Skip to main content

OP-ED: Grim Reapers & the Peace 'Corpse'


Published in Daily Times / 10 Nov 2013 Sunday Ed

The death of an important Taliban figure is a cause célèbre at drone central. Here, not so much. Here, we prefer to sit around the fireside and wallow. That in turn pushes drone morality, sovereignty violation, the untimely demise of the peace talk genie, and terrorism US ‘shtyle’ to the top of the agenda while the smiling face of a dead Mehsud looks on.

The US-made spanner, which upset the Waziristan bound applecart, was unexpected. Or was it? An incident took place in Afghanistan prior to the appearance of that Predator. Killing Hakeemullah Mehsud — a man with a double bounty over his head (in dollars and Pak rupees) — comes on the heels of Latif Mehsud’s capture in Afghanistan in early October 2013. The Tehreek-e-Taliban’s (TTP’s) right hand man, allegedly caught canoodling with KHAD/NDS and picked up by our mutual friends, may hold the key.

Rumour has it that Mehsud was being cultivated as an Afghan asset to get even with Pakistani agencies. There is no love lost between KHAD/NDS (National Directorate of Security) and ISI or Karzai and Nawaz, notwithstanding all this talk of ‘Muslim brotherhood’. The Pak-sponsored science project (the original Taliban) foisted on them, reportedly haunts Afghans to this day. If Mehsud had been turned, then the so-called truce was automatically void. No one likes a spy.

What would be the reaction of the state when Mehsud’s allegedly unholy alliance came to the fore, assuming that it did as a result of shared ‘intel’? Pakistan could not have wanted an Afghan stooge in their carefully cultivated peace mix. Wasn’t it in their joint interest then to have him taken out of the equation? In a way, Hakeemullah Mehsud’s demise was well timed. And in an ideal world no one would blame them for neutralising duplicitous heads who have the blood of Pakistani/Afghani/American citizens on their hands.

Mehsud granted an interview to BBC days after his henchman’s run-in with the Americans. The transcript is illuminating.

The TTP continues to keep jihad against infidels, and by association Pakistani men, women and children as the centrepiece, even after the US withdrawal. The most telling part, however, is their precondition for a ceasefire, which is an end to drone wars. Mehsud also threw in support for future conflicts with other enemies as a bonus in what could be an attempt to bait an India-obsessed army. For someone who kept insisting that the media will not be used to convey terms, conditions or used for proxy negotiations, there were plenty strewn about.

With his trusty deputy in US custody, did the TTP leader realise he was on his way to becoming a statistic? Latif may have sung since he is in Bagram, and given up Mehsud’s location. But the Taliban leadership is never stationary. This could be when Mehsud Sr saw the proverbial writing on the cave wall and decided to vie for the precious immunity pin by dangling the same old lie knowing Pakistani’s kindly (read gullible) nature. The sense of complacency that followed perhaps helped pinpoint his whereabouts.

In the past, treaties have been mere stalling tactics giving TTP time to regroup, order more ammo, recap on their training and wait out the winter. This time, as ‘talks about talks’ were underway, the body count on the Pakistani side kept mounting but not once did anyone question the purely one-sided arrangement. The idea that the November 1 attack could turn out to be part of a covert strategy, which felt that slicing the head to make the writhing TTP more amenable to talks, could effectively drown out the howls of political/media pundits. And such surgical strikes take a leaf out of the Taliban’s own playbook: don’t let talk of peace get in the way of war.

Such ideas are rarely aired in toxic environments. Not when Imran Khan’s charged appeal to stop NATO supply and Chaudhry Nisar’s outraged press conference to question the sinister timing of said attack, and maybe let slip that this is not our war, take the lead.

The last time NATO supply routes became news was after the Salala incident where 24 Pakistani soldiers came in the line of (US) fire. This time it is to protest the slaying of a terrorist. Somewhere, our fallen are turning in their graves.

The US-Pakistan alliance frosts over yet again; the US ambassador has been served with a demarche while the state continues to maintain plausible deniability over possible intelligence sharing ops that ensure the success of such strikes. It would be naïve to think that the terror network will remain in disarray or the leadership void be left empty for long. The TTP scale may not register degraded capability but this might count as a psychological victory in some circles. Unfortunately, this could also trigger the dreaded revenge cycle.

The ‘Most Wanted’ holed up in Pakistan and safe havens dotted across the countryside threaten the integrity of a sovereign state far more than any drone ever could. Stacking a viable peace strategy with the right proportions of carrot and stick and less emotional leaders at the helm might yield a more durable framework. The TTP will always be suspicious of any overtures, as long as the drones stay overhead, but they have yet to earn the state’s trust. Or its sympathy.

Image 1 Link

Image 2 Link

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Quiet Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador of Pakistan / Author: Jamsheed Marker

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times /February 06, 2010

REVIEWED BY: Afrah Jamal

Jamsheed Marker belongs to an exceptional cadre of Foreign Service officers entrusted to keep things on an even keel on the diplomatic stage. Providence chose him to fill the void brought on by a sudden influx of newly independent nations and the subsequent need to expand diplomatic service during the 1960s. A stellar career in fostering global diplomacy as the longest serving ambassador has earned him a special place in history.

This veteran Pakistani diplomat has a striking resume. With ten posts and nine accreditations, his name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only person to have served as ambassador to more countries than anyone. He took his curtain call when Pakistan declared him Ambassador at Large in 2004, and has been on the faculty at Eckerd College, St Petersburg — Florida as Diplomat-in-Residence. He ended his tenure with a wry observation, ‘the batting card on the scorecard to M…

OP-ED: What’s In A Name(sake)?

First Published in Daily Times / 2 Sep 2013

A beloved cricketer’s name adorns the billboards but this is not a biopic. The cricketing world it allegedly represents provides a compelling front but it will not be a return to his old stomping grounds. Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (MHSA) draws upon a living legend’s legacy to leverage the passion and throws in a cameo or two, but that is the extent of Afridi’s involvement. Meanwhile, somewhere in a small little village, a disgraced cricketer turned coach who trains a rag tag team will be moved centre-field. And the one thing that binds the nation together and provides the soulful soundtrack will become the anchor.

The newly minted flight is bound for cricket-ville and in some parts of the world that is reason enough to join in the festivities. Humayun Saeed, seen at the helm wearing a number of hats as the producer/actor enlists the classic underdog formula to launch his ambitious vision. The village club is in danger of being shut down, and m…

The Book of Davis - Reading between the lines

Published by Global Affairs / Aug 2017

Raymond Davis is a champ. A team player, who puts the needs of his comrades in arms before himself. He is savvy. He is a man of integrity - a survivor - a trooper. Ray, the epitome of courage runs headlong towards danger and into a minefield - literally. He is all this and more. This is his story after all.

6 years ago, he was a trained Special Forces SF, undercover ‘contractor’, forced to navigate the cramped alleyways of Lahore on a routine mission – the details of which remain a mystery. His book ‘The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis’ with Storms Reback, revisits the scene of the crime to solidify his innocence and along the way take a few potshots at random players who helped secure his release. It’s a hair-raising ride.

His style is conversational, his demeanor - amiable. The case is still fresh in people’s minds and his intent to set the record straight ignites yet another round of controversy…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

OPED: The Afghan Policy in Perspective

Published in Global Village Space / Aug 2017

True to its reality show inspired template, the Afghan strategy was rolled out after months of speculations, suspense and dithering. It used memorable taglines and inflated figures. ‘Agents of chaos’, sunk costs described as ‘billions and billions’ and going all in seeking victory against all odds. It offered to be tough on Pakistan, even as it was vague on the outlines and predictable in its deployment.

Reading between the Lines

This is essentially the new, improvised policy meant not just for Afghanistan but also Pakistan and India. With it the U.S. administration appears to have heeded the advice of keeping the enemy in the dark. They have also dismissed the necessity of keeping their allies close and have instead embarked upon a strategic vision that aims to expand the theatre adding India to the volatile mix and potentially widen the gulf between allies.

Yet it is not the public performance of the commander-in-chief that catches the e…

VIEW: GOING DUTCH (2008)

Published in THE POST May 18, 2008

What does Cadbury have to do with 12 sketches and a 17 minute film? Nothing, really. Cadbury is neither Dutch nor Danish. But by now most Pakistanis - if not all - have probably received a text message stating otherwise. And thus begins a boycott campaign of all things Dutch or Danish. The self righteous lot, in their overzealousness, would acquiesce willingly. Yet, few who have received an email or sms that proclaimed the success of this boycott and lobbied for its continuity - or witnessed the demonstrations meant to convey outrage against both Denmark and the Netherlands for their alleged laxity in safeguarding certain religions’ sanctity - will stop to reflect on the virtues of pushing a hostile policy intended to coerce but neglecting to convince. Fewer still will bother to dig deeper and corroborate details of such episodes.

The cartoon controversy returned in 2008 – helped on by the aptly titled film ‘Fitna’- similarly denounced for its unflat…