Beijing instead. The only capital that has, while you were cowering in your palaces or gallivanting overseas, issued a warning (unsolicited by us) to the US: “Don’t dream of repeating May 1 in Pakistan again”.

So, do it now. Before the people rise up, as they are doing in Arab countries, and shout, “Enough — kaafi ho gaee”!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • May 12, 2011 - 12:33AM

    “their utter disregard for local customs and culture” –
    are we referring to the length of the beard to be sported by men? the severity of ankle lashings you must give women in public places?

    I am reminded of an interview given by the late Col Imam when he glorified the Taliban as being such pure Muslims.

    When the author does not see the utter lack of humanity in the taliban philosophy, I have agree with him – American bearing gifts are the real enemy. Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 12:34AM

    Apologise for all the typos.Recommend

  • John
    May 12, 2011 - 12:41AM

    Wishful thinking. No one is bearing gifts. It is PAK which demands the gifts.

    When PAK economy is dependent on US for both its exports, investments as well as for budget, the divorce is only in PAK’s peril and even if PAK wants she cannot afford to pay for lawyers fee for the divorce. Fornication is a sin in marriage.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    May 12, 2011 - 1:13AM

    It is brigadiers like this who have destroyed Pakistan. It is not the war on terror that sapped our resources.Tthe real problem in Pakistan began when Zia to rule this country converted our army into a fundamentalist organization. Mullahs, India haters and extremists started occupying positions in the army. Got secret money to create Afghan insurgency. Most of it went into the pockets of people like the one writing this column. They forced liberals like me to leave the country because of death threats by Fundamentalists.

    After Russians moved out, the real terorism was started by ISI in Kashmir. we trained sociopaths to kill and maim in Kashmir to weken India.It backiried. India kept developing, We ended up being controlled by these terrorists who created many hateful organizations like LeT, SSP, Jasih-e-Mohammad, Pakistani Taliban and several other extremist and hateful organisation (all of them before 2001)..

    These people started killing Shias in Pakistan, supprerssed rights of other minorities and even scared the sufi muslims and other non-wahabis.

    It is the expenditure on Pakistan army that has make Pakistan poor. And corrupt politiicans. They are everywhere in the world. Yet India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia are all developing. Why?? They do not have such high military expenditures.

    Zia changed the textbooks. All Pakistanis now know is hate. Pakistan lacks in secular education like Science and math. People like you who do not know anything about the economy make blatant statements.

    You destroyed Karachi, because you hated the liberal city. It did not like the army and never did. But it was the engine of growth of Pakistan.

    Now you want to divorce American. Pakistan only has trade surplus with American and EU. It has trade deficit with China, and rest of Asian countries. How do you provide everything you say a government needs to provide people, unless you can export. To export you need a good business environment and smart people. Not a country full of people who think Maulana Masood, or Imran Khan or Jamaat-e-Islami are good people. .

    You should stop writing and first try and learn first. To me it is people like you, who have kept Paksitan weak and poor.Recommend

  • faraz
    May 12, 2011 - 1:17AM

    Talibanization is not a tribal revolt. TTP is a group of 30-40,000 militants who are not all pushtoon. It includes militants from all across Pakistan and Chechens, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Arabs. TTP also includes splinters of the jihadi groups that we nurtured over past 4 decades. The current head of TTP is a member of Lashkar e Jhangvi, a sectarian organization formed in the 1980s. When Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda moved into FATA after 911, the army made no attempts to stop their inflow. When US pressure mounted to expel them and army moved in, the Taliban started executing the old pustoon order which was headed by Maliks. The void thus created was filled by Taliban who are veterans of Afghan jihad or 1990s Afghan civil war. Musharraf’s double game eliminated the influence of maliks. When army moved into South Waziristan, the entire Mehsood tribe shifted into IDP camps. If it had been a tribal revolt, then the tribals wouldn’t have vacated their homeland. Tribal are just stuck between the army, taliban and US.

    Divorce in foreign policy can’t be achieved in short period of time. It takes years to shift the economic, diplomatic and military reliance from one country to another. And politicians weren’t the beneficiary of SEATO CENTO anti-communist alliance, Afghan jihad or War on terror. The military was in charge when these alliances were made to secure dollars from US. Elected assembly was dismissed by the bureaucratic military alliance before entering SEATO CENTO alliance. Politics is all local; people don’t vote for parties on the basis of their foreign policy. But in a security state, which is economically weak, it’s the military that needs foreign patronage for its survival

  • neel
    May 12, 2011 - 1:27AM

    I read the article and rushed back to the top. It was hardly surprising that it had to be written a retired armyman, and so it was. Religious fanitics killing poor Pakistanis because American kafirs did something. and actually justifying it. When did civilian govt had any decision to make. it was Army calling shots all the way.

    And dont you think its better to trust in your own ability than to ask for alms around. In 80’s benefactor was USA, Again now it is USA. Now Army seems to be looking for a new Daddy. China seems to be a obvious choice. Dude grow up. Respect yourself. Pakistan have enough potential to hold on on itself. It can grow leap and bound without aid from USA, China or Saudi. At the moment it is like a horse with a heavy stone (defence budget) in its neck. The moment it is gone it will start running.

    So wake and smell some coffee………… Gud LuckRecommend

  • Raashid
    May 12, 2011 - 1:32AM

    Dead right, but then there is something else that needs to be corrected on the policy front. It is the policy formulation. Who is to make policies? Which institution is to cede space to others in our national policy making matrix? The institutional balance needs to be restored through an inhouse soul searching and honest accountability. Recommend

  • nina
    May 12, 2011 - 3:09AM

    Perfectly written and so true! Only we the people can bring about the change necessary to remove American lapdogs from our government structure. I hope this comes sooner than later.Recommend

  • NO JOY
    May 12, 2011 - 6:48AM

    Raymond Davies had committed a crime and was at your disposal,why did you hand him over to US,in exchange of some $$$?..under external pressure,same in case of OBL,under US pressure you not only let US SEALs come inside Pakistan and conduct ops but also accepted your intelligence failure and associated baggage.there is a saying in Chinese – One foot cannot stand on two boats.. and I don’t believe that it will be so easy for Pakistan to switch over her friendship with US and go searching other reliable friend. your F-16 and many other toys will refuse to operate for want of spares.without offering something solid in importance you can become at the best a sidekick of a powerful nation,not allies or friends and can expect only crumbs.this noise of shunning US is a half hearted attempt at coercing US into accepting some demands of Pakistan.Recommend

  • AnisAqeel
    May 12, 2011 - 7:36AM

    Imaginary article and full of ifs. China is a good friend and will remain a good friend as long as we do not attack their sovereignty. Send a few terrorists and see China’s friendship!!!
    “The US has its own litany of complaints but we have ours. Isn’t it time to file for divorce?”
    Certainly, but a mistress does not have any grounds to file a divorce. Remember, we cannot get rid of this mess we are in unless whole society is overhauled. I remember Musharraf warning a few times about ‘enemy within’.
    We were and are a ‘pukka’ friend of china before 9/11 and had less than a billion dollars in our reserves and were adventuring for Kargil. USA saved us from that adventure. Remember 1971 USA saved us from loosing Kashmir and a greater Punjab with the pretext of a “secret agreement” that Indira Gandhi mentioned after a humiliating defeat. Oh, and you forgot to mention another gift, an anniversary gift in the shape of about two billion Dollars and so far we received about twenty billion of that without a mention of F-16s and ultra modern military equipment without that even Afghanistan may attack us and probably severely damage us too.
    Next time please write something realistic that can help change ‘happy go lucky’ behavior, otherwise suggest staying as a mistress of USA.Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 9:24AM

    Brig sb: why blame it all on the politicians. Will your generals stop asking for military aid too?Don’t forget that China may also become US like at a future date only because we don’t know how to protect our interests. We don’t stop their dumping goods in our market only because of the military security relations. Recommend

  • Ardeshir Elavia
    May 12, 2011 - 9:25AM


    Great article well articulated. Recommend

  • Ardeshir Elavia
    May 12, 2011 - 10:05AM


    A great article well articulated. Should be read aloud in the halls of power, GHQ would be a good start if somebody there has the stomach and capacity to read. The “Ab bhee mar kae deikh” mentality needs to be shredded. Offense is the best form of defense that was the mantra in PMA Kakul.

    As it is said “pundits preach, generals plan and soldiers die”. Precious lives have been sacrificed in this new “Great game” with nothing to show for it but more insults to injury.Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 10:47AM

    “I suggest, if you must be selected somewhere, get yourself selected in Beijing instead.”.Brig. sahab, How conveniently you have suggested to change your master from USA to China. It would have been better if you have suggested some ways to stand Pakistan on its own feet rather than the client state of other major powers.Sitting in the lap of china will not precipitate the problems of pakistan.Recommend

  • Shaukat Qadir
    May 12, 2011 - 10:48AM

    My dear Aysha,
    I have seldom responded to my critics. They are all entitled to their views.
    You are one person who should really not accuse me of defending generals. If I recall correctly, you acknowledged that publicly at your book launching and told me about it since, regretfully, I got caught in a last-minute emergency and missed the ceremony.
    I do NOT absolve the Generals of blame. However, it is my view that this government, had and squandered, a priceless opportunity of ensuring the military’s return to barracks.
    I am also aware of the risks we will incur if we lean increasingly on China. My suggestion is for an interim—let’s take the better option. Ultimately, it has to come back to us and where WE take ourselves and our benighted country.

  • farheen
    May 12, 2011 - 11:24AM

    Beware of Americans. it was a warning to Liaqat Ali Khan then to Ayub khan andto all our so called selected but imposed leaders, whether civilians or Army.. . .they all claimed to be INDEPENDENT in their policies and protect the sovereignty of Pakistan and its people. .. . ..we kept on hearing . . .hearing and hearing. . .now the CD is even out of order. . .but echo is there. . . .along with the increasing number and strength of chains … .in the form of AID …and war on TERROR. …we all are responsible for it. …we sold our country to USA our politicians ourr generals . .all are successful business men now. . .land mafia drug mafia weapon mafia what not? we have mafias only, in govt, parliament and even media. …AWAM is moving in a circle like a blind bull after food petrol medicines and jobs. .. .so who will rise up? …who will face the missiles, Raymonds, Drones and enemy within. ? not a few persons but whole nation may bring change and demand DIVORCE. but we need a leader, a sincere leader, not a black mailer, or the one being blackmailed by USA. .. .Recommend

  • Ajay
    May 12, 2011 - 11:39AM

    The solution is not either China or US. It lies in doing the right thing for Pakistan which would be eliminate all bad elements without hesitation. Not only US, teh whole world expects it. Even Russia has supported US action. China alone will not be able to help. With so much evidence piled against Pakistan over period of time and its credibilitkty thorughly diminshed, it is a matter of time before an ugly incident happens somewhere and all world forces will go marching into or bombarding Pakistan. That warning was given long ago to Pakistan. Under that situation, China can do nothing to help Pakistan. So brigadier Sahab’s advice is too late, too little and will not work.

    What will work-
    1. Pakistan to show sincere effort in eliminating radicalism and terrorism- not nice talk or lip service but ACTION
    2. STart mending financlial policies to tax everything except food, e;lectricity at 60%. It will lead to protests and disturbances but there has to be paid a price for delayed actions.Recommend

  • Ajay
    May 12, 2011 - 11:42AM

    Indeed US will use this situation to cut down ISI and Pakistan military. So be it. Pakistan can do nothing much in current circumstances. For all you know that may be a real blessing in disguise. India has no intention of tatacking Pakistan. Yes Kashmir issue will be lost BUT it was already long lost.Recommend

  • Syed Imran
    May 12, 2011 - 1:35PM

    I totally agree with the Brig. Divorce and start afresh or else die a undignified death.Recommend

  • Aryabhat
    May 12, 2011 - 1:56PM

    Not in Washington, Not in Beijing, Not in Riyadh

    “Our problem is that our political leaders have convinced themselves that before they are elected in Pakistan, they have to be selected in DC.” – So does Military guys Sir! From an early stage. Like training courses at West Point and what not. That is where the grooming starts!

    Secondly, ask 5 young boys and girls you know, where they want to go and make career, and give them choice of USA and China. See the results for yourself Sir!

    Thirdly, China may even give a bail out (short term) or protection (long term) to Pakistan. Even economy may survive (like Zimbabwe) or even grow to an extent (like Burma/North Korea). Do you really want Pakistan to be next Zimbabwe or Burma/North Korea?

    Forthly, to stand up to Americans (or anyone else) you need both Civilians and Military equally focussed on national-interest. Recently Indian Military and civilians chose European fighter planes against heavy lobbying by American (New friend) and Russians (Old buddy). They could do it because they get selected and elected in India.

    In Pakistan’s national interest, Pakistani Civilians and Military both – need to be selected and elected in Paksitan. Not in Washington, Not in Beijing, Not in Riyadh! Recommend

  • kamran afzal
    May 12, 2011 - 2:03PM

    for aisha sidiqa

    why u feel like army generals should be thrown away , if we look our currupt charater less politicians and who have no concern for nation , can bilawal zardari solve our problems or lead us jis nai AC sai bahir zindgi ka aik pal nhi dekha. jo bi forces is only institution in pakistan jis ma koi system hai , where there is rule of law , have u ever seen son of a general directly becoming general but i can see a child(bilawal) directly jumping at top slot of ppp leadreship.
    kia baqi saray politicians is qabil nhi ,its bloody joke with poor and innicoent people of this country, believe me once our nation will realize what joke these politicians have bben doing with them they will eat themRecommend

  • A J Khan
    May 12, 2011 - 2:15PM

    Mr Shaukat Qadir: Pashtuns have strong opinion against state sponsored religious fanatics. They have destroyed the fabric of the Pashtun society. All Pashtuns understand that why was religious extremism promoted by Zia, his cronies and till date followers. Every one in Pashtun sema understand who the beneficiaries of the extremists are and why is it being promoted.
    You can fool some all the time, but not everyone all the time. Recommend

  • moved
    May 12, 2011 - 4:31PM

    Yes, certainly heartfelt and very moving!!

    I’m not sure I see where this article claims to absolve the military of its culpability. so all that criticism about siding with the army seems uncalled for? Also, I would expect (for everyone waving the anti-army flag) that you would rejoice at someone asking the politicians to take charge? Certainly that is a necessity for regaining balance of power!Recommend

  • curious1
    May 12, 2011 - 7:48PM

    Fully agree Anis, and thank you for your befitting comments. We cannot have enemies all around. So far we have Afghanistan and India that can be a big problem on the other hand Iran has its own problems and is having a neutral policy towards Pakistan. Turkey’s sensible administration never back Pakistan against USA at a testing time.
    China will never dare to support Pakistan’s outrageous behavior when it comes to very strong USA and India together. Only support China can provide us with some not very sophisticated arms and the power of Veto.
    Due to consistently arrogant, stubborn and failed policies we are already bound and tied from almost all sides and still our military wants some adventure.
    Our politicos and military leaders occasionally through some open or veiled threats of A-Bomb that I believe we can use only on our own homeland to destroy.
    We have a well disciplined military and intelligence. We need them the most at this time but only with a modified behavior and policy. They must abolish General Zia’s policy and strictly become a secular military with no promotions and absolutely no recruitment of religiously fanatic people that may correct the position in about seven to ten years.
    We must patch up and stay with USA for our own betterment and get rid of economically fat bullies of military that has not learnt any lesson from Kargil and 1971 disgrace. God bless Pakistan.Recommend

  • BruteForce
    May 12, 2011 - 8:42PM

    “The CIA has not forgiven us and recent drone attacks are again killing more civilians than militants. ”
    How on Earth do you know this? The dead dont have a tag saying they are Civilians and the American missiles are top of the class and very very precise, and their intelligence too is excellent, proved by the recent Osama episode.

    The number of dead too might be inflated by the Military to stoke up opposition to Drone strikes, as no Journalist can travel to those areas and same with ordinary Civilians.

    After the Osama episode, I ask you, do you still trust the Military? How do you know that all of them killed were indeed not Terrorists?

    Stop pushing a popular canard as the ultimate truth. Recommend

  • billo
    May 12, 2011 - 9:16PM

    Sure, and Ayub’s policy was clearly stated to the Americans when he said, “our army can be your army.” And so it is. Beware of Americans bearing gifts! Unless those gifts are tanks and F-16s! Recommend

    May 12, 2011 - 10:24PM

    The writer has blamed the Americans for all ills facing Pakistan today and also painted a rosy picture that all the woes will simply disappear into the thin air once the country divorces America and marries its all weather friend China.

    I think no useful purpose will be served by courting China since this country is known to be the most self-centred and deals with equal trade partner like US, India. It will never give any aid or soft loans to Pakistan whereas the IMF and US aid will totally dry up which will lead to its bank-cruptcy. Moreover, most of defence equipment held by Pakistan are from US and its spares will be with-held once relations sours.

    Militancy too will not vanish after US’s departure and the all terror outfits which are being courted now will come hard at the establishment to complete their unfinished agenda of imposing sharia throughout the country and others will focus on Kashmir and Pakistan will risk a war with India by supporting them. Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 10:53PM

    @ Tight Dhoti—well said.

    I am really at a loss to understand how blame in this “capitulating to America” game can be deflected to the civilian politicians. Perhaps in times with less free flow of information people could have been expected to buy into such theories, but there is too much information to the contrary out there now for people to be misled in this way.Recommend

  • Shuja Bashir
    May 13, 2011 - 12:20AM

    Building bridges,

    We have to attempt to convince all parties to try to work together and we got to stop pointing fingers,(armed forces,Politicos,religious parties,)

    Ordinary Pakistanis are under a lot stress of all sorts and here we are after so many years of Independence looking like so much dependent on somebody, anybody,

    We all have to come together and see where do we go from here and we ought to take everyone along with us The Yanks,The Chinese,The house of Saud and anyone who may have their vested interest tied with ours.

    We can depend on ourselves and only ourselves and our friends are most welcomed to give us favourable trading markets if ….. convenient but not necessarily,

    Our biggest enemy at the moment is corruption at any level,greed and selfishness,

    We should have the same amount of load shedding in Islamabad as the rest of the country,

    All Pakistanis with money in Dubai,UAE or Switzerland should pay a flat tax of 15% and bring their money back and invest in all sectors of Pakistan economy, Power,Dams,housing etc.etc.(no questions asked)

    Like Allama Iqbal said ” with little bit of humidity this is very fertile land”Recommend

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