It will be difficult to understand contemporary history without getting to know the new factors of change. There are the dynamics of Davos, the G-20 meetings and other conclaves on economic issues taking place all over the world. Regime changes in our macro-region feature expatriates — individuals or small cabals — living in and working closely with the metropolitan states. The world knows only too well how the Iraqi Diaspora distorted the actual intelligence about WMDs in Iraq and how plane-loads of ‘exiles’ arrived in Baghdad to fill the top positions in the post-Saddam regime. Libya is a more recent example; amongst the new Libyan heroes, is a former al Qaeda notable who has made peace with the United States.
Pakistan has large communities abroad, distinguished by their fierce attachment to their country of origin. Their contribution to Pakistan’s economy is crucial. They remain deeply concerned about the state of things ‘back home’. Amongst them are individuals who have won the confidence of host governments. Most of them use their connections to Pakistan’s advantage. There are, however, easily identifiable individuals who promote themselves as middlemen, able to bypass Pakistan’s state structure and deliver political and financial deals for the states they have settled in. Some may even dream of landing in Pakistan one day, Mohammad Ali Bogra style, to rule this hapless country.
Be as it may, Mansoor Ijaz, an ‘American of Pakistani ancestry’, has now suddenly lifted the lid from an episode that must not be brushed aside. Writing in no less a newspaper than the Financial Times on October 10, under the provocative title “Time to take on Pakistan’s Jihadist spies”, Ijaz narrates a personal experience. He claims that early on May 9, a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned him with the urgent request that President Asif Ali Zardari “needed to communicate a message to the White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels”. Ijaz clarifies that the “embarrassment of bin Laden” being found on Pakistani soil had humiliated Mr Zardari’s “weak civilian government to such an extent that the president feared a military takeover was imminent”; furthermore, Zardari “needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk, to end any misguided notions of a coup — and fast”.
Ijaz is no stranger to Pakistanis and his narrative may be true, half-true or even total fiction. If true, any Pakistani observer of Pakistan-US relations can instantly identify the diplomat involved in it; the only question would be; what particular game this diplomat was trying to play. Stepping aside it, Ijaz leads his readers through an astonishingly convoluted reasoning to what he calls a “shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed ‘S-wing’ and then to a most audacious demand on the US. “The time”, urges Ijaz “has come for the State department to declare the S-wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of foreign governmental organisations”.
There are basic questions that the president’s office, the Foreign Office and Inter-Services Public Relations must clarify. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, how did the apprehension of a military putsch emerge? Was this the brain child of the president’s men in Islamabad, or of the Machiavellian mind of the diplomat who phoned Ijaz? Was Ijaz the only, or the best, channel for Zardari to reach the White House? Why didn’t the Pakistan embassy in Washington speak to the national security officials, who according to Bob Woodward’s book, are easily accessible? We do not know if that mighty fist landed at General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s desk but why is he willing to let the Head of State be duped by the likes of this particular diplomat and Mr Ijaz? Ambiguity has its value, but there are situations when nations benefit from clarity. I haven’t the slightest idea what the dreaded “S-Wing” stands for but I find it absurd that Pakistan should be expected to dismantle its intelligence apparatus while secret services have expanded hugely in most other states during the last 10 troubled years. Ijaz’s fantasy that the “S-wing” is “undermining global anti-terrorism efforts” only shows how simplistic is his understanding of complex issues. As a confidante of our diplomat, he has had no hesitation in embarrassing President Zardari with his article.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.
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